Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bulls Island- Dorothea Benton Frank

Bulls Island
Dorothea Benton Frank
Morrow, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061438431

Two decades ago in the Carolinas, Betts McGee and J.D. Langley met and fell in love. However, she has working class genes while his blood is aristocratic. Still they seemed to have overcome their class differences when they became engaged. However, that same night her mom dies in a car accident while his mom Charleston sophisticate Louisa rants about dumbing down the blue blooded DNA. Unable to cope with her future mother-in-law from hell while grieving, Betts leaves her family, J.D. and the Carolinas behind to start fresh in Manhattan. No one back home knows she left pregnant and raised a son Adrian by herself while doing quite well with depressed real estate.

However, her current assignment is in the Charleston area where she will work a land deal with unhappily married to Valerie local J.D. She would prefer to be prisoner of terrorists or the CIA, but Betts heads home to work the BULLS ISLAND deal with his firm Langley development. As she realizes she never stopped loving J.D., she continues to conceal the lie of omission from him, her family, and Adrian while J.D. knows he is married to the wrong woman.

Although the audience knows what to expect, Dorothea Benton Frank provides an engaging contemporary family drama that showcases the author’s skill as throughout readers will have doubts about the anticipated outcome. The cast is solid with the story line mostly told from the viewpoint of the lead female. Readers will enjoy this fine romance as everyone will wonder whether Betts is willing to take a second chance at love while eluding gatorzilla.

Harriet Klausner

Pretzel on Prozac: The Story of an Immigrant Dog

Pretzel on Prozac: The Story of an Immigrant Dog
Ellen Palestrant
Elusive Press, 2007, $12.95, 124pp.
ISBN: 9781587368417

Ellen Palestrant accompanied by her two dogs Pretzel and Bailey moved from South Africa to the United States. Whereas Bailey adapts to the long trek and shows no neuroses upon moving into his new home, Pretzel struggles with the journey and turns psychotic once he is in the United States. Everything disturbs Pretzel from noise to nearby people. He becomes depressed not wanting to do anything or eat and is anxious as every change in routine upsets him. Ms. Palestrant, worried about her beloved pet, turns to the vet for help. Thus PRETZEL’S ON PROZAC to help him psychologically with his mental issues. This helps normalize the canine and he remains normal even when he finally is withdrawn from Prozac.

This is well written often amusing “dogography” that canine lovers will fully appreciate. Although overall jocular, it is the deep look into a pet struggling with adjusting to new environs that makes PRETZEL ON PROZAC: THE STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT DOG worth reading, as animals have their neurosis too.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cruel Zinc Melodies-Glen Cook

Cruel Zinc Melodies
Glen Cook
Roc, May 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451461926

TunFaire is a magical city where humans and other species like dwarfs, and trolls live and prosper. Magic is taken for granted and while not everyone possesses the skill, those that do think of it as just another one of their senses. Private investigator Garrett wishes he could stay in his warm cozy home with his non-human bookkeeper/servant the ratgirl. Also part of his household is The Dead Man, a Loghyr that sticks around after he died while telepathically communicating with those in Garrett’s house and the horde of hibernating pixies.

However, his client, wealthy brewmeister Max Weider needs his help concerning the World, a dinner theater he is trying to build. People are scared off by the gigantic bugs; ghosts that come and go and protection racketeers who are getting ready to name a price Max doesn’t want to pay. Garrett takes care of the racketeers, hires the rat people to exterminate the bugs and locates the teenagers who created the insects. That leaves him with the ghosts while the Dead Man, who obtained information he culled from the minds of visitors, believes something nasty was awakened by the bug infiltration. Garrett hopes a lullaby will put this unknown malevolence back to sleep.

The latest Garrett PI thriller is an excellent fantasy noir. The hero is smart, clever, and especially devious, but each mystery he tries to solve seems multilayered with complications. There is plenty of action, sly humor, and of course magical intrigue that ricochets with the audience from laughter to fear and back as this is one author who knows how to cook a reader’s gourmet repast. Glen Cook is a fantastic worldbuilder who makes his realm feel real to the readers.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl with No Shadow-Joanne Harris

The Girl with No Shadow
Joanne Harris
Morrow, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061431623

Over four years have passed since Vianne Rocher got into a local brawl over the sale of her special chocolate confections declared as contraband by the Lansquenet, France clergy during Lent (see CHOCOLAT). Tired of the sweet war, Vianne repudiated the magic part of her recipe, changed her name to Yanne Charbonneau and seeking security, accompanied by her two daughters, teenage Anouk and infant Rosette, moved to Montmartre in Paris where she opened up a more mundane chocolaterie.

However, Yanne begins to understand the curse of motherhood as she wants her children safe, but Anouk rebels. Zozie de l'Alba obtains a job at Yanne’s Paris store, but soon Anouk is enchanted by the newcomer. Worried for her child, she has doubts about Zozie’s intentions; Yanne returns to her past as Vianne. She needs to use her magic to keep Anouk safe and to generate a special chocolate concoction but since it is Advent season the righteous frowns on her sweet creations.

This sequel continues the adventures of everyone’s favorite confectionaire (outside of perhaps Willie Wonka) who has become a die hard conformist out of fear for her daughters until forced out of fear for her oldest child to be a born again magician. The story line rotates perspective between Zozie, Yanne and Anouk while once again a major religious season is in the background causing problems for the non-conformist heroine. Readers will appreciate this strong tale with implications in today’s world; the story line focuses on the problems of fighting evil when the good side gives up its moral high road behaving more malevolent based on the end justifies the mean.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Nights!: Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway

Wild Nights!: Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway
Joyce Carol Oates
Ecco, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061434792

“Poe Posthumous; or The Light-House". Off Chile a lonely morose Poe kept a dairy while tending a lighthouse as its keeper even though he died a few months ago.

"EDickinsonRepliLuxe". In futuristic New Jersey, the mouse and the louse Krim couple buy an android of Emily Dickinson expecting poetry to brighten their lives, but instead the author finds them tedious and wants her freedom.

"Grandpa Clemens & Angelfish 1906". The famous author is being sued for his platonic relationships with teenage girls while his outraged adult daughter plans to testify against her father.

"The Master at St. Bartholomew's Hospital 1914-1916". Henry James does not want to enter the hospital ward filled wounded soldiers, but has no choice as he volunteered to help these “dear boys”.

"Papa at Ketchum 1961". Hemingway is planning his last word, suicide.

The concept is brilliant and the execution superb as each tale provides insight into five of America’s most famous authors. All her well written although the Clemens piece is by far the most disturbing and the Poe entry perhaps the weakest (still enjoyable). Fans of the American classics will relish this fine anthology as Joyce carol Oates proves a fabulous impersonator who emulates the writing styles of five of the greats.

Harriet Klausner

Roommates Wanted-Lisa Jewell

Roommates Wanted
Lisa Jewell
Harper, Mar 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780061137471

In London, thirty-five year old shop girl Leah has lived across the street from Toby for years; although she has seen him about the neighborhood they have never met. Her long time boyfriend abandons her when she mentions marriage. Toby inherited his dilapidated Victorian mansion from his dad fifteen years ago; he rents rooms to loners although he finds them a pain in the butt.

Leah is walking outside when she finds long time Toby tenant Gus lying dead outside the mansion. Gus’ corpse serves as a matchmaker of sorts as Toby and Leah finally meet. Gus bequests to Toby his ailing cat and a lot of money with the pleading message to clean up his life and make something of him self instead of drifting through life. Toby decides to renovate the Victorian and kick out his assortment of tenants though he does not ask them directly to leave; he turns to Leah to assist him helping these sad losers renovate their lives.

