Saturday, May 31, 2008

Slightly Suburban-Wendy Markham

Slightly Suburban
Wendy Markham
Red Dress, Jul 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895618

No longer just SLIGHTLY MARRIED Tracey and Jack are happy together in New York City, albeit in a tiny apartment. However, Tracey feels they would have a nicer lifestyle if they left the Big Apple for a somewhat SLIGHTLY SUBURBAN locale especially since that would mean coming home to Jack and not his best buddy Mitch who seems to be more of a fixture in their lives then they are. Although Jack has doubts, he reluctantly agrees to their moving to Westchester County.

However, after mortgaging a fixer-upper, Tracey loses her copyrighting job at Blair Barnett Advertising so she stays home more. Once she begins to meet the suburban mommas, she finds herself not slightly but totally bored and wonders if she made an error as wants back to Manhattan.

Continuing her "Slightly" chick lit Tracey and Jack saga, Wendy Markham provides a refreshing tale in which grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Tracey is at her best as she moans, groans and laments city life and then suburban life. Any moment readers will expect her to sing the theme song to Green Acres although Westchester County is a very urbanized suburb. Fans will appreciate her coping not always well with issues at work, unemployment, family, and just fitting in as Ms. Markham provides an engaging look at an urbanite struggling with adjusting to life in the burbs.

Harriet Klausner

Sister's Choice-Emilie Richards

Sister's Choice
Emilie Richards
Mira, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778325659

For years thanks to unhealthy childhoods and an age gap of just under a decade, sisters Jamie Dunkirk and Kendra Taylor never bonded until recently. They have become the sisters they always wanted to be, but feared becoming. Jamie and her two young daughters, Hannah and Alison, even move into a cabin on property owned by Kendra and her husband Isaac in the Shenandoah Valley.

Jamie, a graduate architect student, decides to repay Kendra’s kindness by drafting up the plans for the dream house her sister and Isaac desire. Looking forward to being an aunt, she also offers herself as a surrogate mother so that the dream house contains the child her sis and husband so desperately want but never had. However, builder Cash Rosslyn makes Jamie reconsider part two as she is falling in love.

This is an engaging family drama starring fully developed protagonists. The tension in the tale occurs when Cash enters the lives of the three Dunkirk females as each has differing opinions re his being part of their family dynamics. Emilie Richard’s provides an engaging contemporary tale of various types of relationship loves, but especially that between sisters.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Fidelity Files-Jessica Brody

The Fidelity Files
Jessica Brody
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312375461

Everyone who knows Jennifer Hunter assumes she is a very successful financier or banker because her job title she uses is "fidelity inspector". However, Jennifer is actually an “undercover” agent using the operative name Ashlyn when a client hires her to test the loyalty and faithfulness of a significant other.

She has so many customers using her service, Jennifer for practical purposes do not exist; she spends more time in her alter ego role. When she successfully exposes a cheating spouse, he vows vengeance. Worse happens when she meets someone who makes her want to get out of the business of kiss-and-telling on philanders, but her recent experiences with one noted Chicago exception with men leaves her with some doubts.

THE FIDELITY FILES is an interesting intriguing tale starring a fascinating woman whose undercover job is exposing cheating husbands. The story line is fast-paced as the heroine and her Hawthorne team makes the rounds for their clients never running only power rush walking. Fans will relish the lead character as Ashlyn’s inquiries of the first encounter and Jennifer’s relationship issues with men starting with her sneaker clad dad make for an engaging read.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Talk-Susan Mallery

Sweet Talk
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN, Jul 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772971

The Keyes sisters are estranged from one another or at least with Claire since their dad’s funeral several years ago. However, Jesse calls her sibling renowned pianist Claire to tell her Nicole is undergoing gallbladder surgery and will need help since she will be recuperating for six weeks and her bakery has apparently shut. Claire sees this as an opportunity to make up with her fraternal sis and agrees.

However, in Seattle, Claire learns that Jesse and Nicole are not talking to each other and that her ailing sibling does not want her here. Claire ignores Nicole’s protest. When Claire meets Nicole’s friend Wyatt Knight an attraction surfaces immediately. However, neither wants to pursue their desires because she is in town for Nicole so feels strongly she must reject any intrusions including a loving one and he has been burned in his previous relationships

The battling Keyes sisters are as dysfunctional siblings as one will find short of fratricide; each has what they perceive is a legitimate gripe against her siblings. In fact it is the interrelationships between the trio that is the key to this fine emotional tale. Even the romance between Claire and Wyatt, though well done, takes a back seat to the war as Nicole feels her close friend is betraying her by his attraction to her enemy sister. Susan Mallery provides a powerful passionate backdrop to a fine contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Maytrees-Annie Dillard

The Maytrees
Annie Dillard
Harper, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061239540

Just after WW II ends in Provincetown on Cape Cod, wannabe thirtyish poet Toby Maytree and college student Lou Bigelow meet. Though an author, Toby struggles to get his tongue straight as he is unable to put together two coherent thoughts let alone sentences. Still she senses something deep inside his soul; they relish the dunes, fall in love and marry. A few years later they add a son Pete to their perfect family.

However, their idyllic life together ends when a cheating Toby leaves his wife and son to go be with his lover in Maine. Two decades later, a tragedy brings Toby and Lou together for the first time since he left his family behind. They poorly coped with his desertion. Feelings between the pair remains strong, but love proved weak the first time around.

The key to this fine family redemption drama is Annie Dillard avoids values pointing in order to make a “guilty” verdict re her flawed characters; instead she leaves that to readers to decide who failed at relationships and why. No action, this is a purely character driven tale of paradise lost and paradise regained maybe; as a wiser Toby, Lou and Pete finally understand life is a journey to death.

Harriet Klausner

Washington's Lady- Nancy Moser

Washington's Lady
Nancy Moser
Bethany House, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764205002

When her beloved Daniel died as well as two of their children, wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis vowed death would never mock her again. However, being affluent and young, many want to court her; none interest her. That is until she meets the French and Indian War Colonel George Washington, a shy warrior. She knows she has met her soulmate.

They marry and live in his Mount Vernon home. However, their life together is interrupted by war as George now a general leads the rebel forces against the mightiest army in the world; a side he once belong to. There are several years of separation and worry as Martha tries to hold the family together while George is at war. When they reunite, their love is stronger and helps them several years later when she becomes the first First Lady; but death will return to mock her once again.

As she has done with Jane Austen (see JUST JANE) and Nannerl Mozart (see MOZART’S SISTER), Nancy Moser provides a strong look at the first First Lady, who Washington insisted was “my other self”. Readers will see how deaths of loved ones shaped her adult life and helped her as the “mother of our country”. Biographical fiction fans and historical novel readers will appreciate this superb glimpse of WASHINGTON’S LADY, Martha.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Front Porch Prophet-Raymond L. Atkins

The Front Porch Prophet
Raymond L. Atkins
Medallion, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781933836386

Sixty miles southwest of Chattanooga live one thousand souls in Sequoyah, Georgia. Two of them, A. J. Longstreet and Eugene Purdue have been best friends since childhood. However, the buddies fight over Eugene's Peter Pan lifestyle that irritates A.J. who insists he act like an adult. They go their separate ways.

Years later, A.J. is dying from terminal pancreatic cancer. He welcomes his childhood friend Eugene who has come to see him back into his life. They renew their friendship, but A.J. demands two things from his pal. First he needs Eugene’s help to visit his family, past and present, to learn what made him what he is. Second when the time comes, he wants no machine keeping him alive; instead he pleads with Eugene to end it for him Peter Pan is no longer in Neverland as mortality and euthanasia requires a grownup.

