Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Lover's Knot-Clare O’Donahue

The Lover's Knot
Clare O’Donahue
Plume, Sep 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780452289796

Twenty something Manhattan based publisher Nell Fitzgerald is stunned when her fiancé Ryan informs her he is not ready to marry. Upset, she decides to leave town to visit her grandma Eleanor Cassidy in Archer's Rest to help her elderly relative recover from a nasty fall and somewhat based on the lovely wedding quilt her grandmother and Friday Night Quilt Club made for her.

Eleanor, who owns Someday Quilts, hires local handyman Marc Reed to expand her store. He outrageously flirts with the newcomer and Nell enjoys his attention. Ryan arrives and ends up brawling with Marc over Nell. Soon after their fight, someone scissors Marc to death at Someday Quilts. Local police chief widower Jesse Dewalt investigates knowing many of the townsfolk hared the womanizing Marc and is aware of the brawl with Ryan, who wants Nell back. Instead she tries to prove his innocence one stitch at a time.

This is an engaging Hudson River Valley amateur sleuth that will remind cozy fans of authors like Maggie Sefton. Although Nell has no experience and no cause to investigate placing herself in danger, she makes for a fine detective. Lighthearted fun as the relationship triangle (to include Jesse not Marc) supersedes the mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Face-Angela Hunt

The Face
Angela Hunt
Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778327271

Two decades ago Sarah Sims was born without facial features. The hospital declared her dead and she was serendipitously given to the CIA. Dr. Glenda Mewton raised Sarah hidden from the world at a top-secret CIA lab. Sarah now twenty has no hopes or dreams; isolated even in the isolated CIA construct where she lives.

All that changes when Sarah’s Aunt Renee learns her niece lives in concealment as a CIA computer expert. She offers Sarah a chance to meet the world starting with surgery. However, Renee cannot give Sarah the courage to take a chance on life; that must come from within and her “mom” Dr. Mewton will not let her go.

Avoiding melodrama with touches of humor, Angela Hunt provides a superb character driven thriller as the key three females seem genuine with flaws and all. The story line grips readers from the opening moments when the doctor informs Sarah’s parents and the audience that the newborn suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. Readers will want what is best for her though that is not easy to discern even if fans want her to step out into the world of her aunt. This is a winner as the angst is high but controlled inside a strong tale of second chances.

Harriet Klausner

Open Doors-Gloria Goldreich

Open Doors
Gloria Goldreich
Mira, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325437

Acclaimed ceramic artist Elaine Gordon has always placed her beloved husband Neil above her work and their four children with her vocation coming in a distant second. Thus when her soulmate anchor dies, she is more than just grieving; she is lost. Each of her adult children loves their mother even if she has always been distant from them. Each wants her to leave the New York City area and move near one of them. They persuade Elaine to visit them.

Elaine goes to see Sarah nee Sandy and her grandchildren in Jerusalem. Next she travels to California to spend time with Peter and more grandchildren. Her third global trek is to Russia where Lisa wants to become a single mom by adopting a child. Finally, the one trip she dreads going to is New Mexico where Denis and his gay boyfriend live.

Elaine’s journey is on two levels: the obvious globetrotting trips to her offspring and the metaphysical journey of spiritual learning as her children, their significant others, and their offspring make solid mentors. The extended cast is fully developed but it is Elaine as the focus who holds it together. Although her revelatory transformation seems unrealistic (sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge’s change), OPEN DOORS is a deep look at a person learning in her late middle ages what is important in life.

Harriet Klausner

Delia’s Crossing-V.C. Andrews

Delia’s Crossing
V.C. Andrews
Pocket, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 1416530843

Delia Yebarra is dreaming in school about yesterday’s quinceanera celebration when her grandmother bursts into the school and takes her home. She informs the teen that her parents died in an auto accident. Delia leaves her Mexican village to live with her wealthy aunt Isabella in Palm Springs, California. Isabelle married an older rich man. The grieving teenager is shocked that her aunt is taking her in because Isabelle turned her back on her family and village years ago.

When she arrives at her aunt’s vast estate, Delia is told she will live in a rundown building and will be a servant until she learns to speak English fluently. Nobody will know they are related, but eventually Delia’s cousins Edward and Sophia learn the truth. Edward welcomes her to the family and tries to protect her. However Isabelle and Sophia try to harm her so Delia flees for home with a Mexican fugitive at her side.

If this tale is any indication, V.C. Andrews’s new series starring Delia will be a big hit. Delia feels like a fish out of water in the states especially since she does not speak English and thereby unwelcome by her aunt who along with Sophia uses her niece for personal reasons; Delia has no idea how to fight back. Even her relationship with Edward is ruined by her aunt’s machinations leaving her isolated as a stranger in a foreign land. This is a great tale of people in crisis learning to cope with the hand fate (and a cruel relative) dealt them.

Harriet Klausner

Swallowing Darkness-Laurell K. Hamilton

Swallowing Darkness
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine, Nov 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345495938

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court knows the danger of being a princess; she also knows how hazardous being pregnant can be as Her Aunt Andais the Queen promises that if she gets pregnant before her son impregnates someone else, she will be the heir to the throne. Since few children are born in Fairie, Merry carrying twins from six fathers has become the hope of revitalization and the target of those who want to use her like her insane Uncle Taranis who kidnapped and raped her. He plans to claim that he sired his niece’s children. Even her beloved Gran, under a spell apparently performed by cousin Cair, tries to kill her.

Outraged Merry demands the Wild Hunt to obtain revenge but that comes at a price; as Mistral, another of her children’s’ fathers, is dying. She asks the Goddess to save him and another injured father Doyle. Meanwhile another sire Sholto and Merry are crowned as King and Queen of the Slaugh in Faerie while her uncle stalks her and Queen Andais’ son tries to eliminate her. Merry’s wrath against family is growing.

