Friday, October 31, 2008

Where Do I Go?-Neta Jackson

Where Do I Go?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Dec 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545237

Gabrielle Fairbanks has been a supermom to their sons and very supportive of her husband’s career at a cost to her own identity. When Gabby and her spouse relocate to Chicago for his job, they agree to leave the kids at boarding school.

However, with the children away at school, Gabby suffers from empty nest syndrome, but is unsure what she wants to do. When she meets a homeless person, Gabby finds a calling and obtains work at Manna House Women’s Shelter. However to her chagrin her husband opposes her work and the new friends she has made; he even has issues with her finding God in her life.

This direct sequel to the recently completed Yada Yada saga includes some of the cast and the beginnings of the same inspirational "House of Hope" messages of “to thine own self be true” by getting involved to help others through God’s forgiveness. The spousal war over who Gabby should be and her asking herself the title question is well designed, but those needing closure will have to wait for the next novel. Fans of Neta Jackson will rejoice with the opening of her new series.
Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crossroads-Belva Plain

Belva Plain
Delacorte, Nov 25 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 0385336845

In Wrightstown, New England, twice widowed Mrs. Cassandra Wright (Ms. Is too trendy though using her maiden name is not) is the CEO of Wright Glassworks. A family tragedy forces Cassie to take in her relative, one years old Gwen. She raises Gwen as if she is her own daughter and the child thrives in the affluence of her surroundings.

Jewel Fairchild works as a receptionist at the Glassworks with ambition to marry wealth. Whereas the adult Gwen is at best plain looking; Jewel is vivaciously beautiful. Envious of Gwen, Jewel achieves her goal by marrying affluent businessman Jeff while Gwen settles on steady middle class worker Stan while coveting Jeff. When Stan uncovers questionable practices at his place of work owned by Jeff, they and their wives will be forced to confront their inner demons.

This contemporary comparative character study is fun to follow as readers will contrast Jewel with Gwen, and Stan with Jeff. Although Jewel is more of a caricature of the scheming gold-digger, Gwen a bit too introverted to carry the story line and the husbands two and half dimensional, the dynamic CROSSROADS relationships between the lead quartet make for an interesting drama for fans of Belva Plain.

Harriet Klausner

Your Roots Are Showing-Elise Chidley

Your Roots Are Showing
Elise Chidley
5 Spot, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0446178144

Lizzie and James Buckley seem to have the perfect life as they raise their three year old twins in love and affluence. However, though Lizzie loves her stay at home mommy role on their country estate, she also can use some time out with a box of chocolates. She suffers from postpartum depression that has only grown worse as James remains unsympathetic while she mopes and gains weight.

In a frustrated rage, she types an e-mail ripping her dear husband for his lack of understanding. However instead of her sister, she accidentally forwards it to James. He is livid upon reading her diatribe and angrily tells her he is filing for divorce before walking out on her. Stunned Lizzie takes their kids and leaves. Although she misses her beloved James, but not Mill House, Lizzie realizes she suffers from depression and starts running as a means of releasing her stress with the motive that James will come back for her.

Lizzie makes this deep English character study work as she struggles with being a mommy only. The support cast from her spouse to their “martinet” kids to the neighbors at Back Lane Cottage enhances the deep look at a woman suffering from postpartum depression that has gotten worse over the three plus years since she gave birth. Although limited action and a bit too tidy of a wrap-up, contemporary fiction fans will appreciate this fine tale of an individual whose self esteem went with the afterbirth.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eye to Eye-Grace Carol

Eye to Eye
Grace Carol
Red Dress, Dec 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895823

Ronnie and Doris are best friends who live on opposite sides of the continent. Ronnie, after a graduate school stint in Indiana, lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend Earl and no money. Doris resides in Atlanta, but just ended a relationship.

Ronnie tutors sixteen years old Ian who runs his wealthy family like a dictator. Doris is under siege at the college she works by a royal academic pain in the butt. They remain best friends picking each other up mentally as their career paths collapse and their romances seem to crumble.

