Sunday, November 30, 2008

While My Sister Sleeps-Barbara Delinsky

While My Sister Sleeps
Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday, Feb 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780385524926

Olympic level marathoner egotistical Robin Snow and her less athletic younger sister Molly the horticulturist do not get along for the most part though they share a sisterly bond especially when things go bad for one of them. Molly resents her older sibling’s fame and accompanied gloating haughtiness so refuses to run with Robin as she trains. When Robin running alone suffers a heart attack that leaves her comatose, Molly feels guilty for not being there for her.

As Robin's health worsens, Molly’s feelings of guilt rise in a negative correlation. Other family members like their brother Chris and their parents Charlie and Kathryn fail to cope with the increasingly ominous situation; Chris has a personal problem while Kathryn is in denial and Charlie turns to religion. Thus every critical decision falls on Molly’s overly burdened shoulders as the doctor begins to believe Robin will never wake up.

Fans of Barbara Delinsky will enjoy this angst-laden character driven family drama that looks deep into relationships mostly between siblings. Although the well written story line is extremely passive (which makes sense since one of the key characters is in a coma) and at times over burdened with too much personal torment that borders on hyperbolic emoting, WHILE MY SISTER SLEEPS deeply showcases how people react differently to an unexpected health crisis.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Sweet in Between-Sheri Reynolds

The Sweet in Between
Sheri Reynolds
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Nov 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 0307393895

In Virginia seventeen year old Kendra "Kenny" Lugo fears the near future. Her mom died years ago of cancer and her dad is serving time. She lives with her dad’s girlfriend “Aunt” Glo who has two kids of her own (tweener Quincy and teen Tim-Tim) and her seven years old granddaughter Daphne, dumped on her by her oldest child. Glo survives her responsibilities thanks in part to prescription pain killers.

Kenny fears Glo will kick her out of her home once she becomes an adult, which is soon. The teen also struggles with identity issues especially hiding her feminine body. When their alcoholic neighbor Jarvis Stanley accidentally kills a college girl, Kenny obsesses over the deceased as her morbidity makes her believe Glo will kick her to the curb soon. Her plan is to soon become responsible and dependable; Glo will beg her to stay.

Told by the frightened Kenny, THE SWEET IN BETWEEN is a fascinating family drama starring a frightened teen filled with anger, remorse and fear. The rest of Glo’s extended family is fully developed characters who enhance the at times subtle and other moments in your face story line. However, this is Kenny’ tale as she sadly expects the worse but hopes for the best, which in this case is not being kicked out of the only shelter, albeit a relatively poor one, she knows at a time she wonders why she feels different from girls her age.

Harriet Klausner

Forever Princess-Meg Cabot

Forever Princess
Meg Cabot
Harper, Jan 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061232923

Genovia Princess Amelia is looking forward to the near future as she will soon turn eighteen, graduate high school, go to her senior prom, and attend an Ivy League School or an equivalent in Europe. Princess Amelia shows everyone her public upbeat persona especially with her kingdom about to hold their first elections.

Mia fears her make believe world is about to collapse. Grandmere plans to host her eighteenth birthday gala in a style fitting a royal, which means no fun. Her boyfriend J.P. has not asked her to the prom and for whatever dumb male reason he has not, she rationalizes though the clock is running out. Finally all those schools like Yale, Columbia and Harvard have not tendered a student seat although she has everyone think they did. Making matters more complicated is the triumphant return from Japan of her former boyfriend Michael, whose medical technology procedure has been adopted as the way to go. Finally, even her medieval romance novel (see RANSOM MY HEART) written under the pseudonym Meg Cabot has failed to find a publisher. Mia has less than one month before the big crunch implodes her world.

The tie in to the “co-authored RANSOM MY HEART is fun and cute, as Meg Cabot and Mia Thermopolis write the novel, which in the final Princess Diaries’ tale includes excerpts. Fans will appreciate the usual doubting Thomasina as Mia disparages herself for fear of failing even as she has grown from the frightened teen eleven episodes ago to understanding the significance of a strong front to hide a queasy stomach. The audience will be elated with the climatic final tale wondering if all will go right as the heroine turns eighteen.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 28, 2008

Simple Wishes-Lisa Dale

Simple Wishes
Lisa Dale
Forever, Jan 2009, $6.99
ISBN: 0446406899

With her failure at making it in New York followed by her mom Marge’s death, Adele Martin quits her job as an art gallery manager and leaves Brooklyn to return to the Pennsylvania mountain cottage she grew up in to consider what next. Adele and her mom had a falling out over the former leaving for the big city and now she feels guilty over their estrangement although she knows part of the problems was her mom’s secret past. Aunt Christine comes by to see her niece for the first time in years and weekend warriors the Lopresti family invites her to Korean fare.

Adele meets her next door neighbor, the only year round resident, artist “Hermit Jay” Westvelt. They are attracted to one another, but have differing opinions about Marge. As they fall in love, she begins to learn the deepest secrets about her unknown father, her mother and her aunt that make her want to flee the Pocono’s for Brooklyn and the restraining order she left behind. Jay hopes to persuade her that mountain life is good when filled with love and besides the big city of Scranton is nearby.