SWALLOWING DARKNESS has a different overall tone thn the rest of the books in this series as there are infrequent sexual time outs with the battles and plans highlighted instead as Merry needs revenge on those trying to harm her, her unborn and her loved ones. Merry is a wonderful person, who tries to be fair to everyone, but does not fear using her powers against nasty folks. The two Courts remain overall malevolent with one more overt about their evil agenda. Fans will appreciate the latest Princess Merry hypnotic romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Havah: The Story of Eve-Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of Eve
Tosca Lee
Navpress, Oct 2008, $14.99
ISBN 9781600061240

Eve, called Havah by her mate Adam, came to the Garden in awe and innocence. When she and Adam broke God’s rule, they were kicked out of their earthly paradise to live in the wilderness. She tries everything she can think of to obtain forgiveness from the One and return to the Garden, but fails. Instead she learns to survive as she gives birth to children only to learn one son murdered another. If anything, Eve has become a survivor although she has never given up hope of redemption from the One, but as she ages she prays that the next generation gets to go to the Garden.

This biblical biographical fiction is a superb look at the “First Lady” Eve. Using events described in the bible, Tosca Lee provides the emotional reaction of Eve to what occurs. For instance she feels shame when she and her mate are kicked out of the Garden into the wilderness by the One. Readers will appreciate this deep tale of paradise lost from the woman’s perspective.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Plague-Glen M. Page, MD

The Last Plague
Glen M. Page, MD
Synergy, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781933538969
Synergy Books, P.O. Box 80107,Austin, Tx.78758

In 1986 on Yankee Ford in Stanley, Idaho, a ten years old Black girl is found bleeding from her abdomen; she is rushed to the emergency room for surgery. Dr. Doug Hunter opens up the area that is bleeding only to find it is one of her ovarian arteries; the other is black. He successfully stops the bleeding, but her mom and friend remove the child from the hospital so that the Sprudiths, Children of Lucifer, cannot find her. Soon afterward two corpses of children with black ovaries are found in an abandoned shack.

The Spendrift leader has Army General McFarland confiscate the bodies because they do not want the public to know about the black ovaries of preadolescents. Doug finds a paper on black ovaries in the CDC library, but is later told the slides he took of his black ovary patient have been taken and the scientist who was examining them is dead. He also realizes they are after him and his friends and associates who apparently know too much. Doug’s son Jason is constantly called a Levite and the Sprudiths refer to him as the “heir” or the chosen one. He apparently has a major role re the future of mankind; if the dark ones don’t kill him first. Neither father nor son seems to have much time elft as the enemy is coming for them.

This is the opening novel of a series that deals with the forces of Darkness personified by Lucifer and his commanders on earth. They fight the forces of good symbolized by Doug’s wife who he believed dies but is actually fighting for their souls. Doug is a non-believer in the heaven-hell war on earth, but ironically plays a pivotal role. Both sides have equal soldiers who will not hesitate to use force on the other side. THE LAST PLAGUE is an exhilarating medical-apocalyptic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Country Called Home-Kim Barnes

A Country Called Home
Kim Barnes
Knopf, Oct 3 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307268952

In Connecticut scholarship medical student Thomas Deracotte met, dated, and married wealthy Helen over the objections of her upper crust parents; her father being third generation Yale especially detested this scholarship student. Soon after they exchange I do, the couple in 1960 moves to a farm in Fife, Idaho where he is to open up a medical practice; the current local health care comes from a pharmacist.

Shockingly, Thomas delays starting his practice as he would rather work the land; Helen quickly misses her family and her New England upper class lifestyle as farm living is not the place for her. She becomes pregnant while Thomas hires teen Manny to work on the farm. Helen gives birth to Elise, but she soon wants freedom from her intolerant spouse and is lonely from the hours of nothing but motherhood; while her husband turns to drugs to alleviate his feelings of failure as a physician, as a farmer, as a husband, and as a father. She considers Manny for a fling and he is falling in love with her. However after a tragedy changes the family dynamics, Manny is more a dad to Elise while her biological father is deeper into drugs.

This is a dark family drama that looks closely at the1960s and 1970s when youthful idealism turned to cynicism and disappointment; yet with Elise there is guarded hope for the future. None of the four lead characters escape the bleakness, which in some ways becomes overbearing when one traumatic event is followed by another and another until suddenly Elsie is a teenager. Still in spite of the overwhelming sense of negativity, Kim Barnes provides a poignant look at idealism without pragmatism.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Partisan’s Daughter-Louis De Bernieres

A Partisan’s Daughter
Louis De Bernieres
Knopf, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307268877

In the late 1970s in wintry London, fortyish salesman Chris detests his life; he loathes his job and hates his marriage; though widower status gives him some hope to get past the despair of being with the “Great White Loaf” late wife. Discontented with his lot he keeps asking himself is that all there is?

When he spots Yugoslavian expatriate Roza walking, he assumes she is a hooker. He bungles his efforts to hire her services. She corrects his misconception and they begin to talk. He drives her home and she invites him in her flat for coffee. A friendship forms that he believes is the underpinning of a romance and she assumes is platonic. She explains she came from her homeland seeking a break but so far has found only hardship that has her considering a return to her homeland where her father is a die hard Tito backer.

This is an extremely complex relationship drama. The dark gloominess of both protagonists makes this a difficult novel to read as the focus is actually on opportunity costs, especially those not chosen. Roza is the more interesting star as her tale is sensationally erotic over the top and at times ugly, but also feels hyperbolic symbolizing the plight of minorities everywhere (especially Iron Curtain Europe during the Brezhnev Era). Chris is the more realistic characterization of the western middle aged normal who wonders why life is depressing so finds excitement in his companion’s tales. Not for everyone, as at times overly dramatic and extremely reflective including the action scenes, A PARTISAN’S DAUGHTER is a deep look at the late 1970s.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Wonder Singer- George Rabasa

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781932961560

Legendary soprano Senora Merce Casals hires almost forty year old minor league ghostwriter Mark Lockwood to write her autobiography. He spends several hundred hours interviewing the diva and looking over related information. When the opera star is found dead in her jeweled grotto bathroom tub, her agent Hollywood Hank sees her death as a win. He fires Mark and hires famous biographer Alonzo Baylor to tell Merce’s story.

