Friday, June 27, 2008

Tan Lines-J.J. Salem and Kylie Adams

Tan Lines
J.J. Salem and Kylie Adams
St. Martin’s, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312374151

In the Hamptons, the three women arrive for a summer of renewal as none are happy at the moment. Political expert Liza Pike is thinking of divorcing her post 9/11 firefighting spouse Justin, but is thinking of future children with or without him. Depressed former actress Kellyanne Downey is tired of being the mistress of affluent businessman Walter Isherwood, who treats her with possessive scorn. Finally indie rocker Billie Shelton thinks her career is over and perhaps her life with it.

This trio meets at a rental they share for the summer. However, whether their TAN LINES predict a happy ending seems unlikely as the most wonderful summer of their lives includes a fifteen stabbing killing, a premature baby, and a public humiliation; just another day at the beach in Long island.

TAN LINES is a delightful contemporary fiction tale starring three wonderful females who “bond” suddenly last summer at the Hamptons. Each comes out there for renewal and escape from the testosterone scum in their lives, but sometimes you get what you wish for. The descriptions by the lead trio make the tale as verbal slicing and dicing especially of their respective significant other is fun to follow while everything goes wrong.

Harriet Klausner

The Gargoyle-Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle
Andrew Davidson
Doubleday, Aug 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0385524943

The porno actor with the scar on his heart is driving on a curving mountainous road when he loses control and crashes; probably because of his coke drenched brain. He suffers third degree burns that are so painful he decides that the recovery is not worth it as he believes even coke will fail him especially since he accidentally poured bourbon on his crotch just before the crash; thus turning the alcohol into an accelerant that made his penis into a candle that the nurse has since disposed of as medical waste. As he plans his suicide once out of the hospital especially the burn ward, insane patient Marianne Engel visits him.

She claims to be seven centuries old and his lover hundreds of years ago in Germany. The burn victim assumes the woman is a nut, but as she keeps seeing him, he wonders about himself as he is attracted to this kook he assumes is a mad woman suffering from schizophrenia. He learns she is a highly regarded sculptress whose gargoyles are in demand and soon has the man she claims was her lover wanting a life with her once he leaves the hospital.

This is a strange second chance at love novel that hooks the audience once Marianne informs the unnamed narrator what she was to him in another time and place. Her details of a long time ago convince the former porn star she is genuine although he wonders if losing his penis cost him his head. Fans who prefer something different will relish Andrew Davidson’s fascinating odd tale of love.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791—1977

When the Guillotine Fell: The Bloody Beginning and Horrifying End to France's River of Blood, 1791—1977
Jeremy Mercer
St. Martin's Press, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312357915

This is a fascinating look at one of the most notariouss execution devices made infamous in A Tale of two Cities. However, the best passages are the stories of those who danced with Madame Guillotine, but these are disjointed with sudden switches to other poignant segues. Interestingly, the inventor Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin created the device during the French Revolution as a cleaner way to conduct an execution (much faster than conventional methods so less pain for the mob of observers - think of Dickens’ Madam DeFarge; and as a humanitarian reason to those who are being killed – think of the Supreme Court’s lethal injection decision). The last victim was Tunisian expatriate Hamida Djandoubi who with the help of two underage girlfriends killed one of his Marseille prostitutes in 1974 and was dispatched in 1977 just before France outlawed capital punishment. A section on the history of state legal executions adds depth to an overall fascinating in a macabre way historical account of WHEN THE GUILLOTINE FELL, but overall the tome suffers from a disjointed execution.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sisters of Misery-Megan Kelley Hall

Sisters of Misery
Megan Kelley Hall
Kensington, Aug 2008, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758226792

Hawthorne is right next door to Salem; and at the times of the witch hunts three women were killed on Misery Island. Now Hawthorne is a conservative town that on the surface seems to belong on a postcard. Maddie Crane belongs to the Sisters of Misery, which is led by vicious Kate Endicott. Maddie knows she will never leave the club because she fears what the members will do to her.