More a deep family drama with a romantic subplot, SIMPLE WISHES is an interesting character study of a woman who begins to learn what love is and is not after meeting Jay, Skipper the dog, her aunt and the Lopresti family. Before them love was conditional with controlling strings and IOUs; after them she begins to realize love can be unconditional just there. Although the story line lacks action with the focus on the characters’ emotions, fascinatingly, the Lopresti teen granddaughter is her prime teacher, as Adele sees history repeat the same errors she made, but will she understand in time to save her relationship with Jay starting with her real given first name.

Harriet Klausner

Promises of Change-Joan Medlicott

Promises of Change
Joan Medlicott
Pocket, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416524588

In rural Covington, North Carolina, Hannah and Max marry, but maintain their separate houses although she spends many nights at his. Her two friends Grace and Amelia who share a farmhouse with Hannah are fine with the arrangement, as is Max.

However, their marital bliss abruptly ends when Max’s estranged son Zachary accompanied by his pregnant wife Sarina, arrives from India. Hannah and her two best buddies welcome Sarina to the Tar Heel State with friendship and quickly the mother-daughter in-laws forge a strong bond while baby shopping in town together. However, the schism between their husbands remains wider than the Great Gorge even after Sarah is born, which dampens the joy of a newborn

Fans of the Covington tales will enjoy the latest escapades as Hannah’s new family issues take center stage although plenty happens to Grace and Amelia too. Hannah worries that the estrangement between her beloved husband and his son, which already huts the pair, will cause pain to others, but is unsure how to proceed to bringing about a reconciliation. Obviously for the Covington audience, this is a warm character driven entry; as all the novels are.

Harriet Klausner

The Love We Share Without Knowing-Christopher Barzak

The Love We Share Without Knowing
Christopher Barzak
Bantam, Dec 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553385649

In Ami, Japan, sixteen year old American Elijah Fulton is bored. His only outlet is running. On an isolated path he meets a red fox who seems to imply he should follow; he does and ends up in a sacred circle. Soon after still suffering ennui, Elijah without telling anyone takes the train to Tokyo. After spending the day there, he tries to find the train back to the town where he, his parents and younger sister reside, but fails; no one seems to help him until a teen calling herself Midori helps him as she is going there too. After leaving the train at Ami they walk together until she heads to her father’s farm while he goes home. Later he learns Midori committed suicide thirteen years ago.

In Tokyo, Hitumi meets Kazuko in a restaurant after each of their respective dates let them down. Soon afterward Asami and Tadashi the only male of the four form a suicide club pact that reminds Hitumi of her late friend Midori.

More a series of somewhat related vignettes rather than short stories or a novel, THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING is a deep look at loneliness and its twin need to belong to others. Christopher Barzak makes the case that the human need for companionship is a basic requirement just a notch less critical than physical survival needs like food, water and shelter. Well written with more episodes than those above, but somewhat depressing because part of belonging could lead to negative consequences like forming a suicide club pact. Fans who appreciate a powerful character study that gets into the essence of human need (think of the Maslow’s hierarchy) will relish this engaging but gloomy glimpse into the human psyche.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mistress Shakespeare-Karen Harper

Mistress Shakespeare
Karen Harper
Putnam, Feb 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780399155451

Anne Whatley and William Shakespeare have been friends since childhood. On 27 November 1582 a marriage license in Latin between Anne Whateley and Wm Shaxpere is issued in nearby Worcester, England. However, their respective families object to their relationship. A few days later William Shakespeare and pregnant Anne Hathaway wed.

To escape from the reminders of her broken heart Anne flees to London. She occupies her mind with the family business. When Will comes to town, they meet up with both still attracted to one another, but he is a married man. Still Anne becomes Will’s ardent advocate of his work and though their departures are sweet sorrows their reunions are passionate.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that indirectly looks at Shakespeare’s life through Anne Whatley’s lens by combining fact and what if fiction. The story line provides a focus on the Elizabethan Era especially from the viewpoint of artists and their patrons. Although the romantic plot lacks suspense as there is only so much poetic license an author can take to fill gaps and reach the known end, fans will enjoy this solid glimpse into Shakespeare in love.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss-Ted Dekker and Erin Healy

Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson, Feb 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9781595544704

The McAllister siblings were driving together when a nasty accident leaves Shauna in a coma and her brother Rudy permanently brain damaged. When Shauna awakens from her comatose state six months later, she finds her memory impaired. Her doctor fills in some of the gaps of the accident; informing her she was the driver and her blood level at the time recorded her as under the influence of drugs; she caused the accident ramming into a semi in which her dad has paid off millions already.

Feeling remorse and guilt Shauna returns home to finish healing. Her father, running for president, treats her like the enemy while her stepmother overtly shows her loathing towards her. Only Wayne Spade, insisting he is her boyfriend though she has no memory of him, treats her with kindness. She soon learns she has developed a new skill, pilfering other peoples’ memories. Shauna decides to learn the deepest darkest truth concealed by her father so she can understand why he seems to have always hated her only now he acts more overtly. Sometimes a person is better off not knowing as ignorance will prove bliss because knowledge brings assassins coming for her.

