Sunday, May 31, 2009

Obsession-Gloria Vanderbilt

Gloria Vanderbilt
Ecco, Jun 23 2009, $16.99
ISBN: 9780061734892

The Bingham power couple seems to live the perfect life. Anyone who sees the influential pair know they love one another while sharing a wonderful life of affluence. Besides the best in Manhattan, they own several estates as Talbot is a famous architect in demand.

On their tenth anniversary, he suddenly dies leaving his beloved Priscilla as a grieving widow. Several years later, still mourning her loss, Pris begins going through her late husband’s papers. She finds shocking letters from a Queen Bee that vividly leaves nothing to the imagination. Not only was this Bee Talbot’s mistress, she was his dominatrix while he was her slave. Hurt and despondent not just because he cheated on her, she loathes he hid a key part of himself from her although rationally Pris understand why as she finds his venture in to bondage disturbingly sick. She dreams of meeting Queen Bee who also would like to meet the wife she mocked in her correspondence with her late favorite customer.

Although nothing new and somewhat slight, OBSESSION is an interesting relationship drama with the key connector being a dead person that both women cherished. The story line is fast-paced with an underlying psychological vent from the moment Pris obsesses over challenging her rival for the memory of Talbot. Although the plot is thin, fans of erotic character studies will want to know who dominates when the widow meets the mistress.

Harriet Klausner

Sadomasochism for Accountants-Rosy Barnes

Sadomasochism for Accountants
Rosy Barnes
Marion Boyars, May 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780714531816

Her boyfriend Alan dumped thirty-eight year old accountant Paula insisting she was boring after spending eight years together. By May, he has moved on becoming engaged to corporate take no prisoners climber Belinda whose only goal in life is to see her surname added to Smith, Smith-Brown and Smith. Paula insists she is not stalking Alan when she regularly drives fifty miles to his neighborhood to shop although the calls have Belinda calling her a “crazy cow”.

Paula’s mom and therapist suggest she find an exciting diversion as her life seems dull to them. Desperate to prove she is not just another tedious number cruncher, Paula joins Club Liscious. The members know at first look that Paula does not belong there; they put a different spin to the thrill of the sex hunt. Luda the transvestite assumes this newcomer won’t last more than a night. Thus she is shocked when the persistent Paula, used to grinding away looking for a missing pound or two in the ledger, keeps coming back. Soon, Luda, Gretchen the kindhearted dominatrix, and domineering SlaveBoy decide to help her hogtie Alan who has woes with aggressive Belinda’s demands on his layback career. Belinda is even aggressively uglier than usual as she is at war against a competitor who has the unfair advantages of being paraplegic for the step up the ladder.

This humorous satire lampoons sex, genders, and accountants through the actions of a purposely hyperbolic cast although told by Paula in a chick lit style. The story line is very thin, but entertaining as Paula sets out to prove she is not boring by getting a “life” and Alan with it. Fans will enjoy the antics of her support team and the bellicose reactions of Belinda as Alan is caught in the middle of a female surge. SADOMASOCHISM FOR ACCOUNTANTS is a fun tale that does not worry about the bottom line.

Harriet Klausner

Good Things I Wish You-A. Manette Ansay

Good Things I Wish You
A. Manette Ansay
Harper, Jun 30 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061239960

Recently divorced, forty-two years old Floridian Jeanette Hochmann is struggling with balance. She works at the university, is raising her four years old child virtually alone, and is writing her novelization of the four decade relationship between nineteenth century German pianist Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, her spouse Robert’s protégé as composers. Jeannette, a child prodigy classical pianist, hopes to bring freshness to the legendary triangle, but instead feels lethargic and despondent following her acrimonious divorce war.

Through an agency Jeanette meets slightly older entrepreneur Hart, the first man she dates in nineteent years. He coincidently comes from Clara’s hometown Leipzig, Germany. Hart kindly helps her with translations of her research from German to English though they seem to have nothing in common except they are attracted to one another. In fact she realizes his ten year old daughter, a musical prodigy, is much more like her than Hart is. As they travel Germany and Switzerland together, their relationship heats up yet increasingly seems to emulate that of Clara and Johannes.

This is a fascinating look at the legendary triangle between the Schumann duo and Brahms in which the nineteenth century subplot with original photos and letters is extremely gripping; but in turn makes the modern day entry seem intrusive. The cast in both centuries are fully developed, however once again the historical persona steal the show. Although GOOD THINGS I WISH FOR YOU might have been better as an exclusive look at the historical relationship, fans will enjoy A. Manette Ansay’s fine tale of how convoluted life is then and now.

Harriet Klausner

The Art of Racing in the Rain-Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein
Harper, Jun 9 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061537967

In Seattle Enzo the mixed breed dog believes he is different from most if not all other canines as he knows he has a human soul and looks forward to his reincarnation as a man. He adores his human companion Denny and loves their bachelor existences. Denny works at an auto repair shop trying to obtain the capital needed to become a racing driver. Enzo supports the dream by watching racing on TV especially tapes involving his best friend and has become an expert on the subject, but is frustrated with his inability to communicate with his two legged buddy.

Denny meets and falls in love with Eve. They marry but the woman and the dog mistrust one another. Denny is away racing when Eve goes into labor; she turns to Enzo as her coach. Enzo loves the new baby, Zoe, but also fears for the mom as her “odor” smells rancid. Eve becomes ill and dies. Her parents who loathe Denny sue for custody of Zoe although they know they have no chance of winning. Instead they arrange for their fifteen years old niece to seduce Enzo, but he rejects the teen. Still she screams rape and now his case is weak. With Enzo still riding shotgun, Denny keeps fighting.

Told by Enzo, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is an engaging inspirational tale that encourages people to go after your dreams. The story line is filled with metaphors especially comparing life to race car driving on an oval track. Although the in-laws’ shenanigans seem unreal particularly compared with a dog thinking like a human, fans will enjoy this fine uplifting anthropomorphic saga of life as seen through the personification of a thinking person’s dog.
Harriet Klausner

Suddenly One Summer-Barbara Freethy

Suddenly One Summer
Barbara Freethy
Pocket, Jul 2009, $7.99
ISBN 9781439101568

What makes Angel's Bay different than the rest of California is a belief that angels exist. There is proof as a video of sightings has gotten around, but reporter Reid Tanner assumes a clever fraud by the townsfolk. He plans to prove the whole thing is a fake.

Tanner meets another newcomer Jenna Davies who saved a pregnant girl from suicide. He is attracted to her because she avoids the publicity her rescue warrants. Meanwhile, enigmatic etchings appear on a cliff that is nearly impossible to climb let alone stop to carve symbols. Soon Tanner begins to wonder if the legends are true as someone unseen seems to help people there and glimpses of what appears to be previous lives occur. Either that or someone is pulling off quite a fraud with no obvious motive.

The premise is intriguing as the townsfolk fully believe angels reside with them leading to a fun paranormal romance between the ultimate skeptic seeking the scam and the somewhat doubting but hopeful other newcomer. They are a solid lead couple as each separately and together struggle to navigate the nuances of Angel’s Bay although the numerous appearances of the zillion townsfolk at times overwhelms their prime plot. Still this is a warm lighthearted romp that fans will enjoy and look forward to apparently future angelic sagas.

Harriet Klausner

Rude Awakenings Of A Jane Austen Addict-Laurie Viera Rigler

Rude Awakenings Of A Jane Austen Addict
Laurie Viera Rigler
Dutton, Jun 25 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525950769

Jane Mansfield dreamed of escaping the confines of the Regency era aristocracy. So when she hears strange noises and wonders why Barnes the Butler has not silenced the source, she is shocked because she went to bed in 1813 and now finds herself in some place she never heard of: Los Angeles, California. Besides the eerie red digits, she looks into a mirror but what she sees reflected is not her. Worse Jane finds her abode is a dumpy apartment instead of gardens and servants.