THE FRONT PORCH PROPHET is a deep poignant look at friendship in a small Georgia town. Humor is used to somewhat abate the tension of pending death with light touches like the local fire department’s inability to put out a fire or even names of the eccentric support cast. Fans will appreciate this insightful glimpse at life in the south where sipping Georgia ice tea on a cabin’s porch might be dangerous as anything can fall from the sky; just ask the cops.

Harriet Klausner

Too Little, Too Late-Victoria Christopher Murray

Too Little, Too Late
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone, Jun 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416552529

Although she has done plenty of wicked things in her life, Jasmine plans to remain faithful to her husband Reverend Hosea Bush. Cementing her vows to God and her spouse, she loves her husband and their child Jacqueline. Hosea not only loves his wife and accepted her child from another man as his; he proudly admires her transformation from sinner to strong believer in the Lord’s way.

The Bush trio has temporarily left New York for California where Jasmine finds her sinful shameful past testing her new Christian devotion. Not only is Jacqueline’s biological father Brian Lewis there with marital woes as his wife believes he is cheating probably with Jasmine; Hosea’s former fiancée, Natasia Redding is also there. She wants her man back and will do what it takes to steal his soul; Hosea struggles with the TEMPTATION of the flesh that Natasia offers. Not one to sit back, Jasmine muses that it is A SIN AND A SHAME, but God takes care of those who take care of themselves so she fights as only she can to keep her man.

Too Little Too Late is an excellent entry in the Jasmine Larson Bush Christian Lit saga; perhaps the best so far. The key is Hosea who proves humanly fallible as he finds himself filled with lust and willing to omit some truths from his wife. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as everyone seems to have gone full circle in a well written intense drama. That could lead to the unthinkable, two destroyed marriages.

Harriet Klausner

Too Little, Too Late-Victoria Christopher Murray

Too Little, Too Late
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone, Jun 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416552529

Although she has done plenty of wicked things in her life, Jasmine plans to remain faithful to her husband Reverend Hosea Bush. Cementing her vows to God and her spouse, she loves her husband and their child Jacqueline. Hosea not only loves his wife and accepted her child from another man as his; he proudly admires her transformation from sinner to strong believer in the Lord’s way.

The Bush trio has temporarily left New York for California where Jasmine finds her sinful shameful past testing her new Christian devotion. Not only is Jacqueline’s biological father Brian Lewis there with marital woes as his wife believes he is cheating probably with Jasmine; Hosea’s former fiancée, Natasia Redding is also there. She wants her man back and will do what it takes to steal his soul; Hosea struggles with the TEMPTATION of the flesh that Natasia offers. Not one to sit back, Jasmine muses that it is A SIN AND A SHAME, but God takes care of those who take care of themselves so she fights as only she can to keep her man.

Too Little Too Late is an excellent entry in the Jasmine Larson Bush Christian Lit saga; perhaps the best so far. The key is Hosea who proves humanly fallible as he finds himself filled with lust and willing to omit some truths from his wife. Fans will appreciate this fine tale as everyone seems to have gone full circle in a well written intense drama. That could lead to the unthinkable, two destroyed marriages.

Harriet Klausner

Peach Blossom Pavilion-Mingmei Yip

Peach Blossom Pavilion
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, May 27 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758220141

In 1918 China Xiang Xiang’s father Baba is accused of a crime, convicted, and executed; throughout he swore he was innocent; his crime was being righteous while “meddling in rich men’s business”. He left behind his beloved daughter and his wife, Xiang’s mom, but the disgrace forced the older female survivor to enter a Buddhist nunnery in Peking and to “sell” her daughter due to the machinations of a distant relative Fang Rong who conned the grieving widow.

With no options the teenage virgin enters the Peach Blossom Pavilion. Owners Fang Rong and Wu Qiang see the young girl as a valuable commodity as virgins sell well in a bidding war although the newcomer treats them like honored parents. Still Precious Orchid as she is now called hopes to earn enough money to leave and to one day learn who set up her beloved father. Over time with the help of her best friend Pearl, she adapts and soon becomes the most poplar courtesan. Richard Anderson for instance enjoys chatting with the intelligent Precious Orchid and also enjoys listening to her play a musical instrument. Ultimately he offers her marriage, but will tainted Precious Orchid say no thank you or will innocent Xiang say yes.

This is a fascinating historical biographical fiction that grips readers from the moment Xiang Xiang explains what happened to her parents and never slows down as she relates her life story to her granddaughter in California (and to the audience). The Chinese social system of the early twentieth century encourages avarice and corruption; something Precious quickly learns to manipulate for her personal gain. Her vow is not to repeat her father’s mistake of righteousness, but to use her innocence as a tool to live the good life paid for by the same affluent types who murdered her father. Fans will admire Xiang as she does what she has to do, not to just survive, but to live a luxurious pampered life; will she give it up for Richard?

Harriet Klausner

Bella-Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson, May 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595546081

In New York, Jose was once a famous Mexican soccer player, but since the tragic accident four years ago he is not the same person. His career and his social life died along with another person, whom he visits at the cemetery all the time. That is when he is not cooking at older brother Robert’s restaurant El Callejon.

Nina is a waitress at the restaurant. She and the boy next door law school student Ryan exchanged emails that led to drinks and action; now one week after a lonely twenty-fifth birthday, she spends time throwing up. Her life besides being pregnant is cheap videos and cheaper take-out.

Nina plans to get rid of the baby; Jose wants to help her anyway he can except support an abortion. Can these two lost souls help each other; Jose is determined that this is God’s test of him while Nina remains in denial except for morning sickness.

This is a well written novelization of the 2007 film. The story line is an entertaining contemporary drama starring two wounded warriors struggling with life. The support cast is powerful as the audience obtains a close look at a Mexican-American family. Fans of inspirational tales will appreciate BELLA as each of the lead couple sees the unborn in a different light; redemption or damnation.

Harriet Klausner
Fool on the Hill
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books, Apr 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781593500276

Between being a breast cancer survivor and the serpentine murder attempt on her life (see STICKY FINGERS), Tess Camillo knows she has come a long way baby. The San Diego resident vows to live her life to the fullest and not let her fears get in her way.Tess and her roommate Lana Maki attend the Gabrielle Leatheross concert; though they are more interested in hearing the opening act, 1980s fold rock star Cody Crowne perform.

The next day Tess decides to relax in Torrey Pines States Preserve. When she hears ravens squawking she goes to investigate only to find a crucified Cody. After calling the police, Tess goes home and tells Lana what she saw, horrifying her roommate and her confidante Raj her Welsh Terrier owner. Unable to let the cops do their job, Tess and Lana feel a need to sleuth.

Putting aside the logic of two amateurs investigating a homicide of a celebrity stranger (let alone anyone), fans will appreciate this enjoyable whodunit. The story line is character driven by the unsinkable Tess who comes out of nasty incidents so much stronger. The mystery is fun especially a late twist as Tess and her Finnish friend compete with the cops and a killer willing to add two nosy females to the death list.
Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 26, 2008

Leave It to Chance-Sherri Sand

Leave It to Chance
Sherri Sand
David C Cook, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781434799883

Her mom calls Sierra Montgomery to tell her she just inherited an old horse from Miss Libby. Sierra explains to her mom that she is struggling to feed and shelter her three children so what is she going to do with a horse after losing her job and her ex philandering spouse’s child support checks bounce higher than a basketball. She hides the fact that horses frighten her

Although her kids want to take a Chance on the aptly named horse, Sierra decides she must sell the ancient steed. However, she fails to close the deal so her mom finds a place where Chance can stay and even buys his feed. The stable owner, landscaper Ross Morgan offers to buy Chance from Sierra, but something about the horse makes her hesitate especially since her oldest child raging Braden has found a friend in the horse and in Ross who becomes the father the lad desperately needs at this time. While Ross and Sierra are attracted to one another, both agree the kids come first, Chance second and then them.