This exciting Christian parable ironically subtly focuses on the Plato concept that to appreciate the good (in this case the light of God) one must experience the bad (the devilish dark side); inside of a suspense thriller with paranormal elements. Shauna holds the fast-paced story line together with her insistence on learning the whole truth although each revelation cuts a chunk of her soul off and leads to someone wanting her dead. Fans of Ted Dekker will relish this strong allegorical fable filled with suspense yet underlying is the theme of deliverance from the mental anguish if Shauna willingly turns to God.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Centurion's Wife-T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

The Centurion's Wife
T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
Bethany House, Jan 2009, $20.99
ISBN: 9780764205149

In AD 33 in Caesarea Judea Province, Pontius Pilate cuts a deal with ambitious Centurion Alban, commander of the garrison near Galilee. Part of the arrangement is to have Alban marry his Jewess niece Leah. More a servant than a relative as her uncle hides their blood connection since her father disgraced the family name, Leah does not want to wed someone she has never met.

Angry, hurt and desperate, Leah asks her mistress, Pilate’s wife Mistress Procula for help in preventing the deal. However, Procula has her own issues as she cannot sleep having recently suffered from nightmares re Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing for her Pilate and needing sleep, Instead Procula sends Leah undercover amidst Jesus’ disciples to learn what they and others plan as a recent assassination of a rabbi has caused open anger among the Jews. However, as she befriends Mary Magdalene and the others has Leah believing there can be peace and hope on earth, but she fears she sill is in the dark because she will betray either her mistress or her friends and adding to her doubts is that she knows someone plans to kill Alban

The first Acts of Faith ancient biblical historical tale brings to vivid life Judea at a time when Jesus is crucified and resurrected. The exciting insightful story line focuses on Leah who learns to love and believe while she and her intended try to prevent an armed revolt that will leave many dead. Biblical fiction fans will relish this deep look at first century Judea as a time when religion, politics, and the military converge like no other time since.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Gates of Trevalyan-Jacquelyn Cook

The Gates of Trevalyan
Jacquelyn Cook
Belle, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780980245356

In 1844 Jenny Mobley and Charles King meet during a fox hunt. Although she is attracted to him, she assumes he is an idle spoiled rich kid. Charles is half way in love with Jenny so he pursues her. She quickly revises her opinion of him as he proves to be hard working, dedicated and caring. They soon marry.

She moves on to his affluent plantation Trevalyan in central Georgia. There as the country marches closer to all out war, they build a happy safe life together. However, when the war finally breaks out with the election of Lincoln, their idyllic lifestyle is threatened as no one is allowed to remain out of the Confederacy side of the fight in their area; not that either would go neutral or Union. Their life together raising a family is over for now and soon Trevalyan is at risk too from Sherman’s march to the sea, but Jenny knows the source of their true power will survive whatever comes from the war and its aftermath.

This mid nineteenth century epic saga will hook the readers with a strong sense of time and place that transports the audience to two plus decades of life in Central Georgia. The support cast is solid with several having their own subplots embellishing a look at the growing troubles of the period. However, this tale is owned by the lead couple as their actions and reactions reflect the larger stage. As she did with the terrific biographical fiction SUNRISE, Jacquelyn Cook provides an engaging historical yarn that enables her fans to taste life on a plantation before, during and just after the Civil War.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One September Morning-Rosalind Noonan

One September Morning
Rosalind Noonan
Kensington, Jan 2009, $14.00
ISBN 9780758209290

Following 9/11 NFL running back John Stanton informs his wife Abby and his parents that he is giving up his football career and his multimillion dollar contract to enlist in the army. After training, he and his unit deploy in Iraq where he is killed in a friendly fire incident. The officers who inform Abby of her husband’s death insist he was a hero killed by insurgents.

The Wives’ Club provides a grieving Abby with support while her in-laws demand Arlington National Cemetery, which the military is elated to provide. However, Abby begins to find discrepancies in the official report especially since her spouse was disenchanted with a war that made no sense. As she begins to demand the truth, the Wives’ Club and her in-laws demand she shut up before she taints the image of a hero while John’s two siblings encourage her to keep probing. Meanwhile, the maniac who deliberately murdered John has come to town to live the life of the late football star.

The obvious Pat Tillman connection aside, ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING is an insightful look at some modern military dependents struggling between support to their loved ones and their opposition to the Iraq War. The characters are fully developed and clearly divided. Most of Stanton’s unit and their families want Abby to go away while his parents want nothing to taint their son the hero. Abby needs the truth and her anti war sister-in-law pushes her to keep asking. Although the psychopath provides added tension that takes a way from an otherwise deep look at the family member on the home front while a loved one is in a combat zone.

Harriet Klausner

People of the Thunder-W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

People of the Thunder
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Forge, Jan 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780765314390

By 1300 in an area now known as Alabama and Mississippi, the Sky Hand People rule with an iron fist controlling territory for vast miles from their Split Sky City. Their Chief Flying Hawk is devious and ambitious with plans to expand the tribe’s land. His nephew War Chief Smoke Shield is a brilliant merciless strategist, who expedites his uncle’s plan. Together they are intelligent, abusive and deadly; complementing one another

They attack their peaceful neighbors the Albaamaha tribe with a blood thirsty assault. The “most dangerous man alive” Old White the prophet, Trader a man with dark bloody secrets and the enigmatic female shaman Two Petals seek peace. To achieve peace in their time, the trio knows they must end the reign of terror of Flying Hawk and Smoke Shield.