She explores the tiny box of a home and realizes the “occupant” Courtney Stone, like her, is (or is that was or will be) a Jane Austen fan. So far that is the only connection Jane can find. Jane is a bit frightened and knows she is spoiled but likes the music, the in door lighting and plumbing, the variety of cold and icy food , the freedom of loose clothing and especially the container holding tiny actors portraying Pride and Prejudice. She is taken aback with her attraction to Courtney Stone's friend Wes and the woman’s former fiancé Frank. The biggest stunner is sex does not mean compromise and marriage so with Austen’s novel to assist her in making it in this weird L.A., Jane Mansfield tries to figure out how to fit in modern American society.

This is the opposite direction of that of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, in which an Internet era Southern California woman went to Austen’s Regency period. RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is a fun tale of “survival”. The reactions of Courtney’s friends to Jane’s behavior including her diction makes the tale fun to read starting when she arrogantly informs Wes that her name is Jane Mansfield and he retorts in disbelief referring to the acting legend. Fans of Ms. Austen will enjoy the second switch as an early nineteenth century aristocratic transplant tries to make it in Los Angeles.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happiness Key-Emilie Richards

Happiness Key
Emilie Richards
Mira, Jul 2009, $13.95
ISBN 9780778326601

Following the incarceration of her former spouse in a federal pen Tracy Deloche takes over managing his property Happiness Key. However, she is shocked to find the five Gold Coast acres contains five dilapidated shacks with a tenant in four of the beach cottages; she moves into the vacant one. Her renters are an eccentric group of seemingly losers. Still she tries to be nice to the oddball runaways who pay to lease a dump from her. Wanda Gray is fleeing a broken marriage; Janya Kapur is fleeing an arranged family marriage before she must wed; Alice Brooks is a widow who is becoming increasingly forgetful but does not want her son-in-law and granddaughter living with her; and the only male is hermit Herb Krause.

When Herb dies, Tracy leads the other three women in search of his family so they will know and if they want to arrange his funeral. As the four seemingly different women forge friendships on their mission, they begin to help one another.

This is an interesting character study focusing on four diverse females who come togetehr when the fifth person in their tiny community dies. The storyline is well written but the plot extremely thin. Still Emilie Richards enables the audience to get inside the fearsome foursome females enabling us to understand what motivates them to “hide” at dumpy Happiness Key and yet turn these five single dumps into a community.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 29, 2009

Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar-Pamela Morsi

Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar
Pamela Morsi
Mira, Jul 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327295

In San Antonio forty-six years old Red Cullen, owner of Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar, has no belief that she is capable of taking care of young children. So when her daughter Bridge calls explaining she is being deployed to Iraq, Red needs to care for her two grandchildren nine year old Olivia and six year old David. Bridge further explains her former mother-in-law is incapacitated by a stroke end ex husband Mike is in Korea serving in the military, making Red look responsible and compassionate leave.

Red is appalled that she is stuck with the brats for a few months; for that matter Olivia and David are just as ill having to spend time with their tattooed grandma. However Red’s musician boyfriend Cam Early is not just delighted he provides the kids and granny his home for use and enchants the youngsters. Red is stunned that she is having fun with little kids and that she is considering keeping the younger fiddler permanently instead of her usual kick them to the curb though a bake sale seems a bit too much to ask of her.

Red makes this an interesting family drama as she is suddenly thrust into caring for her grandchildren though she feels incapable of performing the deed; a sort of female Uncle Buck. The support cast especially the kids and cam seem genuine and hence the deep look at a middle age vulnerable adult whose image is that of a tough broad but Olivia, David and Cam prove otherwise. They turn RED'S HOT HONKY-TONK BAR into a passionate strong contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Bright Shiny Morning-James Frey

Bright Shiny Morning
James Frey
Harper, May 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061573170

They come by foot, by car, by bus or plane to Los Angeles. They are looking to start anew, looking to vanish, or just looking. They arrive from all walks of life, from all religions, and from all races. Los Angeles is a magnet as the twenty-first century melting pot city.

Amberton Parker has become a Hollywood legend living the American dream with plenty of money, a lovely wife and three children who adore him but he also has a risky side as his sexual preference is legal age young males. Two teenagers Dylan and Maddie fled abusive households hoping to make it on love. Espernaza pays for her college education by working as a maid for a rich bitch. Homeless alcoholic Old Joe skips asking passersby for loose change when he becomes a Good Samaritan trying to help a young addict.

BRIGHT SHINY MORNING feels like three novellas of life in Los Angeles that cross over each other yet somehow never quite interweave into a cohesive novel sort of as if the expressways that connect the metropolis never touch one another. Each tale is well written with real characters somewhat hyperbolized to portray aspects of a city that James Frey satirically describes as craving to become the twenty-first century number one international metropolis (in spite of NFL meaning not for Los Angeles). Fans who relish a sharp sardonic saga will want to read Mr. Frey’s lampooning of Los Angeles, a city with an identity crisis.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Commencement-J. Courtney Sullivan

J. Courtney Sullivan
Knopf, Jun 16, 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307270740

In the 1990s, Celia, Sally, Bree and April meet as first-year dorm mates at Smith College living in the dumpiest rooms of King House, but BFFs are not quite what occurs between them. While Sally grieves the recent death of her mother to cancer and wants to be left alone; April is an angry throwback radical whose pushiness and righteous contention upsets Catholic schoolgirl graduate Celia and Southern belle Bree.

However, not long afterward the quartet begins to forge a deep friendship that grows throughout their four years at Smith. Once they graduate each faces difficulties that in spite of being there for one another shakes their friendships. Still they are one for all and all for one until the night before Sally's wedding when a major spat seems to have dissolved their friendships. As each fume in outraged silence, the foursome begins to realize what they might have nuked as they miss their BFFs.

This is an interesting look at four BFFs who struggle with maintaining friendships as they embark on other relationships; not all positive. Each of the foursome seems real as an individual with differing desires and needs, and as part of the group. Although nothing new surfaces as many women’s fiction novels have covered similar turf, J. Courtney Sullivan keeps her tale fast-paced and entertaining through her wonderful lead quartet.

Harriet Klausner

The Year That Follows-Scott Lasser

The Year That Follows
Scott Lasser
Knopf, Jun 9 2009, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307271198

Fortyish bond trader Kyle died in one of the Towers of 9/11. Just before he died, Kyle informed his single mom sister Cat that he believed he is the father of an infant and that the mother also worked in the WTC. The siblings planned to meet shortly to honor their late mom; the next day Kyle was dead. Cat searches for her nephew, but makes no progress.

A year later, Cat’s dad Sam, a widower veteran dying from a congestive heart disease, invites her to come to the Big Apple from Detroit to be together while they memorialize Kyle in a Jewish ritual in spite of neither having any faith anymore. She agrees as a chance to reconcile with her dad as both grieved 9/11 differently. She leaves for New York with hopes of finding her nephew and in some ways her dad.

THE YEAR THAT FOLLOWS is an excellent look at how people react after a tragedy occurs to loved ones. Cat and Sam are fully developed protagonists who have found separate ways to cope with what happened to Kyle, who we meet through the memories of his sister and father. Readers who relish a poignant look at survival coping will appreciate Scott Lasser’s terrific tale as religious beliefs collapse when the walls came tumbling down yet religious ritual enables grieving family members to come together at a time when surviving loved ones need each other for emotional support.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love-Beth Pattillo

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love
Beth Pattillo
WaterBrook, Jun 2 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073955

The ladies of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society are reading and discussing some of the great fictional romances. This leads them to debate what love is at least to each of them.

At the Sweetgum Christian Church over the year that they review love stories, each of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society members face some personal crisis that has them reconsider the definition of true love. Eugenie is a newlywed, but her relationship with her new spouse has weakened. Hannah has begun to date but is unsure of herself when it comes to male relationships. Finally Camille rejects a man she is attracted to out of fear she will never escape Sweetgum. What the women have to help them through their confusion are friends to read and knit with.

The return of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is an entertaining tale that focuses on the issues the women face especially relationship with men. They turn to their BFFs as well as romance novel leads for guidance. That is the fun in this entry as the women ask each other for support and advice while each confronts their own version of to commit or not to commit that is the question. Although the story line slows down at times adding depth to the ladies and their maybe beaus, fans will enjoy knitting and reading with the Sweetgum crowd.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There's Something About St. Tropez-Elizabeth Adler

There's Something About St. Tropez
Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin's, Jul 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312385149

TV star of Mac Reilly's Malibu Mysteries, real private investigator Mac Reilly and his partner-girlfriend Sunny Alvarez have rented Chez La Violette villa in St. Tropez. They plan to spend the month of June there along with their seven-pawed two canines.