This is an engaging inspirational family drama in which a mother and her three kids feel abandoned by God and a rat of a husband-father until Chance and then Ross come into their lives. The key to this enjoyable tale is the ensemble cast is full blooded with issues and doubts that make them seem real (can’t say human as Chance is quite a title character). Fans will appreciate Sherri Sand’s fine tale of a horse leading people to each other and back to God, who has time for everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Abbeville-Jack Fuller

Jack Fuller
Unbridled, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9781932961478

George Bailey felt he lived “A Wonderful Life” until the collapse wiped out his wealth; worried about the impact on his family, he thinks back to his youth when his grandfather seemed contented whether he was wealthy or broke. Needing inspiration to get past his gloom and doom, George goes to the place of his nineteenth century roots, Abbeville, Illinois.

This is where his grandfather Karl Schumpeter began working at as a clerk at his uncle's logging company before going to Chicago during the 1893 Exposition to trade in grain futures. After getting married, Karl returns to Abbeville where he thrives as a banker. In his late thirties Karl goes to France as part of the ambulance corps as WWI ignites Europe. However after the Great Depression’s Black Tuesday, Karl makes illegal loans to friends and family; he goes to prison for his actions. Always upbeat, he feels he disgraced his family; he was never quite the same, but once back with the love of his family never stopped trying. Now his grandson, George fears he will fail his family too.

Using the cycles of the twentieth century as a backdrop of rise and fall at a family level, Jack Fuller provides a great saga of an individual’s spirit embraced by his values to survive war, economic disaster, personal loss of loved ones and pride; yet through it all Karl kept rising like a phoenix. Fans will want to join George on his odyssey to discover how his ancestor remained optimistic even as he felt humiliated when he was caught in the American nightmare; staying upbeat is easy when you live the American dream. This is an excellent look at the impact of momentous events on people through a deep look at a caring person who would not make a footnote outside of his family.

Harriet Klausner

The Elite-Jennifer Banash

The Elite
Jennifer Banash
Berkley, Jun 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425221570

With her mom traveling in Europe, Casey McCloy left Normal, Illinois to attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy in New York. She will live with her Nanna in the affluent Bramford Building in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her first impression of her new abode is shock at is elegance starting with the doorman.

Although the sophistication level is stratospherically hirer than Illinois, Casey quickly grasps the basic rule of teenage survival in New York is not that different from Normal; who you knows pay dividends in the social bank account. The it girl is extremely popular Madison Macallister; Casey met her in the lobby of the Bramford before she even made it to Nanna's apartment the first time. Madison can destroy any other student with just a look. Casey soon meets Madison's posse Sophie and Phoebe; and soon afterward Drew, who may be the ruler’s boyfriend. Casey spends time with the Madison trio who seem to have adopted the rube until Madison sees her talking with Drew. The welcoming committee turn into the queen of mean and her court as Madison wants Drew back anyway she can.

The cast makes this a strong high school character study as Jennifer Banash hones in deeply at the social caste system. Interestingly, the support players like Madison’s retinue seem fully developed while the lead triangle is each strong individuals though the battling females are somewhat stereotyped like professional wrestlers. Fans will enjoy the tug of war with Drew as the rope between the mean queen of THE ELITE and the sweet not quite country bumpkin.

Harriet Klausner

What She Wants-Cathy Kelly

What She Wants
Cathy Kelly
Downtown, Jun 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781416564607

In Bath, England, Hope Parker struggles between her roles as mother to two toddlers Toby and Millie, wife to writer Matt and her job at Witherspoons. However, she believes Matt is too distracted as he nears his fortieth birthday; she fears he is having an affair. Before she can figure out what next, Matt announces he wants the family to spend a year in rural Redlion, Ireland, home of his late Uncle Gearoid, so he can focus on his novel and alleviate the guilt of not visiting his beloved relative in four years until it became too late. Though she has doubts, Hope agrees as she figures that should take him away from his mysterious woman; if there is one that is.

In Redlion, Hope makes friends with Mary-Kate the pharmacist, her niece Delphine and recently widowed grandma Virginia. Connell However as Matt ignores her and seems to spend more time in England than Ireland, she wonders if he moved her and the kids out of the way. Still she has a hunk of her own to perhaps tryst with.

This is a strong character study starring several protagonists with future issues caused by mistakes in the past or present. The relationships between everyone make for a strong realistic drama as fans and Hope wonder WHAT SHE WANTS. All the players from the four females, to the local hunk to Matt and others (even the deceased) make for a deep entertaining tale that looks at people keeping PAST SECRETS from loved ones and pondering ALWAYS AND FOREVER or nevermore.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tumbleweed-Jane Candia Coleman

Jane Candia Coleman
Leisure, Jun 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780843961041

Now elderly and still as tiny as a “skeeter” but with a bite ten times worse, Allie Earp thinks back to her days with her beloved Virgil, one of the famous Earp brothers. Allie now knows how wonderful her Virgil was to her as he never shut her up when she cursed or used a gun; in fact he encouraged her to be a strong person in her own right and not just a tough woman. She reminisces of the days of riding at his side along with Wyatt and the rest of the now legendary brood. She was there at dangerous Deadwood for the most famous gunfight in history, the O.K. Corral. She was always there for Virgil and he was there for her. Now in her old age, Allie provides a fresh perspective to what most believe was a testosterone lifestyle.

This is an excellent historical autobiographical fiction starring a woman who literally stood by her man just like her man stood by her. Well written, readers see a wider deeper scope into the Earp legends from a woman who was with them through many of their adventures. Jane Candia Coleman will enthrall her audience with this fine tale as Allie looks back on what she considers a rewarding life with her beloved supportive Virgil.

Harriet Klausner

LoveHampton-Sherri Rifkin

Sherri Rifkin
St. Martin's, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312380212

Manhattan media expert Tori Miller feels her world is imploding when the love of her life dumps her with no warning and her employer dumps her with even less warning. Still Tori somewhat rebounds from her woes by opening up her own production company, MillerWorks.

However her two “J” employees and her buddy Alice worry about her depression and rejection of males. They form the “Transformation Trio” using Tori as the first makeover on their new TV reality show. The new glamorous Tori joins a Hampton time sharing summerhouse with five yuppies. The rules drive her crazy as they change before she can learn them and contradict one another so one is doomed to break them. Still that insanity does not prevent her from trysting with housemate Andrew Kane or helping another mate Cassie Dearborn with her escapades.

LOVEHAMPTON is an amusing summer breeze as Tori takes over the Hamptons. The support cast is strong in Manhattan and on Long Island, but the tale belongs to the star as Tori finds this is the most wonderful summer of her life even as she breaks the sacred timesharing taboos.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Ten Best Days of My Life-Adena Halpern

The Ten Best Days of My Life
Adena Halpern
Plume, Jun 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 0452289408

Four AM in Los Angeles, twenty-nine years old Alex Dorenfield was walking Peaches her Miniature Beagle whose bowel obstruction became unobstructed when a Mini Cooper ran them over. Doritos and Ambien aside, Alex finds herself in perfect Seventh Heaven with her beloved poop dog Peaches at her side. Her grandparents lovingly greet her and she can eat all the delightfully fatty carbos she wants with no weight gain or bad cholesterol issues. She has her choice of a designer wardrobe and a wonderful home. Finally Alex also feels she has met her soul mate after a decade plus of wondering where the hell (make that heaven) is he.