This completes the tale first started in THE PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE. As always in the incredible Gear North American Forgotten People saga, readers obtain an insightful look at Native American culture and everyday living inside an exciting action-packed thriller. Although extremely but appropriately graphic with murder, rape, torture and the abuses of war, fans will relish the fifth Mississippian story as the Gear duet bring to life the early fourteenth century through fully developed characters leading to a confrontation that will determine whether peace or war will dominate the region.

Harriet Klausner

Single Mama's Got More Drama-Kayla Perrin

Single Mama's Got More Drama
Kayla Perrin
Mira, Jan 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778326168

In Miami Vanessa Cain remains in shell shock from the betrayal and murder of her cheating fiancé, retired Atlanta Braves star Eli Johnson see SINGLE MAMA DRAMA). However, she tries to move past the scandal, but Eli's vengeful widow Tassie still battles her over who owns the condo Vanessa and her daughter Rayna shared with him.

Others are also making life miserable for Vanessa starting with her boss, Debbie, who is ecstatic over an affair she is having. Hollywood wants to make a TV movie of Eli’s story with her portrayed as an idiot. Rayna’s father Byron McLean suddenly wants joint custody after having nothing to do with their kid. Finally her pre-Eli boyfriend Lewis Carter proposes marriage. Worse she remains attracted to motivational speaker Chaz Anderson, who seems somewhat interested, but she fears not enough

Vanessa obviously suffers from the Mark of Cain as she got more drama than a soap opera queen. The story line in some ways feels more like a series of vignettes as the heroine goes from one disaster to another with so many that are not even in her lane the reader loses empathy for Vanessa. Still this is an amusing tale as the audience will understand how the lead protagonist feels as her life seems more like a pin ball game with tilt being the only respite.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Doesn't Kill You-Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant

What Doesn't Kill You
Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
Touchstone Books, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 1416564209

Divorcee Tee Hodges has always been there for her employer of twenty-five years Olivia Markson at the sacrifice in some ways of her own life. She did what she had to insure that the Markson & Daughter “creams and lotions” empire remained strong and successful; although “Daughter” left the work to mother while living the good life in Europe. Her boss was her mentor and friend. So when Olivia dies, Tee grieves her loss as if a close relative past away.

Tee is further stunned when Daughter decides to take control of the firm and fires her mom’s closest associates starting with Tee. Besides psychological shock, unemployment comes at a time when Tee is spending a fortune for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. Unable to obtain employment, Tee has no one to turn to as her parents have their own brouhaha, her daughter Amber has her upcoming wedding, and her friends no longer seem interested in her. Instead of wallowing in self pity, Tee decides to start a company of her own; not expecting her entrepreneurship will lead her to an admiring man.

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU is an engaging character study starring a woman who instead of wallowing in self pity, thinks that’s life and death while scrutinizing her options until she comes up with a plan that gives her hope. Tee’s asides are insightful and make her human; for instance when commentating on her ex husband’s public display of generosity at their daughter’s wedding while he failed to kick in one cent for the wedding. Readers will root for Tee as she tries to find life after Olivia.

Harriet Klausner

Lying on Sunday-Sharon K. Souza

Lying on Sunday
Sharon K. Souza
Navpress, Oct 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781600061769

In Granite Bay near Sacramento, Abbie Torrington thinks her life is great as she loves her husband Trey and cherishes their two teen daughters, Bailey and Becca. She does fear empty nest syndrome with Bailey at college and Becca starting in ten days while Trey spends a week every couple of months in Dallas. Ironically the radio is playing One Fine Day by the Chiffons when the nursing supervisor Ms. Walters at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego calls informing Mrs. Robert Torrington that her husband died from cardiac arrest. Besides denial partly because he is supposed to be in Dallas as a super salesman for Washington Mutual Insurance, the “suit” arrived serving Abbie divorce papers.

Abbie and her best friend Shawlie agree to hide the divorce from her daughters as they would be shattered with their dad’s betrayal of her. However, Abbie begins to also look deep inside to her soul and concludes there is no Abbie anymore; there is the mom of Bailey and Becca, and there is the wife of Trey; make that the widow of Trey. She needs to regain the missing Abbie. She wants to know what she wants from life and from God and what can she bring to her life and to God.

The theme has been used before, but not with the double shotgun blasts that shake Abbie to the roots of her soul. She is a fabulous protagonist struggling with death and betrayal while also needing to protect her daughters from their father’s affair. On top of all that, which represents the old Abbie; she needs to start anew and find the essence and soul of Abbie. Sharon K. Souza provides an insightful inspirational character study.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Surviving Groomzilla: A Bride’s Guide-Craig Bridger

Surviving Groomzilla: A Bride’s Guide
Craig Bridger
Citadel (Kensington), Jan 2009, $9.95
ISBN: 0806530006

This is an amusing but cautionary (for brides) look at “Bridezilla’s evil twin” in an attempt to help brides deal with, preferably rope in, the worst excesses of their future spouses. The author proclaims he is suited to write this guide book because he is a who’s who in Groomzilla land; in fact Mr. Bridger admires his wife as the ultimate survivor. The anecdotes are humorous unless you happen to be the fiancée, a member of the wedding party, or a worker at the gala; as all are recipients of seemingly insane behavior. Some normally sane logical males do not even realize what they are doing to others; as caring males, who would not harm or insult others deliberately, go over the edge as grooms. Readers, not just brides, will enjoy this lighthearted look at an unexpected unintended consequence of feminism as out of control males turn into maniacal Groomzillas; however, included tips explaining how to “Tame the beast, take back the wedding” or when to run aimed at assisting the bride and others in the wedding party might help tone down the groom. My advice is get him pregnant; he will be too miserable and concerned with what happened to his looks than in mugging photographers, future mother-in-laws, and flower arrangements.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Second Time Around-Marcia Willett

Second Time Around
Marcia Willett
Dunne, Dec 9 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0312306660

Due to the splintering her family years ago, never married eighty-four years old Mathilda Rainbird has no obvious heir to bequest her large South Devon estate to once she dies, which the octogenarian knows is soon. As such with the help of barrister James Barrington she leaves her property including her seaside cottage to three nth degree cousins she never met and she believes never met each other.