This is an intriguing tale starring two women who once shared their feelings in person, but geography has somewhat limited that support although they remain steadfast for one another. There is little action and much of that comes across as musings and doubts although the audience get inside the respective heads of the best friends to the point of understanding their wants and fears. These internal asides are all over the place making them realistic but difficult to follow. Still this is a fascinating lock at two people reflecting on their choices, past present and future.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Salem Witch Judge-Eve LaPlante

Salem Witch Judge
Eve LaPlante
HarperOne, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780060859602

In 1692, magistrate Samuel Sewall sat on the Massachusetts Court along with other zealous judges hosting the trials of hundreds accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. He convicted over thirty people of the crime and oversaw the execution of twenty by hanging and one by large stones pressing down on him. Some of the executed were friends of the presiding judge. Five years later, removed from the frenzy and reflecting what he and others wrought, Samuel repented taking responsibly for the “shame and blame” and grief he caused. No other judge showed even the slightest remorse.

Eve LaPlante provides a great biography of Judge Swell, who like her previous nonfiction (see AMERICAN JEZEBEL: THE UNCOMMON LIFE OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, THE WOMAN WHO DEFIED THE PURITANS) is apparently an ancestor of the author. Combining diaries by Judge Sewell with anecdotes by her Aunt Charlotte, Ms. LaPlante provides a deep gripping description of a deeply religious Puritan who realized looking back at the atrocities that fundamental extremism led to unnecessary deaths; basically governmental theocracy sanctioned murder. A doting father and husband, he spent the rest of his life following his public confession atoning for what he felt were sins he committed as he wrote papers demanding equality, justice and freedom for everyone even Indians, women, and slaves. This is a timely well written look at the one SALEM WITCH JUDGE who regretted his role in the Salem witch-hunt.

Harriet Klausner

An Irish Country Christmas-Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Christmas
Patrick Taylor
Forge, Oct 28 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0765320703

In the quaint Irish village of Ballybucklebo, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and his partner Dr. Barry Laverty deal as always with the vast ailments of the townsfolk while also dealing with respective attractions to the opposite sex. Fingal has doubts about courting effervescent Kitty O'Halloran except when he is near her; than he has no rational thought. Barry is upset because his girlfriend Patricia Spence at Girton College informs him she may not make it in time for his first Christmas in the small Irish village.

However, all that pales compared to a new doctor in town who steals their patients with remedies that should have the man barred. To country doctors O’Reilly and Laverty, Dr. Fitzpatrick should be called Dr. Quack, but as ridiculous as his prescriptions are, he is gaining patients.

The third Irish County medical cozy (see AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR and AN IRISH COUNTRY VILLAGE) is a fun tale as O’Reilly and Laverty continues to take care of the villagers by combining modern medical practices with homespun “cures” like dressing up as Santa. The story line is warm and uplifting even when Patricia looks like she will not make for the holidays and Fitzpatrick causes harm to the patients he steals. Readers who enjoyed the previous entries will especially want to read this one as the two physicians spend their first holiday season with fans.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Star Garden-Nancy E. Turner

The Star Garden
Nancy E. Turner
Dunne, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0312363176

In 1906 Arizona Territory, forty-six years old twice widowed Sarah Agnes Prine lives with a horde of family members in a house rebuilt by rich ruthless Rudolfo Maldonado; who once worked for her and even proposed though she said no. Meanwhile her neighbor Udell Hanna wants the reluctant Sarah to marry him.

When Sarah rides on her property she comes across a nasty stagecoach accident in which the driver and a passenger died. She takes the three survivors, Miss James, Professor Fairhaven and Professor Osterhaus into her large home until they can continue their journey. Udell shows his love for Hannah when he enrolls her in classes at the university where the professors are teaching. As she enjoys school, someone who she thought was a friend is causing dangerous problems on her ranch.

This engaging historical tale is told in a journal format but contains plenty of action while focusing on the life of Sarah just before statehood. Sarah is a stupendous person dealing with courtships, family feuds, bandits and an unknown deadly stalker. Readers will enjoy this deep look at a pioneer who takes the early steps so that a century later women can claim we’ve come a long way.