Of course like the way she died in which Peaches need to crap had a hidden celestial agenda inside it; she learns for her to remain in Seventh Heaven, she must defend her life in essay form; sheesh she feels she graduated years ago and never though she would ever write an essay again. However failure means demotion to the fourth floor where she would have a condo not a house, wear last year's off the wrack clothing, no loving grandparents to spoil her, no soulmate hunk next door, and most critical having her beloved Peaches with her; as dogs by their unrequited loving nature always go to Seventh Heaven. Alex must defend her life as being worthy of seventh heaven.

Any moment one would expect Albert Brooks to appear to mentor Alex on Defending your Life, as the heroine struggles to make a case that she is worthy and not clueless. Readers will enjoy Alex’s whimsical chick lit asides as she ponders why she deserves seventh heaven and writes the essay on THE TEN BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE. While working on it she realizes she must not just prove to the angels her worthiness, she must prove to herself she earned “Heaven On The Seventh Floor” (without Paul Nichols’ help). Amusing and poignant, Adena Halpern provides a fascinating look at a young woman defending her former existence to herself.

Harriet Klausner

The Hard Way-Julie Luongo

The Hard Way
Julie Luongo
Forge, May 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 0765316676

In 1990 with the death of the family Venier’s patriarch, the three female survivors, his wife and two daughters, cope differently. His spouse Margaret finds a new love Eli; his oldest daughter the married pharmacist Nancy lights candles every night; his younger offspring by almost two decades Lucy returns to journalism school.

A few years later, Lucy graduates from college. She seeks contentment in her chosen writing career and her personal relationships. However Lucy finds little happiness in terms of deciding between becoming a big city crime beat reporter, working the Web where the future lies, or following the money into advertising. On her love front, she goes through men like potato chips Over time Lucy and Nancy, somewhat estranged due to their age difference and their reaction to their dad’s death begin to reconcile and then there is another second chance with Ben. Lucy may have found that elusive butterfly of life in the normally tragic third act as she wisely understands that people support those they care about even if that means acting as a compassionate bridesmaid.

In a way this is more a series of vignettes of a coming of age young woman whose choices at times hurt her, but she is the epitome of the Sinatra tune, That’s Life: “Each time I find myself, flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.” Readers will appreciate this wonderful character study that is a deep chick lit tale in which Lucy finds her groove THE HARD WAY, but her way.
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Things We Do For Love-Xavier Knight

The Things We Do For Love
Xavier Knight
Grand Central, Mar 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446582384

Jesse Law grew up lonely as the youngest sibling in the first family of music. He became the most famous member of the Law brood with many hits by the time he turned twenty-year-old.

A decade later, his rise to the top is in his past. Yet he feels the happiest he ever has been due to his beloved wife Minister Dionne Favor and performing as lead singer of a gospel group. The both want a child, but she has not been able to conceive so they decide to adopt, but by doing so a skeleton hidden in his closet threatens their relationship as do secrets the media reveals about his friend and teammate Coleman Hill, the perfect husband and father. The media threatens to destroy everyone he cherishes.

This is a profound Christian drama in which devoted pious people face personal and family crisis. The key characters are fully developed so that fans will wonder whether Dionne can live up to the first half of the mantra to forgive is human; because she is human , to forget is divine seems out of reach once she knows Jesse’s secret, but also realizes the child should not be the victim. A secondary subplot involving homosexuality and Christianity needs to be required reading for those who demonize sexual preference. Throughout the well written character driven story line is the underlying message that people make mistakes, but God is forgiving so why can’t we forgive ourselves, our loved ones, and even strangers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon-Debbie Fuller Thomas

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
Debbie Fuller Thomas
Moody, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780802487339

The last two years have been very rough for Marty Winslow and her family. Her daughter Ginger died from Niemann-Pick disease, which makes no sense since neither of her parents are carriers. Ginger could not have been their biological daughter; affirmed by a blood and DNA test that proved conclusively she belonged to another family as a second mother gave birth at the hospital that same night as Marty did. That child Andie is given into the custody of Marty because her parents died and she was prohibited from moving into her grandparents’ senior citizen trailer home community.

It is not easy for Andie to move in with her biological mother and her two biological sisters, who are all strangers to her. The oldest sister Deja resents her and the younger sibling Winnie tries too hard to welcome her. Each misbehaves in their own way and Marty tries to cope with bringing her three daughters into a family unit.

All of the major characters are feeling a lot of anguish and pain inside their hearts; how each copes lifts this memorable work from being an ordinary soap opera and overcomes the stigma of insuring no rivals for the parenting of Andie. She especially struggles with going to a stranger even if she shares DNA with that woman as she refuses to accept her grandparents are realistic as they know they are to old to care for her although they love her; this adds to her feeling of being alone even with two sisters and a mom who insists she is not a replacement for Ginger. This is a deep five tissue box tearjerker.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Shadows-L.A. Banks

The Shadows
L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s, Jul 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780312368753

In Greece, the Neterus Damali and Carlos injured the Anti-Christ; Lilith is working to stem the bleeding and heal him while her husband Lu is fighting the angels wanting to destroy the Anti-Christ. Damali and Carlos accompanied by their team are in a safe house protected so that the Dark Side cannot find them. They are energy depleted and one their members discovered that A Council Vamp are sending negative essences through communication devices like television, the internet and music so that when the time comes these humans will explode and chaos will be the norm.

The Unnamed One seeks the Neteru team who almost destroyed is heir. In his search for them he has his demonic army go topside and cause havoc on a catastrophic mass destructive level. Damali is pregnant and Carlos is doing all he can to protect her; three of the guardians are also carrying. Vampiric Councilman Sebastian tries to convince Lilith and the Unnamed One it is true they are pregnant but Lucifer believes this is false because the angels are trying to kill him as they think they can win the war now. The Neteru team is forced into another life changing deadly battle against the Darkness.

L.A. Banks latest entry in her Huntress Legend saga is an exciting and evocative thriller filled with the trademark supernatural battles, romance, and plenty of suspense as not all skirmishes go the way of the good guys. Carlos has matured into a heroic leader who makes difficult decisions that send loyal people to their possible deaths. Damali is his ethical spiritual anchor who is vulnerable yet strong. Readers will relish this tale and look forward to the next installment in this superb apocalyptic series.

Harriet Klausner

Sweet Love-Sarah Strohmeyer

Sweet Love
Sarah Strohmeyer
Dutton, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0525950648

In Watertown, Massachusetts, cancer survivor Betty Mueller regrets what she did two decades ago that cost her beloved daughter the love of her life. She serendipitously destroyed Julie’s relationship with older Michael Slayton because she felt her daughter was too young and he too wild. Now twenty years later, she realizes Michael was Julie’s one.

She wants to make amends before she dies as she would love one last a glimpse of the happier carefree teen that her machinations changed into a workaholic divorced single mom. However, Betty knows Julie, a Boston TV reporter, refuses to speak to Michael so her goal seems impossible, but this time mother knows best (at least she prays she does). Betty cons Julie into attending famous French chef Renée D’Ours dessert class at the Famous Boston Cooking School; recently divorced Michael is attending too.

On the surface this may seem like a typical second chance at love, but Sarah Strohmeyer refreshes the theme with plenty of humor, just desserts, and Shakespeare especially the sonnets. Betty is terrific as she understands the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Michael and Julie are classic star-crossed lovers, but there is no real Shakespearean villain, only a caring dying mom.