After Mathilda passes away, the beneficiaries are stunned as none knew the late octogenarian nor expected the gift she bestowed on them. Twenty-two years old dog sitter Tessa Rainbird has felt alone ever since her parents and baby brother died; retired diplomat widower Will Rainbird has gotten used to being alone ever since his wife past away; and spinster retired school matron Beatrice Holmes has always been alone even when surrounded by her all male students and faculty. These three lonely-hearts move into the cottage as each seeks new beginnings. Also on the property is Mathilda’s former housekeeper Isobel Stangate who resides in a smaller adjacent cottage while separated from her husband. None of the four want to share anything as each prefers hiding in shallow loneliness out of fear of being hurt; but soon family bonds begin to form as the quartet develop differing but caring relationships with one another.

This is the first American publication of a late 1990s English relationship drama starring five strong characters (including the late Mathilda). Readers will feel they moved into the cottage due to Marcia Willet’s trademark ability to bring her cast alive (see THE COURTYARD that contains a similar ensemble warmth story line). Fans will root for everyone to make it especially as a warm loving family who are there for each other.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two Rivers-

Two Rivers
T. Greenwood
Kensington, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758228775

In Two Rivers, Vermont, twelve years back in 1968 Harper Montgomery no longer considered himself a living human. That year his wife Betsy died and he was involved in a vicious murder of a black man. Harper goes through the motions of living, but has never moved past grief or his guilt. Filled with remorse, Harper knows if it was not for the fact his daughter needs him, he probably would have committed suicide just like a friend involved with the homicide did. Thus he still works for the railroad and does his best to raise his daughter Shelly as a single dad.

In 1980, a train derailment occurs. One of the survivors is a young pregnant black teen who needs a place to stay. Harper brings Marguerite “Maggie” Dufresne into his household as a form of repentance for what he and others did a dozen years ago. She tells him she is on her way to Canada having been raped. As he muses on his time with Betsy in the volatile 1960s, Harper begins to wonder if Maggie deliberately came to Two Rivers seeking closure just as Harper has struggles with too.

This complex character driven drama is well written, but not an easy read as metaphors like the name of the town and the confluence of its rivers at the town provide deep insight into the hidden internal battles between passion for the future and remorse for the past. The three prime characters seem fully developed with the adults each having a secret agenda fueling their relationship. Betsy and the murdered black male come alive through mostly Harper’s memory tinted by his psychological defense mechanism lens; which in turn makes part of the story line a historical romance and part a suspense thriller that converge into a profound character study. Readers who relish a deep but complicated drama will want to read this strong New England tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 14, 2008

Delia’s Heart-V.C. Andrews

Delia’s Heart
V.C. Andrews
Pocket, Dec 30 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 1416530851

After living in the United States for a few years (see DELIA’S CROSSING), poor Mexican girl Delia Yebarra still feels like a stranger in a strange land. She returned to her homeland briefly with Ignacio Davila after his role on the death of the person who raped Delia was known by everyone. Everyone but his family and Delia thinks he is dead and Ignacio wanted Delia to return to her Aunt Isabelle’s Palm Springs estate. Isabelle believes her niece is an impoverished wetback, whom she treats like a servant rather than a relative. Her son Edward blackmails his mom into giving Isabella similar opportunities as his sister Sophie has.

Sophie hates Delia while is also jealous of as important people seem to always defend her. She tries to destroy her cousin by telling her mom lies and spreading rumors that Delia cannot disprove. When Adam Bovio starts paying attention to Delia, Isabella is thrilled because his family is rich high society starting with his father running for senator. Outraged and envious Sophie vows to send Delia back to Mexico anyway she can.

The lifestyle of the children of the wealthy prominent high society families come across as vapid, causing trouble a mainstay to keep the ennui abated. Delia lived a simple life in Mexico so has major adjustments to being part of the rich and famous crowd while also wondering if she is running from her roots. Readers will admire and like this conflicted person and hope she finds what she wants. Her female cousin and aunt are over the top of the Sierras as villainesses and the story line somewhat mirrors the first tale; yet fans of V.C. Andrews will enjoy this fine entry and look forward to the next Delia Cinderella like story.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kill Your Friends-John Niven

Kill Your Friends
John Niven
Harper, Jan 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 0061690619

In 1997 A&R guru twenty-seven year old Steven Stelfox suffers from the modern day deadly sins of arrogance, gluttony due to drug abuse and avarice. He rises rather quickly to the top of the music industry the phenomenal success of one act that makes it for every ten he finds. However, as the alcohol, cocaine and orgies pile on; he goes into a slump as the successes suddenly go empty. He owes a fortune and has no prospects back to the top as he is down near the bottom and sinking into the ooze below.