Sunny arrives at their exclusive French Riviera house first only to find they have been conned. Others are as irate perhaps more so at being swindled too. Texas rancher widower Billy Bashford was looking forward to alone vacation time with his eight-year-old daughter, Laureen, and Belinda Lord estranged wife of a Russian mobster needed time to regroup. Mac and Sunny and Mac take a room at the nearby Hotel des Reves. They soon protect Belinda from her husband and get involved with local art thefts while Laureen makes friends with a homeless eleven year old boy.

The sequel to ONE OF THOSE MALIBU NIGHTS is an entertaining tale in which the prime plot is fun but by the book while the two children subplot brings needed angst to freshen up story line. The cast is solid especially the two American sleuths. However, the plot is thin yet no one will care as the Malibu duet take the French Riviera once they settle in their hotel of dreams.
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Little Book-Selden Edwards

The Little Book
Selden Edwards
Plume, May 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452295513

In 1988 San Francisco, following a nasty assault, rock and roll Buddy Holly disciple "Wheeler" Burden somehow lands in Vienna, Austria circa 1897. He is bewildered by his landing, but feels euphoric as he has dreamed of the gilded age ever since he was a teen baseball player walking off the mound one pitch shy of a perfect game; instead preferring the tales of his history teacher Arnauld Esterhazy singing elegance about the city.

Wheeler hopes somehow he can meet the legends. Freud is working his psychology theories; Mahler is writing and conducting symphonies; Mayor Karl Lueger creates a new age anti-Semitism that influenced future generations especially when combined with Nietzsche’s Superman theory of Thus Spake Zarathustra. The visitor from the future encounters Twain who is on a European tour to avoid bankruptcy and Churchill just starting to make it as a smoking politician. However, instead of these notables and notorious, Wheeler is most euphoric over meeting his grandparents and his younger than him father.

Using time travel paradoxes like a magician, Selden Edwards provides a fascinating philosophical look at the “People’s Century” through the eyes of the traveling Burdens especially Wheeler who begins to understand the yin yang of reality as balance and symmetry is realism. Thus, for every success of the modern era there is a counter failure. Readers who relish something rather different will want to read this extremely convoluted chronicle that push readers from the comfort of linear cause and effect thinking to an interweaving ebbs and flows out of sequence story line.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 25, 2009

Holy Roller-Julie Lyons

Holy Roller
Julie Lyons
WaterBrook, Jun 2 2009, $18.99
ISBN: 9781400074952

Dallas reporter Julie Lyons was researching an article in the South Dallas slum involving former crack drug addicts claiming they had been miraculously healed at The Body of Christ Assembly Church. She finds the dilapidated church in an off the main road street of the ghetto. The minister especially welcomed anyone in search of God whether they were possessed, criminals, addicts, hookers or the homeless. Instead of telling them to leave, he prayed for their souls. Her article on the church became the front page of the Dallas Times Herald while Jule a middle class white female with a typical Christian upbringing found the Pentecostal Black church healing as she accepts and welcomes “the Holy Ghost and fire.”

The best part of this memoir focuses on the impoverished flock and the co-pastors Fredrick Eddington Sr., a former drug addict with schizophrenic tendencies, and his wife Diane, who though legally blind sees life as a war between holy living and hell. The individual portraits clearly show Julie Lyons cares about the congregation and the pastors yet still enables the reader to see deep into the demons that haunt them as well as her own. Although the well written memory goes deep into the soul of each person featured, it lacks a sense of neighborhood beyond the vivid description of decay; there is no major look at the impact of the impact of abject poverty, which eats at the souls of the core flocks on causing sinning. Still this is a fascinating look at a Black Pentecostal Church trying to deliver redemption to its flock.

Harriet Klausner

Last Night in Montreal-Emily St. John Mandel

Last Night in Montreal
Emily St. John Mandel
Unbridled, Jun 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9781932961683

In Brooklyn, Eli Jacobs works on his thesis on dead and dying languages. Bored but disciplined, he fails to notice until he stops late in the day that his girlfriend dishwasher Lilia Albert, who went out for a paper never came home. Worried about Lila, he has no idea what happened.

One month later, a stranger Michaela sends Eli a postcard from Montreal telling him that Lilia is living there. Relieved she is okay and leaving his intellectual snobbish friends back in the city, he heads to Canada to see Lila. Eli learns from Michaela that when Lila was seven years old her absentee affluent American father whom she never met before kidnapped her from her home with her Canadian mom and brother. Michaela is the daughter of private investigator Christopher Graydon who worked and obsessed over the abduction case; she resents Lila’s intrusion through her dad’s fixation in her family for almost two decades.

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL is an interesting character driven tale starring three wounded souls. Lilia has all sorts of relationships issues, which has led to her running away even before she and Eli moved in together. Eli remains hurt due to Lilia’s abrupt abandonment. Finally Michaela feels her father abandoned her when he lived for the missing child case. Although at times the story line feels forced to bring out the neurosis, the cast makes for a profound look at the downside of relationships when forlorn adults feel loved ones deserted them.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Post Grad-Emily Cassel

Post Grad
Emily Cassel
St. Martin’s, Jun 9 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312596262

Ryden Malby has so far seen her life strategic plan work perfectly. She gradated high school with grades that enabled her to go to college on a full scholarship. She limited her social activities and focused on her schooling so now she is about to graduate from college. The final objective in her plan is to obtain her dream job at Happerman & Browning, a top Los Angeles based publishing firm.

However, objective four fails to happen when another recent grad prettier, smarter, and aggressive Jessica Bard scores the position Ryden craved. Instead of L.A. Ryden is back in the Valley living and moping in her family home being driven crazy by her parents, grandma, brother and employment rejections. Only her best friend Adam Davies is there for her but she fails him so he reconsiders Columbia Law School.

Although much of the plot is as straight as the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway, young adult readers will enjoy this sweet enjoyable character study of a recent college grad. Ryden is a wonderful lead who holds the story line together with her struggles over rejection, the eccentricity of her family, and choosing between her long time BF and the hunk next door. POST GRAD is at its best when Ryden goes job hunting as that hits home how difficult it is to score the positions you want coming out of college. Emily Cassel provides a delightful look at the plight of a POST GRAD that can be summed up by Adam who explains the ironies of screwy society that in Ohio it is against the law to hunt whales.

Harriet Klausner

Love, Lies, And Texas Dips-Susan McBride

Love, Lies, And Texas Dips
Susan McBride
Delacorte, Jun 9 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780385735209

In spite of their doubts about gaining admission into the Glass Slipper Club (see THE DEBS) Laura Delacroix Bell, Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie, Ginger Fore and Jo-Lynn Bidwill are selected Rosebud Debutantes. However gaining a foot into the door does not also mean remaining a member of the GSC; each of the new debs will learn this the hard way.

A big woman with a big pride, Laura is euphoric, but her high turns nightmarish when false rumors about her spread as wide as Texas that could lead to her dismissal from the GSC even if it is a lie. Mac remains in doubt about being a Rosebud as she only joined to honor her late mother; she fears her GSC gig may cost her the friendship of Alex who is dating newcomer Cindy Chow. Ginger looks forward to Rosebud, environmental activism, and the arts, but while sitting for a portrait, she is attracted to the artist who she knew as a bad boy. Jo Lynn wants to kick the trash out of GSC, which means Laura, but seeing her number in Dillon’s list angers her further as she starts the rumor.

The second THE DEBS Texas teen tale is an amusing young adult satirical look at high society’s superficiality through the still somewhat fearful fearsome foursome. Although Jo Lynn is over the top of Guadalupe Peak as an obsessed villainess, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS is an amusing yet poignant look at teenage upper crust society through four fully developed young women struggling with personal issues that money can’t resolve.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Wild Affair-Gemma Townley

A Wild Affair
Gemma Townley
Ballantine, May 2009, $13.00
ISBN: 9780345499820

Jessica Wild and Max Wainwright are engaged. Currently the Milton Advertising pair is working together on a top secret bank merger as well as their personal merger as both look forward to exchanging their vows. However, Jessica notices that Max seems distant lately, but assumes he is a bit nervous about the marriage and somewhat distracted about the bank job.