She is excited that her coaunt Rebecca, a free spirit and her daughter Cordelia have returned to live in Hawthorne. After a rough start, the Sisters of Misery and Cordelia go to Misery Island. Kate has plans for Cordelia and Maddie passes out when it is her turn to be part of Cordelia’s initiation. When she wakes up the next morning at her home, she does not remember what happened including how she got home. When the Sisters return to Misery Island to free Cordelia, she cannot be found. Afraid of what she and the others might have done, Maddie searches for clues to learn what did occur; unaware that her inquiry will lead to more tragedy.

This young adult fantasy will appeal to older readers as well. The character driven tale contains a gothic tone and atmosphere as the main characters are interesting people who have kept secrets for decades. Maddie is a follower; afraid to lead or leave a group she loathes until the Cordelia incident serves as a catalyst to challenge the power of the Sisters of Misery. There are a crop of new girls to replace their mothers as Sisters who control Hawthorne. Fans will find it difficult at first to accept a young girl like Kate is evil because of her age, but will accept the truth as Megan Kelley Halls makes her malevolence seem genuine. She and Maddie are fascinating antagonists who turn the SISTERS OF MISERY into an enjoyable read.

Harriet Klausner

The Wednesday Sisters-Meg Waite Clayton

The Wednesday Sisters
Meg Waite Clayton
Ballantine, Jun 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 0345502825

In the late 1960s the five young mothers meet in Palo Alto at a park. They have plenty in common as they dream of being much more than just a wife and mother while hearing tales of the counter culture and the Summer of Love. The quintet love books especially those they can escape into so they can forget their somewhat tedious lives especially the household chores, but each sees a different role for the lead female characters based on what they dream they wanted.

Linda loves to run with the Olympics her fantasy goal. Brett literally wants to walk on the moon. Kath insists marriage is all she ever desired, but her four new pals with their aspirations make her wonder if there might be something in addition to being wife and mother. Ally, the only one without a child, wants a kid or three. The leader Midwesterner Frankie, who came to California as her husband came here to work at the fledgling computer business, hopes to be come a writer. THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS inspire each other to go after their aspirations and much more even when they seem impossible in a man’s only world by writing and sharing their tales.

This historical sisterhood tale is an engaging look at the beginning of the “You’ve come a long way baby” feminist movement that brought women into many fields previously taboo epitomized by Hilary’s run (the next one will go all the way). Each of the five women seems real due to their dreams to be more than identified through their husband and kids. Although their individual writings are too sweet even if they read valid for their place in late 1960s society, fans will enjoy this fine tale as before Sally Ride there was a real Brett out there trying to break out of the box.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Tower-Louis Bayard

The Black Tower
Louis Bayard
Morrow, Aug 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061687310

In 1818 Paris, Surete Detective Eugene Francois Vidocq investigates the murder of Monsieur Chrétien Leblanc found dead on the street. Searching the victim’s pocket, Vidocq finds a note inside with the name and address of Professor Hector Charpentier of Ecole de Medecine. The sleuth visits Hector to ask why Leblanc wanted to see him. The Doctor offers nothing insisting he does not know the victim and why he needed to see him; or anything in his own defense as an alibi as he has no family and few friends although he swears he is innocent.

As Vidocq keeps digging deeper into the murder, he begins to find a strange thread that goes back to the Revolution. Somehow the deceased is tied back to Prince Louis-Charles, the heir to the French throne, who was allegedly executed in THE BLACK TOWER in Thermidor Year II; or did the Lost Dauphin, who would have been King Louis XVII with the current Bourbon Restoration, somehow survive and is one of these royal pretenders.