Angry, acrimoniously, and acidly, Steven despises everyone as he blames their jealousy for his fall from grace, but also loathes himself for failing to find the next hit wonder. With his ego still super, Steven is also paranoid that his friends are using and abusing him costing him his career. He ponders cleaning up in order to kill the competition and finding a hit to refuel his dying career.

This is a weird but entertaining satirical look at the British music industry. Stelfox is a fascinating character as he self destructs with fame and fortune, but blames others while plotting his comeback as he considers a few corpses on his climb back to the top of the A&R discovery world do not matter. John Niven provides a dark insider look at the music mega business in which cutthroat backstabbing even friends is the norm.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Pre-nup-Beth Kendrick

The Pre-nup
Beth Kendrick
Bantam, Dec 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553591507

In Mayfair Estates best friends Ellie Barton, Jen Finnerty and Mara Stroebel are having male issues. Ellie's spouse Michael who on the surface is the poster boy for the ideal husband and father appears to be having a red hot affair. Eric loves Jen, but is thinking of dumping her because he believes she no longer reciprocates his feelings. Mara and her fiancé Josh seem to fight over every little thing starting with the critical prenuptial agreement.

Each of the three amigas is upset with their so called significant other. However, instead of weakening in their resolve, the trio gains strength through their deepening friendship. They abide by Dumas’s mantra “as one for all and all for one” has meaning to the threesome with being there for one another regardless of the male relationship outcome.

Rotating points of view shows the perspectives of each of the women including how they perceive themselves and fascinatingly their two other best friends. The men in their lives come across much thinner as for the most part the life in these males is seen predominately through the eyes of their significant other. Thus the reader never fully sees the viewpoints of Michael, Eric or Josh. Fans of sisterhood contemporary romances will enjoy following the escapades of the three Mayfair Estates musketeers as the buddies navigate the shark infested relationship waters.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Courage In Patience-Beth Fehlbaum

Courage In Patience
Beth Fehlbaum
Kunati, Sep 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781601641564

In La Salle, Texas Ashley Asher has been sexually abused by her stepfather Charlie who calls her ash-hole for six years. Desperate she turns to her mom when she turned fourteen, but is stunned as the person she thought would keep her safe rejected her plea; mom backed her spouse over her daughter.

Ashley is sent to live with her estrange biological father David in Patience, Texas. The upset teen fears her dad as he has anger management issues. However, his schoolteacher wife Beverly welcomes Ashley into the family and into her English high school summer class studying the controversial Ironman by Chris Crutcher

Mindful of the Barbara Streisand movie Nuts, Ashley keeps the deep look at family abuse focused as she receives reader empathy and understanding with her inability to trust anyone or depend on those who should help you but hide in the sand; ignorance is bliss. Beverley’s efforts to make Ashley comfortable and ultimately just be part of their family are commendable and not easy but she displays COURAGE IN PATIENCE with the teen that learned from adults she is worthless and therefore seeks to destroy herself. However, the powerful prime plot of a teen struggling to overcome parental abuse and adjust to a warm nurturing relationship is somewhat sideswiped by Beverly’s tendency to spout overkill babble. Yet Beth Fehlbaum has written an insightful look at a teen trying to overcome abuse as she superbly captures the essence of Ashley, making this a winner with a deep message of “It may not seem like it now, but you are not alone.”

Harriet Klausner

The Moon In Deep Winter-Lee Polevoi

The Moon In Deep Winter
Lee Polevoi
Casagrande Press, November 4 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0976951657

After an illegal scheme overseas Parker Sloane leaves Southern California where he has lived for years, as a two-bit criminal, to return to his New England small-town home. Although part of his reason for going to the back woods is to elude those wanting to kill him, he hopes to reconcile with his family members especially with his mom and younger siblings; although he does not expect the same with his martinet stepfather, but Parker would not mind a ceasefire understanding with him.

However, Parker begins to believe you can go home as nothing has changed except in the sense of worsening. His stepfather is even more a dictator than before; his brother resents him; his half sister is a siren tempting him; and his mom has become a born again evangelical. He now wonders if he was better off facing professional hit men than his family even as he feels an urgent need to help each of them and keep them together.

This is a fascinating family drama as each of the key five players look outward at each other with either anger and resentment or lothing and disappointment. When they look introspectively at themselves they see survival supersedes everything. With a nod towards Maslow’s Hierarchy, Lee Polevoi provides a profound glimpse at the individual members of a dysfunctional family in which the sum is much less than the parts as each of their personal needs supersede all else even their inner principles.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 7, 2008

The King's Daughter-Sandra Worth

The King's Daughter
Sandra Worth
Berkley, Dec 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425221440

When the Duke of Gloucester became King Richard, his seventeen year old niece Elizabeth of York becomes a prisoner of his ambition like her two younger siblings. Richard incarcerates the "little princes" in the Tower and proclaims his niece is a bastard. He also further abuses his royal power insuring opposition is nil as he cements his control of the throne.