Irate with the snub as he feels an affinity to his late client to include a belief he owes her the true story and not a titillating fabrication to make the best seller lists, Lockwood takes his interview tapes with him and vanishes. He is abetted by Merce’s loyal team consisting of her nurse Perla, her cross-dressing pal Orson, her husband, and other adoring fans and employees. Lockwood begins writing the definitive biography of Merce Casals.

This is a fabulous work of fiction that hooks the audience from the onset with Mark’s vivid descriptions and never slows down as readers obtain insight through the interviews into the Spanish Civil War and the scenes behind an opera house. Thus the story line contains a “biographical fiction” inside the bigger plot. Through the rival writers, George Rabasa brings to life a late soprano star so explicitly readers will believe Senora Casals was a real diva.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Talent-Eileen Kernaghan

Wild Talent
Eileen Kernaghan
Thistledown Press, Sep 28 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781897235409

In 1888, sixteen years old Scottish farm hand Jeannie Guthrie fears her “gift”. She believes she has good reason to do so because she thinks she used her talent to accidentally kill her wastrel cousin George who was pestering her constantly for a kiss since the dance. If anyone finds out Jeannie knows she will be burned at the stake as a witch; just like George vehemently called her as he was bleeding from the pitchfork wound she gave him.

Thus without a look back, the teen flees to London where she assumes she can hide amidst the masses. In town Jeannie and daring Alexandra David meet and the latter takes the former to the salon of renowned Madame Helena Blavatsky. There Jeannie hopes to learn more about her power especially controlling it when she is angry or threatened.

This late Victorian historical is a vivid exciting tale that takes readers into a strange dominion filled with artists, spiritualists and ethnologists; the irony is that this weird world is London and Paris (as well as the land Beyond). Jeannie is terific as a rustic innocent who under the guide of her urbane friend turns from scared country bumpkin to still frightened sophisticate. Based on the real 1888 London journal of Alexandra who mentions a jeune fille, Eileen Kernaghan provides her bewitched fans with a great late nineteenth century tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cutting Loose-Nadine Dajani

Cutting Loose
Nadine Dajani
Forge, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0765319438

In Montreal, originally from Riyadh, Ranya looks forward to ending her marriage to a gay person when she meets fourth generation Lebanese-American Georges who intervenes when an idiot opens her mouth about Arab terrorists.

Georges leaves her to sit with his subordinate business woman Zahra, who has doubts ingrained since her West Bank childhood re a woman succeeding in business and her attraction to Joe who doe not reciprocate.

In Miami Honduran expatriate Rosario, called Rio by friends, knows she should not have an intermittent affair with Joe, as she as the editor in chief of Sueltate magazine sort of works for him though his brother Georges runs the publication.

The key to this superb character study is the key cast members all are fully developed and seem genuine as each seeks happiness although none appear to know how to obtain it. Their lives intermingle with Ranya and Zahra being childhood friends and Georges the connection to Rio. Readers will relish following the escapades of the women and the two brothers who chase them whether it is Canada, Florida or London. Nadine Dajani provides a wonderful contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Casanova-Ian Kelly

Ian Kelly
Tarcher (Penguin, Oct 2008, $28.95
ISBN: 9781585426584

This biography strips away the legend of "the world's greatest lover" to provide readers with an in depth look at a person who turns out to have been an eighteenth century Renaissance Man. With a Prelude, Introduction, Curtain Call, and five distinct acts that break the life of Giacomo Casanova into eras, the audience learns that he was a businessman, diplomat, spy, philosopher, author and translator. Ian Kelly points out the great lover wondered Europe and met the famous, the almost famous and the bizarre. Biography fans will relish this insightful look that brings much more to the dining table than just the legendary lover. Mr. Kelly brings alive the Age of Reason, the eras of no reason, and the absurd of Europe from Voltaire’s France to the Russia of Catherine the Great to Casanova’s hometown of Venice and his education town of Padua, amongst others. This is an excellent bio as Casanova proves to be much greater than the myth.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Quilter's Kitchen-Jennifer Chiaverini

The Quilter's Kitchen
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon and Schuster, Oct 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 9781410408198

Anna Del Maso has two passions: quilting and cooking. She has been able to combine her loves by creating quilts involving food. Now she receives what she deems a great honor; she has been selected as the head chef of the Elm Creek Quilts retreat at Elm Creek Manor in Waterford, Pennsylvania.

Anna is a purist when it comes to food and wants to continue what her predecessors started going back to 1858. On the other hand, Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson encourages her to explore the dining heritage but to also update the kitchen last renovated before WWII. Anna delights with exploring the current kitchen and making plans to modernize it yet keeps its historical flavor. She knows she must be finished by the start of the next camp season. With Sylvia at her side, they begin the renewal even as the Master Quilter tells her head chef tales associated with every nook and cranny in the kitchen.

Obviously for fans of the series, THE QUILTER’S KITCHEN is an entertaining spin as the food, recipes, and kitchenware lead to the flashbacks rather than the usual quilting. The combo of Sylvia and Anna make for a fun tale filled with vignettes and related recipes including the return of fan favorites from previous Elm Creek novels starting with apple strudel as even tradition can be modernized and renovated with success as long as what makes the heritage sacred to some (in this case the recipes) is maintained.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Beautiful Fall-Chris Coppernoll

A Beautiful Fall
Chris Coppernoll
David C Cook, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9781434768520

Emma Madison left her hometown of Juneberry, South Carolina years ago to become a Boston attorney. Almost immediately following her greatest legal success, Emma learns her father suffered a major heart attack. She rushes home to be there with him at least for the weekend.