This is an amusing yet deeply touching contemporary tale as Toby who gave up on life years ago as being too hard but now suddenly has a second chance. However to succeed he must rid himself of the fully developed eccentric renters. Although he rationalizes his caring nobility as selflessness, encouraged by lonely Leah, he tries to help the others get a life first; in his efforts he gets a life. ROOMMATES WANTED is a terrific character study of dissolution becoming idealism by feeling good about helping others enables the lead protagonist to “start living” again.

Harriet Klausner

Bawdy Bedtime Stories-Joan Elizabeth Lloyd

Bawdy Bedtime Stories
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
Berkley, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425219447

These thirty-six petite short stories and two afterwards encourage readers to explore their sexual fantasies emphasizing role playing with their significant others. The tales are a few pages each with none over ten pages so serve more as entertaining guides and suggestions then erotica. In the Introduction Joan Elizabeth Lloyd explains that she wrote the anthology to foster communication between partners so that both can have their toes curled. Each entry promotes using one’s imagination while having sexual fun as the head is more important than the sex organs to obtain pleasure. Personal favorites included whimsical “Rewind Time”, “An Arrogant Ass Gets His” and the reminiscing (to me that is) “Nooner”. Whether one chooses to be a pirate, a cameraman and his subject, or that arrogant ass, these quickies are light fun to read. Now where did I leave that sex toy that ebbs and flows.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 27, 2008

After Hours at the Almost Home-Tara Yellen

After Hours at the Almost Home
Tara Yellen
Unbridled, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781932961485

JJ has relocated five times, but currently works as a cocktail waitress in Denver. Her first night at the Almost Home Bar and Grill, the place is packed as the Broncos are playing in the Superbowl. She struggles with customer orders as she finds the job overwhelming at least this first Sunday is; her hope is that this is an aberration caused by the football championship although the tips are excellent so she also hopes for more nights like this once she learns the job.

JJ also struggles to understand the employee dynamics that she knows is critical to her staying on this job a bit longer than her last six positions. She tries to comprehend the 360 degree relationships of each of her peers. For instance Widow Colleen has no place to leave her teenage daughter Lily so she takes her with her when she comes to the bar. Denny is ending a relationship while he and waitress Lena appear to be starting one as they huddle so cuddly together. Keith and bartender Marna plan to run away together.

This is an interesting character study that follows the employees and some of the regulars for one night, a special Superbowl evening, at the bar and grill. The story line switches perspective from the newcomer to the bartender, the teen and her mom, the male customer trying to sell a pick up to others. Though somewhat anecdotal, readers obtain a poignant look at how various people see their lives precariously through the football game in an intense one scene drama.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Year of Disappearances-Susan Hubbard

The Year of Disappearances
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster, May 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9781416552710

Teenage Ariella "Ari" Montero is a half-breed vampire, who lives with her vampiric mother in Homosassa Springs, Florida which many vampires call home as they have their own shops, restaurants and other hangouts catering to the their needs. Ari is lonely as she has no friends so is elated to meet Autumn and Mysty. However, a van pulls up near where the three girls are walking together; Ari senses evil from the driver whose eyes contain no pupils. When Mysty disappears, the police and the XBC suspect Ari as the last known person to have been with her.

To escape from the suspicious townsfolk, Ari goes to Hillhouse College in southern Georgia. A bored Autumn comes to visit her. When Ari and her classmates go on a field trip; Autumn sneaks away to tour the campus. Ari and her classmates see a body in the swamp that turns out to be Autumn. She tells a powerful vampire leader that humans are taking pills that turn them into zombies like what happened to Mysty. Something must be done before vampire become the supreme species.

Even vampires are divided as to how they should relate to humans as some extremists believe mankind is cattle to their superior species using ruthless means to obtain easy sustenance. Politics and remorse are two lessons Ari receives at school, but she like her parents (her dad is a scientist) believes that peaceful co-existence between the species is possible and necessary. Although the heroine seems much more experienced than a young teen, vampire lovers will enjoy this cutting sequel to THE SOCIETY OF S.

Harriet Klausner

Every Good And Perfect Gift- Sharan K. Souza

Every Good And Perfect Gift
Sharan K. Souza
NAVPRESS, Apr 2008
ISBN: 9781600061752

Nearing forty, best friends Angel Gabby Whitaker Nevin and DeeDee McAllister-Kent feel they have lived great lives. Both married their college boyfriends and each couple decided on a DINK (Double income no kids) lifestyle.

However, DeeDee suddenly feels her biological clock running down as she desperately wants a baby. While DeeDee tries to become pregnant, Gabby wonders whether she should reconsider her decision to remain childless. DeeDee continues to fail to conceive, which begins to cause a strain between her and her spouse and between her and her best friend until DeeDee’s medical diagnosis shakes up everyone

This is a fascinating look at friendship between two people who never had differences until they tried to get pregnant. Gabby is the one tested especially when they learn what is wrong with DeeDee as she will need patience like she never needed with her best friend before. Sharan K. Souza explains that she modernized and gender changed the biblical bond between David and Jonathan as Gabby wonders why bad things happen to good people, but accepts this is God’s way and vows to the Lord she will be there for DeeDee.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mulberry Park-Judy Duarte

Mulberry Park
Judy Duarte
Kensington, Apr 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758220158

Three years ago in Fairbrook, a suburb of San Diego, Claire Harper’s life ended when a hit and run driver killed her young son Erik. Since then she lost her faith in God and her marriage to Ron; she just passes through life as a living dead person because she never has gotten past the early stages of grief. Every day after work, Claire stops at Mulberry Park to jog for miles in an effort to be so exhausted she can sleep through the night, but her grief overwhelms her fatigue.

One evening as she runs, a pink envelop falls from a nearby tree. Claire picks it up to see a note inside written "To God From Analisa". The seven year old child begs God to care for her parents who are in Heaven with him. Although she no longer believes, Claire writes back hoping to help Analisa with her faith in the Lord. Soon they become pen pals although the child thinks God is responding to her; ironically the correspondence helps Claire return to life. As she comes back, Claire befriends the Mulberry Park regulars, whom she ignored since her son’s death as she realizes they need kind words, mental and physical hugs, chess opponents and more just like she does.

There are several other fully developed characters in the superbly written MULBERRY PARK that will touch the readers’ hearts as much as Analisa and Claire do as all needing companionship. The elderly chess player Walter is a great example of this as he plays by himself, but would love tutoring others in the game. With a heavenly nod that God does not need snail; or e-mail to read what is in one’s heart, readers will appreciate this strong character study that affirms people need people.

Harriet Klausner

Something Good-Fiona Gibson

Something Good
Fiona Gibson
Red Dress Ink, Apr 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895571

Jane Deakin is stunned when she sees her beloved husband Max cheating. Despondent as she never saw it coming, Jane moves out taking their five years old daughter Hannah with her.

A decade later, Jane and Max remain separated but legally married. She works in a childcare center but hopes to make a living with her stained glass hobby. Hannah wants to be an actress and has a crush on workshop peer Ollie. Max is seeing Veronica, a single mother with two teenage children, Zoe and Dylan. Jane, accompanied by her mom, daughter and Zoe, travels to Scotland to attend a stained glass workshop where Jane finally finds her groove.

The key to this well written extended family drama is the strong cast; everyone that matters seems real especially with how they interrelate with one another. For instance, Jane is a well behaved teen until Zoe mentors her on Minor Mutiny 101 while Zoe and Dylan have sibling rivalries; and Dylan and Jane are attracted to one another. Jane is terrific as the center holding the story line together even as she is falling in love with Conor the Scot, but it is the support characters who make SOMETHING GOOD out of Fiona Gibson’s fine contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

The January Girl-Goldie Taylor

The January Girl
Goldie Taylor
Grand Central, Apr 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446179560

Although she grew up in horrific conditions that led to her fleeing home as a teen, Thandy Malone worked hard to obtain an education. When she got pregnant, Thandy was fortunate that a kind older man took her in and married her. However, he failed to inform her how he made his money until he was arrested for drug trafficking. He went to prison while Thandy and her daughter survived the streets.