Harriet Klausner

Vanish-Tom Pawlik

Tom Pawlik
Tyndale, Jul 2008, $12,99
ISBN: 9781414318936

Three people experience the most frightening event in their lives when they are doing ordinary things until a strange storm with odd lights appears without warning. They become unconscious; when they awaken they find no one in sight.

Former model Helen Krause had just been turned down for an assignment and her son informed her he is moving to New York. Mechanic Mitch Kent planned to propose to his girlfriend. Attorney Conner Hunter has his daughter Rachel for the weekend. This trio separately realizes they are alone until they meet and compare their experiences. Each hears shadows whispering and soon believes they are under surveillance of sorts. Soon they conclude that the observers want to separate them and keep them from meeting others, but do not know why, who they are, and what happened to everyone else.

Readers will understand why this is the winner of the 2006 Operation First Novel contest, Each of the key characters has issues that they kept pushing off hoping to ignore; which proves prophetic as the VANISH supersedes their seemingly minor previous problems. The threesome are in many ways similar yet distinctive and fully developed as they wonder how they landed in the Twilight Zone; the truth will shock the audience as Tom Pawlik provides a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Safety of Secrets-Michael DeLaune

The Safety of Secrets
Michael DeLaune
Avon, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780060817367

They met a quarter of a century ago as first graders in Lake Charles, Louisiana over a pair of socks. Fiona Marshall and Patricia Woods became friends with both eluding odious mothers. Whereas Fiona’s mother was abusive, Patricia’s was negligent. They left Bayou country soon after high school to make it in Hollywood.

Each was married and divorced; they survived the Hollywood night culture that has destroyed so many young. Both share a secret that no one else knows until now. Twenty-five years of best friend sisterhood may end with that secret revealed. Fiona and Patricia reexamine their friendship, other relationships over the years, and the difficult realities that have surfaced for them.

The story line moves back and forth between the present and past in Southern California and their childhood in Louisiana as events today have the lead females looking back in time. Fiona and Patricia are fully developed characters, but it is their deep friendship forged back in elementary school that Michael DeLaune focuses on. Though loving best friends who would do anything for the other, with warmth and caring comes hurts and anger. Healthy relationships have a down side to them even when they are mostly loving, upbeat, and supportive. THE SAFETY OF SECRETS is a deep character study that will leave readers examining their strongest relationships.

Harriet Klausner

The Beach House-Jane Green

The Beach House
Jane Green
Viking, Jul 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780670018857

Sixty-five years old eccentric widow Nan owns THE BEACH HOUSE on Nantucket Island. Although she knows her neighbors would disapprove, needing money and not caring what anyone else thinks as she is a sexagenarian who buried her husband, the feisty Nan decides to rent rooms during the summer.

Her summer renters come to the island to think and escape. Separated from her husband Richard following his affair, Daff must decide what she wants beyond her two roles of mother to teen Jess and wife or perhaps ex wife. Therapist Dr. Posner helps, some might say hinders, Bee and Daniel to face the inconvenient truth that is destroying their relationship. As he faces middle age, Michael wonders if he will ever find the right woman for him as every female he meets turns out wrong.

THE BEACH HOUSE is a well written character study in which each of the visitors and Nan has issues to confront over the summer. Each of the cast members is fully developed and seems like a real person as they struggle with their respective issues. Although the resolution is too simplistic in such a short time, fans will enjoy the most wonderful summer.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Soul-Tobsha Learner

Tobsha Learner
Forge, May 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9780765320100

In 2002 Los Angeles, pregnant genetic researcher Julia Huntington searches for the gene that makes someone become a remorseless killer. However Julia’s life collapses when she learns her spouse Klaus loves her best friend; she becomes despondent and angry. She also knows she can kill with no remorse having done so in Afghanistan.

In 1849 Julia’s great-grandmother, Lavinia was a young woman living in Ireland when she was assaulted; she stabbed her attacker feeling no remorse. In 1860 she was chosen to be the wife of three decade older amateur anthropologist Colonel James Huntington. Lavinia was given no choice in the matter. However, when she learns the secret that her spouse hid from she becomes despondent and angry.

The fun in this engaging psychological horror thriller lies with the comparative analysis of the two eras; especially enlightening are biological theory, criminology, and psychology in 1860 vs. 2008. The audience will enjoy following the escapades of the abusive remorseless couples although the rotating viewpoints between the two women feel disruptive at times, not enabling the reader to get deep into the hearts of either lead female or their “abusive” spouses. Still psychological horror fans will enjoy Tobsha Learner’s look at the souls of two female relatives a century and a half apart as the author raises the argument that civilization’s nurturing can impede or enhance the core individual’s DNA blueprint depending on circumstances.

Harriet Klausner

Tribute-Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts
Putnam, Jul 2008, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399154911

She was a child star, but when her television show was cancelled Cilla McGowan’s Hollywood career was terminated too although as a teen she scored parts in slasher flicks, made CD’s, and performed in public. She realized this was not what she wanted to do with her life although her mother, a failed wannabe actress, kept pushing her in that direction. Finally Cilla persuades her mom to sell her, in exchange for money to put on a show in Las Vegas, her late grandmother’s farm which she always wanted.

Cilla’s renowned grandma Hollywood legend Janet Hardy had her hideaway in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Janet died there under suspicious circumstances. Cilla is determined to restore the place to its former glory. She finds Janet’s letters that she was having an affair and the married man wanted to end it. Someone in town wants Cilla to leave and that person tries to intimidate her into fleeing back to the other coast. Cilla refuses to be driven off, but her adversary keeps raising the stakes until her life is in jeopardy.

As always Nora Roberts writes a fascinating tale that her audience will read in one wonderful sitting. Cilla is an obstinate strong person who gained strength with her determination to withstand her mother’s pressure and her own fight with stage fright; so is prepared for the most part to deal with the stalker’s dangerous intent. This is a strong TRIBUTE to a great storyteller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mrs. Perfect-Jane Porter

Mrs. Perfect
Jane Porter
5 Spot, May 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446699242

In Bellevue, Washington everyone envies thirty-six year old Taylor Young who seems to live the perfect life. Her husband adores her and they have three wonderful children as they share an affluent lifestyle. Taylor looks forward to being super Head Room Mom for her daughter Tori’s fifth grade class.

However to her shock, MRS. PERFECT is bypassed as class supermom as her enemy and complete opposite hippie mom Marta Zinsser is selected. As the two women fight over everything, Taylor learns her affluence is gone and her trust devastated; her spouse has been unemployed for six months but hid it; he no longer can. As everyone seems to cut her off only her enemy combatant Marta still talks with her.

ODD MOM OUT was a deep character study of Marta that focused on personal and professional relationships; this time Marta plays a secondary role as Jane Porter places her spotlight on a supermom MRS. PERFECT in another deep character study. Taylor evolves from her image is the message lifestyle to the realization that true friends are there when things turn nasty. Fans will appreciate Ms. Porter’s strong look at what happens to relationships when the walls come tumbling down.

Harriet Klausner

Anybody Any Minutes-Julie Mars

Anybody Any Minutes
Julie Mars
St. Martin’s, Jun 2008
ISBN: 9780312378691

In 1995, Manhattanite fortyish Ellen Kenny heads to Montreal to spend time with her sister Karen and her infant nephew Olivier. However, the former hippie stops in Eagle Beck, New York and on a whim buys a fixer upper house not occupied since 1988; all on a credit card. Her spouse of seventeen years Tommy is stunned when she calls to tell him.

Ellen realizes that her purchase may have had a consequential side effect of devastating her marriage, but feels she did the right thing. However as she tries to become part of the small town, Ellen feels like an outsider even though she becomes friends with the local Hatfield and McCoy, feuding Rayfield and Rodney while Olivier is living with her for now.