Upon seeing how feeble her dad looks, Emma knows she must stay longer to help him heal. However, Juneberry also means Michael Evans. They fell in love a dozen years ago, but she left for college and her law career while he never forgave or forgot her, the one who got away with his heart. Both quickly realizes what they felt as teens remains strong, but he is rightfully wary to grant her access to his heart while she must decide Juneberry or Boston.

Putting aside why he cannot make the decision between Juneberry and Boston, this is an engaging character study as the importance of God, family and friendship in one’s life is critical for fulfillment. The cast is solid especially the lead couple as each seeks a modern day miracle or two. Fans of contemporary inspirational (without preaching) tales will enjoy Emma’s tale that affirms you can go home.

Harriet Klausner

Thank You for All Things-Sandra Kring

Thank You for All Things
Sandra Kring
Bantam, Sep 30 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 9780385341202

Eleven years old twins Lucy and Milo McGowan are both brilliant with IQs off the charts. They live with their single mom in Chicago, but whereas Lucy is curious about people, Milo is indifferent. Her inquisitiveness, some might say nosiness, has led her to declare that she will be a psychologist and a dying need to know about her unknown father, paternal grandfather and anything involving her heritage; Milo couldn’t care less about the family tree.

When her mom learns that her father is dying, she and her two kids travel to her hometown of Timber Falls, Wisconsin. Lucy quickly realizes her mom loathes her father and came only to help her mother. Meanwhile Lucy begins to investigate her family; especially the estrangement between her angry grandfather and her relationship phobic mother. She even begins to love the crusty grump although as she learns more about the abuse of the past she finds it hard to care about him.

This superb family drama hooks the audience from the moment mom and the twins go to Wisconsin. Lucy with her conclusions and eye opening revelations makes the tale work. Readers will enjoy this fine intelligent contemporary as Sandra Kring digs deep into the wider impact on others of the estrangement between a daughter and her father mostly through the eyes of the granddaughter.

Harriet Klausner

Nothing Is Quite Forgotten In Brooklyn-Alice Mattison

Nothing Is Quite Forgotten In Brooklyn
Alice Mattison
Harper, Sep 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780061430558

In 1989 fortyish Constance "Con" Tepper leaves her Philadelphia home to stay in her septuagenarian mom’s Brooklyn apartment to watch the cat while Gertrude visits her friend Marlene in Rochester. Con has always wondered about the friendship between the two women that apparently dates back to WW II when she persuaded Gert to invest in a black market scheme run by her mobster boyfriend. In Brooklyn, Con is angry and jealous of her teen daughter Joanna who is accompanying her dad Jerry on a historical visit to Fort Ticonderoga; Jerry has never invited her on one of his history tours in spite of their years of marriage. The real shocker is when Marlene callas to inform her Gert died and that she, not the deceased daughters, is executor of the estate.

In 2003, a divorced Con lives in Brooklyn where she practices law. With Marlene, Jerry, Joanna and a friend coming at the same time to Brooklyn, Con looks back to 1989. However, it is Joanna who confronts Marlene over discrepancies in the account of Gert’s death and the legal aftermath.

Told in two interrelated novellas, this is an intriguing character study although there are too many subplots; some not fully developed. Each key protagonist is developed enough so that the audience sees their motivations and flaws. Fans will enjoy this look at the past as Joanna insures NOTHING IS QUITE FORGOTTEN IN BROOKLYN even when it occurred six decades ago.

Harriet Klausner

Home Another Way-Christa Parrish

Home Another Way
Christa Parrish
Bethany House, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764205231

With twenty-three borrowed dollars in her pocket, twentyish Sarah Graham leaves the big city to travel to the mountain hamlet of Jonah, New York where her estranged father recently died. She only goes to collect her inheritance as she has not forgiven her dad Luke Peterson for deserting her. Thus when she arrives to find out that to inherit his estate; she must remain in the small town for six months, Sarah goes berserker. Unhappy she reluctantly accepts the terms as she desperately needs the money.

The townsfolk apparently loved her father. Each visits her and tells Sarah favorite stories about Luke. She cannot believe that the Luke the locals describe is the same Luke she remembers. Still she begins to reconsider her beliefs re dad, but each time she feels a bit of affection; Sarah quickly recalls why she loathed him. Will the townsfolk teach her to forgive and move on by thinking of the good or will she retain her belief that Luke was a louse.

Although the theme seems out of Inspirational fiction 101, Sarah’s hedonism throughout the story line keeps HOME ANOTHER WAY quite fresh and interesting. There is no miracle return to nature even as the lead protagonist considers forgiving her father because Sarah has a lifestyle she is used to and can see the dirt poor poverty that engulfs Jonah. Instead Sarah remains a somewhat spoiled hedonist while the key townsfolk also have faults in a brisk inspiring character study in which the outside reflects on to forgive or not forgive that is the plot.

Harriet Klausner

Another Mother’s Life-Rowan Coleman

Another Mother’s Life
Rowan Coleman
Pocket, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 1416583025

In Farmington, Alison James and Catherine Ashley were best friends for years although their personalities were total opposites of each other. Alison was a flamboyant extrovert while Catherine was somewhat an introvert. That teenage sisterly bond dies the day seventeen year old runs away with Catherine's boyfriend Marc.

Catherine never recovered from the dual betrayals even though she married her soon to be ex husband Jimmy the musician. She is especially unhappy when the married Alison and Marc return home with three children after being away for almost seventeen years. The former friends try to avoid one another, but that proves impossible; soon they must confront the past that neither feels strong enough to do.

This is an interesting psychological character study of a woman who fails to let go of the big hurt that has shaped her relationships even with her husband who loves her. The story line is obviously character driven by the two former BFFs. Although readers get inside the heads of Alison and Catherine leading to a deep understanding of how each feels about the betrayal, that technique at times overwhelms the story line with too much inner soul searching and musing. Still this is a fascinating look at how one traumatic event impacts future choices including relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Out of Her Hands-Megan DiMaria

Out of Her Hands
Megan DiMaria
Tyndale, Oct 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 141431888X

In the Denver area, Linda Revere thanks God for her faithful husband Jerry and their two children, high school cheerleader Emma and college student Nick. She also has prayed for a decade plus that her two kids bring home proper spouses; i.e. devout Christians.