Thandy picks herself up and becomes a successful asset acquisition attorney in Atlanta where she meets wealthy, married with children Dr. Jackson Gabrielle. They have an affair, but she feels uncomfortable being the other woman especially when he has two preadolescent sons at home and he keeps putting off the divorce blaming external circumstances though a decade has past since they first met. Thandy leaves Atlanta for Chicago as she believes he now has a third woman while spoiled Jack, used to always getting his way, follows the woman he loves.

This is an interesting character study that looks deep into what motivates the other woman. Thandy has a great career, a wonderful daughter, and being pretty with a charming personality could have any male, but why she chooses to be with Jack is beyond my comprehension. Jack is a liar, a double cheater (wife and lover), and an abusive manipulator with no redeeming personality trait. Still in spite of his being a louse loser outside of the operating room, THE JANUARY GIRL is a fascinating contemporary story.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Girls and Their Brother-Theresa Rebeck

Three Girls and Their Brother
Theresa Rebeck
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Apr 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307394149

Claiming as a way to pay homage to the late great literary critic Leo Heller, the New Yorker magazine wants to do a piece on his three granddaughters and grandson. Their mom has the brain of a lifetime beauty queen who though has seen her prettier days still lives the glory through her daughters; she sees this as good publicity and the road to Hollywood. Their dad has not been around in ages so his opinion if he even has one does not matter.

The oldest eighteen year old Daria is rapturous as she sees this as her chance to become a supermodel. The middle daughter seventeen year old Polly is almost as elated. The youngest female fourteen year old Amelia is at best tepid as she does not mind the magazine piece as long as it does not greatly intrude on her lifestyle. The only male fifteen year old Philip does not trust the New Yorker as he believes they are being set up for an exposure worthy of the tabloids. However, mommy dearest ignores the concerns of her only son saying he is too male and too young to understand the opportunities for his sisters; she will do anything to get her daughters on Broadway or Southern California.

This is an amusing look at fame from four teens receiving fifteen minutes of it each. Especially enlightening is the insightful comparisons made by the youngest sibling as Amelia observes voluntary starvation as a norm of some vocations. Philip seems older than he is with his wisdom honed by survival skills as the lone bull; his observations re his mom and two older sisters are priceless. The other three females seem amusingly inane as all they can see is fame and fortune. Although a revenge subplot seems ridiculous as it deters from an otherwise superb family drama, fans will enjoy this powerful lampooning of the fame seekers.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mutiny!: The True Events That Inspired the Hunt for Red October

Mutiny!: The True Events That Inspired the Hunt for Red October
David Hagberg and Boris Gindin
Forge, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765313508

In November 1975, Soviet anti-nuclear submarine frigate FFG Storozhevoy is docked in Riga, Latvia for normal maintenance and repair after six months at sea. Third in command Captain Valery Sablin is appalled by the wide corruption of leading Brezhnev officials and much of the bureaucracy overrun by party hacks including Soviet navy brass. He sees fat cats taking shortcuts with the lives of sailors to pocket money and obtains the best items for themselves and their family. Outraged as only a true believer can be, the Marxist/Leninist fundamentalist decides to take control of the vessel and sail to Leningrad where he would broadcast to the people to overthrown the corrupted. All went well with his plan until the Kremlin learned what he was doing and interceded.

This is the real events of the Soviet naval mutiny that led to the novel and movie The Hunt for Red October as related to novelist David Hagberg by then twenty-four years old Senior Lieutenant Gindin, who was part of the crew. The back ground of naval life in the totalitarian superpower is fascinating and well written while setting the stage for the exciting look at the events that happened in late 1975. Although nonfiction and told mostly by the viewpoint of Mr. Gindin though much supported by documentation, Mutiny is a tense thriller that grips readers from start to finish even with knowing the outcome.

Harriet Klausner

Fifteen Minutes of Shame-Lisa Dailey

Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Lisa Dailey
Plume, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780452289130

Darby Vaughn has written bestselling self-help books and made many TV appearances, but knows she is America’s dating expert by the sales of her own line of perfume. However, she is mortified when during a TV interview, she finds out her cheating spouse Will has filed for divorce. Since he was also her publicist she has no expert to help her with the media frenzy and how to spin it.

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME ends with Darby resolute to not just salvage her life, but to make it clear it is the dummy’s loss not hers. After a few days of sisterhood bonding, Darby is ready to spin the tale her way starting with her column whose first entry in two weeks is “The Dreamgirl’s Breakup Survival Guide” and follows up with the Dreamgirl’s Academy. She also publicly dates again at the same she hires Holt, the best lawyer she can to insure numb-nuts is cut off with no blood left in either head. Darby finds herself attracted to her new attorney, but first comes her lifestyle, then mutilating her ex, and finally dating the hunk.

This is an engaging chick lit romance that stars a courageous woman who epitomizes Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life; paraphrasing from the lyrics: she finds herself publicly flat on her face, she picks herself up and gets back in the race. Fans will root for her to succeed with her reengineering of her vocation and with Holt.

Harriet Klausner

The Stone Gods-Jeanette Winterson

The Stone Gods
Jeanette Winterson
Harcourt, Apr 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780151014910

“Planet Blue”. Orbus is dying; some will say died. The planetary residents destroyed their home by polluting everything. However, led by Captain Handsome and with Billie Crusoe and robo sapien Spike as part of the crew, they escape their madness by discovering a perfect blue planet, but must rid this new earth of its dominant species. While the humans plan on their usual mass destruction to solve a problem, Billie and Spike fall in love. They send an asteroid to crash planet-side, destroying the dinosaurs that would have made colonization difficult.

“Easter Island”. In 1774 the longboats arrive to be greeted by the giant monuments, but first they must control the natives before they explore. As is the human way, the newcomers plan on mass destruction to restrain the islanders even as Billie and Spike fall in love.

"Wreck City”. The 3 War along with previous out of control pollution to keep the economy strong has left many places like Wreck City as no zones. These unfit places are expanding as pollution and war has wrecked the once blue planet turning it into a sickly gray. Those with wealth know it is time to escape this dying world and find a new earth to colonize even as Billie and Spike fall in love.

This poignant cautionary tale focuses on the theory that humans as a species or as individuals never learn from previous mistakes; if a person as a child touches a hot stove, his or her child will not heed their advice and touch the hot stove. With little hope, Jeannette Winterson provides a withering condemnation of mankind who she asserts cannot help it that our DNA contains pandemic (as a society) and localized (as a person and family) destructive genes. As Zager and Evans say in 2525: “He's taken everything this old Earth can give. And he ain't put back nothing”. However, instead of Judgement Day, we leave behind our mess for those struggling to survive and cannot afford escape.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Twisted Sisters-Stephanie Hale

Twisted Sisters
Stephanie Hale
Berkley, Apr 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425219508

As a senior in high school Aspen Brooks spent part of the year being stalked and kidnapped (see REVENGE of the HOMECOMING QUEEN). Thus when Detective Harry Malone offers to pay her college tuition, she is elated to get away from home and its reminders of her ordeal. As a freshman attending Comfort Community College (instead of State U thanks to mom being a shopaholic), Aspen is elated that her boyfriend Rand Bachrach is also at the school. Although no longer the pompous coed who thought the Homecoming Queen was preordained as her, Aspen joins the in-crowd sorority, Zeta House.