This interesting character study looks deep at a disenchanted middle aged woman who finds her current secure life unsatisfactory and makes a whimsical spur of the moment decision to capture what she feels she lost but could cost her marriage with Oliver. When the tale focuses on Ellen’s relationships with her husband, sister, and nephew, the subplot is powerful and emotional. When the novel turns humorous with her being pulled by the feuding duo and other locals the story line is more amusing but dissipates some of its steam. Still this is a fine look at a former hippie turned middle class trying to regain the idealism of her lost youth paradise , but the reality does not always match the memory.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How To Knit A Wild Bikini-Christie Ridgway

How To Knit A Wild Bikini
Christie Ridgway
Berkley, Jun 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425221938

In Southern California, her knee injury forces sous chef Nikki Carmichael to leave her job that requires standing up on her feet all day. Thanks to a friend and an ad throughout the Los Angeles area she feels fortunate to obtain work as private chef to NYFM hip men’s magazine editor Jay Buchanan although he wants a lesbian so they have no sexual issues between them while he practices abstinence over the next year.

Nikki is unaware that Jay hired her not for her cooking skills, but to use as a fake girlfriend to keep females like his neighbor Shanna way from him. She learns his extra requirements when he kisses her in front of Shanna. However, Shanna is beginning to look away from the editing hunk to her landscaper Jorge while Jay's seventeen years old niece is attracted to an older teen. Nikki seems to be in the middle of all these relationships including her own with her new employer, which drives her to Malibu & Ewe for a stitch of sanity.

This Malibu & Ewe contemporary romance is an engaging tale especially when the focus is on the lead couple. However, there are several other relationship sidebar subplots forging, even beyond the two mentioned above, so at times the plot feels overwhelmed with too many knitters. Still Jay is a fascinating character who suddenly has a tendency to need to spend time in the kitchen whereas Nikki proves from that first kiss she does not meet his job requirement. HOW TO KNIT A WILD BIKINI is a fun Southern California romance.

Harriet Klausner

Stone Creek-Victoria Lustbadervscbw

Stone Creek
Victoria Lustbader
Harper, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061369216

Although she still believes that Paul is the one for her, Lily starts to doubt whether she still loves her husband. Lately she has found nothing brings her joy especially her lack of connection on any level with workaholic Paul.

Needing time to find her equilibrium and decide what to do about her marriage, Lily leaves Paul and Manhattan to spend the summer at Stone Creek in Upstate New York while her spouse takes no time off from work. There she meets widower Danny and his sad five year old son Caleb. Although a decade older than Danny, they are attracted to one another, but it is Caleb who enters Lily’s heart. Meanwhile Paul has an epiphany that Lily is unhappy, but he is assigned a critical case so he must choose.

In many ways the support cast Paul as a workaholic and Caleb as a grieving little boy steal the show from the lead pair Lily and Danny. However, overall they enhance an insightful character study that looks deep into child grief, spousal estrangement, and maternal biological clocks. Ultimately simple yet convoluted relationships as Lily’s need for contentment changes four lives. Although some of the issues are repetitively overdone, fans of contemporary tales will appreciate Lily’s search for happiness in STONE CREEK.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 5, 2008

Crave: The Seduction of Snow White-Cathy Yardley

Crave: The Seduction of Snow White
Cathy Yardley
Avon, Jun. 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061376078

Investigative reporter Stephen Trent decides to breach the impenetrable Penitent compound in order to do a story on the primeval cult. He expects to see horrific conditions as the group has allegedly repelled modern living. However, he is stunned when he meets Goodmaid Beth inside the complex because he recognizes Beth Cordova.

Ten years ago Princess Bianca vanished without a trace fleeing from a wicked stepmother to hide inside a strict cult. Now Stephen has found her using the name Goodmaid Beth. Attracted to one another the pair breaks the strictly enforced sex rules. Soon they are in love, but Stephen realizes getting inside proved easy; getting out with his beloved Beth impossible; an if miraculously they escape the wicked stepmother maintains her vigilance just in case the missing princess should return.

Modernizing the epic Snow White fairy tale with a secretive cult instead of a sleep disorder, Cathy Yardley writes an engaging timely contemporary romance. The story line is fast-paced, from the moment that Stephen meets Goodmaid Beth as each is instantly attracted to one another even as he knows who she is. Fans will appreciate their taboo relationship and wonder what they will do as breaking the strict rules is dangerous and leaving is dangerous. Fans will crave more such tales from Ms Yardley as the Seduction of Snow White is a winner.

Harriet Klausner

Before The Storm-Diane Chamberlain

Before The Storm
Diane Chamberlain
Mira, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325413

Although her son Andy is fifteen years old, Nurse Laurel Lockwood keeps a close string on him because he suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; an illness she blames on herself. Whenever she feels he can go off without her safely, she is anxious but guilt propels her to allow him. Bbesides the obvious she knows she is overprotective. Thus Andy attends a youth function at their church Drury Memorial where everyone knows he is different as his ingenuousness makes him socially immature.

When a fire breaks out in the church several people die, but heroic Andy saves many others. Laurel is elated that her son not only survived, but he saved lives. However, her euphoria turns to horror when a witness claims seeing Andy outside the church before the fire; because of his handicap most consider him the arsonist; even Laurel has doubts about her son’s innocence.

The complex tale grips readers as the audience obtains a deep look at how a tragic event impacts on the lives of several individuals, to include not just mother and son, but his older sister Maggie and others. Diane Chamberlain effortlessly changes perspective, which enables the reader to not only see what that person sees, but also into how their present perspective is impacted by their relative past. With a plausible critical spin BEFORE THE STORM is a fascinating tale as a smothering mother recalls her vow when Andy was ten hours old and taken from her, but fears this incident tests her resolve.

Harriet Klausner

Before The Storm-Diane Chamberlain

Before The Storm
Diane Chamberlain
Mira, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325413

Although her son Andy is fifteen years old, Nurse Laurel Lockwood keeps a close string on him because he suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; an illness she blames on herself. Whenever she feels he can go off without her safely, she is anxious but guilt propels her to allow him. Bbesides the obvious she knows she is overprotective. Thus Andy attends a youth function at their church Drury Memorial where everyone knows he is different as his ingenuousness makes him socially immature.

When a fire breaks out in the church several people die, but heroic Andy saves many others. Laurel is elated that her son not only survived, but he saved lives. However, her euphoria turns to horror when a witness claims seeing Andy outside the church before the fire; because of his handicap most consider him the arsonist; even Laurel has doubts about her son’s innocence.

The complex tale grips readers as the audience obtains a deep look at how a tragic event impacts on the lives of several individuals, to include not just mother and son, but his older sister Maggie and others. Diane Chamberlain effortlessly changes perspective, which enables the reader to not only see what that person sees, but also into how their present perspective is impacted by their relative past. With a plausible critical spin BEFORE THE STORM is a fascinating tale as a smothering mother recalls her vow when Andy was ten hours old and taken from her, but fears this incident tests her resolve.

Harriet Klausner

Promise the Moon-Elizabeth Joy Arnold

Promise the Moon
Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Bantam, May 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780385340663

Two months have passed since Toby went mute and his older sister Anna pretended she is okay but sneaks down to look at the picture every night. Their mom Natalie hides her anger and fear from her broken kids, but whenever she gets a chance she kicks the gravestone of their father, her husband Josh.