Jessica picks up Max’s phone only to hear a sexy voice on the end. Frightened he may be stepping out on her, she tracks the voice only to find Max hugging a sexy woman. She leaves hysterical and getting drunk. The next morning she awakens in the bed of Max’s rival Hugh Barter. Vino veritas costs Max his lucrative deal and Jessica her Max; she and her BFFs try to learn just who the woman is.

The sequel to THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING MARRIED is an engaging contemporary tale starring an insecure protagonist who never gives Max a chance to explain until she nukes their relationship. The support cast enhances the somewhat thin plot by either adding humor, trouble, or both. Although the ending seems too simple, Gemma Townley provides a fun tale of a major detour on the way to the aisle.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic-Pamela Weintraub

Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic
Pamela Weintraub
St. Martin's, Jun 12 2009, $27.95
ISBN: 9780312378127

The four Weintraub's left New York City to live in a dream home in Chappaqua in Westchester County as they thought this would be better for the kids. The parents thought the open woods with deer would prove healthier than the smog city. However, within a very short time from when they relocated, one of the sons becomes ill followed by the other boy. Soon afterward the father and finally the mother became ill also. Each had similar aches and pains that were progressively getting worse. The local physicians considered Lyme disease infection, but decides that was not the cause. The family turned to the best medical facilities in New York and received similar no help responses as the cures were making the disease worse. Desperate, Pamela Weintraub decided to use her skill as a science writer to research the symptoms. What she reports in this insightful frightening book is shocking as she affirms the widening spread of Lyme disease with the medical field in her opinion buried in the sand or ignorant. Ms. Weintraub, whose sons remain very ill, exposes the health system’s failure to react to a growing epidemic that could turn pandemic rather shortly. Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic is a well written shocker that makes the case act now before it is too late.

Harriet Klausner

Sarah's Key-Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key
Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin’s, Oct 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312370848

In the summer 1942 under the Nazi occupation orders, the French gendarme violently arrest Jewish families. Amongst those brutally rounded up is ten year old Sarah and her parents Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski. Before Sarah is grabbed, she hides her four years old younger brother Michel inside the apartment’s cupboard expecting to return rather shortly to free him.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the intolerance dark Vel’d’Hivs, fortyish American expatriate journalist Julia Jarmond is assigned to write an article about this day of infamy. Her research finds her connected to Sarah through the apartment she and her womanizing spouse Bertrand Tezac reside in; as that was where the Starzynski family lived before the snatch and the Bertrand brood took occupancy.

This is an incredible look at a dark moment in French history as seen by a reporter six decades later following the tragic footsteps of one Jewish family. The cast especially in WWII is super as the audience will feel they are with Sarah and her family from the moment the cops raid their apartment. Julia is also a terrific protagonist as she refuses to bow to pressure from her in-laws or fiancé to end her research or look for someone else. Although Bertrand pales next to the journalist and the Starzynski brood, fans will appreciate Tatiana de Rosnay’s haunting profound glimpse at the day Paris sold its soul to the Nazis.

Harriet Klausner

Queen Takes King-Gigi Levangie Grazer

Queen Takes King
Gigi Levangie Grazer
Simon & Schuster, Jun 16 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780743291996

After a quarter of a century together, affluent NYC realtor Jackson Power files for divorce from his former ballerina Cynthia. She is particularly irate as she gave up her dance career for him and feels like she wasted her life trying to provide him with love and affection. She vows to take him to the cleaners.

Meanwhile his latest condominium realty project is going bust and the ballet board she is a member of is falling apart due to in-fighting; these add to an already stressful scenario. Their lesbian daughter Vivienne backs her mom insisting she rips her father’s heart out because he had been cheating on her with a woman whose ambition is to be wife number two.

QUEEN TAKES KING is a jocular look at a Hollywood family falling apart due the middle age couple drifting away from one another. The key four characters and much of the support seem to come out of Hollywood casting of an artistic affluent family albeit the First Wives Club. Although somewhat padded, Gigi Levangie Grazer provides an amusing saga of love and beyond with a Hollywood ending.

Harriet Klausner

Let's Get It On- Jill Nelson

Let's Get It On
Jill Nelson
Amistad (HarperCollins), Jun 2 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060763305

After the success of their Reno brothel and spa (see SEXUAL HEALING) LaShaWanda P. Marshall, Lydia Beaucoup and Acey Allen decide to duplicate their achievement off of Martha's Vineyard. Once again they offer their wealthy female clients “multiorgasmic” sex without the complications”. While Acey with Odell assisting her runs the Nevada spa, they set up a luxury floating spa on a yacht off the Cape Cod shore just outside the United States legal limit.

They turn to the black community of Lydia's upper class society godmother Ma Nicol for support as they run into objections from a mobster who demands a piece of the action and groups fostering racism and sexism. Their star performer is Afrodonis who make the ladies salivate. However, making matters even worse is the fundamentalist president calling for a law "No Child, No Behind" that outlaws sex unless a married couple tries to produce an offspring.

The second homage to Marvin Gaye continues Jill Nelson’s upbeat message encouraging women to appreciate life by living and loving to the fullest to include seeking sexual satisfaction. The story line is over the top of Afrodonis’ staff just the way we like it as LET’S GET IT ON is fun to read with its refrain of sex, sex, and more sex. Although the abstinence crowd will beat the bushes to ban this tale, Ms. Nelson makes a case that sex and politics share the same key element: someone is screwing someone else.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crazy Love-Leslie Morgan Steiner

Crazy Love
Leslie Morgan Steiner
St. Martin's, Apr 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312377458

Twenty-two years old recent Harvard grad, Leslie obtains a job at the magazine Seventeen. On the Manhattan train she meets a nice Wall Street investment banker thirtyish Conor. They begin dating and become engaged. Together just under a year, five days before their wedding, Conor smacks Leslie for cursing at her computer. She goes ahead and marries him, but he continues to hit her. She stayed with him for two years before deciding love was not enough because he will never overcome his violent Boston childhood. The final straw was a horrific beating in which he left her unconscious.

Mindful of a profound scene from the Charlie Sheen movie Good Advice in which the advice columnist answers a woman who asks what to do as her spouse is physically abusive but her family insists she has to save her marriage while the columnists insists she should save her life. This is an intense from the heart memoir that looks at the psychology of why "battered woman" even highly educated females remain in potentially deadly relationships when intellectually they know they must leave. Well written and extremely deep, some of the true life scenes described are so stunning, a reader will want to deny they happened as Leslie Morgan Steiner provides a powerful look into abuse and why a person stays in a dangerous harmful (physically and mentally) relationship.

Harriet Klausner

Step by Step-Lawrence Block

Step by Step
Lawrence Block
Morrow, May 19 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061721816

This is an odd memoir that focuses on the crime writer’s enjoyment in participating in distance walking races. Mr. Block makes a point of racing against himself rather than other competitors; as his goal is not so much to win the race though that would be okay if he beat his best time or distance; the ultimate golden goal is to achieve both. In other words he races against himself. The author also discusses traveling with his wife across America or overseas on quests that targets specific offbeat goals like shuffling off to all the Buffalos. The best sections are the personal ones when Mr. Block turns introspective for instance why a non practicing Jew like him refuses to eat pork. These are far apart as much of the bio centers on the walkathons including containing an overwhelming marathon of score keeping that sports statisticians will relish. Not for everyone, fans of the author will want to take a walk with Mr. Block, but keep in mind STEP BY STEP has little to do with his novels and even with this pedestrian drill he provides quite a pace.

Harriet Klausner

Mating Rituals of The North American Wasp-Lauren Lipton

Mating Rituals of The North American Wasp
Lauren Lipton
5 Spot, May 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 0446197971

Celebrating a night in Las Vegas, Peggy Adams wakes up the next morning to learn she is married to a stranger Luke Sedgwick. His family is old Connecticut money that dates back to colonial times though the fortunes are shrinking rapidly. He is the last of his family except for his elderly Aunt Abigail who he is the caretaker of. Her heritage is listed in the local phonebook.