However her prayer for a daughter-in-law in her image goes unanswered when Nick becomes engaged to Amber Webber, who is not even a Christian. He reluctantly introduces his fiancée to his parents and sister expecting a cold reception to his girl from his mom. While Linda struggles with that bombshell, she also finds her promotion at Dream Photography overwhelming her. Meanwhile Linda also tries to be there for her recently widowed father-in-law. However as her stress mounts she fears no one not even God is there for her.

With a nod to Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, OUT OF HER HANDS is a wonderful inspirational look at family relationships as Linda and Jerry want the best for their offspring, but to mom that includes a good Christian. Linda feels Nick is making an unacceptable choice, but her belief is driving her son away. Although the problems at work seem unnecessary except to perhaps add to mom’s stress level, fans will enjoy this entertaining insightful look at acceptance and tolerance as God would expect of all his children.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 19, 2008

John 3:16-Nancy Moser

John 3:16
Nancy Moser
Tyndale, Oct 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414320540

Efficient Office Machines sales manager widower Roman Paulson is proud of his son Billy, a starting running back on the University of Nebraska football team; the kid is the big hope for the Big Red to win the national title. All is perfect in Lincoln until Billy stops coming home once a week for dinner; with the nudge of Offensive Team Coach Rollins he joined a church. Roman fears he is losing Billy to the coach and God especially when his son calling himself William now says his future is John Three-Sixteen.

However, tragedy strikes when Billy nearly drowned saving the life of a young boy. Roman is despondent as Billy is his life, but also holds Coach Rollins culpable for his good deeds shenanigans that led to his boy being in ICU clinging to life. Everyone but Roman prays. At a game a sad fan paying homage to his friend holds up William’s sign: John Three-Sixteen

This is a fascinating inspirational tale that focuses on how people turn to God for solace when an unexpected tragedy occurs. The strong ensemble cast (several other subplots than that described above) gets into trouble and out as they seek deliverance. The University of Nebraska football setting is never explored beyond a few platitudes and other background could have just as easily been used; however, the strong college community makes for a fine tale of redemption coming out of a terrible misfortune.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters-Lorraine Lopez

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters
Lorraine Lopez
Grand Central, Oct 2008, $12.00
ISBN: 0446699217

In Southern California, their mom named her four daughters after Hollywood actresses she enjoyed. When she passed away while her children were young, their dad raised them with the help of caretaker Fermina; though in reality Fermina raised the kids with the help of their father. When the ancieno Fermina realized she was dying after a century of life, she tells her beloved girls she will give each of them a special gift that they must use wisely.

Bette Davis obtains the skill of making anyone believe anything no matter how farfetched or exaggerated she says; Loretta Young has the ability to heal injured animals; Rita Hayworth can curse anyone with bad things happening to them; and Sophia Loren has the uncanny gift of making anyone even those depressed and despondent laugh. Over the next two decades they help each other and wonder about Fermina’s paranormal gifts; as they investigate their family tree and the background of their caretaker, the four GIFTED GABALDON SISTERS begin to question what was bestowed on them.

This is an intriguing paranormal sister-lit tale with psychic elements crossing the story line. The four siblings rotate viewpoint, which enables the audience to understand their differences and more important their similarities and concerns; this makes each seem real even with possession of otherworldly powers. Fermina for the most part remains mystical and with each revelation her mysticism grows. Although the intermingling of Spanish throughout enhances the sense of reality, it also slows down the plot for many readers who stop to interpret within the context of the paragraphs. Still Lorraine Lopez provides a unique refreshing paranormal family drama.
Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Question of Guilt-Julianne Lee

A Question of Guilt
Julianne Lee
Berkley, Oct 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425223512

Dead three days after being executed for seditious acts against her cousin Queen Elizabeth, Mary Stuart remains the subject of discussion throughout London. Although many accept the royal position of treason and murder in the killing of Mary’s spouse, Henry Darnley, many believe she was killed to eliminate a rival for the throne.

Scottish expatriate Lady Janet de Ros, wife of a wealthy English merchant, believes Mary was innocent of both charges, a victim of betrayal. She seeks the truth so heads from Fotheringhay Castle to Edinburgh to investigate what she assumes are lies. However, Lady Janet is ignorant as to how dangerous her inquiry is from those who want the status quo re Mary’s crimes to remain as is. These powerful affluent individuals have no problem with the death of another Scottish lady as well as a campaign to dishonor Lady Janet and her family.

This is an interesting historical fiction novel that brings to life the days after the state executed ax fell on Mary’s neck. The country is divided into those who believe she was innocent and those who believe she was guilty. Fascinatingly when Janet begins her inquiry, some adversaries use the Ton gossip network to destroy her and her family’s reputation; this technique will remind readers of those who did likewise with President Bush. A QUESTION OF guilt is an intriguing saga as Janet draws conclusions re the innocence or guilt of Mary Stuart.

Harriet Klausner

My Sister Dilly-Maureen Lang

My Sister Dilly
Maureen Lang
Tyndale, Oct 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414322247

Although her sister Dilly tried to kill herself and succeeded in killing her disabled child, Hannah Williams blames herself for not being there for her sibling. While Hannah enjoyed her life in California and was elated at not being back in Sugar Creek, Illinois, Dilly imploded.

Now after twelve years in prison, Dilly is free. Giving up her life, her work and her love in California, Hannah goes to her despised Illinois hometown to help Dilly start over although she, like the media, wonders whether her sibling will be allowed to see her daughter, raised by her dad. However, Hannah thought by being martyr she will be Dilly’s savior; but in prison Dilly found a Savior she can depend on being there for her when life seems bleakest.