In some ways THE BLACK TOWER is a historical fiction novel that delves into whether any of the seemingly scoundrels claiming the throne could be the Lost Dolphin who allegedly was executed as a ten year old child. The murder mystery ties back to the heir, but also takes a back seat to 1818 France as the Bourbons are back on the throne following the defeat of Napoleon. Vidocq is a terrific sleuth (he is a real person who created the Surete) as his homicide investigation in which Charpentier is the prime suspect turns into much more in Louis Bayard’s superb early nineteenth century French thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 20, 2008

Without a Backward Glance-Kate Veitch

Without a Backward Glance
Kate Veitch
Plume, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780452289475

On Christmas Eve 1967 in Melbourne Rosemarie McDonald tells her four preadolescent children (Deborah, Robert, James, and Meredith) she is stepping out to buy lights for the family yuletide tree. She never came home to the dismay of her four children. Instead, she flew to England; her kids were raised by their father, who from that night forward pretended his wife was dead; while Rosemarie never apparently took a backward glance to those she left behind who needed her.

Four decades later, James meets his mother. Rosemarie who has always felt guilty about deserting her children know she must either flee into the night again or try to make amends as best as she can. Her adult children though they have families of their own never recovered from her vanishing as they learned loved ones leave and how to conceal any hurts.

This family drama works because of the four adult children whose personalities differ as they coped with the abandonment in varying ways; four decades later each has big relationship issues as they never recovered from their mom leaving. Rosemarie is terrific as she tries to hide her guilt and remorse from James, but fails. Although her spouse suffering from elderly dementia is somewhat removed from a confrontation with his kids and Rosemarie over welcoming back the person who betrayed them, Kate Veitch provides a strong relationship tale of a shattered family who may find it is too late to reconcile as defense mechanisms have become forty year habits.

Harriet Klausner

Wind River-Tom Morrisey

Wind River
Tom Morrisey
Bethany House, Jul 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764203473

His time in combat in Iraq still haunts Tyler Perkins; just ask his beleaguered wife Angela. Thus he has a second reason to take his octogenarian friend Soren Andeman fly fishing; the first being he promised to do so. The pair travels to WIND RIVER, Idaho for some getaway time.

However, the R&R that Tyler expected is nuked when Soren reveals the real reason he wanted to come to Wind River, a place he has been to before. His dark secret frightens Tyler and if revealed could hurt those nearby including someone special to the eighty-six years old man. However, before he can come to grips with what Soren told him, the weather turns ugly making this respite into a battle of survival.

This is an excellent buddy tale as an elderly honorable man with a troubling secret, a just as honorable vet with post traumatic stress disorder and the weather make for a deep character driven thriller. The story line is driven by the duel fuels of doing the right thing and surviving. Readers will relish this compelling tale as two men decades apart in age seek forgiveness and redemption in the wilderness, but as they battle to survive realize where they must truly go to achieve atonement. WIND RIVER is an excellent inspirational thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Queen's Lady- Barbara Kyle

The Queen's Lady
Barbara Kyle
Kensington, Jul 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758225443

In 1527 London, women have few choices they can make. To Honor Larke she can select between a marriage that sounds like incarceration or serving Her Majesty, Queen Catherine of Aragon. She chooses the latter as the court will be exciting while marriage will be boring; in either case she knows she must obey.

After informing her guardian, Sir Thomas More, Honor joins the court of Henry VIII. However, she quickly is appalled at how poorly the monarch and his supplicants scorn the queen while kissing the king’s butt. Honor becomes outraged when the King humiliates his wife by demanding Rome grant him a divorce while he plays around with Anne Boleyn. Loyal to her Queen and her friend, Honor carries letters to her Majesty’s Queen's allies that if caught will behead her for seditious acts. All is well until that foppish cavalier whom she desires, Richard Thornleigh, catches her.

Intrigue, betrayal and avarice are the fuels of King Henry’s court as THE QUEEN’S LADY quickly learns. Honor lives up to her name as she feels a strong loyalty to the tossed aside Queen and acts on her fidelity at the risk to her life. Thornleigh is actually a more interesting character than the title protagonist as the audience is not sure whether he is an early sixteenth century Pimpernel, a genuine fop, a traitor or a “secret agent”. Fans of historical fiction with a romantic subplot enhancing the era will enjoy Barbara Kyle’s deep look at King Henry’s first marriage that had ramifications across Europe.