Peggy comes to the dilapidated Revolutionary War era manor in New Ninevah to get Luke to sign the annulment papers. Abigail is upset being old school as she refuses to allow a divorce without trying to keep them together. She offers them a counter deal to the annulment. If Luke and Peggy remain married for a year, she will give her great nephew permission to sell the elephant they live in and split the money between them. Peggy and Luke agree; as she needs capital to save her failing business and he wants to be a writer, which his current responsibilities will not allow. Neither is prepared for the issues of being married, the misconceptions surrounding many things like his poetry and her boyfriend of seven years Brock Clovis nor the fact they are falling in love with their spouse.

This is an often amusing satirical take on the opposites attract theme starring two nice protagonists and a solid support cast especially his ailing Aunt. Although the basic entertaining story line offers nothing new to the overall topic, fans will laugh at the antics of the cast as Lauren Lipton deftly using hyperbole lampoons the MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Rebel Princess-Judith Koll Healey

The Rebel Princess
Judith Koll Healey
Morrow, Jun 30 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061673566

In October 1207, Princess Alais, sister to King Phillipe of France, waits for the return of her lover, English leader of the Knights Templar William of Caen to complete his mission safely. She impatiently hopes one day they will openly display their love and she can tell his ward Francis that she is his mother and English King Henry I is his sire. Before she can do that first he must leave the order.

William and Francis come to see Alais and her brother to consult with the king re the Cathars breakaway region in the south centered in Toulouse. Phillip rejects the pope’s envoys plea to mount a counter offensive; this angers Armand Amary, a church VIP who wants all the Cathars executed as heretics. When Francis is kidnapped, Alais heads to Toulouse risking her life searching for her offspring while William goes on a Pope Innocent III directed mission.

Fans of Sharon Kay Penman and Rebecca Gellis will love this fantastique medieval historical fiction novel with a romantic subplot that enhances the prime court-papal intrigue story line. Readers learn about the Catharism movement focusing on the principles of a Good God and an evil adversary; their tenet of no priests or buildings ultimately led to the Albigensian Crusade. Although Alais does nothing wrong on her quest to save her son, the sequel to THE CANTERBURY PAPERS remains overall an insightful thirteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Vintage-Olivia Darling

Olivia Darling
Dell, May 19 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780440245148

Madeline Arsenault returns to France following the death of her renowned vintner father to save the declining near bankrupt family business. Londoner Kelly Eldon would prefer to sell her inheritance from the father she never met when he was alive, but the will stipulates five years as the owner. Supermodel Christina Morgan received one thing from her former husband that she rejoices in, a California vineyard that she believes will allow her to prove she is not just a has been.

While the three ladies strive to win the prize for best sparkling wine of the year, Mathieu Randon plans to prevent the newcomers from competing fairly with his vintage. Soon the four rivals will understand what vino veritas means.

VINTAGE is an entertaining witty satire that lampoons the fifteen minutes of celebrity fame in modern western society through her strong cast; especially the three female vintners. The story line contains an interesting insider look at winemaking that is interwoven into the prime plot of the contest for the prize. Wickedly clever with its mild mocking of knighting people as the icon of the nanosecond, readers will appreciate Olivia Darling’s intelligent contemporary while wondering if VINTAGE will make her a bestselling star.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 18, 2009

In The Sanctuary of Outcasts-Neil White

In The Sanctuary of Outcasts
Neil White
Morrow, Jun 2 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061351600

In 1993, Neil White confessed to the FBI that he conducted illegal bridge financing to keep his publishing business afloat when he found himself short cash. He spent one year at the experimental federal minimum-security pen in Carville, Louisiana. This facility included convicts and the last leper colony in the forty eight states. This terrific memoir looks deeply at the interactions of pariahs: criminal and health. The felons consisted of murderers, drug dealers, mobsters and a few white collar offenders. On the other hand the lepers ran the gamut of society including a mom whose newborn was removed from her immediately and wise eccentrics like the Earth Mother. Mr. White also scrutinizes the prison’s employment staffs who deal similarly with the two radically different incarcerated groups. Crossing the three communities is caring Father Reynolds. This is a fascinating profound year that brings to life a diverse unique prison population.

Harriet Klausner

East of the Sun-Julia Gregson

East of the Sun
Julia Gregson
Touchstone, Jun 2 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439101124

In 1928 twenty-five years old Viva Holloway is paying her passage to India by escorting three younger travelers; she heads to the “Gem of the Empire” to pick up her late parents personal things. Of her three charges: Rose Wetherby is going to marry; Victoria "Tor" Sowerby is her bridesmaid; and teen Guy Glover is going home after being expelled from school. Viva tires to hide her trepidation as she has no experience chaperoning or for that matter traveling as they sail the Kaiser-i-Hind to Bombay.

All four have their own secret agendas. Viva simply wants to survive the ordeal of being the one in charge. Rose hopes her cavalry officer loves her, but she is nervous because she knows nothing about him as they only met a few short chaperoned times. Tor hopes to find a husband on her “fishing fleet” tour. Finally Guy wants these femmes to leave him alone. When he loses his temper and attacks a prominent member of an Indian family, he sets in motion trouble for himself and his temporary guardian.

This is a fascinating historical tale that rotates perspective between the four prime characters so that the audience understands what motivates each of them. The story line starts slow as Julia Gregson introduces her fantastic four, but once the readers feel comfortable with the lead foursome, the plot moves briskly to a strong finish. Fans will enjoy this engaging look at life of young adults between the wars in the British Empire as the sun is starting to set.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sisters & Husbands-Connie Briscoe

Sisters & Husbands
Connie Briscoe
Grand Central, Jun 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446534895

In Baltimore Beverly is now thirty-nine years old and been engaged twice before, but broke it off each time. Now she prays three is the lucky charm as she and Julian plan to marry in four weeks. Her two older married sisters and her best friend believe he is the one who will exchange I do with Beverly as he is perfect and they are obviously in love.

However, the commitment phobic Beverly receives three shockers that makes her reconsider marriage. Her two forty something siblings are having marital problems with the oldest Evelyn considers divorce after pretending her spouse is perfect and Charmaine has had enough; both have kids. Her best friend is having an affair with her brother-in-law. Beverly once again doubts marriage as vows mean nothing even to people she respected like her extended family and her former BFF.

A decade in literary terms (fifteen years in real life) has passed since Beverly was a sort of schizoid mix of wanting to marry but somewhat fearful of commitment (see SISTERS AND LOVERS) though her two sisters had husbands and children. The cast is solid as each has personal issues while Beverly holds the story line together with her scrutiny of what is unraveling around her. Although not quite as intense as one would expect from a family drama that looks into marital woes, Connie Briscoe provides a wonderful sequel that her fans will enjoy catching up with Beverly.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Girl From Junchow-Kate Furnivall

The Girl From Junchow
Kate Furnivall
Berkley, Jun 2 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227640

Fleeing with her mom from the Bolsheviks and believing her dad is dead, Russian expatriate Lydia Ivanova still struggles to adapt to being alone in Junchow, China since her mom was killed (see THE RUSSIAN CONCUBINE). Now in 1929 she learns the impossible that her father is alive though incarcerated in a labor prison.

Leaving behind her native lover Communist Chang An Lo, Lydia and stepbrother Alexei search for her father by returning to Moscow in hope of liberating him. However, during their quest, Alexei vanishes leaving Lydia to believe he left her for expedient selfish reasons. Lo arrives to keep Lydia safe while hiding what he knows about her father, but his concealment does not prevent her from learning shockers re her family.