Christian fiction fans will enjoy this fascinating tale of two sisters. Hannah feels guilty for not being there for her younger sibling; so this time she gives up everything for the redemption of martyrdom. However, Dilly, who desperately needed her a dozen years ago, no longer does; as she has found a much more reliable Savior. Hannah is the more interesting character as ironically she is upset and somewhat despondent that her sibling does not turn to her, which in turn leads to more guilt and regret. Maureen Lang provides a character driven thought provoking family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Freeman Walker-David Allan Cates

Freeman Walker
David Allan Cates
Unbridled Books, Oct 2008
ISBN: 9781932961553

Jimmy Gates is the son of a slave and her master. He receives his "freedom papers" and a copy of the Declaration of Independence from his father who sends him to England to be educated at a boarding school. He adapts to his all white surroundings with ease and is doing well at school.

However, everything changes when his father, coming to England to see his pre-teen offspring, drowns during the Atlantic crossing. Jimmy quits school and obtains work in England making horse saddles; which he does for six years. As the Civil War explodes Jimmy, calling himself Freeman Walker, returns to the States. However, the eighteen years old Freeman opts not to join the army, but instead heads west seeking gold.

Jimmy-Freeman is more a symbol of a relatively forgotten group, the free black, during the years just prior to and during the Civil War. Thus he never fully gets past the role of representative as major events seem impervious to his story. Still this is a fascinating look at somewhat ignored piece of American history as the reader obtains a deep look at what a free black had to do to survive in a world that always assumed he had to be a runaway slave.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Faefever-Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte, Sep 2008, $23.00
ISBN: 9780385341639

Mackayla Lane lived a fun filled twenty-two years in the American Deep South until her older sister Alina was murdered in Dublin, Ireland. Mac left Ashford, Georgia only to land in a paranormal Dublin as she learns she and her late sister are Sidhe-seers who can see fae. She works for the mysterious Jerrico Barrons at his bookstore which is right next to a dark zone inhabited by shades and fae. Seelie Prince V’Lane wants to seduce her while the Lord Master who killed her sister wants her for some nefarious reason. She assumes all three want her because she can sense when the sinsar dubh million years old spell book is near; she trusts none of them. To protect herself she carries the spear of Luin, which is one of two objects that can kill fae.

Her last encounter with the vile book left her crawling but understanding how the sinsar dubh travels from person to person killing masses of people as it moves on. Somehow she knows the book is aware of her. Police Inspector Jayne blames her for the death of his brother-in-law as he assumes they had an affair until his relative killed himself. Mac meets Trinity College Professor Christian Mackeltor who can sense when someone lies to him. She tells him about the dark hollow zones and he mentions his uncles’ druid magic trying to prevent the wall between us and the Fae from collapsing. If it does the unseelie led by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse will destroy the earth. Soon all the players including enemy seers from Arlington Abbey will converge as the wall teeters.

The fantasy Dublin world seems genuine as the various paranormal characters come across as real. The heroine is a fascinating protagonist as she struggles to survive in a world she does not yet understand especially her role in it. Although some readers will be unhappy with the climax, most will applaud the direction that Karen Marie Moning is taking her saga (see BLOODFEVER and DARKFEVER).

Harriet Klausner

The Widows of Eastwick-John Updike

The Widows of Eastwick
John Updike
Knopf, Oct 27 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780397269607

Having fled Eastwick, Rhode Island in the early 1970s when a rival for the affection of you know whom died; Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie each remarried and started over in different places. Having survived he who is nameless and their late second husbands, the widows decide to meet up at the place where the bewitching began; their home town.

However, two and a half decades have taken a toll on the once sexy flamboyant threesome. Instead middle age and senior citizenship leave them tired and incapable of witchcraft. However, the villagers loath the witches for all the malevolence and harm they did with magic; even their children want them to leave. They consider fleeing before they are burned at the stakes, but become involved in a bit of magic that goes astray.

The sequel to THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK is a fascinating tale of late middle to old age as the three women have passed the bewitching age; magic is a young person’s sport. The story line starts off slow but steady as the audience accompanies the trio on overseas travel that showcases a dysfunctional world. The tale picks up when the threesome learn you can’t come home especially when you caused havoc, mayhem and death the last time in town. Readers will enjoy the deep look at the aging process as the widows find their previous evil escapades come home to roost with them.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beautiful Liars-Kylie Adams

Beautiful Liars
Kylie Adams
Kensington, Oct 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758205001

The concept is relatively simple; have four almost famous celebs sit around a table discussing events and issues and dissing one another. To insure explosions, the network brass understands the quartet must not just be bosom buddies; they must be queens fighting to own the Beehive chat show.

Emma Ronson gave up journalistic respectability to become a daytime TV star. Fifty year old Sutton Lancaster was aged out of her respectable news anchor job. Former teen model Simone Williams needs this job although her pay cannot cover her debts or prevent her ex from psychopathic stalking and more. Finally, Finn Robards rounds out the table as the only male, the rational amusing" gay sidekick" to the three hostile female divas. However each faces personal crisis that could destroy them and if one goes down, the Beehive will probably die too. Though they dislike each other, the four musketeers must learn the Dumas lesson of “one for all and all for one”.

BEAUTIFUL LIARS satirically rips the famous as allegedly knowledgeable pundits who in fact are hedonistic selfish individuals who live in a shallow world of self deceit pretending to know everything about anything when they know nothing. Any moment this reviewer expected Professor Irwin Corey to appear. The key to this lampooning is the four Beehive hosts remains consistent throughout even when they try to help one another. Kylie Adams makes the case we know as much and probably much more than those talking heads whose claim to fame is membership in the Hall of Shame.

Harriet Klausner

Until We Reach Home-Lynn Austin

Until We Reach Home
Lynn Austin
Bethany House, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764204951

In 1897 the three Swedish Carlson sisters (Elin, Kirsten and Sofia) struggle with the deaths of their parents; especially their father who committed suicide. They find living with their uncle and aunt untenable. Though Sofia fears her own shadow, the trio led by the oldest Elin, writes to family members residing in Chicago and is invited to come to American and leave behind their beloved but now bittersweet Sweden.