Harriet Klausner

The King's Favorite-Susan Holloway Scott

The King's Favorite
Susan Holloway Scott
NAL, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451224064

After two decades at the top of her profession Nell Gwynn “never claimed to be a lady”. However, the royal mistress was proud how far she climbed from being a young teen in 1661 London working at Madam Ross’ bawdy house. In 1662 at thirteen she obtains her first “guardian” Mr. Duncan who protects her. A year later, Nell obtains works as an orange seller at the Royal Theater where the recently returned to the throne King Charles Stuart likes what he sees. She goes on stage and soon leaves the theater to perform her greatest and longest running role, two decades at Whitehall; where lying backstabbers invoke the name of God, country and other babble to claim the moral high ground. However, she is the only one who lightens the load of King Charles II.

This is an entertaining raunchy fictionalized memoir that brings alive from an “insider’s” perspective a transformation period in English history as Cromwell is out and the Stuarts are back in. Nell comes across as intelligent and witty as she uses double entendres to get the better of hypocrites who claim to know what is morally best for others (sounds so contemporarily familiar). Genre fans will appreciate the life and times of THE KING’S FAVORITE, as the “DUCHESS” of biographical fiction Susan Holloway Scott provides an insightful seventeenth century tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Blackstone Key-Rose Melikan

The Blackstone Key
Rose Melikan
Touchstone, Aug 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416560807

In 1795, young Mary Finch realizes she has no prospects and with her family poor must take the only job she can as a teacher at Mrs. Bunbury’s School for Young Ladies. The thought of a future in hell makes Mary ill, but she has no other option.

When she receives an invitation from her estranged wealthy Uncle Edward to visit him, Mary jumps at the chance as she hopes he will help her improve her financial status though the rift between her parents and him has been over two decades long. Thus she rushes immediately from Cambridge to Ipswich and ultimately near Lindham in Suffolk, but from the onset the trip is not carefree or tedious. Even before leaving town a highly anticipated horse race in Newmarket interferes with the beginning of her journey. Along the way she meets a dying man who warns her to be careful as nothing is quite like it seems as freetrader smugglers, English operatives and the French work coastal Suffolk while the two countries are at war. Two brave men offer her protection; military expert Captain Holland and social charmer Mr. Déprez, but she wonders can she trust either of them?

This terrific historical fiction in some ways is a coming of age tale as naive sweet Mary receives quite an education from the start to the finish. The story line is fast-paced and vivid as 1795 England is brought to life. However, it is the support characters who Mary meets in her travels who turn THE BLACKSTONE KEY into a strong thriller. None are quite what Mary and the readers first believe they are as Rose Melikan provides a fully developed cast yet uses sleight of the hand to shrewdly fool the audience and heroine; this adds suspense as Mary begins to wonder who you trust if anyone. Fans will appreciate this deep late eighteenth century tale of intrigue.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Church of the Dog-Kaya McLaren

Church of the Dog
Kaya McLaren
Penguin, May 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780143113423

In rural Northeast Oregon, Edith and Earl McRae have been married for decades, but over time they have drifted apart though they live together on their farm. Edith reflects back that the somewhat reticent Earl may have loved her, but probably never thought of her as a friend. However while shaving seventy-nine years old Earl nicks his neck; he places toilet paper on the cut only to discover a cyst just like his late dog Blue had. He assumes it is cancer.

Assuming the cyst is a warning sign that he will soon meet his maker, he is determined to do two things before he dies; he needs to regain what he believes he let slide; his ties to his wife and his estranged grandson Daniel, an Alaskan fisherman running away from home since his parents died years ago. Earl campaigns in person with Edith and by letter asking Daniel to come home to his grandpa’s “land of success and failure”. Mara O’Shaugnessy arrives in town as the new art teacher. She buys a pet, Harvey the Hog. Tim Grennan allows Mara and Harvey to reside on his family’s ranch next door to the McRae farm Soon Mara’s mischief brings happiness and chaos to all she meets especially her neighbors the McRaes. When Daniel returns, he is worried about his grandpa dying, but instead he finds his grandparents happy; their catalyst Mara; but even she with her whimsy upbeat demeanor fears she will never reach the soul of the stoic sad fisherman.