Harriet Klausner

Good Luck-Whitney Gaskell

Good Luck
Whitney Gaskell
Bantam, Nov 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553591514

In Florida Andrews Prep Principal Dr. Johnson fires her because lazy student Matt Forrester accused her of sexual harassment misconduct. Angry at the false charges that her boss accepts without investigating, Lucy Parker explodes. She has taught literature there for a decade and was teacher of the year two years ago. Her only crime was failing a student who deserved the poor grade. A revelation occurs that Matt’s wealthy parents threatened legal action against the school if Lucy is not fired.

Lucy needs to escape her troubles as she knows the accusation will follow her to any school she applies for employment even as her dilapidated Volvo dies. However, she buys a lottery ticket only to come home to see her husband Elliot in bed with a blonde. The media exposes the Forrester charge so a depressed Lucy, after winning $87 million in the Florida lottery, decides to escape so she heads to Palm Beach where her college buddy Hayden lives. He allows her to stay and gives her a makeover that everyone says makes her gorgeous and glamorous; everyone except Mal, who insists her previous wholesome look, was prettier.

Talk about a negative streak even with the lottery win (more than Melvin and the Bluenotes’ Bad Luck or Short in Pure Luck), Lucy assumes she is bottomed out each time until the next fall from grace occurs. The money enables her to have some flexibility but even she wonders whether she it will change her along the lines of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The school incident has already done that as she is cynical instead of idealistic. Lucy makes the tale intriguing.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Amigas and School Scandals-Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Amigas and School Scandals
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Kensington, October 28 2008, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758225559

After spending her summer with her older brother in Puerto Rico with family she never met before, Mariana Ruiz returns home to suburban Spring Mills, Pennsylvania to go back to high school. Her cousin Lilly Sanchez has come with her to attend Spring Mills High School as a freshman. To everyone’s shock except perhaps Mariana, Lilly is the most popular frosh in the school after only one day. Mariana’s best friends Madison and Emily are outraged and envious of Lilly’s stratospheric nanosecond rise.

Having missed Madison’s Sweet Sixteen party due to her PR vacation, Mariana and her pals plan one for her. Meanwhile her estranged aunt pleads with the family to take her back, but her uncles and her parents have doubts as their anger is bone deep. In spite of her summer fling, Mariana is attracted to her locker buddy, Bobby, but hides her feelings because she is unsure if Emily, who dated him once during the summer, is interested.

This is an entertaining teen drama as Mariana struggles with balancing her loyalty to her friends with welcoming her cousin, as Lilly did for her in AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS. Mariana’s difficulties ring true with her being pulled in several directions. Fans will appreciate her return home as AMIGAS AND SCHOOL SCANDALS is an engaging contemporary.
Harriet Klausner

Paper Towns-John Green

Paper Towns
John Green
Dutton, Oct 2008, $17.99
ISBN: 9780525478188

In Orlando they have been next door neighbors for a decade and even saw a corpse together when they were nine years old. However, as they get ready to graduate from high school, Quentin Jacobsen still loves his childhood best friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman, but she moved on to spend time with the cool dudes and he settled for other girls. She became the centerfold for the bad girl and him the nerdy smart guy.

One night she suddenly appears at his bedroom window like she used to do when they were preadolescents. He sneaks out so he does not have to explain to his therapist parents what he is doing and they spend the night on her capers.

The next day Q learns Margo vanished from his life again, but this time she is not even in the neighborhood. Fearing for her going so far as considering she committed suicide, he needs to know if she is okay. With his best friend Radar as his sidekick they follow the clues starting with Margo’s copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

This is a deep teenage relationship drama with several incredible twists to the connection between the lead couple. Q and Radar’s inquiry is fun to follow as the hero begins to understand the murkiness of love which ironically means not to understand. Along with their sidekick Ben of bleeding masturbation infamy, they make an awesome geek trio while Margo is the fascinating polar opposite as the glamorous bad girl. Fans will enjoy this fine teen mystery as any moment this reviewer expected Alvy Singer to crash across the fourth wall from Annie Hall bringing Marshall McLuhan with him to resolve the amusing psychobabble.
Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Witch's Trinity-Erika Mailman

The Witch's Trinity
Erika Mailman
Three Rivers (crown), Oct 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780307351531

In 1507, the villagers of Tierkinddorf are hungry and angry as this is the “second year of no harvest” that follows several poor harvests. They begin to believe a witch has cast an evil satanic curse on them causing nasty weather that led to poor harvests and now just about no crops.