However, America may be the land of the free, but the three siblings remain on Ellis Island for quite along time. Ailing Elin and Kirsten are hospitalized leaving Sophia the mousy meek one to care for herself. When they finally complete their journey by reaching Chicago, they quickly learn life is not better as they begin to understand why a house is not a home.

This is a timely superb historical tale of how much immigration has meant to this country. Through the sisters the focus is on the sixteen million who came to America heeding the call of the Statue of Liberty between 1890 and 1920. The three lead siblings are fully developed as their harrowing journey will grip an appreciative audience who make the trek with them (thankfully from our armchair). Lynn Austin provides a fascinating look at one of the great American immigration waves.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Devil’s Brood-Sharon Kay Penman

Devil’s Brood
Sharon Kay Penman
Putnam, Nov 2008, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399155260

In 1172 King Henry Fitz Empress names his oldest surviving son Hal as his coregent. However with the title comes nothing else as the second Henry since the Conqueror refuses to give his offspring any meaningful authority.

Hal is irate as he feels his sire has insulted him with a name that is a title only and has no power behind it.. The monarch’s wife Eleanor of Aquitaine rallies their male offspring to back their oldest brother in a bid for power. Over several years, however, Richard, Geoffrey and John not only join Hal in an open revolt against their sire, they war with one another over land, which each knows denotes power in late twelfth century England. Eleanor cannot believe how convoluted her encouraging her children to rebel against their martinet father has spun, but remains steadfast in support of Hal.

The third Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine historical thriller (see WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT and TIME AND CHANCE) is an excellent extremely complex medieval saga. The story line digs deep into two obstinate but powerful monarchs who battle in bed and on the throne for the top position. Their adult children also come somewhat into focus especially the frustrated males, which in turn amplifies the intricacy of the story line. Fans of a well written vivid medieval tale will want to read Sharon Kay Penman’s powerful twelfth century chronicle.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 12, 2008

Man of the House-Ad Hudler

Man of the House
Ad Hudler
Ballantine, Sep 30 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345481085

In Upstate New York Linc Menner loved being a Househusband raising his preadolescent daughter Violet and making gourmet meals for them and his wife, Jo (and Violet’s mom), who works longs difficult hours as a hospital administrator. He enjoys being a stay-at-home dad driving Violet everywhere.

The family moves to a fixer upper in Naples, Florida as Violet turns thirteen. Linc feels disappointed and somewhat depressed as Violet seems to need him less and less with each passing day. Meanwhile the male contractors look at him with pity and scorn. When he overhears their locker room style jokes about him being a girlie, Linc wonders if he lost his penis. To reassert his masculinity he begins to do what society considers male activities like shooting a gun at the firing range. His wife hates the new model and yearns for her sensitive guy while his daughter loathes the new daddy who is never there for her when she needs him. However, Linc begins to reassess his assessment as instead of finding contentment with his masculine side, he remains unhappy as he misses the mommy philosophical chatter on what matters in life.

MAN OF THE HOUSE is an interesting gender bending mommy lit tale starring the Menner family and to a lesser degree an obsessed teacher, Jessica Varnadore. The story line is treated for the most part with a light humorous touch as it focuses on Linc’s sudden need to be a “real man” and how his wife and daughter react to his quest to find himself; the trio rotates first person perspective. When the tale turns to a couple of dangerous segues (the teacher and a storm), it loses traction turning from a warm amusing family drama to a family in peril thriller that seems out of place. Still fans will enjoy this lighthearted romp pondering what gender identity truly is.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti-Annie Vanderbilt

The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti
Annie Vanderbilt
NAL, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451225276

Paul Crisp died suddenly when his heart stopped beating while driving his truck back after duck hunting to the family’s Idaho ranch. In the passenger seat, his son Pierre escaped the accident without major injuries. Paul’s wife of twenty-six years Lily is stunned, but tries to hide her despair from their other child eight year old Justine who keeps asking when is daddy coming home.

Two years later, Lily flees her home hoping for time alone to finally grieve. She travels to the southern French coast where she owns a home “Lily’s Lily Pond” she inherited from her late spouse. Her only planned companion is her Olivetti typewriter which she uses to write the story of her life with Paul, their children, and her French mother-in-law. However, the house is not vacant as a tenant Monsieur Dupree dwells there and a local repairman Yves Lebrun visits often.

THE SECRET PAPERS OF MADAME OLIVETTI is an engaging character driven tale that starts off slow until the key players (including Paul) are fully introduced but especially the star. The story line picks up speed after Lily goes passed her disappointing muses such as why she changed her surname from Fern to Crisp and her non-birthday trip to Rome. Soon as Yves offers much more than fixing a roof, surprising revelations surface that turn this into an entertaining look at delayed grieving.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Hovering Flight-Joyce Hinnefeld

In Hovering Flight
Joyce Hinnefeld
Unbridled, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 1932961585

Renowned aviary and overall environmental artist Addie Sturmer Kavanagh is dying from cancer. She makes a final death wish to "clear orders for a brazenly illegal burial". Meanwhile her thirtyish years old daughter Scarlet comes home not to just to bury her mom, but to finally understand her mom. Even her death request is so Addie, weird to anyone except perhaps the inner sanctum.

Addie was just another bored art major when she fell in love with Professor Tom Kavanagh and his passion for birds. They became a formidable entry in the environmental activist movements and antiwar protests. Some time after Scarlet is born, Addie changed from gung ho bird lover to outraged political warrior. Her tormented switch left Scarlet and to a degree Tom behind; now Scarlet needs to know from Addie’s beloved friends Cora and Lou why to include a special funeral at the Jersey shore instead of her Pennsylvania home.

