Literary Scene

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By Ryan G. Van Cleave 

Ryan reviews three books with three-word titles

The Cheapskate’s Handbook

by Mifflin Lowe

The 2.0 reissue of local author Mifflin Lowe’s book, The Cheapskate’s Handbook, comes with a well-earned warning: “This book is gluten-free, tongue-in-cheek, and off-the-wall. Reading may cause sudden, unexpected physical reactions, including guffaws, snorts, and chuckles. For full disclosure, see inside.”

The warning is well-earned because this book is fun. Whether you truly have some Scrooge in your DNA or not, it’s hard to take the Miserliness Aptitude Test (page 5), explore the Roommate Fee List (page 30), or read the “How to Avoid Taking Your Spouse or Significant Other to a Movie” chapter and not crack a smile. Or more.

Lowe is irreverent, silly, and quite often over the top. He also stars in many of the photographs, from the book cover to the aluminum foil ironing on page 230, that’s him!

It’s an enjoyable book whether you read it cover to cover or plunge in for a laugh here and there. Some of my personal favs? Chapter 4.2 (Extended Family: Do You Really Want to Know These People), Chapter 5.2 (You’re Not Getting Older, You’re Getting Cheaper: Growing Old Disgracefully), and Chapter 6.6 (Partying: Such Cheap Sorrow).

Don’t worry, too, about this being outdated. It’s a 2.0 edition, after all, so he gives you the cheapskate view on Uber, Lyft, Miley Cyrus, and more.

Read frugally, and maybe one day you might make it into Lowe’s Cheapskates Hall of Fame!

4.25 out of 5 

Black Moon Rising
by D.J. MacHale

 I had another book scheduled to cover this month, but my 10-year-old daughter saw this book and stole it, read it, and reported that “it’s really pretty good.” Black Moon Rising—book 2 in The Library series—is targeted for ages 8-12, so I figured who better to assess this new MacHale title than my kid? It tells the story of Marcus, an agent for the Library—a magical place that exists outside of normal time and that’s filled with books that require help to reach a satisfying end. Each book in the series has Marcus and his friends travel through a magic portal to set matters right. It’s never easy, though, because there’s as much danger (witches, ravens, and wolves) as there is fun.

More important—here are my daughter’s remarks on the book.

“I KNEW that magic caused the windows to explode at the middle school.”

“I like that Marcus is so funny. And smart.”

“I want to read Book 1 now.”

This is a very nice middle grade fantasy book that plenty of older readers—that’s you, Sarasota SCENE book-lovers—could enjoy as well. It works fine enough without having read Book 1 in the series so long as you understand the basic premise about how Marcus and his friends can leap into unfinished books to prevent disaster and help reach a worthwhile ending.

4 out of 5


The Hedgecock Friasko

by Rick Hussey

Fort Lauderdale author Rick Hussey’s debut thriller, The Hedgecock Friasko, follows the story of Stephen Foerster, who gets caught in the middle of a Ponzi scheme and dirty fracking operation that’s all thanks to his ex-boss’ greed. Even a fake identity isn’t enough to get Foerster away from a PI, detectives, and an assassin.

It’s not exactly John D. MacDonald and his self-described salvage consultant/hero Travis McGee, but Hussey’s story does feature punchy sentences, a well-described rendering of Fort Lauderdale, and a complex plot that does come together satisfyingly in the end.

Here’s a sense of the often-staccato cadence Hussey creates. See what you think.

Now, people were polite but reserved. She had difficulty finding foursomes for tennis or golf. Of course, there were no more parties or dinners. She received fewer and fewer invitations to lunch or shopping. Recently she had stopped going to the club altogether. She’d said it didn’t matter. “This will pass,” she’d reasoned.            

If Hussey’s next books continue to use a world he knows well (he’s a civil trial lawyer) and a setting he’s passionate about (like his Fort Lauderdale home), his literary future can be bright. Though a stronger book design and cover would be quite welcome, too.

3.75 out of 5

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