However Aspen has no time to enjoy the fruits of going Greek as she owes Harry not just for his rescue, but because of their agreement. He pays if she investigates the failed suicide of his niece, Mitzi as he believes there is more to what happened. As she makes inquiries, Rand is upset that his GF seems to spend more time with the sisterhood than she does with him; he turns to another babe who wants him as her BF while his roommate stalks Aspen.

TWISTED SISTERS is a fun undercover teen thriller. Aspen has two problems to deal with: the Greeks and the Geek with neither going right. Rand is terrific as he dumps the woman he loves due to her total neglect of him; forcing Aspen to chase after him. Fans will enjoy her latest teen chick lit sleuthing escapades as smart chicks not only rock they stay in school.

Harriet Klausner

The War On Dogs In Venice Beach-Ronald Alexander

The War On Dogs In Venice Beach
Ronald Alexander; illustrated by Nathan Geare
Hollyridge, 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 9780979958809

In Venice Beach, California the owners of beachfront property are livid as the once immaculate sand and spotless parks are being destroyed by dogs. One cannot walk let alone jog without stepping on canine crap. Pet owners seem indifferent to the plight of the affluent while the wealthy homeowners demand the city takes the dogs and their owners to the pound.

LAPD Police Sergeant Smelzkoff is assigned the canine caper case. He feels this is fitting as his life has been one toilet bowl of sh*t after another. Before he begins in total earnest THE WAR ON DOGS IN VENICE BEACH, he is in Manhattan helping his gay son Bobby pack to move in with him in California. Bobby, who suffers from HIV positive, and his dad may love one another, but the continent separation was good for both of them. In Venice Beach, Smelzhoff’s campaign is one of stealth and precise military operations as he and his animal control squad arrest offenders (human and dog – no prejudice with this group) who leave their dogs to wander the beach unleashed or fail to pick up after their canine takes a crap. Meanwhile Bobby finds his dad’s sh**ty case amusing and with the help of his father’s stripper girlfriend Violet writes an opera that satires the war on dogs.

This is a terrific humorous parody on societal struggles between no compromise groups; in this case dog owners and beachfront property owners as the former claim pooping is God's natural way of fertilizing while the latter insists not for their feet. Fans will appreciate this well written satire that spoofs “ism” wars culminating with Bobby writing Salami the opera lampooning how far his once proud John Wayne like dad has fallen when he became the five star general leading THE WAR ON DOGS IN VENICE BEACH.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Curse of the Bayou-Mary Cunningham

Curse of the Bayou
Mary Cunningham
Quake ( Echelon), Dec 2007, $9.99
ISBN: 9781590805756

In Indiana in 1964 best friends Cynthia and Gus decide to learn what happened to the former’s great-grandfather Beau who vanished in 1915 while on a business trip. The two best friends enter the attic of Cynthia’s home and the trunk sends them through time where they avoid being alligator bait thanks to some bologna Gus had. The quickly learn it is 1914 when they meet octogenarian Mouton” Mud Bug” Boudreau who warns the two young girls to avoid pirates like Buzzard Jack LaBuse. He begins taking them by canoe to New Orleans when he and his boat vanish.

The two buddies find themselves in 1844 where Jasmine is quite nice to them and so is her ten years old son Mooty called Mud Bug by everyone. From there the clues take them to 1915 and the farm of Samantha Connor whose spouse Beau vanished last year on a business trip in New Orleans. The girls know they are getting closer to finding Beau but wonder where they will go next in time.

The third Cynthia’s Attic young adult time travel mysteries (see Magic Medallion and MISSING LOCKET) is a fabulous tale as the two intrepid best friends journey back and forth through time. The preadolescent pair remains consistent even with Gus having some non hunger moments while the support cast especially Mud Bug as an elderly person and a child make for a fun Bayou adventure with a fantastic final twist setting up the next entry.

Harriet Klausner

Sugar Daddy-Lisa Kleypas

Sugar Daddy
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312351632

In Welcome, Texas teenager Liberty Jones and her mom move into a trailer park because they cannot afford anything else. Liberty’s sole parent works beyond exhaustion to insure they have meals and can meet the rent. However, mom becomes pregnant adding to their worries, but Liberty tries to help at home and with an after school job.

While his father is behind bars, Hardy Cates lives with his mom and three younger siblings in the same trailer park. He works to bring in income his family badly needs. Hardy befriends Liberty helping her with school and playing basketball with her. However, although he knows she loves him. He refuses to reciprocate her feelings as he plans to be different than his wastrel father and leave town soonest without siring kids left behind. Soon afterward, Liberty’s mom dies in an accident leaving her to raise her infant sister Carrington.

Liberty becomes a hair stylist in Houston where she meets businessman Churchill Travis. The other stylists suggest she allow Churchill to be her SUGAR DADDY to ease the money woes for her and her sister. When Churchill offers her a job as his live-in assistant to include her sister moving in with them, a reluctant Liberty, knowing he has a son Gage her age, accepts for Carrington’s sake. As Churchill treats both Jones females with fatherly affection, Gage is fuming that a gold-digger will hurt his dad while Liberty is happy. However, Hardy returns claiming her as his long lost love though a decade has past since she last saw him while Gage has also fallen in love with her.

Much of this well written book focuses on Liberty raising Carrington with the romance especially the triangle coming late. Liberty is a great lead character as she wants to make a better life for her sister and herself. Although the ending seems somewhat forced because one of the triangular participants acts apprehensible, fans of contemporary tales will enjoy Lisa Kleypas’ solid character study.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Edge of Reason-Melinda Snodgrass

The Edge of Reason
Melinda Snodgrass
Tor, May 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765315168

Former concert pianist but now Albuquerque police officer Richard Oort may be stunned by what he sees, but he reacts. Naked strange beings, obviously not human though what they are Robert is not sure of, chase after a young girl. His efforts to rescue a sorceress are noticed by affluent Kenntnis, who thinks he may have finally found the perfect warrior in his eternal war with the Old Ones.

Richard learns just who recruited him as Kenntnis has been called the Serpent and Lucifer amongst other derogatory names. The cop also finds out that the Old Ones encourage human religions as they feed on the emotional frenzy and suffering of diehard believers. Kenntnis and his Lumina supporters insist they want free will for mankind while their opponents need human dependency. As his mother commits suicide, Richard with no time to grieve, has doubts that he is fighting for the good guys as he has been indoctrinated throughout his life that Lucifer is the tricky devil while his new commander in chief insists the opponents won the propaganda war.

This is a terrific action-packed apocalypse thriller that will have the audience pondering the roles in society of organized religion, formal education, Lovecraftian mythos, and the Albuquerque Police Department. The story line is fast-paced yet readers will empathize with the beleaguered human hero as he struggles with comprehending a supernatural war that has gone on from the moment Eve seduced Adam into taking a bite and has spilled onto the streets of his hometown. His dealings with the stick man and associates, a homeless bum who happens to be a God (the RFK theory of the deity comes to mind) and a new Dark Age driven by the Old Ones but supported by human fundamentalists who see power in the golden rule of those with the gold make the rule are fascinating to watch. Melinda Snodgrass provides a strong thriller that will send her readers over THE EDGE OF REASON.

Harriet Klausner

The Story of a Marriage-Andrew Sean Greer

The Story of a Marriage
Andrew Sean Greer
Farrar Straus Giroux, Apr 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780374108663

Pearlie met Holland twice as strangers. The first time back home in Kentucky when he showed up to walk with her to school and could look the tall Pearlie eye to eye. Later after a Mr. Pinker persuaded Pearlie to come to California for employment writing letters to GIs fighting the Axis powers, they re-met on a Pacific beach. The second time around led to marriage although Holland is not quite the same health wise as he was before the war and has a child Sonny afflicted with polio.