THE GIRL FROM JUNCHOW is a fascinating historical sequel that brings to life time and place (China and Russia) as the heroine goes full circle returning home. Ironically the vivid descriptions that showcase 1929 Junchow, Moscow, and other locales often overwhelms the suspense subplots of Lydia’s search for her dad and Lo search for Lydia. Still fans of early twentieth century tales will want to read this deep tale and its fine prequel, THE RUSSIAN CONCUBINE.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Queen-Jeanne Kalogridis

The Devil's Queen
Jeanne Kalogridis
St. Martin's, Jul 11 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312368432

In 1533 her powerful Florence family arranges the marriage between Catherine de Medici and heir to the French throne Henry who will become King Henry II as a political convenience; both are fourteen at the time. However, Catherine vows to make the best of her unwanted marriage by supporting her spouse and his kingdom so her heir inherits the throne. Over the years reality proves not as nice as her dream as she finds her husband is more interested in his consort, the manipulative Diane de Poitiers

Though superstitious Catherine is a de Medici so is used to acting against enemies like the mistress, whom she arranges a marriage with a prince. She consults with the astrologer Ruggieri who persuades her to commit horrors including a major role in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre so that her children well inherit what she believes is rightfully hers and theirs as her husband simply ignores her since she gave him the heir and the spare.

Moving from the fifteenth century Italy (see I, MONA LISA and THE BORGIA BRIDE) to sixteenth century mostly France, historical fiction writer Jeanne Kalogridis provides a strong biographical novel of the aptly titled Catherine de Medici. The lead is an intriguing character painted by most historians as a devil, but Ms. Kalogridis provdes an interesting counter-theory that claims instead Catherine was not the evil one, but lost the PR war by choosing to do what she was trained to perform as her duty as a wife and mother to the monarchy. Although well written, readers will still come away with the belief that Catherine was THE DEVIL’S QUEEN though accepting she was doing what was expected of her (doing one’s job is no excuse for crimes against humanity).

Harriet Klausner

Return to Sullivan's Island- Dorothea Benton Frank

Return to Sullivan's Island
Dorothea Benton Frank
Morrow, Jun 30 2009 $25.95
ISBN 9780061438455

Having just graduated from college in Boston, wannabe writer Beth Hayes returns to her family home on Sullivan Island, South Carolina while her mother spends time in Paris; mom had asked her daughter to house-sit while she is in France. Beth looks forward to the quiet time at her family home Island Gamble to contemplate her future and hopefully begin her writing career though she lacks confidence in her skills.

She also looks forward to seeing the extended family, the successful twins Sophie and Allison, Susan, and Uncle Henry; she also plans to hug her Miss Manners-reincarnation Aunt Maggie, her Uncle Timmy and her stepfather Simon before the trio travel to California. Beth soon enjoys her trysts with total opposites Max Mitchell and Woody Morrison, but that will darken her RETURN TO SULLIVAN ISLAND.

Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the Lowcountry with a warm family drama that is filled with humor, compassion, and sadness. The extended cast is solid, but this is clearly Beth’s tale as she struggles with a lack of confidence when faced several times with difficult choices. Readers who appreciate deep complicated relationships will enjoy the RETURN TO SULLIVAN ISLAND.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 11, 2009

You or Someone Like You- Chandler Burr

You or Someone Like You
Chandler Burr
Ecco, Jun 9 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 0061715654

Jewish Howard Rosenbaum and Christian Anne Hammersmith met at Columbia when both were Ph.D. candidates in literature. They moved to Los Angeles when he became a movie producer and they have a son Sam. Both still love books, but in LA-LA land everyone seems to have “disdain for the written word" except in a script or an exposé bio.

Dreamworks CEO Stacey Snider hires Anne to compile a book list for a book club. She selects classics that reflect how she sees her life especially her relationships. Soon everyone who is in wants Anne to pick their next book to read as she becomes more popular in the literary realm than Oprah. Sam goes to Israel to study, but is rejected by the rabbi in charge of admissions as being "unclean" because his mother is a gentile.

This is a very thought-provoking character driven tale that will have readers admire and emulate Anne with reflection on our lives. Interestingly as Sam turns deeply into his father’s religion, Anne feels like an outsider kept from the tent by her spouse, her son, and the rabbis in American and Israel; she feels at best second class. YOU OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU is a fabulous deep contemporary that uses literature as an entrance into the soul of Anne the narrator.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Island of Eternal Love-Daina Chaviano

The Island of Eternal Love
Daina Chaviano
Riverhead, Jun 2 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 1594483795

Born in Cuba, Cecilia left in 1994 settling in Miami’s Little Havana; she has since become a reporter. Her friends persuade a hesitant Cecilia to accompany them to a club, which she finds totally boring. She is ready to leave when she meets an elderly woman in the back. Amalia begins telling a fascinated Cecilia re her family heritage.

Every night Cecilia returns to hear more about how Amalia's three racial-makeups that consolidated into hybrids in Cuba. The old woman adds plenty of romance, violence and blood along with fairies and imps assaulting the females. Especially cursing her relatives for generations is Martinico the imp who has seemingly harassed her and her family forever.

Using a Sherazade like narrator and fantasy elements also like in the Arabian Nights, Daina Chaviano provides an intriguing creative look at the multicultural roots that merged in Cuba. Thus readers obtain a glimpse at the impact of the Chine and the Spanish and to a lesser degree the African. Fans of historical fiction with a fascinating spin that will require an adjustment will enjoy the deep look at Cuban history and culture.

Harriet Klausner

Matters of the Heart-Danielle Steele

Matters of the Heart
Danielle Steele
Delacorte, Jun 2 2009, $27.00
ISBN: 0385340273

Ever since MOMA showed an exhibit of her photography when she was thirty-eight, Hope Dunne has become famous. She was recently in India and Tibet, but now is back in her Manhattan Soho loft just before Christmas. Hope enjoys her lifestyle though at times misses the intimacy she once had when she was married for over two decades to sexagenarian Paul who suffers from Parkinson’s disease; but Hope especially misses her late daughter. She captures that combination of serenity and passion though a camera lens.

Her agent Mark Webber asks if she would like to do a shoot of popular Irish-American author Finn O’Neill; she agrees. She meets her assistant on the job Fiona Casey and they travel to Ireland together. Hope finds the bodacious warm Finn a delightfully charming opposite of her quiet manner. He seems attracted to her and overtly displays his feelings as he tries to sweep her off her feet. At his remote estate, she falls in love only to begin to unravel his tale of omissions and lies, but mostly it is his jealous rage when there is no remote reason bothers her. She realizes she is acting schizoid as her heart tells her to trust Finn, but her brain tells her to flee back to Manhattan before it is too late. She wonders if he is an overly concerned somewhat possessive lover, a sociopath, or worse.

This is a typical Danielle Steele contemporary character driven thriller that fans of the author will devour once Finn enters the picture as the audience will wonder if he is a villain or hero; if he is a hero than Hope is paranoid. The story line is filled with angst, perhaps too much as everyone carries tons of baggage even secondary players like Robert. Yet readers will relish Hope’s dilemmas she believes she has found love but fears she has found obsessive love; either way she understands it is MATTERS OF THE HEART dictating to the mind how to feel and act.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Accidental Bestseller-Wendy Wax

The Accidental Bestseller
Wendy Wax
Berkley, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425227671

A decade ago Kendall Aims, Mallory St. James, Faye Truett and Tanya Mason attended a wannabe writer’s conference and became friends. Still BFFs, each has gone down differing paths. Mallory has become a bestselling author whose husband feels they have no relationship as she is too busy for him. Faye writes inspirational romances as expected of the wife of a televangelist. Tanya is a failed author who works two jobs while raising two kids as a single mom. Kendall is falling off the cliff as her writing career has tanked with falling sales and a new editor who wants to dump her; her marriage is in worse shape than her vocation.

She needs a hit rather quickly to meet the deadline for the final book on her contract. Her three BFFs join with her to write a book about their lives. Each assumes no one will tie fiction with fact. To the surprise of all, the book becomes a bestseller racing up all the charts. However each of the BFFs fear scandal as readers, fans, and the media dig deep into each character.

The key to this entertaining contemporary fiction is that each of the four BFFs come across as genuine real people but with differing personalities, desires and fears. Character driven as the quartet learn how simpler it is to convert personal truisms into fiction as proven by THE ACCIDENTAL BESTSELLER, fans will enjoy the importance of friendship.
Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Crazy for the Storm-Norman Ollestad

Crazy for the Storm
Norman Ollestad
Ecco, Jun 2 2009 $25.99
ISBN: 9780061766725

When he was growing up as “The Boy Wonder”, Norman Ollestad admired his FBI agent father for his daredevil lifestyle. The older Ollestad was an adrenaline junkie who threw his son into all sorts of wild escapades that often frightened the preteen, but he always dived head first into them anyway. Norman became a Southern California surfer in Malibu as well as a downhill skier. In February 1979 when he was eleven, Norman, his father, his father's girlfriend, and a Cessna pilot were flying a small plane when it crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains during a blizzard. Everyone inside except the tweener was dead. Norman, heeding his father’s mantra “never to give up," began a survival test requiring endurance and fortitude that would have killed most adults, but he made it in spite of the freezing temperatures on the mountain.