The key to this terrific character study is the seemingly dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter. Scarlet has felt neglected by her mom all her life; in fact she believes the search for proof that the Cuvier’s Knight is an extinct aviary species superseded her needs. Still IN HOVERING FLIGHT pattern, Scarlet wants to soar like her mom did, but before she can use her wings she needs to know why in her opinion the environment and birds meant more to Addie than her daughter ever did. This is a superb relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Letters-Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger

The Letters
Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger
Bantam, Sep 23 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780553807417

Sam and Hadley West are stunned to learn their beloved adult son Paul died in a plane crash in a remote part of the Alaskan Arctic wilderness. Instead of helping each other through the grief process, the Wests go their separate ways, each coping alone. As they file for divorce, Sam feels a deep need to visit the exact spot where Paul died; while Hadley runs away to a Maine barrier island turning to painting for catharsis.

Thousands of miles apart, they exchange letters telling the other what they could not explain in person. Each looks back at their long marriage with fondness and love. Sam is nearing the end of his trek, but the most arduous journey begins as he uses a dog sled to go from the last outpost Laika Star to the crash site. Hadley believes her Sam deserted her on a fool’s errand until the letters keep on coming explaining his obsession while she responds explaining her obsession.

Soap operish as at times too overly emotional, readers will still relish this engaging look at grieving the loss of a son. Interestingly the tale works because the lead couple comes across as shallow with Sam only thinking of himself and Hadley angry and acrimonious. Over the course of the letters, readers understand what distress and agony can do to caring loving people as grief is a singular journey of the mind and heart.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 5, 2008

Feather Man-Rhyll McMaster

Feather Man
Rhyll McMaster
Marion Boyers, 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9780714531489

In 1958 Brisbane, while her father abuses her mother, their preadolescent daughter Sooky is mostly ignored by them except when they encourage her to hang elsewhere. She spends a lot time with her almost thirtyish neighbor Lionel who constantly orders her to play with his hardened Willie.

Several years later her father leaves taking the music with him, but leaving behind the Tennessee Waltz and a distraught mother. In London Sooky has moved on to a new stud with football player Peter using an engagement ring to order her to play with his English Willie. Almost at the same time Lionel’s son Redmond manipulates Sooky the artist to do what he wants from her; she knows no other way to live.

Finally tired of being used, abused, and discarded, Sooky visits a gallery that she thinks Redmond once took her to. There she meets an older patron of the arts Paul. He mentors her but he cleverly maneuvers her into doing what he believes is good for her.

In this deep somewhat depressing character study, the child makes the adult as Sooky learns as a youngster from observing the relationship between her parents and from the way Lionel sexually assaults her that men dominate women. Each of the four men (five counting her father) expects to control her though they use subtly different approaches to achieve their objective of a submissive Sooky. Part of that early life lesson is for her to never be happy for herself as she can only be happy by pleasing the dominant male in her life. Rhyll McMaster paints a portrait of a female who has spent her life under the cruel thumbs of abusers.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Debs-Susan McBride

The Debs
Susan McBride
Delacorte, Aug 2008, $8.99
ISBN: 9780385735193

In Houston four teenage upper crust girls await word that they have been invited to join the selectively elitist Glass Slipper Club. Each has reasons to expect to be chosen, but also has some nagging doubts.

Aura Delacroix Bell is a beautiful big woman who attracts hunks like the U of T super-stud in spite of being a size 14. However, she has one scandalous secret that if revealed will keep her out of the club.

Anyone who meets brilliant sarcastic Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie will conclude she does not fit the club’s typical debutante, but vies for membership out of respect for her late mom’s wish for her and to keep her stepmother Honey off her back.

Environmentalist Ginger Fore prefers wearing her grandmother’s gown rather than buy something outrageously expensive, but her entrance might be blocked by the University of Houston tree hugger she met at a Go-Green event that could lead to a jailhouse rock not a deb ball.

Former child beauty queen Jo-Lynn Bidwill believes her mission in life is to keep the “debu-trash” out of the club; that means destroying Laura Bell.

This young adult satirical look at high society is fun to read as author Susan McBride gives the audience a tour of superficiality of debutante society through her fearsome foursome. The key is that each of the candidates seems real as teens first with issues that even with all their wealth to somewhat cover personal problems, they still exist. This is an amusing yet poignant look at teenage upper crust society through for fully developed young women struggling with personal issues that money can’t help.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Christmas Passage-David Saperstein and George Samerjan

A Christmas Passage
David Saperstein and George Samerjan
Kensington, Oct 2008, $12.95
ISBN: 9780758225795

The flight from Fulton County/Brown Field to Asheville on Christmas Eve morning is delayed along other flights due to the snowstorm. People are stranded at the airport and struggle with having patience as Blue Ridge Airline’s Flight 6224 is canceled due to weather.

Marta Hood has thrown her scornful husband Robert out (along with the Xmas presents) even though he threatened to never return; she and her eight year old son Ronny and eleven year old daughter Nancy are going to stay temporarily with her parents, but she is worried about their future. Vietnam Veteran widower Andy Casiano notices Army Specialist Ilena Burton who feels guilty about being home for the holidays while worrying her brothers and sisters in arms remain in Iraq. Recently unemployed Reggie Howard worries about getting a job. Affluent businessman John Sullivan worries bout his health with the sudden death of his workaholic dad. After time in Florida, septuagenarian widow Amelia McIntosh looks forward to coming home after her last attempt to reconcile with her acrimonious sister-in-law. Lisa Barone and her Alzheimer’s afflicted father need to visit an ailing relative in Asheville, but with the airport shut, she offers to take the travelers with her in her van. However, an avalanche has blocked the road stranding them as turn around is too dangerous. Each turns to one another for solace as they learn what Christmas is when they find Joshua and his remote cabin.

This is an interesting Christmas tale starring likable individuals struggling with traumas and a deep need to reach Asheville. The ensemble cast is solid with each containing differing personalities and issues. Although the climax is to perfect even with a pinch of the paranormal, fans who enjoy a fun Yuletide inspirational will want to join the stranded band of travelers whose trek is more metaphysical than physical.

Harriet Klausner