In 1953 San Francisco, a stranger to Pearlie but Holland’s former lover and boss Buzz Drumer arrives. At a time when the Americans are fighting another war on an Asian peninsular while the fear of communism permeates very segment of life, he makes a strange offer of $100,000. Holland wants to accept the terms while Pearlie is afraid. Her fears stem from the realization that her husband remains a stranger with his dark secrets as the appearance of Mr. Drumer proves.

Told by a continuingly stunned Pearlie, the surprising yet plausible disclosures seem to keep coming throughout this poignant historical novel that affirms regardless of relationships everyone has a part of them that remains a stranger to their significant other. The triangle that forms between the shocked Pearlie, the secretive Holland, and the stranger-not stranger Mr. Drumer make for a fabulous look at the early 1950s in which Andrew Sean Greer asserts that the “Happy Days” nostalgic innocence claimed by modern revisionists is untrue. The author subtly explores young health issues, post traumatic distress syndrome of returning veterans, racism, sexism, and being politically correct during the “I Like Ike” era.

Harriet Klausner

A Mending at the Edge-Jane Kirkpatrick

A Mending at the Edge
Jane Kirkpatrick
Waterbrook, Apr 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781578569793

Emma Wagner Giesy left hope in Missouri along with an abusive spouse and disapproving parents to bring her two preadolescent daughters to a safe environs in Aurora, Oregon Territory. Her supportive uncle brought her other two to safety. However, so far Brother Keil has not approved a house for the Giesy brood. This has increased Emma’s despair that she desperately tries to conceal from her four children.

As Brother Keil stalls letting a separated woman settle down without a man to protect her and her children, new arrivals flood the community. Emma’s faith in the Lord sending her to this new religious commune is the right thing for her and her offspring is all that keeps her going.

The third Aurora mid nineteenth century tale (see A CLEARING IN THE WILD and A TENDERING IN THE STORM) is a superb historical that stars a strong heroine whose spiritual beliefs keep her from giving up to the despondence that engulfs her. However, MENDING AT THE EDGE is much more as Emma (the author says was a real person) begins to participate with others in the community coming out of her self-imposed isolationism. Readers will appreciate her journey to belong as Jane Kirkpatrick provides a profound Americana tale that showcases people trying to live their dreams.

Harriet Klausner

Things I Want My Daughters to Know-Elizabeth Noble

Things I Want My Daughters to Know
Elizabeth Noble
Morrow, Apr 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9780061122194

Barbara Forbes knows she will die soon from cancer. She tells her second husband and her four adult daughters how she wants them to attend her funeral; none are to weep as they have shared a great life with each other and none are to dress in graveyard black as they were, are, and will continue to be a colorful family.

Barbara leaves behind four letters; one to each of her daughters offering wisdom from the soon to be dearly departed. Over the next year after she is buried each opens their late mom’s last words of wisdom. Barbara encourages her oldest Lisa to allow someone to get close to her; Andy would like to be that someone. To Jennifer she advises to reach out to your husband and stop worrying about fertility and offspring as the means to save her marriage. To Amanda she says to stop running away from the truth especially that her father was neither of her mother’s husbands. To her youngest teenager Hannah she says rebellion is okay as long as it harms no one including herself, but she should take her time growing up as she has a precious life ahead of her.

This concept of having a deceased provide words of wisdom has been done many times before, but Elizabeth Noble keeps it fresh avoiding clichĂ© adages by focusing on the recipients although Barbra’s diary and letters are well written. Each of her children had a different relationship with their mom; something wise Barbara recognized and encourages them accordingly; she knew her children. Although the foursome heed their late mom’s guidance too easily leading to nirvana, contemporary fans will appreciate this character study of four sisters, the men in their lives, and their mother still there for them though she passed away.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Milton Lumky Territory-Philip K. Dick

In Milton Lumky Territory
Philip K. Dick
Tor, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765316950

Mid twenties Bruce Stevens lives in Reno working as a buyer for Consumers Buying Bureau. It is one of those new establishments: a discount place. He stops in Montario, Idaho to buy Trojans; planning to use them when he visits Peg Googer. However, Peg has company including Susan Faine, who looks familiar, but he cannot place her. Susan runs a typewriter rental service mostly used by male lawyers and has just obtained a divorce from Walt in Mexico. He leaves for Boise but forgot his coat so he returns to Peg’s house; only Susan is there as the others went out. As he leaves again, he is attracted to Susan before realizing that she was Miss Reuben, his fifth grade teacher at Garret A. Hobart Grammar School in Montario back in 1944.

Ten years his senior, Susan and Bruce marry giving him an instant family as she has a stepdaughter and her typing business to run while he is on the road a lot as he does the circuit between most of the major cities west of the Rockies. His western travels lead to his meeting older traveling paper salesman Milton Lumky whose depressing look at the American conditions haunts Bruce as the middle aged seller pontificates negatively about traveling salesmen being a dying dinosaur with the discounters on the rise. Meanwhile, Susan’s fears that Bruce will leave her for some younger female he meets on the road harm their relationship while his misperceptions about families hurt their marriage further.

Although written as a late 1950s contemporary, IN MILTON LUMKY TERRITORY has the deep feel of a well written character driven historical that feels so apropos today with the dramatic demographic shifts in employment skills. Bruce is actually the prime player with Milton and Susan providing strong support mostly insight into the lead character or his work. Philip K. Dick shows his versatility and currency with this fine tale that holds up well as both a historical and as a deep look at people struggling with radical societal changes in their lives.

Harriet Klausner

Pretty Face-Mary Hogan

Pretty Face
Mary Hogan
Harperteen, Apr 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780060841119

Sixteen years old Hayley detests life in Southern California as she is not the model of the Beach Boys being thirty pounds overweight or as she prefers to think of it as six inches too short. Her mom is always on her case over her bowling ball belly, but worse she gives her a digital scale that will not lie; thus every morning the thug inside that scale disses Hayley. The worst insult is being told she has a PRETTY FACE, which is a kind slur implying she is fat. She likes Drew Wyler, but on D-Day at the movies she learns he likes her BFF Jackie. Hayley hides hurts like that one with humor.

Her parents heeding the advice of her therapist send Hayley to Umbria, Italy where her mom’s friend Patrice, don’t call her Patty any longer, lives. Hayley is excited to escape summer torture where she is a beached whale. In Italy she eats real pizza without guilt and enjoys her own cottage and the local males lining up to meet her. She even falls in love with a teen who calls her his “bella facia” as he thinks she is the PERFECT GIRL for him even if she lives an ocean and content away.

Haley is an amusing lead protagonist whose commentaries question the American image that thin is in but at fast food places. She is a terrific character who uses humor to conceal her distress. Although her adjustment from unwanted “social abstinence” to the bella of the ball seems too easy, young teen readers will her turning into a social butterfly.

Harriet Klausner

Searching for Spice-Megan DiMaria

Searching for Spice
Megan DiMaria
Tyndale, Apr 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414318875

After a quarter of century of marriage to caring professor Jerry and the raising of two children soon to leave the nest, Linda Revere wants the same spice in her relationship with her husband as they had before the kids nuked the excitement. However, obtaining what they once had proves difficult to achieve as the kids still are home, and she and Jerry come from their jobs mentally tired and physically middle aged.

Still Linda hopes for some romance with Jerry. However, each plan she concocts seems to fall apart as everyday living supersedes romantic interludes; she feels the best laid plans of mice, men and Linda always goes astray. Still an optimist in spite of being a customer service rep and a mom, Linda looks kindly upon the empty nest future even as she accepts the present will remain boringly comfortable.