Obviously the tragic plane crash and his ultimate survival are the obvious prime events, but CRAZY FOR THE STORM is much more as this memoir focuses on loving relationships especially that of a father and son and on personal courage. Readers will admire Norman Ollestad not because he survived as a tweener an ordeal when he was also grieving, but because of his belief that the brave try when they are afraid; trying when you have no trepidations does not require courage. Fans will enjoy this inspiring memoir that encourages readers to be all we can be by doing.

Harriet Klausner

Thy Neighbor's Wife-Gay Talese

Thy Neighbor's Wife
Gay Talese
Harper, Apr 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061665431

This is a reprint with some updating of Gay Talese's 1981 report on sexual activities in America. In some ways the book feels historical as it was published prior to the AIDs epidemic whose impact may have changed the openness that was increasing. Mr. Talese escorts (pun intended) his audience to famous hot spots like the Sandstone Retreat, the Playboy Mansion, and others. Much of the sexual revolution is a simple awareness led by magazines like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler, etc.; some comes from movies. Mr. Talese looks closely at Supreme Court decisions such as the I Am Curious Yellow (a boring Swedish import) case and the Comstack Laws forbidding pornography transmitted through the mail. The reporter takes a lesser look at sexual freedom before WW II and the 1960s with the effect of the pill freeing women to have multiple partners if desired, but fails to dig deep at this major revelation. Though also brief, Mr. Talese takes a glimpse at the beginnings of coming out of the closet by homosexuals. Filled with interviews and a glossary, THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE remains a fascinating but narrow look at mostly male heterosexual preferences predominantly between the 1950s and 1970s.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Haunting Museums: The Strange and Uncanny Stories Behind the Most Mysterious Exhibits

Haunting Museums: The Strange and Uncanny Stories Behind the Most Mysterious Exhibits
John Schuster
Forge, May 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9780765322920

This is great fun as John Schuster explores some of the oddest exhibits; in many cases you will ask what were they thinking. These include the Carnegie Sauropods in which for fifty plus years experts pasted the head of a different dinosaur on the body of a different species. There is the Cardiff Giant and Lizzie Bordon B&B. At the Philadelphia Matter Museum of Medical Anomalies one can visit Grover Cleveland's mouth and then there is the infamous 1897 Living Eskimo Exhibit where people performed live and continued even after they died thanks to taxidermy. Curses abound whether they are Elgin Marbles or jewels taken from tombs while haunting are everywhere including at the Utah Museum. At times some of the entries can be verbose, but an interesting examination of the strange and uncanny on display whether it is DC, NY or Fall River. However, perhaps the strangest of all is the Darger art collection (read the artist’s story to learn why).

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Glassblower of Murano-Marina Florato

The Glassblower of Murano
Marina Florato
St. Martin’s, May 26 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780312386986

In 1681 in the Republic of Venice, glassblowing is the major industry; throughout the continent everyone especially the wealthy demands Venetian glass and mirrors. The Council of Ten controls the city-state’s glassblowing guild to the point they will kill to keep scabs out. The most famous Venetian artist Corradino Manin is forced to sell his secret methods to French King Louis XIV in order to keep his hidden daughter safe though by doing so the cost is his heart and soul.

Centuries later, descendant, Leonora Manin leaves a broken marriage and London having obtained work as a modern day apprentice glassblower in the Venetian suburb Murano. Her boss knows of her connection to the greatest glassblower ever and plans to take advantage of her illustrious ancestry. Jealousy as it did several hundred years ago leaves the British expatriate in trouble with her vocation and with hAlessandro Bardolino; however, as she researches her great ancestor she realizes her troubles are minor envies compared to what Corradino faced from invidious villains.

The descriptions of seventeenth century Venice as a literally backstabbing dangerous place will hook the audience even as the contemporary subplot is exciting and well written. The story line is fast-paced as the two Manin’s three plus centuries apart face some of the seven deadly sins though the difference in how deadly what each confronts is quite startling as his lethal to the body and the soul while hers is more spiritual. Marina Florato provides a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Love Of Her Life-Harriet Evans

The Love Of Her Life
Harriet Evans
Downtown, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439113158

In London Kate Miller loves her job and her fiancé Sean. However, she learns some truths about the man she was planning to marry and decides to end their engagement, quit her job, and cross the pond. She knows she will miss her home, her family her friends, and especially Mac who under other circumstances might have been the one.

After two years in the States, Kate comes home after her stepmom calls to say her dad wants to see her as he recuperates from an emergency kidney transplant operation. Her return has her looking back at what if she chose fight not flight, but not for Sean; she considers her running away cost her Mac and her family yet maybe it is time to run away again to avoid being rejected.

THE LOVE OF HER LIFE is a fascinating character study of a woman who chooses flight and fright over fight. Kate is an interesting protagonist who detests confrontation so avoids it even if that means moving across the Atlantic. Although the opening chapters are difficult to classify in terms of time, readers will enjoy watching the “Old Kate” evolve into the “New Kate” though in fact they are the same essence with just a little more maturity.

Harriet Klausner

The Finishing Touches-Hester Browne

The Finishing Touches
Hester Browne
Pocket, Jun 9 2009, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416540076

Almost three decades ago in London, a mom left her baby in front of the exclusive finishing school, the Phillimore Academy. An expensive golden brooch contained a pleading note to care for her baby. The owners Lord and Lady Phillimore and the staff raised Betsy Cooper Phillimore. Over time Betsy wanted only to become an Academy girl. However, her mentors told her to study math as her skills are super. Heartbroken, she left her “family” behind.

When Lady Franny passes away, Betsy returns to the school that was her home for her “mom’s” memorable service; having not been back since she left. Betsy is stunned as the once elegant facility is in state of shabby condition, its reputation gone and the enrollment not just down but no longer attracting the elite. Lord P is despondent over what has happened to what he and his late spouse cherished even as he grieves; he turns to Betsy who has a degree in math to save the school as he believes she is a business consultant instead of running a shoe store in Edinburgh which she actually is. Betsy agrees, but also looks forward to seeing the man she likes while a shy employee likes her.

This is an entertaining chick lit tale starring a strong female who sees saving the academy as a way of thanking the Phillimore’s and as a chance to perhaps learn who her biological mother is. Betsy is terrific as she holds the story line together while proving London swings like a pendulum as her emotions do likewise. Fans will enjoy reading about her efforts to save the school while actually finding herself.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Thread of Truth-Marie Bostwick

A Thread of Truth
Marie Bostwick
Kensington, Jun 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758232151

Ivy Peterman left an abusive marriage to insure her children six years old Bethany and eighteen months old Bobby are safe from their father Hodge. She relocated with her kids in historic New Bern, Connecticut hiding their destination from her raging husband back in Pennsylvania. At a shelter there, women's shelter philanthropist Abigail Burgess Wynne arranges with Cobbled Court Quilts owner Evelyn Dixon to hire her to work part-time at the shop.

However, her idyllic world crashes when a TV show Quilt Pink Day is filmed at the popular store. Her former spouse Hodge sees Ivy on TV and is coming to beat the snot out of his wife and make her and the kids go home with him. His anger is fueled by eighteen months of her not being his punching dummy. He may be a tough bully, but he is unprepared for the knitting sisterhood protecting his former frightened family and kicking him to the curb.