This engaging inspirational relationship drama is an interesting tale that rotates points of view between Mara, Edith, Earl and Daniel. Thus the story line is obviously character driven starting with Mara who works her optimistic magic bringing joy to all she meets, especially the elderly McRae couple. Although somewhat stereotyped with its New Age wisdom, Kaya McLaren provides an inspiring story that says fills the cup up if you feel it is half empty.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Riven-Jerry B. Jenkins

Jerry B. Jenkins
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781414309040

Pastor Thomas Carey was called at an early age to spread the Word and over the course of several years he became a pastor at different places around the United States. His last calling ended in a disaster because a layman wanted to be the power behind the ministry; something Thomas could not accept. He takes the position as chaplain at the SuperMax state penitentiary at Adamsville.

Brody Wayne Darby has spent his whole life committing one crime after another starting when he stole at the Laundromat where he worked. As he grew older, he committed increasingly more serious crimes and did time. When he was released, he vowed to go straight until a woman hurt him and he killed her. He pleaded guilty and was sent to Adamsville.

In the years he ministered at the prison, Thomas met no sincere inmate. He feels empty until he meets Brody; both come away from their encounters feeling as if God is working through them.

Jerry B. Jenkins is one of the best Christian authors writing today. His latest work is a dark complex contemporary fiction tale driven by two seemingly opposite characters; their polar differences make each even more believable and the story line plausible. RIVEN is a memorable tale starring a man who feels he is a failure and another who only has death waiting for him in three years time. They met and both feel the Lord is working through them giving each what they need. This book will move the audience in so many ways and make them feel so many things. This is a masterpiece.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Winter Turns to Spring-Catherine Palmer & Gary Chapman

Winter Turns to Spring
Catherine Palmer & Gary Chapman
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414311685

Brad and Ashley Hanes are each considering ending their marriage. They are tired of constant fighting over bills and habits. They rarely do anything meaningful together.

Their neighbors want to help the couple, but they have their own relationship issues. That is everyone except elderly widower Charlie Moore, whose spouse Esther just died. As he grieves his loss, the Hanes see someone who has lost his long time companion; both want the same long time from each other as the arguments seem trivial, but will either take that first step towards intimacy or will each assumes it is too late.

The final novelization of the Four Seasons of Marriage is an interesting contemporary look at a couple struggling with seemingly overwhelming issues and major differences re how to deal with them. The story line is well written as winter roars like a lion but spring with its renewal promise including marital vows and love is coming. In some ways Charlie steals the show as the Hanes in spite of their fights seem too sweet. Still this is a fine entry in a solid series that reflects on marriage through the parable of the seasons of life.

Harriet Klausner

Rogue-Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel
Delacorte, Jun 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 0385340257

Five yeas ago, then late thirties Dr. Maxine Williams was tired of raising four children; three were her preadolescent kids (the oldest was seven at the time) while one was her dot-com wealthy husband Blake. She divorced Blake though they remain friendly; and their three children live with her. Maxine’s psychiatric practice specializes in childhood trauma and suicide while Blake is an international womanizer having young females on several continents.

Maxine becomes embroiled in a depressing teen suicide case in which she meets divorced Dr. Charles West. They are attracted to each other as she relishes his commitment and responsibility. Blake becomes embroiled in a tragedy that makes him aware of what he has lost. He suddenly rushes home to persuade Maxine that he has changed. Maxine is torn between two lovers.

This is an entertaining romantic triangle with a terrific final twist. The story line is fast-paced and the lead trio seems genuine as does her three kids. Although the emotions of Maxine pulled by two opposites, the rogue and the responsible one, are never dug deep enough beyond a shallow level to satiate the audience, Danielle Steel’s fans will appreciate this well written character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Love in the Time of Fridges-Tim Scott

Love in the Time of Fridges
Tim Scott
Bantam, Aug 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553384413

After his beloved Abigail died, ex police officer Huckleberry Lindberg left New Seattle and worked in Memory Print Store where he took pictures of other people’s memories. Now he is on his way home where the highway sign reads “Welcome! New Seattle Welcomes Visitors … See Exclusions”. The West Coast of America is run by the Health and Safety Department. He shares a drongle with a woman he does not know when the cops stop him for a routine check. When they learn who he is, they decide to do a mind hack and include the woman Nena too.