SEARCHING FOR SPICE is an engaging realistic look at middle age relationships. Linda is fabulous as she holds the tale (and her family) together. Her situations at work, at her daughter’s school, at home and with Jerry seem genuine as she struggles with her desires for more with her husband; symbolized by her efforts to seduce Jerry who shows his full appreciation of her by snoring. Fans, especially those with soon to be or already empty nests, will appreciate this amusing yet poignant look at relationships in which even when the customer is obviously wrong in front of a jury of his or her peers, he or she is always right.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Bride-Diane Haeger

The Secret Bride
Diane Haeger
NAL, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451223135

Being the sister of King Henry VIII, Princess Mary understands that she will one day be a political pawn marrying someone to further her brother’s reign. However that does not prevent her from falling in love with the Duke of Suffolk Charles Brandon; nor he with her. She begs her sibling to allow her to marry Charles, but he refuses as she is intended to wed King Louis XII of France. However, feeling some guilt as he likes and trust Charles as a loyal friend of his and cares for Mary, Henry agrees she can marry her beloved if he is single and she is a widow.

In the fall of 1514, Mary marries fiftyish King Louis XII of France. Less than three months later he died allegedly from too much exertion trying to begat an heir on his teenage wife. . Not asking permission as she knows her capricious brother might pawn her off on someone else, Mary persuades Charles to marry her as he and others escort her back across the Channel. However, they time their nuptials perfectly as Henry has no time to deal with either of them as he struggles to obtain papal approval of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

THE SECRET BRIDE is an excellent biographical fiction tale of the sister of King Henry VIII, who comes across as intelligent, compassionate, and sly. She has to if she is to survive her checkmating her manipulative political keen sibling. Fans of Tudor tales will appreciate this deep character driven look at Princess Mary though her romance with Charles takes center stage over the historical perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Certain Girls-Jennifer Weiner

Certain Girls
Jennifer Weiner
Atria, Apr 2008, $26.95
ISBN: 9780743294256

Thirteen years ago to her shock the fictional account of her life story, GOOD IN BED, became a best seller. However, Candace “Cannie” Shapiro chose to let her fifteen minutes of fame expire; instead she settled into married life with Dr. Peter Krushelevansky living the suburban mom’s PTA lifestyle.

However, her beloved tweener daughter Joy has just read her mom’s semi-autobiographical fiction and is embarrassed to call her mom. With her bat mitzvah coming up, Joy wants to spend more time with her biological father Bruce Guberman and less with her mother. Joy would also like to meet her mother’s father while her father Peter wants another child with his gene pool; in terms of DNA the perfect surrogate is Cannie’s younger sister, but she is a bit of a wacko. However, Joy decides to go west to visit her maternal grandfather throwing her family’s world off kilter.

The poignant story line rotates viewpoints between the combatants as mother and daughter are at war over Cannie’s past out there for everyone to know she is GOOD IN BED, mortifying her offspring. Fans will enjoy the insightful look at the travesties of being human as your past is used by your offspring to haunt you (every mother’s two-edged curse). A stand alone as much of the key events of Good in Bed are rehashed mostly with Joy’s perspective bringing freshness to what would otherwise be reheated leftovers; fans of contemporary relationship dramas will want to read the evolution of Cannie from free spirit to harassed mom.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen-Susan Gregg Gilmore

Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen
Susan Gregg Gilmore
Crown, Feb 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 9780307395016

In the early 1970s in Ringgold, Georgia, teenager Catherine Grace Cline dreams of leaving town soon for Atlanta. The daughter of a widower Baptist preacher is bored with having no life outside of the church even with a caring boyfriend Hank. Catherine Grace’s highlight each week is finding salvation at the local Dairy Queen one slow lick at a time to savor her Dilly Bar.

After graduating from high school in 1972, finally with the help of family friend Mrs. Gloria Jean Graves, Catherine Grace takes the Greyhound up I-75 to Atlanta. In the beginning of her stay in the big city, she diligently writes letters to her younger sister Martha Ann who consistently replies; both girls miss each other as their mom died when Catherine Grace was six years old. However before she could really taste Atlanta, four succinct worded telegram from Martha Ann brings Catherine Grace home, but with a new perspective on life in a small town.

A fully developed lead protagonist and a strong secondary cast especially daddy and Martha Ann turn LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN into a profound historical regional tale. The characters provide the audience deep insight into life in both a Georgia small town and Nixon era Atlanta. Anyone who understands what Dairy Queen has meant to the south or just wants to know will appreciate this engaging tale of young woman ready to take on the world, but while doing so learns simple truths about the flexibility of humans to seek dreams, but not fearing to modify or replace them.

Harriet Klausner

Driving with Dead People-Monica Holloway

Driving with Dead People
Monica Holloway
Simon & Schuster, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9781416955122

When Monica Holloway was a little girl in Elk Grove, Ohio, she sat in the passenger seat of her father’s pickup truck while he would cruise the neighborhoods searching for accidents that he could film; the gorier the better. Her ghoulish father had more movies starring strangers in gruesome situations than he had of his children. Thus it is not a shocker that with her Adams family-like beginnings, when Monica turned nine years old she became fascinated with a funeral home, befriending the daughter Julie Kilner of the mortician.

Monica and Julie play together in the casket workroom. When they get driving licenses, they obtain jobs driving the hearse. However, although life at the mortuary is fun, at home it proves otherwise as her father is abusive and her mother is too busy taking care of herself to care. Her siblings have their own issues trying to avoid their parents and each other. Yet through this dysfunctional family upbringing, Monica remains a Pollyanna especially when she is with Julia, DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE, or just hanging around the funeral home. That is until she learns how damaging her parents are with one last betrayal.

This is an offbeat but engaging memoir of an optimistic person who finds salvation in a funeral parlor that enables her to overcome growing up amidst a dysfunctional family. Told with humor and intelligence, Monica Holloway's autobiography provides an inspiration that a person can overcome almost anything by setting goals and thriving to achieve them like this author has even if it means DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Silver Compass-Holly Kennedy

The Silver Compass
Holly Kennedy
NAL, Apr 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451223128

In Barrow, Montana seventeen year old Ellis Williams is pregnant and frightened; adding to her fears is her father tosses her out of his home. With no place to go, Ellis decides to jump off a bridge. Ten seconds is all that it took for her to almost land on Louie Johnson. He saves her life when he pulls her from the river and though she knows he wishes he was not here with her, he persuades her to go on living by telling her a lie and giving her THE SILVER COMPASS as an anchor.

Fifteen years later, widow Ellis returns to her Montana hometown with her troubled daughter Hadley as both struggle to cope with the death of the man in their lives Mark. Ellis sees Louie who is estranged from his adult daughter Arla. At about the same time, her father, who deserted her and her mom Paullina when they needed him most, has also come home. However, though he wants second chances as he regrets his errors, he doubts his ex-wife, his daughter and the granddaughter he never met will give him a chance for redemption as Dennis needs to become THE SILVER COMPASS for the three women in his life.

This is an appealing family drama that grips the audience as the key cast members struggle with relationships past and present because each fears opening up and communicating their biggest fears to their loved ones. Any book that can turn Christopher Robin into a Dr. Ruth advising Winnie has to be incredibly poignant. Fans will appreciate this deep character study and no one will have dried eyes with the ending as the Big Lie is passed on.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Passin’-Quinones Miller

Passin’
Quinones Miller
Grand Central, Feb 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780446696050

In Detroit Shanika Ann Jenkins is a fair skinned, blonde and blue eyed African-American. Her grandparents believe her light coloring is what makes her beautiful. However her African-Americans parents reject that premise insisting the person’s inside makes them beautiful.