Two months and the marines are kicking them off Camp Pendleton as the three are no longer military family not since Josh splattered his brains in their garage for Toby to find him. To help them adjust Natalie has been corresponding as Josh from heaven writing to Anna and Toby, who respond back. Her masquerade has helped Toby, who has begun talking, but Anna remains stoic hiding her fears while insisting Josh is talking to her; telling her things only he would know. Natalie is worried that someone else knew Josh intimately and is revealing family secrets to Anna, but who? Could it be Iraq, which his service time and a nasty incident led to his suicide or someone else? A broken family struggles with the aftermath of suicide.

PROMISE THE MOON is not an easy book to read as the angst is stratospheric, but is a relevant tale that focuses on the aftermath of a military suicide on the family members. The story line is character driven; more so by mom and daughter who rotate viewpoint as each uses lies to hide their depression behind a veneer of coping from each other and especially from vulnerable Toby. Fascinatingly a third generation also conceals truths from the others. Military suicide is a serious current issue that the leadership struggles with helping returning soldiers from the war zone to prevent, but Elizabeth Joy Arnold makes the case that more must be done for the families when it occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blood Noir-Laurell K. Hamilton

Blood Noir
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, Jun 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780425222195

Jean-Claude’s pomme de sange Lycan Jason visits his master’s human servant vampire executioner and living vampire who feeds off of sex, Anita Blake to ask his friend to accompany him as his pretend lover when he visits his dying estranged father. Anita agrees when Jason informs her that his father refuses to speak to him not due to his lycanthropic condition, but because the older man believes his son is homosexual.

Jason and Anita arrive to find out that Keith Summerland, who looks like Jason’s twin, is getting married this weekend. Pretending affection in public Jason kisses Anita in front of a reporter causing a scandal in which other Masters consider grabbing the seemingly weakened Jean-Claude’s territory. To prevent this Jean-Claude will have to display anger in public and punish his errant servants.

Meanwhile first vampire Marmee Noir, the Mother of All Darkness and asleep for a millennium, is attracted to Anita’s powers. She strikes at Anita and Marmee Noir makes her have sex with two shapeshifters including a were-tiger. Anita feels another metaphysical tiger in her body. Jason and Anita still worry about an enraged vampire because Keith married the wife of the Master of the City; and the Master Vamp wants the interloper dead. The authorities fear for the lives of Jason and Anita while she also has to deal with Marmee Noir without the help of Jean-Claude

BLOOD NOIR is very different in tone than the previous books in the Anita Blake saga as the heroine for the most part costars with one man rather than her usual male queue. This allows the audience to see another side of the vampire slayer as she shows she can relate to a man with being in love with him; an extraordinary concept. Although well written, too many key unanswered questions involving Marmee Noir exist, which subtracts from an otherwise strong tale as Anita proves to herself she can enjoy without love sans guilt. Blake fans will appreciate how far the star goes for a friend.

Harriet Klausner

Questions to Ask Before Marrying-Melissa Senate

Questions to Ask Before Marrying
Melissa Senate
Red Dress Ink, Jun 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373895601

Maine schoolteacher Ruby Miller evaluates her relationship with her fiancé Tom Truby using a New York Times Article’s fifteen questions as a gauge. The first fourteen are a resounding affirmation that she and Tom belong together. Question fifteen asks: “Is their relationship strong enough to withstand challenges? Ruby truthfully is unsure as she doubts Tom has ever met anyone like her twin sister hurricane Stella, the Manhattan muse.

While Ruby struggles with that last question Stella informs her that her future brother-in-law is wrong for Ruby who will be bored to death within one year of blissful matrimony. She also says she is pregnant with a hunk whose name begins with Ja, but not exactly sure. Stella asks Ruby to come with her to Nevada so that she can find the dad of her unborn who she says mentioned Vegas and at the same her sister can find her loving groove. Ruby knows she has issues as she dreams of schoolteacher Nick McDermott instead of Tom terrific so she agrees.

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING is what chick lit is all about when the characters and their scenarios are excellent. The twins are a delight as they go cross country seeking answers and finding more questions. Witty and amusing, the strong story line deals with complex personal issues involving families such as rejections, desertions, and especially what is true love and is that enough to cement a permanent relationship. Readers will ask two questions afterward of Melissa Senate: what next and when?

Harriet Klausner

Sinister Among Us-William B. Bradshaw, PH.D.

Sinister Among Us
William B. Bradshaw, PH.D.
Tate, 2007, $22.95
ISBN: 9781598867404

Big problems threaten to shut Cyprus College, a small Christian school in Copperville, Indiana. The accreditation board is on the verge of withdrawing its support, which is the death penalty for a school; financially the college is near bankrupt and scholarships have vanished. Other happenings involving drug trafficking has the FBI looking. With that mess on top of the recent death of the school’s president, the Board of Directors seek a special person who can bring fiscal reasonability and respect to the beleaguered school. A banker on the board recommends retired sexagenarian widower Dr. Bradley Green whose reputation is saving financially troubled colleges.

Eight months after accepting the position, Brad remains troubled with what he has found. Besides the money and drugs, he uncovers a prostitution ring using students and abuse by faculty. Being a rationale thinker, he struggles with one small school having all this evil assault it. He begins to wonder if the unbelievable could be happening here; a demon causing malevolent havoc.

SINISTER AMONG US is a terrific tale that for much of the story line focuses on an ethical dedicated college president resolving issues that threaten the school’s existence. There is a subplot involving Christian doctrine on demonology, but Dr. Bradshaw cleverly interweaves that into the college in trouble story line as a potential cause. Although there are grating moments when something passively stated is immediately reaffirmed in the active voice to emphasize a point, this is a well written fascinatingly unique contemporary tale. Readers will appreciate the ethical hero aided by his lawyer and banker (modern times) trying to save a Christian College from the mundane and perhaps something more SINISTER AMONG US.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Painted Dresses-Patricia Hickman

Painted Dresses
Patricia Hickman
Waterbrook, Jul 2008, $15.99
ISBN: 9781400071999

Twenty something Gaylen Syler-Boatwright had dreams of forever when she married; now her marriage is dead and her fantasy nuked as she and Braden broke up. With her father dying, she comes home to Boiling Springs, North Carolina to say good-bye and to bury him. Afterward needing to escape, Gaylen accompanied by her flakey younger sister Delia leaves town to hide away at her late Aunt Amity’s mountain cottage.

Gaylen figures in this isolated locale she will be left alone to reassess her goals. However, her aunt’s cabin is freaky as on display is a gallery of framed painted dresses accompanied by a fascinating travelogue. The two sisters agree to hit the road to meet family members they never knew existed and learn more about the original owners of the painted dresses.

This engaging intelligent character study makes a strong case that hiding family shame makes the incident even darker and more shameful even if it is never exposed; those concealing the truth know it in their hearts. Although some might challenge the truth will free you concept, Patricia Hickman makes a compelling argument. Filled with angst, the Syler sisters seek solace as they search the new south for their heritage.

Harriet Klausner

A Mile in My Flip-Flops- Melody Carlson

A Mile in My Flip-Flops
Melody Carlson
Waterbrook, Jun 2008, $15.99
ISBN: 9781400073146

Thirtyish Gretchen Hanover is shook to her core when her engagement ended badly leaving her with a broken heart and her only male companions Ben and Jerry, her concerned dad and a new Lab puppy Riley. Her other companion is home improvement TV shows on the Home and Garden network.

Eighteen months and twenty-two pounds B&J “Chunky Monkey” and other sinfully delicious flavors later, Gretchen realizes Riley is getting too big for her pint sized apartment; she decides to buy a fixer-upper house as she feels she knows what to do from all that TV. Her plan calls for her to flip the renovated house and use the profit start on another one. However, Gretchen may have energy and enthusiasm but lacks practical skills; her father’s friend Noah Campbell a carpenter, helps her.