Huck gets loose and rescues Neina who hides secrets from him. They separate, but she tells him to meet her at the Halcyon Hotel. There he finds four talking Fridges and a dryer. When Nena arrives, the clerk calls the cops on them. The Fridges and dryer escape, but Nena tells him if something happens to her he is to save the little Fridge because inside is the means to saving New Seattle.

This is classified as a sci fi thriller, but it is more a tongue and cheek satire of government using security to control everyone. The tale is filled with humor often biting especially when the Fridges and Dryer sing out of tune and exchange barbs. Underneath all the jocularity ironically is a serious post 9/11message that to live free means taking risks even when a person wants to run from bad memories to hide inside a secure cocoon.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Deja Demon-Julie Kenner

Deja Demon
Julie Kenner
Berkley, Jul 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425221907

In suburban San Diablo Demon Hunter Kate Connor is mentally exhausted on all fronts. The demons keep on coming and now she is stuck with two “feuding” husbands since she resurrected the spirit of her dead first spouse Eric, who shares the body of teacher David Long. They are driving her crazier than her blithely ignorant second husband Stuart, the demon hordes, training her teenage daughter Allie to fight and her toddler to use the bathroom.

Realizing she cannot retire from demon hunting as she had done once before to become a soccer mom following Eric’s death, Kate knows she must confess the full truth to Stuart; before he figures out that demons keep attacking her. She is not sure what these malevolent beings hen they mention the One and the Sword of Caelum, but they assume she does; on top of that an enemy from her first war has come to town with one hell of a horde.

The latest demon fighting soccer mom tale retains the biting jocularity of the previous encounters, but the opponent turns the storyline much grittier and personal. Still Kate is as kick butt tough as ever; Allie is getting proficient at demon slaying; David-Eric is at her side; and Stuart proves to have greater depth and guts than readers and his wife realize. Fans of Julie Kenner’s suburban fantasy will appreciate DEJA DEMON.

Harriet Klausner

A Summer Affair-Elin Hildebrand

A Summer Affair
Elin Hildebrand
Little, Brown, Jul 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 0316018600

Nationally renowned but retired glassblower, Claire Danner Crispin agrees to co-chair the Nantucket’s Children Summer Gala; she accepted the position for two reasons: one is her four children and the second is the other chair; her high school boyfriend rock star Max West. Claire also agrees to make a special glass item to sell at the accompanying auction.

When she meets the charity’s director Lock Dixon, they are attracted to one another. Each has a spouse and have problems with their marriages. Claire’s marriage has lost its heat as she and her spouse “Underwhelming” Jason have drifted apart and Lock’s wife is mentally impaired following a nasty car accident. Will this prove the most wonderful summer of their lives or the most heartbroken?

Claire makes this deep character study work as a middle age mom who gave up her glassblowing career in spite of national acclaim to raise the kids only to find her marriage on life support at best with her leaning towards pulling the plug. Fans will wonder whether she will shag Lock, Max, Jason or no one as this is the momentous summer of her discontent.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 9, 2008

Open Line-Ellen Hawley

Open Line
Ellen Hawley
Coffe House, May 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781566892094

In the Twin Cities, late-night radio talk show host Annette Majors jokes on the air that the Vietnam War was a government hoax. Whereas before she made her sublime commentary, Annette seemingly was going nowhere in radio; after the remark she suddenly has more than fifteen minutes of fame as her show is so hot it goes into national syndication.

Even her personal life awakens when rich Republican supporter Walter Bishop begins to court her. Walter uses her “belief” to launch a presidential bid for a relatively unknown wannabe and radical conservative Stan Marlin who supports her stand. Heeding their advice, Annette refuses to back down from her stance that there never was a Vietnam War. While some Viet Vets thinks she is a buffoon; others protest; and some still reliving their horrors seek closure through her.