A Dominican friar traveling from town to town to expose witches arrives to the rejoicing of most of the villagers who believe he will uncover the identity of the culprit. He points the finger at Kunne the healer who swears to God she is innocent. Her dismayed best friend elderly Gude feels helpless as she watches Kunne burned at the stake. She also is concerned with her nightmares about witches, the devil and her late husband. Thinking one less mouth to feed, Gude’s resentful daughter-in-law Irmeltrud begins a campaign when her spouse is away desperately hunting that accuses her widowed mother-in-law of witchcraft.

The atmosphere that leads to cynicism, paranoia and witch hunts is incredibly thick as Erika Mailman provides a deep look at a small early sixteenth century German village blaming famine on witches cursing the villagers. The Friar’s presence quickly leads to neighbors pointing the fingers at one another. Although Gude as the narrator at times is hard to understand because of her mental instability that adds to the feel of the era in which a bit of craziness means witch. Fans will enjoy this engaging look while wondering whether Gude’s “visions are supernatural or deranged in origin.

Harriet Klausner

With Violets-Elizabeth Robards

With Violets
Elizabeth Robards
Avon, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0061579122

In 1868 Paris, they have seen one another at the Louvre; they have nodded hello in passing, but not talk. She knows who he is as he is perhaps the most famous painter in the world while she is a novice in comparison. Finally a few weeks later his friend Monsieur Fantin introduces artist Rosalie Reisener and impressionist painter Berthe Morisot to the great artist Edouard Manet, who invites the latter back to his studio.

Over the next few years he paints several portraits of her including her in a black hat WITH VIOLETS. They become friends and lovers although he is married. Their affair is risky until it is finally exposed.

This is an engaging historical biographical fiction of Berthe Morisot whose contemporaries thought nothing of her work and more of her modeling for Manet; her work is now considered some of the best of the French impressionists. However, WITH VIOLETS focuses on her relationship with Manet and not much on her art. Still this is a well written enjoyable fictionalized account of Berthe Morisot starting from the moment she first saw Manet.

Harriet Klausner

Sinner-Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 97815955540089

In 2034 in most of the world, tolerance is the byword in regard to religion. It is frowned up to discuss sectarianism, ethno slurs, or public preaching. Billy Rediger, the product of the failed Project Showdown, is a lawyer who has never forgotten that what he wrote in The Books of History is made flesh in the real world.

Marsuvees Black is the personification of evil still out in the world causing trouble. He is behind the lynching and race riots that are polarizing America. Billy connects with Darcy Lange who also let evil into her life when she abetted Billy in writing that infamous tome. They discover Billy can hear the thoughts of everyone as long as he looks into their eyes and her voice can compel people to do what she asks. When a cabal of Washington powerbrokers brings them out from the cold, they agree to make the undecided power brokers pass a constitutional amendment that would make racial bigotry and religious freedom crimes. The amendment passes but in Paradise, Colorado Johnny Drake who fought against evil and won refuses to deny his religious beliefs.

Ted Dekker has written a fabulous supernatural thriller that brings to a close his terrific Paradise trilogy (see SHOWDOWN and SAINT). There is a lot of symbolism in this saga. Black can be considered Lucifer and Johnny is John the Baptist risking his life for his belief. There is plenty of action as the future United States is a place of no freedom as the Bill of Rights has been burned at the stakes. Readers will enjoy SINNER as it is a crime to openly worship God.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Forbidden Fruit-Eden Bradley

Forbidden Fruit
Eden Bradley
Delta (Dell), Oct 28 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 0553385119

San Francisco State University Professor Mia Rose Curry teaches a class on alternative sexuality that allows her to fantasize without doing as she trusts no one. Her class is extremely popular as students enjoy learning about fetishes, bondage, and voyeurism, oh my. Although several students have come on to her, Mia knows better than to mix with a pupil; instead she conceals her desires from everyone behind an academic façade.

However, this term she has a problem when hunk Jagger James enters her classroom. From the moment she sees the Golden One she wants him, but tries to pretend indifference. Jagger knows she is his food fetish and plans to dine on his teacher just like he demands she feast on his banquet.