In 2007 after graduating from school, twenty-three year old Shanika is rejected for a position because the company needs an African-American to fulfill racial quotas. Soon after she joins a Manhattan public relations firm that does not use a token minority employment system so they hire her thinking she is white; she quickly realizes everyone assumes she is a “White Girl” as her older brother Joseph calls her. Shanika sees some advantages with hiding her heritage at the company and even on the streets of New York like getting a taxi. Although she feels guilt that she has to hide what she is doing from her parents and conceals them from her peers (thanking the Lord they live in Detroit), Shanika chooses to continue to masquerade even dating a white person who is unaware of his girlfriend’s heritage as she hides family pictures. Then she meets African-American businessman Tyrone Bennett.

Although the support cast is not developed enough beyond simple last century stereotypes in a world with Tiger Woods, PASSIN’ as white is a thought-provoking tale that modernizes Thomas Carlyle theory of clothing makes the man; in this case skin color makes the woman. The story line is fun to follow as Shanika is an interesting protagonist pulled in two directions. Although the secondary players are weak, fans of a fascinating character study will enjoy reading about the heroine showing how to make it in Manhattan her way, but at quite a cost.

Harriet Klausner

Olive Kitteridge- Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
Random House, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400062089

In the “Pharmacy” in a small coastal Maine town, Olive and Henry Kitteridge are opposites. Whereas she is a reserved school teacher, he is an extroverted pharmacist; she is attracted to a younger man while he likes “The Piano Player”, but neither so far act on their feelings. Over time they raise a child, Christopher, who becomes a podiatrist, marries Suzanne, and moves to New York in "A Little Burst" of next generation. He does all this while his ethical mom watches the "Incoming Tide" chatting with her former student Kevin Coulson about is that all there is. Now a septuagenarian, Olive has financial "Security", but is lonely so she visits her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren in New York, but is disappointed in the behavior of the children. After she dies, her family and townsfolk think of Olive as a “River” flows.

Each new tale builds off the previous tale so that the audience obtains thirteen related short stories that enable fans to get deeply inside the soul of Olive. The tales have differing leads, as Olive is the prime player in most of the entries, but also plays a secondary role in a few or serves as a memory of another person like her son relating his fears of his mom. Well written, OLIVE KITTERIDGE is an enjoyable “novel in stories” that provides a deep character study of the life of a woman told from a 360 degree feedback perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Woman Who Wouldn't-Gene Wilder

The Woman Who Wouldn't
Gene Wilder
St. Martin’s, Mar 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 9780312375782

In 1903 Cleveland Orchestra concert violinist Jeremy Spencer Webb has a nervous breakdown on stage during a performance. The British expatriate tears apart the first violinist’s music sheets, pours water down a tuba and punches the piano like a maniac before sitting on the stage crying. The men in white took him away in a strait jacket to a nearby neuropsychiatric hospital. When he began speaking three or four weeks later, he was sent to a health resort in Badenweiler, Germany in the Black Forest to recover paid fully by the Orchestra; the same place he was told that Chekhov was there battling consumption.

Dr. Karl Gross, brother to the Cleveland Orchestra’s artistic director Otto Gross, takes charge of Jeremy’s recovery. There the patient meets Chekhov and "cute Belgie" Clara Mulpas whom he tries to seduce but she proves to be THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN’T. His treatment consists of walks, special soaks, and fine dining with wine. When Dr. Gross decides Jeremy is ready, he asks him to perform with the string quartet entertaining the clinic’s guests. Although that ends in failure, Jeremy and Anton become friends and he begins to win Clara’s heart.

As with MY FRENCH WHORE, Gene Wilder takes a fun look at lampooning the excesses of the aristocracy who still controls the upper crust in spite of changing economics and soon lifestyle when WWI occurs. Thus readers obtain a sweet satirical glimpse of the elite through life in the Badenweiler health resort; pampering being the cure of all ills. Lighthearted yet insightful, fans will appreciate Gene Wilder’s amusing yet deep THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN’T.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Perfect Revenge-Annabel Dilke

A Perfect Revenge
Annabel Dilke
St. Martin's, Apr 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312376260

After spending six months in India, Laura Delancey comes home to England to find a different world than the one she left. During her absence her family lost the ancestral home the Cistercian Abbey they lived in for centuries to the Traffords.

Just before WWII, Stanley Trafford was a gardener working for his childhood friend Edmund Delancey. Both men were happily married and their wives Hester and Effie became friends who depended on each other when their husbands went off to fight for England. However, something happened in 1946 leading to the end of their friendship, Stanley’s job and his eviction from the estate. Four decades later, his self made millionaire grandson Mark wants revenge against the financially strapped Delanceys starting with the Abbey. However, he is attracted to Laura though he rationalizes she is part of his plan. Soon Mark and Laura want to know what happened in 1946 that caused the schism; only those still living refuse to tell.

This is an interesting look at English society at a time of change when the historical class system is dying with the advent of nouvelle riche. The story line is at its best when is focuses on how three generations adapt to changing fortunes. The ending is to perfect while the secret that the older generation hides is obvious to the reader. Still fans will enjoy Annabel Dilke’s fine character study of the changing English social order.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Best Friend's Girl-Dorothy Koomson

My Best Friend's Girl
Dorothy Koomson
Bantam, Apr 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780553591415

From St. Jude’s Hospital in central London, Adele "Del" Brannon sends a short pleading note to Kamryn "Ryn" Matika asking her to come visit her before she dies from leukemia. Ryn wants to ignore the letter as she never forgave her Leeds College friend for having an affair with her fiancĂ© Nate Turner that resulted in a child Tegan. Still Ryn goes to see Del whom she stopped talking to for the past two years once she learned the truth about who sired her goddaughter.

Del asks Ryn not so much to forgive her for her indiscretion, but begs her former best friend to adopt and raise five years old Tegan. Ryn hesitantly agrees, but soon meets strong opposition from Del’s stepmother while gaining support from her boss Luke Wiseman at a time when Nate, ignorant he sired a daughter, wants back in her life

MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL is a strong contemporary drama that uses interrelationships between fully developed characters to vividly portray society’s challenges. The story line digs into race, family, friendship, and different types of love relationships with vulnerable Ryn as the foci of each. Though the audience will weep at melodramatic moments, Dorothy Koomson pulls no punches with this compelling sharp look at vulnerable people.

Harriet Klausner

Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA-Kris Radish

Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA
Kris Radish
Bantam, Apr 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780553805307

Addy Lipton is unhappy with her spouse of twenty-eight years Lucky. Her feelings about her husband and their marriage are symbolized by the garage that she calls Lucky's Kingdom of Krap. Inside are gadgets, gizmos, other paraphernalia and a car that represent their almost three decades of marriage. All these items are projects he started, but never finished.

Addy wants to reinvigorate their relationship; she persuades Lucky they should go to Costa Rica on a honeymoon. They plan the trip, but he fails her as they do not go. Addy has had feeling unlucky in love. She leaves him to pursue her dreams bringing along her single sister and her workout friends, the Parker, Pennsylvania Sweat-Hers. Lucky feels lonely and guilty as he knows he neglected his wife treating her like an unfinished project to discard in some dusty corner. He vows to change because he needs Addy in his life; she remains uncommitted between returning to him or bachelorhood.