This superb satire showcases the power of the media in which misinformation, disinformation, omissions, and fabrications are the norm. The key to this terrific tale is the players seem genuine especially Annette whose eloquent defense of her radical revisionism rings true. For those who reject the underlying concept remember there is an Iranian president denying the Holocaust; many people disbelieving the moon landings and a prominent right wing talk show host who using clever questioning of the vice president made it sound like Richard Clarke was below the inner security sanctum before 9/11. It is not WHAT HAPPENED as McClellan has said, it’s the spin. Well written and entreating, fans who appreciate a biting condemnation of the news will understand that Eisenhower’s military-government complex omitted the third partner the media.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Made in the U.S.A.-Billie Letts

Made in the U.S.A.
Billie Letts
Grand Central, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780446529013

In Spearfish, South Dakota, with their mother long dead, the McFee siblings teenage Lutie and preadolescent Fate live with three hundred plus pounds Floy Satterfield; their runaway father’s former girlfriend. However, their lives take a spin when their guardian drops dead at the local megastore. Lutie, who enjoys shoplifting for fun ever since she was booted from the high school gymnastics team due to unfair influences, persuades her eleven year old brother to give up the TV shows and global warming because they have two choices: flee in Floy’s ancient car or allow the state to place them. They decide to find their wastrel dad whose last known address is Las Vegas with no further specificity except some dive hotel.

In Las Vegas, they begin to learn nasty truths re their father and prison, and where he might be; which if true will prove he is beyond their reach. Fifteen year old Lutie obtains fake working papers and dead-end jobs so she and her brother have food and shelter of sorts. However, increasingly their choices seem to be foster care or the street sharks including avaricious child molesters, rapists, drug addicts and other abusers. However, former aerialist Juan Vargas “adopts” the pair as his redemption and takes them to his family in Oklahoma where they run the Vargas Brothers Circus. Juan carries guilt, but his grandma has love for all three seemingly losers that might help each find sanctuary if they reach out to her and one another.

Although at times diving too deep into soap opera territory, MADE IN THE U.S.A. is an interesting character driven contemporary tale that argues it takes a village to raise children. Readers will feel for the McFee sibs, who are neglected while their guardian lived and after she dies make questionable decisions more out of fear. What happens to them especially Lutie in Vegas shows the real sinful underbelly of the city. Although Oklahoma turns out to perfect to be realistic, fans will soar with Lutie, play trivia with Fate and hope Juan forgives himself as they with grandma try to become a family.

Harriet Klausner

The Importance of Being Married-Gemma Townley

The Importance of Being Married
Gemma Townley
Ballantine, Jun 10 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780345499806

Project Marriage began the day that Jessica Wild’s grandma died. Jessica was visiting her grandma at the retirement home when she met her relative’s neighbor Grace Hampton. Jessica and Grace became friends. She told Grace that she worked at Milton Advertising and when the older woman told her to get a beau; she swore she was dating the legendary Anthony Milton. Over time she told Grace they were engaged and eventually happily married; white lies made the older woman feel good about the commitment phobia Jessica.

When Grace dies Jessica is stunned to learn Mrs. Anthony Milton has inherited millions in pounds. There is only one problem, Jessica is not married to her boss and has fifty days to claim her inheritance. Unable to tell him the humiliating truth and beg for his assistance with a temporary marriage, with the help of her flatmate, Jessica creates a strategic plan to accomplish Project marriage. Obtaining professional consulting help, Jessica succeeds in getting engaged to Anthony, but as they plan for their wedding, she dreams of his bud.

This chick lit Cinderella caper is a fun tale especially when the lead character seeks advice from her friend and pros like a hooker instead of a guidebook like THE HOPELESS ROMANTIC'S HANDBOOK. The makeover from middle class worker into sex siren with a snip and a clip is inane and slows the otherwise impish story line. Still this is a wonderful English tale filled with a strong protagonist who begins to question for love or money.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 6, 2008

As Good As It Got-Isabel Sharpe

As Good As It Got
Isabel Sharpe
Avon, Jul 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061140563

After two decades of marriage, Cindy loves being in love with her philandering husband, Kevin; thus when he informs her he is leaving her for Patty, she is devastated. Ann thought her life with Paul was perfect, but his death and losing her job awakens to near bankruptcy. Martha has loved Eldon for two decades, but when he suffers a paralyzing stroke, she can no longer see her beloved as the mistress has no rights.