The second New Bern England quilters’ tale series (see A Single Thread) is a wonderful story that looks at the impact of abuse on the victims as Marie Bostwick makes a case that it takes a community of caring people to stop the violence. Readers will enjoy learning how the knitting circle is doing especially Evelyn who battled breast cancer with the support of her friends. However, this is Ivy’s saga as she chose flight twice before (from her stepfather and her spouse), but with the support of the Cobbled Court crew she chooses fight this time to the cheering of readers.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Summer World-Bernd Heinrich

Summer World
Bernd Heinrich
Ecco, Apr 2009, $26.99
ISBN: 9780060742171

This engaging look at nature in Vermont and Maine during the summer will have even couch potatoes searching their neighbor for fauna and flora as Bernd Heinrich makes it fun to investigate the birds, bees, and beasts including humans. He and Crackle the grackle tackle local science with passion though I would avoid visiting the nearby wasp nest with a weapon of mass destruction the toilet paper hole-stuffer. The author entreats readers to sing on a tree dais with birds, watch caterpillars dine on fast food while marveling how human are aviary-like migratory either by being snowbirds living in the south in winter or by creating an indoor climate. Obviously Mr. Heinrich is concerned with the impact on the ecosystem of not just global warming and hoping to get some activation by getting people up and out with am enjoyable entertaining trip outside. This is fun as fans of all ages will dance in their backyard with the stars of nature in this super insightful look at the SUMMER WORLD of northern New England.

Harriet Klausner

Reunion-Therese Fowler

Therese Fowler
Ballantine, Apr 2009, $22.00
ISBN: 9780345499707

As she nears forty, Chicago based talk show host Blue Reynolds knows she has come a long way from when she was the impoverished Harmony Blue Kucharski. However, she has kept one secret that she hid from her mom and sister that has left her filled with remorse. When she was nineteen she loved English Professor Mitch Forrester but he rejected her advances. On a rebound fling she got pregnant. She could not raise the child nor tell her family and abortion was not an option at least for her; so she arranged through her midwife to have her baby adopted in what was probably an illegal deal. Filled with regret, she hires a private investigator to find her son although her career and reputation will probably be trashed.

On location in Key West taping her show, Blue and Mitch meet on his show Literary Lions. They still desire one another, but his thirtyish year old son international reporter Julian objects. However Julian is confused though he does not hide his scorn for his dad’s celebrity floozy; Julian is unsure whether he objects because she is closer to his age than that of his dad or because he wants her.

REUNION is an engaging family drama as the past resurfaces because people in the present remember the great, the bad and the ugly times. The key triangle seems real as all three involved have flaws and remorse while the support cast like her family and his grandparents enhance the plot. As each of the trio learns, with love a person can do just about anything.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Love Begins in Winter-Simon Van Booy

Love Begins in Winter
Simon Van Booy
Harper, May 12 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061661471

“Love Begins in Winter”. Concert cellist Brunno is a loner who never moved past his sister’s death; Hannah is a shop owner who never moved past her brother’s death. Neither normally would make the first move yet this couple both make the first move when they meet in Beverly Hills.

"Tiger, Tiger". In her thirties, her boyfriend’s parents insist on meeting her. A pediatrician she is indifferent so she goes out to the Hamptons where Alan and Jennifer welcome her. However, in spite of eighteen months with Brian, she finds herself attracted to and fascinated by his mother until Dorothy takes a bite.

"The Missing Statues". In St. Peter’s Square, Max the diplomat cries as he knows how far he has come from his childhood growing without a father up in the sordid hidden side of Las Vegas; yet part of his tears are his way of thanking the person who gave him the courage to move on and up.

"The Coming and Going of Strangers". The Irish gypsy saves the orphan Canadian child’s life. Two decades later his son watches from a distance keeping her safe even as he loves her.

"The City of Windy Trees". The letter shook George to the core. Chomping on Raisinets while sitting on his toilet, he ponders going from New York to meet his daughter in Sweden.

These are five well written relationship dramas starring fully developed couples in each. The entries are fun to read, but suggest spread them out over a week or so even though the collection can easily be read in a night; by doing one say every two days, the protagonist remains front and center rather than the late gripping spin that the reader will expect by “The Missing Statues”. LOVE BEGINS IN WINTER is an enjoyable reflective anthology.

Harriet Klausner

Sisterchicks In Wooden Shoes-Robin Jones Gunn

Sisterchicks In Wooden Shoes
Robin Jones Gunn
Multnomah, May 5 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781601420091

Summer Finley takes every grenade life tosses at her with calmness, a requirement of a mother of six, until she receives the results of a medical test. Upset she informs her pen pal since fourth grade Noelle Van Zandt that it is time for them to meet in person; Noelle ecstatically agrees.

Summer comes to Amsterdam and the buddies via letters and email hit it off in person. Noelle takes her American friend around the country as she shows her the canals and the chocolate. Both become BFFs as Summer informs Noelle of her medical results and Noelle confides her own heartache to her pal.

The latest Sisterchicks tale is a strong entry that focuses on the importance of friendship to humans, regardless of the original source of how the pals meet. The two women come across as real while touring Holland, but especially when each tells the other their personal woe. Fans will enjoy seeing the Netherlands along side of Summer as her BFF Noelle guides the trip that heals both their souls.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 1, 2009

Baggage Claim-Tanya Michna

Baggage Claim
Tanya Michna
NAL, May 5 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451224989

Beth Overton and Dr. Carlotta Frazer accidentally took each other’s luggage at the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. However, upon meeting to exchange their bags they chat and realize they can help one another. After staying at home to raise her child, Beth needs a job to pay off the debts her husband Allen accumulated as he screwed up their finances. A divorcee, the assistant history professor at Ramson Neil College, Carly needs someone to care for her battered mother Helene recovering from a brutal car accident that left her with a torn MCL and a concussion while also killing Carly’s dad.

Beth considers ending her marriage while Carly hides as a workaholic so she does not have to consider her single status. As the two become friends, they realize they can depend on the other for support.

BAGGAGE CLAIM is a terrific character study that follows the lives of two different people who initially interact over the baggage mishap. The novel contains two subplots as Beth and Carly star in separate family dramas, but the story lines intermingle effortlessly. Readers who appreciate a fine contemporary will enjoy spending time in places like Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta

Harriet Klausner

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper-Kathleen Y'Barbo

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper
Kathleen Y'Barbo
WaterBrook, Jun 2 2009, $9.99
ISBN: 9780307444745

Her affluent father arranged almost at her birth for his socialite daughter Eugenia "Gennie" Cooper to marry banker Chandler Dodd. However, though she hides them from her family and fiancé, Gennie has doubts about marriage now. She would like to go on an adventure just like her heroine Mae Winslow in the Dime Novels she loves to read; one perilous adventure before settling down.

In 1880 an opportunity arises for Gennie to go to the Wild West when she allegedly is taking the train to Boston; she leaps at the opportunity by replacing temporally a servant Fiona who was to take care of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter Charlotte. After meeting the pair, she falls in love with both. However back home in New York waiting for her is Chandler while here in the Rocky Mountains there is danger from angry miners, his late wife’s odious family the Becks, and a probable rejection by Daniel who conceals his nasty past from the easterner he loves.

This is an enjoyable western romance starring an urbanite who proves worthy of her heroine when she goes west. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action though the plot has terrific humorous, poignant and romantic moments. Fans will relish Gennie’s excellent adventure as she struggles with choices exponentially made difficult by the obstinate man she loves and her even more stubborn father whom she also loves.

Harriet Klausner

Never the Bride-Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge

Never the Bride
Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge
WaterBrook, Jun 2 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780307444981

For eternity (at least that is how it has felt to Jessie Stone), she has written, edited, and rewritten her perfect marriage proposal. However, not even her worst proposal has occurred as no one has asked Jessie to marry them. One day, God visits the realtor and asks for her permission to rewrite the marriage proposal; she agrees.

Jessie concludes God wants her to quit as a realtor and assist men in writing the right customized proposal. She is shocked when her new venture is a radical success as male customers and a few daring females become her clients. She believes she is doing God’s will, but has misconstrued the message as God wants to help guide her to love.

NEVER THE BRIDE uses a unique take on a modern day mortal chatting with “Almighty” God as Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge has the Lord serve as a matchmaker providing divine guidance. Whimsical as the heroine fails to heed what God is telling her (instead she assumes he is a lousy matchmaker); she argues with the Lord as if God is her BFF. Amusing yet poignant though some fundamentalists might inanely claim blasphemous, fans will enjoy this humorous frolic of God in the modern world.

Harriet Klausner