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  • Mark Stevens - Free-WheelingI finished Jason Heller's "TAFT-2012" at the same time as the United States Congress was (once again) locked in an epic battle and brought the world economy to the brink over a childish tantrum thrown by certain U.S. Representatives who wanted to pick a fight over the Affordable Care Act.

    While it's painfully obvious the political landscape is sorely lacking in straight shooters, reading Taft made the pain worse. And real. Under Taft? Can't picture it.

    "TAFT-2012" is brilliant. It's a marvelous, free-wheeling fantasy.

    Covered in mud, William Howard Taft literally resurfaces from a long hibernation. He's an "oversized mammalian figure" behind the White House South Lawn Foundation and he approaches a press conference underway on the lawn.

    (This detail from the Classified Secret Service Incident Report, Agent Ira Kowalczyk. Heller intersperses this tale with transcripts of radio and television shows; a biography-in-progress of the 27th president; personal notes; poll results; newspaper stories; Twitter feeds; letters; on and on. The approach keeps "TAFT-2012" fairly rocking along.)

    When he re-appears, as the would-be biographer notes, the person in question "was either the oddest terrorist attack in history, the stupidest reality-show prank imaginable ... or it was Taft."

    So Taft is checked out. He's no impostor. He doesn't remember a thing. He thought was on the way to Woodrow Wilson's inauguration and simply wakes up, like a bear from a long winter.

    From there, "TAFT-2012" is a romp. The president who "was so honest a politician, he ended up infuriating every single interest group that had ever supported him" is back.

    Taft gets acquainted with flight and television. He observes how society has changed (and how it hasn't changed at all). He eats barbeque. He eats and snacks. He gets gawked at. He travels to Cincinnati to visit the home of his great-great granddaughter, who is a sitting U.S. Congresswoman, and then to Chicago for a memorable New Year's Eve bash.

    Slowly, he gets pulled into the political vortex, encouraged by "Tafties," and the question becomes whether he will want to return to the White House, a place he once referred to as the loneliest place on earth.

    There are plenty of targets in Heller's sights as Taft's campaign gets in full swing, from the thin and simplistic nature of the media today to the quality of food produced by multinational corporations. At the end, Taft delivers a spot-on speech that should be handed out to every elected official headed to the nation's capital, a thoughtful breakdown of what's wrong with American politics today and, certainly, the very words that William Howard Taft would utter if he could crawl his way back to today.

    For any future politician who wants to run on the approach outlined in Taft's speech (Chapter 29), I'm in.
  • R. McCormack "My Two Blessings" - KissKiss really packs a punch from the very beginning. Shauna is very angry with her father, has found out some incriminating information and is going to confront him about it. As always, they get in an argument and she leaves angry. However, she wakes up 6 weeks later from a coma. She learns she had been in a car accident which left her with amnesia and her brother crippled for life. Her father and stepmother blame her entirely for the accident because they found drugs in her system, in the car and in her apartment. But she thinks that can't be right - she's never taken drugs. The only person she can trust is her boyfriend - whom she doesn't even remember.

    She decides to investigate the accident and try to recover her memories. But in the process she discovers something strange happening. She is having strange memories, not her own. She dreams of being a football player and being injured badly. Come to find out her boyfriend suffered a spinal injury while playing football. She dreams of being a soldier in war and discovers her boyfriend was in the war. Whenever she kisses her boyfriend, she ends up with one of his memories. And he losses his memory of the event. How is this happening? Is she somehow stealing memories.

    In the process of trying to discover what really happened the night of the accident, Shauna uses her ability to steal memories and ends up not knowing who to trust. Kiss is full of twist and turns and you're never quite sure who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. The story is a page turner and once you start reading, will keep right on until the very end. This is the first time collaboration for Ted Dekker and new author Erin Healy and it is very well done.

    I received Kiss courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishing book review blogger program.
  • Bob & Barbara - Quicken Premier 2013 is fine!Like many, I listened to the large number of negative reviews before purchasing it. Recently, have been many favorable reviews, and one in particular who claimed it was seamless. Have probably been using Quicken for 30 years, and use it daily.

    I had NO problem going from Quicken Premier 2010 to 2013, with my Windows Xp. It was a smooth and quick upgrade. Following the advice of another, I turned off anti-virus during the installation. On the first sync, it offered to install the latest version - #11. And like that other reviewer, I have no issue with spending a few bucks every three years to keep Quicken doing it's daily updates of my accounts. Quite the contrary, why should anyone expect it to be free forever? I was happy with Quicken 2010, but business is business. Glad to be reporting such a positive review!