These three single women meet at Camp Kinsonu in Maine, a place designed around the lyrics of I am Woman and I Will Survive. As the counselors try to help the trio, Cindy, Ann and Martha needs to move on, but none seem capable of doing so.

AS GOOD AS IT GOT is an interesting character study that digs deep inside the souls of three women whose reasons for living had been totally based on the respective man in their lives. Fascinatingly, each has come to the camp to rediscover who they are having lost their identity to their supportive role. Although the men come across as rats, this is a strong sharp tale that focuses on females recovering from dead relationships in which they were the losing party.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Red Scarf-Kate Furnivall

The Red Scarf
Kate Furnivall
Berkley, Jul 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425221648

In 1933 Sofia Morozova struggles to survive her ordeal in Siberia’s Davinsky labor camp. She lives because she has a long term goal of freedom and a short term objective to keep the spirit of frail half-broken Anna Fedorina going; she knows Anna depends on her for her minuscule fading flicker of hope.

When Anna becomes ill, Sofia desperately seeks help, which means leaving the camp. She escapes in hopes of finding Anna's childhood love Vasily a revolutionary allegedly living in Tivil. Sofia meets factory director Mikhail Pashin, whom she believes is Vasily in disguise. As she falls in love with Mikhail, she refuses to act on her feelings because if he is Vasily, as she believes, he belongs to Anna.

This is a deep character driven tale starring two courageous women, a brave man, and the labor camp that is so vividly described it takes on a role of a horror figure. Sofia is wonderful as she survives the same way some people did the Nazi’s concentration camps a decade later by making friends to care for, thinking of the happiness in her past in Petrograd and believing in a future life beyond the death prison. The romance takes a back seat though well written and enhancing the overall plot as Kate Furnivall concentrates on a powerful historical that focuses on the horrors of the Siberian death camps.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jessica Z-Shawn Klomparens

Jessica Z
Shawn Klomparens
Delta, Jun 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780385342001

In San Francisco neighbors Patrick McAvoy and Jessica Zorich argue over enforcement of the rule that they not sleep together. The next day, the city is shut down as four bombs explodeding on buses killed 108 people. Jessica’s answering machine lists 37 calls including her beloved sister Katie in Boston and her beloved hysterical mom in Seattle. A stunned Jessica jumps Patrick, but he insists they adhere to her rule; no exception.

Jessica is upset to learn that Patrick has been seen with Gretchen from his work. When she says to end the rule, he says no as he is not ready now. Patrick hosts a party for an artist friend where Jessica sees Gretchen and knows her. They get on well. She also meets lithographer Josh Hadden. When she mentions knowing renowned Greg Murrant, Josh says he knows him too. He wants to see the prints Greg gave her. Meanwhile she realizes that Gretchen is the notorious PitchBitch whose blog is popular amongst advertising experts.

Josh visits Jessica at her apartment without an invitation. He demands to see the Murrant prints, which she show him. Jessica attends a presentation Josh provides. Afterward he asks her if he can draw her; she agrees. He then brings her to multiple orgasms. Patrick asks her if she slept with Josh; she throws his key at him and tells him to leave, which he does. She and Patrick have not talked in a month. She is seeing Josh instead and enjoys the sex, but as he works the lithograph project starting with scanning part of Jessica’s body, she sees his dark side.

The key fully developed players are quite different in outlook leading to a complex relationship drama in which the centuries’ old art of lithography in a modern electronic media adds fascination to the strong mix. The ending seems appropriate; however, readers never get a motive for the terrorist bombings. Still this is an engaging contemporary tale starring real people shook by out of their control events.

Harriet Klausner