Elizabeth is shocked by what is happening to her and immediate family. Her dying aunt suggests she trust Richard’s judgment and accept her lot in life. She does as she marries Henry Tudor in 1486, whose rise to the crown led to the English believing her to be the "Good Queen". Their oldest son Prince Arthur weds Katherine of Aragon; and their oldest daughter Margaret marries the King of the Scots. When her Arthur dies, she worries about her other son Henry being young to be a ruler except with her as the Queen Consort guiding hand

This late fifteenth century biographical fiction looks closely at Elizabeth of York who through the males in her life is related to several kings as a daughter, niece, mother and finally wife of Henry VII; and should have been sister too. The story line brings Elizabeth to life as she watches her world crumble when her father dies and her uncle incarcerates her and her younger brothers only for her to rise again and again. Sub-genre readers will appreciate this worthy look at the machinations to sit on the English throne during the War of the Roses, the peace her marriage to Henry brings to the land and the rise of her children to throne; as she was much more than the title as her roles in life all lead to that of royal relative.

Harriet Klausner

Unraveled-Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding
Berkley, Dec 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425224625

Although her social life is at ground zero, freelance writer Beth Caruthers knows she did the right thing when she rid herself of her boyfriend, as he rejected any meaningful commitment beyond the bed. However, needing some outside activity and especially wanting to avoid her roommate’s plight of having a pet as her best and only friend, Beth joins a knitting circle, a hobby she quickly enjoys.

Beth appreciates the company of her new knitting friends and even begins dating again. However, her new boyfriend’s secrets end their relationship but also as a consequence leave Beth a pariah amidst her knitting friends. As she muses introspectively, Beth finds herself lacking and with renewed courage rejects a proposal and tries to atone for her transgressions with her friend.

Although the theme of a coming of age adult learning that relationships need more than a vacuous I do, fans will enjoy this brisk often humorous tale. When Beth’s concept of the perfect life UNRAVELED, she could have hidden inside herself, but instead confronts what her actions cost her especially with her knitting circle friends. Her growth makes for an engaging contemporary drama.

Harriet Klausner

True Crime: An American Anthology-Harold Schechter

True Crime: An American Anthology
Harold Schechter
The Library of America, Oct 2008, $40.00
14 East 60th St, NY, NY 10022
ISBN: 9781598530315

I hate to admit this publicly, but this excellent anthology highlights Americans’ (including guilty me) macabre fascination with crime through famous authors who over the years, especially the last few decades, have made this into a powerful genre. The collection starts in colonial times with Puritan documents and Ben Franklin; runs into the nineteenth century with Bierce, Hawthorne and Mark Twain; and into the twentieth century and this decade with a genre who’s who to include Dreiser, Thurber, Capote, Dunne, Rule, Ellroy and Talese. The compilation includes some of the most felonious activities in American history; several of which gained additional notoriety through movie versions like Double Indemnity, the Black Dahlia, and Compulsion. Finally, True Crime analyzes why people love the genre. This is a winner for fans as Harold Schechter analyzes the roots, the history, and the current popular state of the genre through authors and their subjects even with many of the cases included like Son of Sam of Bronx infamy well known.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stormy Weather-Geri Buckley

Stormy Weather
Geri Buckley
Berkley, Dec 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425219492

In the Florida Panhandle having just turned fifty and being married to the same man for thirty of them, Vonda Kay Thayer looks forward to the future with her husband as she believes they live the American dream. Vonda also fantasizes of the time when their teens move on as empty nest sounds heavenly even though her in-law will still be there. Everything changes when she catches Jerome cheating. Upset, Vonda decides to move on without him though she has two teenage daughters (Charlotte and Caroline) and a crusty mother-in-law at home.

However, before she tests her new vision, twin responsibilities leap into her lap. First her pregnant oldest daughter Amelie returns to the already insane fold followed by her ailing father-in-law. When a hurricane hammers the Panhandle, Vonda takes charge of her suddenly expanded family insuring everyone remains safe.

With a chick lit feel even without asides and the dreaded lists, STORMY WEATHER is an amusing yet poignant family drama. Vonda is a superb lead character caught in the eye of the storm even before the hurricane hits. She and the rest of the household and the “douche bag” spouse are fully developed so fans will believe in her ability to take charge during a crisis. Geri Buckley combines humor with seriousness inside an aptly named contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Lady Elizabeth-Alison Weir

The Lady Elizabeth
Alison Weir
Ballantine, Nov 4 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345495365

"The King's Daughter". Elizabeth Tudor is not quite three years old when her father King Henry beheads her mother his second wife Anne Boleyn. Thus with one stroke of the ax the child is demoted from Princess to lady. From that day until her sire dies, her life is in jeopardy.

"The King's Sister". A teen when her father dies, Elizabeth's fortune and safety improves when her brother King Edward ascends to the throne. She tries to protect her virtue from royal retinue rats, but overall feels safer than when her father lived.

"The Queen's Sister". In her early twenties when Edward dies, her sister devout Catholic Mary becomes the queen. Elizabeth being a protestant remains in more peril than when either of her male blood relatives ruled.