This is an entertaining erotic romance starring a professor and the student who makes her deepest hottest fantasies come to life. Though their pairing seems on the surface wrong (even Mia Rose knows that) due to the nature of their academic relationship, Eden Bradley makes it seem right. Sub-genre fans will relish dining on this FORBIDDEN FRUIT as Jagger teaches Mia Rose “ain’t nothing like the real thing” (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) when love is involved.

Harriet Klausner

One Perfect Day-Lauraine Snelling

One Perfect Day
Lauraine Snelling
Faithwords, Nov 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0446582107

Nora wants the perfect Christmas for her family. She looks forward along with her twins Charlie and Christi to the return of her spouse and their father from Germany. However the Riverbend police arrive at Nora’s home to inform her a tragedy occurs when Charlie is in a car accident and is in the hospital’s ICU only kept alive by a ventilator. His dad, delayed in Germany, rushes home to try to be at the side of his son.

Jenna is a single mother praying for a miracle for her daughter, Heather. If the child fails to get a heart transplant by Christmas she will be dead. A miracle occurs when a heart is found for Heather. Though Jenna rejoices, Nora mourns.

This is a poignant emotional tale of two families connected by the organ transplant. Both families come across as real especially their reactions to what is going on. Besides making a strong plea for the organ donation program, ONE PERFECT DAY points out that for each life saved, someone else mourns the loss of a life. Lauraine Snelling provides a deep inspirational novel.

Harriet Klausner

A Good Woman-Danielle Steel

A Good Woman
Danielle Steel
Delacorte Press, Oct 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 0385340265

The Worthington family is at the top of Fifth Ave and Newport society. The patriarch is an affluent banker; his wife is a leader of the upper crust; and their two children are highly regarded. Everything changes when the Titanic goes down in 1912 as the patriarch and the son die in the tragedy leaving behind nineteen years old Annabelle and her mom to grieve their loss.

A banking colleague of her late dad Josiah Millbank kindly offers marriage to Annabelle; she accepts. Two years later having never made love, Josiah informs his young wife that he has syphilis and demands a divorce because he wants to be with his male lover. Annabelle says no so Josiah files for a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Everyone assumes the kind banker is the victim leaving Annabelle a pariah. She goes to Paris to start over hoping to become a doctor based on her volunteer work at Ellis Island.

Annabelle makes the historical tale fun to read as her strength shines through even when her reputation is unfairly destroyed. The plight of women in high society just prior to WW I comes into deep focus by the way Annabelle’s peers react to first the Titanic tragedy, then her marriage, and finally the accusations. Fans will enjoy Danielle Steele’s fine early twentieth century saga of a woman who could quote Sinatra’s That’s Life because Annabelle knows that “Some people get their kicks, Stompin' on a dream” but she also would sing “Each time I find myself, flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life After Genius-M. Ann Jacoby

Life After Genius
M. Ann Jacoby
Grand Central, Oct 29 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 0446199710

Theodore Mead Fegley grew up in High Grove, Illinois under the thumb of a martinet mom and an indifferent dad who was too busy running a funeral parlor and furniture store. Being a genius, Mead faced bullies and unfair physical comparisons to his older athletically gifted cousin as if brawn supersedes brain every time although Perry is his only friend. At fifteen he accepts a scholarship to attend Chicago University on a three year track.

At school, he focuses on solving Riemann Hypothesis while flourishing under the mentoring of Dr. Alexander. However, as he succeeds at math, he fails at personal relationships. Now on the verge of graduating at eighteen, Mead must give his presentation even as his long time college rival and enemy math major Herman Weinstein tries to destroy his research; instead feeling emotionally deceased he flees for home.

Though the key characters seem to come out of typecasting 101 boy genius, contemporary readers will enjoy this well written character study that looks at the down side of being the brain. Mead is an interesting protagonist whose intelligence without an emotional anchor leads to his shutting down his brain. Readers will appreciate his struggles to belong as LIFE AFTER GENIUS can prove disconcerting.