A MILE IN MY FLIP-FLOPS uses the self-renovation mania to tell an amusing character driven tale. Gretchen is a wonderful lead protagonist as she finds emotional healing with passive activities that do not require interaction like eating ice cream and watching TV until the home improvement shows motivate her to get active. By doing this she “flips” her life even if the climax seems she underwent too perfect of renovation.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 2, 2008

Hallam's War-Elisabeth Payne Rosen

Hallam's War
Elisabeth Payne Rosen
Unbridled Books, May 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781932961492

Mexican war veteran Hugh Hallam relocates to Tennessee with his wife Serena, their children and their slaves. The former Virginian establishes Palmyra Farm. His neighbors think Hugh is an idiot as he cares about the well being of his slaves; trying to keep families together and providing them with cabins; in five of these well kept abodes live eight men, five women and six children; in a sixth cabin resides his top hand French, a black slave he bought in New Orleans three years ago. He also works the field another taboo by the owners. Serena misses her upper crust life back in Charleston, but loves her husband so she goes with him.

When the Civil War breaks out, Hugh a seasoned soldier and graduate of West Point joins the Confederacy although he has doubts about slavery and the future of the southern economy. He commands the 8th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, which fights at Shiloh where he is wounded and taken prisoner. Meanwhile Serena runs their farm and raises the children.

HALLAM’S WAR is a powerful Civil War tale that vividly describes life in the south just prior to the conflict and during the war. Especially descriptive is the slave market where preadolescent girls are sold into bondage that separates them from their parents and includes acceptable sexual molestation by their owners and the battle hospitals where what seems barbaric practices today were the norm. Fans of Civil War dramas will appreciate Elisabeth Payne Rosen’s insightful look at the antebellum south.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This Charming Man-Marian Keyes

This Charming Man
Marian Keyes
Morrow, Jun 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780061124020

The media and most of the female population of Dublin named Paddy de Courcy “Ireland's most eligible politician”. Many females dream of being the one who caught the handsome hunk. However, when he announces his engagement, a horde of women go into mourning.

Stylist to the rich and famous Lola Daly is especially stunned feeling betrayed as she had been seeing Paddy for over a year and had no inkling he was dating someone else more seriously. Reporter Grace Gildee is also a wee bit surprised as she remembers Paddy from college when he and her twin sister Marnie had an odd relationship that led to her sibling becoming emotionally fractured. Unable to resist and not trusting Paddy, Grace investigates only to learn the truth about the soulless rogue. She decides it is time for a reckoning with the help of Marnie and Lola.

This is a great charmer that balances darkness with hope. The three women are solid characters teaming up on a mission of vengeance while their antagonist is a fabulous shallow hunk who uses people like a soul draining vampire. Using dark humor at the perfect moments, Marian Keyes provides a strong look at the causal effect of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicidal tendencies, and violent relationships leading to individual destruction. THIS CHARMING MAN is a superb character study.

Harriet Klausner

Along Came a Cowboy-Christine Lynxwiler

Along Came a Cowboy
Christine Lynxwiler
Barbour, May 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9781597898966

In Shady Grove, Arkansas chiropractor Dr. Rachel Donovan just wants her practice to succeed without any hints of scandal so she goes out of her way to avoid dangling alliances with men especially with cowboys. She has had a scandal to last a lifetime so burned once she adheres strictly to her mantra of no cowboys.

However when Rachel meets cowboy Jake Westwood while on a town planning committee, she thinks he is quite a hunk when they are not arguing. He finds her pretty when they are in agreement and lovely when she yells at him. However, fearing her past will surface, Rachel rejects any relationship with the hunk, but love cannot be easily discarded especially when the stubborn cowboy insists on constantly coming around to see her.

LONG CAME A COWBOY is a deep character study starring a woman wanting to overcome her past as she seeks personal salvation. The romantic subplot enhances Rachel’s efforts to obtain redemption starting with paragon behavior of someone nominated town citizen of the year. Readers will appreciate Rachel’s tale supported by a strong secondary cast especially the title cowboy, the townsfolk and her family.

Harriet Klausner

Skid-Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge
WaterBrook, May 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781400071593

Atlantica Flight 1945 is flying from Atlanta to Amsterdam. The pilot is infamous CJ Brewster-Yarley who was the last person to land a jet safely in water, the Bermuda triangle; the other pilot is First Officer Danny McSweeney, who struggles with the break up of a long time relationship; First Officer James Lawrence is the non-scheduled to fly emergency pilot. On board is emotional impaired Anna Sue and her companion Chucky the pig; FBI Agent Dee Tasler and her prisoner Leendert Rojkaard are being taken to the Netherlands for diamond theft; recently dumped Lucy Meredith who lives by Oprah advice; her ex Jeff the rat and his new girlfriend; musician Jake Van Der Mark who is returning stolen diamonds to the grandma he never met; and Hank Hazard hired by the airlines to test the service of the crew like fifty-five years old flight attendant Gigi. Finally besides the rest of the other Slam and Clicks (flight attendants) and passengers, Federal Aircraft Inspector (ACI) Miles Smilt is there to inspect the pilots for safety violations.

However ACI Smilt is actually Perry Watts planning to steal the diamonds that Jake has with him. This will be a flight like none before as a woman dies, the jewel thief fears the grandson will kill him, and no one is flying the plane thanks to Perry. However, led by Hank’s quiet faith those on board Atlantica Flight 1945 may be frightened but pray God is their pilot.

This is an exciting often amusing flight across the Atlantic as incidents seem to keep on coming as if Murphy piloted the jet Each member of the ensemble cast is unique with enough of a personality to make them distinctive and seem real. The inspirational elements are for the most kept in the background except for Hank’s explanation of his belief system to atheist Lucy whose God is Oprah and his offer of prayer to the elderly woman whose mom apparently died on the flight. Fans will appreciate SKID as Rene Gutteridge pilots readers on an exhilarating airplane ride.

Harriet Klausner

Karma-Robert Zitella

Robert Zitella
Bluewater, 2008
ISBN: 9781604520125

In Elburn, Illinois, former Sheriff Brad Jenkins has become the mayor, a job he expects to enjoy. However, lately Brad, happily married with two kids, has been suffering from intense nightmares that seem vividly realistic and the smell of burnt flesh when he is awake. He is pushing development projects including the construction of a new school, but at his first town meeting with the council he loses control and feels a need to make the opposition submit to his will and a desire to inflict pain especially on Tom Dasche.

That night Brad awakens on Tom’s lawn with his body caked with mud and blood. He races home arriving at 4:30 AM frightened and wondering how he ended up at Tom’s place. Later that morning he learns someone killed Tom’s dog. As the nightmares intensify, Brad increasingly loses control of himself; a physician and psychiatrist do not help him though they try. Finally when he sees tanks and other major abuses, Tom realizes what is going on; he concludes he is seeing flashes of his past life. He accrued the most negative KARMA in history as a charismatic man in the 1930s and 1940s that mass murdered millions without a second thought. His accumulated debt is enormous.

The underlying concept is incredible as the lead character slowly learns why he is losing control of himself; he owes a KARMA debt from his previous life that is so exorbitant, it seems like it might take eternity and more to balance the scale. Brad is terrific as he knows he is losing control and goes for help to prevent that from happening. As he begins to learn the truth behind his visions, the smells, and his actions, readers will wonder if he will start paying off his KARMA deficit or increase the debt ceiling. Robert Zitella uses a person living the American dream to provide a unique reincarnation tale as Brad learns he was no hero in a previous life; instead her was the most infamous genocidal monster in history.

Harriet Klausner