This is a fascinating character study that looks closely at what happens over time to a loving relationship when dreams are unfulfilled and somewhat discarded. Fans of female power now will enjoy the sisterhood rallies though they feel somewhat gimmicky. Still Addy’s revolution in her summer of her discontent makes for a fine tale of friendship, bonding, and dysfunctional relationships as the Sweat-Hers Pennsylvania (not Virginia) Slims know “we’ve come a long way baby”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Giving Up On Ordinary -Isla Dewar

Giving Up On Ordinary

Isla Dewar

Dunne, Apr 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 9780312349615

Divorcee Megs’ life is in a rut as she gets up, gets her three kids up, feeds her three kids, feeds Shameless the dog, goes to work as a cleaning lady, comes home to feed the kids and dog, goes to sleep and starts all over again with the next wake up. Nearing forty, Megs loves her three children, but tells her best friend there must be more to life. She never recovered from her son Thomas’ death in a car accident in which she was late to pick him up at school so he went home alone. Her only enjoyment is singing at the Glass Bucket every Friday night.

Megs’ newest cleaning client is Professor Gilbert “Hundred Miles an Hour” Christie, whose house is a disaster. He owns a vacuum that has never been used as he appreciates style and design over use. He is surprised and attracted to her mockery, a device she uses when a patron humiliates her as a cleaning lady.

Megs works as a waitress at a university function that Gilbert attends. When Gilbert sneezes with a pea in his mouth, he humiliatingly watches the vegetable shoot across the table. Soon after the pea incident, Gilbert drives Meg crazy while she cleans his home with his angst until she yells at him. Later Gilbert watches Meg sing at the Glass Bucket. They start an affair, but she notices him looking at the ghost in all the corners.

The prime character is fully developed so that the audience can understand her frustrations of wanting to give up her ordinary life as a mother and a cleaning lady to regain the dreams of her youth. However, she is too responsible to do that until the affair makes her reconsider that her needs and that of her family do not necessarily mean exclusiveness. Fans of deep character studies will appreciate this strong look at a woman turning forty wondering when did her dreams die.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Armageddon in Retrospect-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Armageddon in Retrospect
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Putnam, Apr 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155086

This is a terrific collection by one of the great commentators on human condition in the since WW II. As always Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. uses wry humor to rip into those warmongers who always send someone else to die. The anthology contains nonfiction like the letter he sent to his dad in Indianapolis in which the GI Grunt explains he is fortunate to escape the firebombing of Dresden in 1945 and “Wailing Shall be In All the Streets” where he discuses his POW job of burying the dead in Dresden. The short story fictions are also haunting as the title story advocates that good can never win over evil because good needs evil to exist just like the world can never be at peace for that “Great Day" would lead to war; the author makes the case that violence is in the human DNA even the very young look to fight. This anthology is a fitting final tribute by the late great author who throughout displays his droll sense of the paradox that makes up the “Guns and Butter” of life and death on planet earth.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Triumph of Deborah-Eva Etzioni-Halevy

The Triumph of Deborah
Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Plume, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780452289062

As her husband of sixteen years Lapidoth dumps her, prophetess Judge Deborah finds strength in knowing her people need her as war with Canaan is imminent. She knows her personal sorrow is minor when she expects mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters to soon be grieving for their men-folk, but Deborah rallies the Jews persuading General Barak to lead the sword-bearers to attack the overwhelmingly superior Canaanites. Shockingly he and his forces win, bringing back two special prisoners, the daughters of the enemy’s mightiest king Jabin, legitimate Princess Asherah and illegitimate Princess Nogah. Barak is attracted to both.

In her third women of the Old Testament novelizations (see THE SONG OF HANNAH and THE GARDEN OF RUTH), Eva Etzioni-Halevy provides a powerful comparative tale of predominately two women, Deborah and Asherah. The story line focuses on their relative influence on their respective countries especially Deborah who understands deeply with a sad heart the cost of sending the warriors to war as some will die. With obvious modern day comparisons, readers will appreciate this biblical fictionalized biography as THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH vividly brings to life a dedicated strong individual who believes deeply in her cause, but truly comprehends the sacrifices she asks of her people.

Harriet Klausner

The Triumph of Deborah-Eva Etzioni-Halevy

The Triumph of Deborah
Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Plume, Mar 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780452289062

As her husband of sixteen years Lapidoth dumps her, prophetess Judge Deborah finds strength in knowing her people need her as war with Canaan is imminent. She knows her personal sorrow is minor when she expects mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters to soon be grieving for their men-folk, but Deborah rallies the Jews persuading General Barak to lead the sword-bearers to attack the overwhelmingly superior Canaanites. Shockingly he and his forces win, bringing back two special prisoners, the daughters of the enemy’s mightiest king Jabin, legitimate Princess Asherah and illegitimate Princess Nogah. Barak is attracted to both.

In her third women of the Old Testament novelizations (see THE SONG OF HANNAH and THE GARDEN OF RUTH), Eva Etzioni-Halevy provides a powerful comparative tale of predominately two women, Deborah and Asherah. The story line focuses on their relative influence on their respective countries especially Deborah who understands deeply with a sad heart the cost of sending the warriors to war as some will die. With obvious modern day comparisons, readers will appreciate this biblical fictionalized biography as THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH vividly brings to life a dedicated strong individual who believes deeply in her cause, but truly comprehends the sacrifices she asks of her people.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oceans Apart-Karen Kingsbury

Oceans Apart
Karen Kingsbury
Avon, Mar 25 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061456718

Eight years ago airline captain Connor Evans and flight attendant Kiahna Siefert met and shared a wonderful Hawaiian weekend; he promised to come back but never did as he regrets his infidelity. She raises her seven year old son, Max with the help of her child’s babysitter Ramey, who has a severe heart condition. Connor is happily married to Michele and they have two lovely daughters Elizabeth and Susan.

When Flight 45 from Honolulu to Tokyo crashes killing Kiahana his indiscretion comes home. Her will claims he is Max's father and has two weeks to either accept him as his or reject the lad so he becomes a ward of the state. Mourning the loss of his mother and his home, Max, his dog Buddy, and his ailing babysitter arrive in Florida where Michele shows her hurt by her husband’s betrayal of their vows by making it clear the child is unwanted; their daughters follow her example. Max prays for a miracle though each day that passes he feels less certain that God will intervene.

This is a reprint of a terrific inspirational tale in which the reactions of the Evans family to Max seems plausible. However, Max holds the tale together with his prayers that divine intervention will allow him to one day call Mr. Evans daddy. Readers will not have a dry eye after reading this strong character driven tale that affirms Alexander pope’s “to err is human but to forgive is divine”.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jezebel-Jacquelin Thomas

Jezebel
Jacquelin Thomas
NAL, Mar 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 9780451223104

In 1970 Mayville, Georgia, eighteen years old Jessie Bell Holt learned from her mom that sexual enticements work. However, if her daddy ever learned how she flaunts her assets, he would condemn her as having a Jezebel spirit. Somehow whether her father Reverend Holt chooses to ignore or remain ignorant, townsfolk know of Jessie Bell’s reputation including an abortion and a miscarriage.

Holt hosts Preacher Traynor Deveraux Jr. who is in town to provide a tent revival sermon since his dad is too ill to perform. Jessie Bell recognizes Traynor as her ticket out of town; encouraged by her mom, she hooks the young preacher whose sermon feels God-inspired. Traynor and Jessie Bell marry. Over the years through her sexual and extortionist machinations, he becomes an international star while they raise their son. However, one day her reckoning will come, but Jessie Bell never expected the price she must pay for her transgressions; yet still has one chance at redemption.

Bringing the biblical tale of Jezebel into a modern text, Jacquelin Thomas provides a deep look at temptation in various forms. Jessie Bell is terrific as the lead protagonist as she learned very early how to sue her beauty to manipulate men; in fact only her son who loves her deeply seems immune to her charms. Fans of inspirational Christian fiction will relish this powerful look at the Jezebel Spirit alive and well in contemporary America.

Harriet Klausner