Life After Genius-M. Ann Jacoby

Life After Genius
M. Ann Jacoby
Grand Central, Oct 29 2008, $24.99
ISBN: 0446199710

Theodore Mead Fegley grew up in High Grove, Illinois under the thumb of a martinet mom and an indifferent dad who was too busy running a funeral parlor and furniture store. Being a genius, Mead faced bullies and unfair physical comparisons to his older athletically gifted cousin as if brawn supersedes brain every time although Perry is his only friend. At fifteen he accepts a scholarship to attend Chicago University on a three year track.

At school, he focuses on solving Riemann Hypothesis while flourishing under the mentoring of Dr. Alexander. However, as he succeeds at math, he fails at personal relationships. Now on the verge of graduating at eighteen, Mead must give his presentation even as his long time college rival and enemy math major Herman Weinstein tries to destroy his research; instead feeling emotionally deceased he flees for home.

Though the key characters seem to come out of typecasting 101 boy genius, contemporary readers will enjoy this well written character study that looks at the down side of being the brain. Mead is an interesting protagonist whose intelligence without an emotional anchor leads to his shutting down his brain. Readers will appreciate his struggles to belong as LIFE AFTER GENIUS can prove disconcerting.

Harriet Klausner

O Little Town-Don Reid

O Little Town
Don Reid
David C. Cook, Oct 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9781434799302

In 1958 in Mt Jefferson, Macalbee’s Five & Dime manager Milton Sandridge is informed that fifteen year old Millie Franklin has been caught shoplifting. Milton would prefer to ignore the crime as the culprit is the daughter of Reverend Paul Franklin, pastor of the Methodist Church, but there are too many witnesses. He calls Police Lieutenant Buddy Briggs who comes over to talk with Millie before taking her home. Millie is upset and angry, but refuses to say anything further. Her father and her mother Dove ask her why.

Widower Walter Selmon, Milton’s father-in-law, is rushed to the hospital where his other son-in-law Camp Sterrett is a doctor. The medical tests conclude he is dying, upsetting his two adult daughters, Milton’s wife Colleen and Camp’s spouse Doris. Doris’ oldest of two sons, seventeen years old Louis informs his parents he impregnated sixteen year old Shirley Ann Briggs; who informs her dad the sheriff and her mom Amanda.

The key to this engaging historical fiction is the fully developed small-town cast who each has flaws, makes mistakes, and has issues. The subplot involving a teenage Walter and an actress in 1904 is well written but can distract from the prime 1958 drama. Still O LITTLE TOWN is a delightful inspirational tale with the theme of forgiveness running through both tracks accentuated years later with the tradition of the roses emphasizing all is forgiven.
Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Love Song of Monkey-Michael S.A. Graziano

The Love Song of Monkey
Michael S.A. Graziano
Leapfrog Press, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 978098154802
PO Box 2110
Teaticket, MA 02536

Twentyish Jonathan is dying from AIDS. He has given up on life, but heeds his wife Kitty’s pleading to try one last desperate gambit. He agrees to see Dr. Kack inventor of the top secret Kwark King cure to see if his life can be saved.

Dr. Kack admits his device is still experimental as the intense pain on human subjects has led them to give up and the tests on animals have all ended in their death. Jonathan is willing to try and becomes the first subject to make it through all the stages of the radical molecular modification that makes his body “unbreakable” in accordance with Kack. However, he never fully comes awake and acts like he is some sort of living dead. As such Kack and Kitty dump his semi comatose body into the ocean where Jonathan’s love for Kitty sustains him while he begins the trek back to human civilianization starting with his soul.

Mindful of Spielberg’s A.I., this is a fascinating dreamlike character study that insists the power of love enable people to do extraordinary deeds; as Jonathan did. His goal throughout is to return to his beloved Kitty that sustains him through the medical procedure and his incredible travel to the beyond and back. A whimsical parable that focuses on the strengths and weakens of humanity with the message of "To err is human; to forgive is divine." by Alexander Pope running throughout the deep story line.

Harriet Klausner

A Silent Ocean Away-DeVa Gantt

A Silent Ocean Away
DeVa Gantt
Avon, Oct 14 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061578236

In 1836 eighteen years old Charmaine Ryan is euphoric to leave behind her hateful father, the Harrington family who she worked for three years, and her impoverished life in Richmond, Virginia to start over as a governess to the wealthy Duvoisin family. Thus she sails on the Raven heading to the three West Indies islands Les Charmantes. She meets on the ship, Paul Duvoisin, the illegitimate son of family patriarch Frederic.