Alison Weir provides a refreshing biographical fiction; not an easy task as so much has been written and filmed re Queen Elizabeth I. The novel is broken into three parts all prior to Elizabeth sitting on the throne and based on her relationship to the monarch of the moment. Readers will obtain a deep look at the salad days of the ultimate survivor as the young Elizabeth navigates the political, religious, and regal shark infested waters. Ms. Weir’s character opposite follow up to the ultimate victim INNOCENT TRAITOR (Lady Jane Grey’s tragic saga) is a terrific sixteenth century biographical fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Red Light Green Light-Margaret Johnson-Hodge

Red Light Green Light
Margaret Johnson-Hodge
Sutton Place, Oct 2008, $16.95
ISBN: 9780975402610

Forty something crack addict Craig Stevens has been clean for forty-one days, but is not proud of being in his second month of clean as he knows the number of days means nothing; each new dawn denotes struggling all over again. He attends meetings near his rental in Far Rockaway to help him stay clean and receives strong but tough help from his landlady Miss Raymond and his sponsor Brother Raheim.

However, on this morning, Craig like so many other New Yorkers will be tested. The Twin Towers have been hit by jets and collapsed. Though he desperately needs a hit, Craig with assistance from Miss Raymond and Brother Raheim holds off although he prays he does not stumble to what looks inevitable. Instead he needs to know if Gazelle, the one woman who mattered before Crack took over his life and drove her away, is okay as a few years ago she worked in the shadow of the Towers. With a small advance from Miss Raymond who controls his money, he begins his public transportation and walks to her home in Queens only to learn she and her family moved to Hempstead. He continues his quest in Long island where he finds out that she works in one of the Towers so begins the next leg, Ground Zero to see if Gazelle, assuming she is alive, needs help although what he can do he knows is zero.

RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT is an excellent character driven thriller in which the audience sees first hand the impact of the 9/11 tragedy through the eyes of Craig and those who help or hinder him on his quest. Craig is a unique protagonist as he struggles with his addiction all the time, but especially on the 9/11 day of infamy. Margaret Johnson-Hodge provides readers with a poignant powerful look at the most traumatic day in American history through a unique anti-hero. This is a book so memorable it will become a classic in the years to come.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Boys Are Dogs-Leslie Margolis

Boys Are Dogs
Leslie Margolis
Bloomsbury, Sep 2008, $15.99
ISBN: 1599902214

Annabelle comes home from a summer at a sleep-away camp to live in a new home with her single mom and her mother’s new live-in nerdy but nice boyfriend. She is to start sixth grade so is old enough to understand when she is being bribed. They give her a puppy in exchange for her accepting the new arrangement.

Annabelle adores her puppy, but school is a war zone as this is the first time boys (yucky) are in her classes. They are selfish, thieves and rude whether it is the kid behind her who is practicing for a football career with her chair; her lab partners who share nothing, or stealing her homework. In many ways without the cuteness they remind her of her puppy before the training. Annabelle begins to teach the boys how to behave with her using the puppy manual.

The fun in this wonderful tweener tale is the behavior of middle school boys as seen through the myopic lens of the suffering heroine who is just starting to comprehend the Girls on Venus and the Boys on Mars make that Neptune concept. Applying a dog behavior manual as a modification tool is fun as Annabelle learns how to get along with the gender who makes Larry of the Three Stooges look like an Einstein.

Harriet Klausner

Engaging Father Christmas-Robin Jones Gunn

Engaging Father Christmas
Robin Jones Gunn
FaithWords, Nov 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 0446179469

Raised by a single mom in San Francisco Miranda Carson had always wanted a loving family, but never had one. When she learned she has paternal relatives in England, she visited them (see FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS). Now with Christmas coming, she looks forward to spending the holidays with the warm caring Whitcombe's at Carlton Heath accompanied by her boyfriend Ian, who plans to propose to her there.

While in England their plans are disrupted when his father is hospitalized and his family opposes their marriage. Whereas Ian is going home to be there for his dad, Miranda must choose between returning to a lonely existence in the States in which his family are not even tepid about her and staying in England with people who treat her as a beloved relative. She also feels guilty over not revealing who she is as the daughter of their much-loved and adored the late Sir James as she does not want to destroy their image of her dad.

This is a terrific engaging inspirational tale with a strong cast on both sides of the ocean, but totally owned by Miranda who has difficult decisions to make including obviously returning home or not and revealing her identity. The sequel to FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS is a delightful holiday saga that engages the audience from the onset with its uplifting tale of making new Yuletide traditions.

Harriet Klausner

Symphony-Jude Morgan

Jude Morgan
St. Martin's, Dec 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312384785

In 1827, Irish wannabe actress Harriet Smithson hopes to become a famous performer receiving accolades for her work. She also refuses to sleep with influential men to get ahead as she believes in her talent. To make it she joins a Shakespearean troupe touring France. In Paris composer Hector Berlioz sees her but though he desires her and believes he is in love, he keeps his distance and worships her from afar.

Over the next few years he places his beloved on a statue, but makes no efforts to meet her. Finally five years after he saw his muse, they meet. Berlioz successfully courts her and they marry. However, instead of a passion of the hearts, he remains obsessed with the object of his affection. As the real Harriet crumbles from her lofty pedestal in his mind driving him deeper into obsessive psychosis he scores the revolutionary music masterpiece "Symphonie Fantastique"

With a strong sense of time and place especially the backdrop of a troubled, revolutionary yet passionate Western Europe a decade plus since the Congress of Vienna of 1815, SYMPHONY is a fabulous biographical fiction that focuses on the relationship between Smithson and Berlioz. Their marriage is unstable because he is unstable; yet ironically his volatile fixation and her revolting lead to one of the classics of music. This is an insightful winner as love can easily prove to be madness.

Harriet Klausner