On the isles she meets the rest of the family to include the reclusive Frederic, his young breeder trophy wife Colette, his heir John (born of his first late wife) and his three young children from his second marriage whom Charmaine is in charge of. She thinks she has found paradise but soon realizes each has dark secrets and enemies. Charmaine begins to help the entire Duvoisin dynasty not just her charges cope especially when Machiavellian schemer Agatha Ward plans to replace Colette as the spouse, but with no brats.

More a historical epic than a romance, A SILENT OCEAN AWAY is an engaging family drama starring a heroine whose coming of age takes her from naïve admirer to pragmatic defender. The vast cast is strong so that key players are fully developed and secondary characters add depth to the plot. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fine West Indies early nineteenth century saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Single Thread-Marie Bostwick

A Single Thread
Marie Bostwick
Kensington, Nov 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758222572

In Fort Worth, Texas, Evelyn Dixon thought her life was pretty good. That is until she figuratively receives two shotgun blasts into her gut. First her husband informs her he is leaving her; second she learns she has breast cancer.

Needing to get away, Evelyn moves to New Bern, Connecticut where she opens up a quilting store. As she begins to heal, Abigail Burgess, her niece Liza, and Margot Matthews enter her store. Each has issues with Abigail and Liza struggling with the sudden death of the latter’s mom and Margot looking for a job hopes quilting will bring her fresh contacts. These four begin to bond one stitch at a time.

Although the inspiring single thread that runs through this well written uplifting character study is not new as there are a bunch of examples out there, Marie Bostwick provides warn look at starting over while coping with at best a life changing emotional issue. The story line is driven by four women who each are coping with difficult poignant problems that lead to them finding a sisterly bond with one another; as the power of friendship helps each of them deal with the deck dealt them.

Harriet Klausner

Time of My Life-Allison Winn Scotch

Time of My Life
Allison Winn Scotch
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Oct 7 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 9780307408570

In Westchester County, New York, anyone who knows Jillian Westfield will believe she lives the perfect life in her lovely upscale family home. Her husband Henry adores her and their infant daughter has a vocabulary of sixteen words. She seems to be the model of lifestyles described in the upbeat family living magazines she reads. However, Jillian is unhappy as she is already tired of cleaning up their daughter while her lawyer husband hides behind long office hours. Adding to her despondency is learning that her post graduate college lover, Jackson is getting married.

Following a deep, chi-clearing massage, Jill awakens not to her daughter’s cries, but somehow seven years ago when she worked in Manhattan advertising and dated Jack yet remembering her future. Each time she reaches a major decision point, she considers selecting the other opportunity she rejected the first time. As she redoes pivotal points even Jill wonders where her selections will leave her.

With nods to It’s A Wonderful Life and Peggy Sue Got Married, TIME OF MY LIFE is a poignant character driven drama as the heroine gets the chance to answer the what if fantasies people make about their past. Jillian carries the wonderful story line as she debates herself on whether to select the alternatives or follow the same path she already knows where it is going. Allison Winn Scotch provides a deep tale of second chances.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Next Stop-Ivan Sanchez

Next Stop
Ivan Sanchez
Touchstone, Oct 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416562672

NEXT STOP is a fascinating but also sad memoir of life in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx in from 1978 to the early 1990s. However unlike most memoirs looking back at a “war zone”, Ivan Sanchez does not tell much about his escape. Instead he focuses on survival, a sort of social Darwinism in practice. The neighborhood is filled with crime mostly violent from professional arsonists collecting fees for torching buildings so owners can collect insurance to drug wars over who peddles where (fundamental capitalistic supply and demand). To live another day, you needed a crew to provide 360 degrees of protection for one another, but that was no guarantee. Readers will be abhorred at the violence, but more so at the way it is taken for granted as part of living in wild Bronx. Well written with plenty of heart, this is not an easy read for unlike TV this is real life; for this reviewer who grew up in the Bronx and knows the locations like Creston Ave near Fordham Rd it especially hits home.

Harriet Klausner