Friday, July 31, 2009

The Arms Maker of Berlin- Dan Fesperman

The Arms Maker of Berlin
Dan Fesperman
Knopf, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307268372

WWII history professor Dr. Nat Turnbull specializes in the German resistance movement. He is shocked when he learns his former advisor octogenarian Dr. Gordon Wolfe was arrested by Pennsylvania police for possessing stolen archival information from the 1940s.

Nat sees some of the findings and realizes what Gordon had squirreled away is incredible as none of the documents can be found elsewhere as far he knows. However, he also finds a gap in what the police took and assumes Gordon, for whatever reason, hid part of the cache of data. When Gordon is found dead in his cell, the FBI asks Nat to investigate Gordon’s strange clues. As he begins to uncover the secrets of the White Rose Resistance buried for decades, Berlin's Free University Professor Berta Heinkel offers to help him. He soon distrusts everyone including the German visitor and the FBI as the evidence point towards a cover-up to protect a German weapons manufacturer, Bauer, who apparently hid his WW II activity so that he could keep his Jewish family members from the camps.

This should be must reading for ideologues as family motives easily supersede everything is this poignant clearly timely and profound thriller. Although Turnbull is the superstar of the tale from the opening shocker to the final denouement with five survivors at his side, Bauer owns the story line then and now. He did what he had to for his beloved ones to survive war and the Final Solution; choices are not simple Bushian for or against as the Neocons proclaim and Congressman Tim Ryan has recently affirmed, but instead complex and complicated as Bauer made choices that has haunted him in life and will do so until he dies.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Palace of Strange Girls- Sallie Day

The Palace of Strange Girls
Sallie Day
Grand Central, Sep 2009, $13.99
ISBN 9780446545860

In 1959 in England, the Singleton family of four goes on vacation at the seaside town of Blackpool. There the father, WWII vet Jack has a difficult decision to make between job offers as manager of Prospect Mill or being a union representative. He conceals his concerns from his demanding wife, Ruth who wants them to buy a new house. His sixteen year old daughter Helen hopes to find a boyfriend soon, but believes to do this she needs the latest fashion and freedom from her mom’s strict control. His other child seven year old Beth has health issues having just been released from the hospital, but just wants some free time to enjoy the shore, fill in her “I-Spy” book as she tracks everyone and most important escape from her demanding mother’s diligence.

This is an enjoyable historical family drama that stars four fully developed characters; all with differing needs and desires that come to a head during the four day vacation. The interrelationships ring true though the solutions at the end of the Singleton family vacation seem to quick and unlikely. Ironically the father and the two kids blame all on the mom due to her demanding manner though she uses her martinet orders to hide her fears from her loved ones. Fans will enjoy Sallie Day’s fine trip back to 1959 England.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 27, 2009

Honor in the Dust-Gilbert Morris

Honor in the Dust
Gilbert Morris
Howard (Simon & Schuster), Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781416587460

As he struggles with achieving acceptability and affluence amidst the aristocracy, Stuart Winslow adheres to his vow to never do what his father did. Stuart loves his mom, but his dad chose her and abject poverty over his aristocratic family’s wealth; his steadfast goal is to obtain what his father threw away. He works hard at weapons design and shows a natural propensity for falconry. These two skills obtain him a position in the court of King Henry VIII. Stuart feels great that he achieves the first step in his strategic life plan. However, he finds the court frighteningly wicked and enticingly tempting as vice is the norm; he also learns the hard way to trust no one as backstabbing is the other norm.

William Tyndale proclaims for all to hear that he will translate the Bible from Latin into the language of the commoner. Henry VIII declares that is heresy, arrests William and sentences him to death. Anyone who speaks out for William, his project or against his sentence will also be executed. Stuart finds himself in a dilemma as he believes in William’s project that will bring Jesus to the masses. If he chooses the King’s world as represented by Nell his soul will probably die; if he chooses William’s world as represented by Heather; his life will probably end.

Over several decades mostly in the early sixteenth century, Gilbert Morris compares the overindulgences of the materialistic Tudors starting with the monarch and the courageous pious actions of those who risk their lives for their beliefs like real person William. Thus Stuart desires to be accepted by the former as one of them though he disdains their behavior and admires the latter. Fans will enjoy this well written historical drama as Mr. Morris captures the essence of the era of the first Tudor monarch while inspiring his audience to not let material desires for more than one needs supersede faith.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Casting Off-Nicole R. Dickson

Casting Off
Nicole R. Dickson
NAL, Jul 28 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451226990

As she waits along with her six year old daughter Rowan for the transport to the island off Ireland’s west coast, textile archeologist Rebecca Moray thinks back sixteen years to Berkley and her BFF Sharon who told her tales of the sweaters and taught her to knit them. Now, Rebecca and Rowan are on Sharon’s island to research the sweaters for a book she is writing. However, while Sharon is in Dublin about to give birth any minute, the islanders welcome the Americans as friends because Sharon has told them about her buddy.

Like all Americans it seems, Rebecca is on a tight clock as her grant runs out in two months; the locals are on a different time schedule as they live a less hectic pace enjoying life to the fullest. Rowan adapts rather easily to the pace, making many friends and especially enjoys the father-daughter closeness of hardened widower fisherman Sean Morahan who is unable to scare off the child. Meanwhile Rebecca fears abusive Dennis, Rowan’s dad, will demandingly arrive to ruin their daughter’s happiness. She also fears seeing Sharon as the memories must be greater than the reality. Rebecca finds herself enjoying the one knit at a time creating a gansey while wondering if she can cast off her past is she is to make it with Sharon’s childhood friend Fionn whom she loves and who loves her and her daughter.

Although the story line goes the way readers will expect fans will enjoy the trip to get there as Rebecca finds second chances. The island support cast makes the tale as they bring to life the “Island”. However, this is Rebecca’s redemption if she casts off her past and walks towards not away from love; as she holds the plot together. Fans will enjoy Nicole R. Dickson’ fine tale of a Yank (and her daughter) finding her life on an Irish island.

Harriet Klausner

The Invisible Mountain-Carolina De Robertis

The Invisible Mountain
Carolina De Robertis
Knopf, Aug 25 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307271631

“Pajarita”. In Tacuaremb, Uruguay on Jan. 1, 1900, a baby miraculously flies from the treetops to her grandmother; her name is Pajarita, the little bird. Years after the miracle, Venetian immigrant Ignazio Firielli joins a touring troupe of magicians. When he meets Pajarita, he falls in love at first sight. They marry and he takes his bride to Montevideo. However, over the years he turns to whores, gambling and drinking while she supports the family with her healing herbal elixirs.

“Eva” When their oldest daughter Eva turns ten, Ignazio removes her from school to work at the shoe shop; the owner assumes part of her duty is being raped until she flees to La Diablita restaurant where revolutionaries plot the overthrow of the decadent. Eva waits tables while writing poetry until she relocates with her friend Andres in Buenos Aires. There she marries Dr. Santos, a close associate of Peron. Eva gives birth to Roberto and Salome while writing poetry. When Argentina turns dangerously revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, she flees with her two kids back to Uruguay.

“Salome”. Whereas Salome heeds her mom’s revolutionary fervor, she also ignores her mom’s enjoyment of the good life. She joins the Tupamaros revolutionaries who try to overthrow the Uruguayan dictatorship, but fail. Salome and others are incarcerated and tortured with no hope for the future until after years of imprisonment she is freed and Montevideo is not the same as her memories.

Using three generations of females in a family, Carolina De Robertis tells a great tale of the twentieth century history of Uruguay and to a lesser degree Argentina. The story line employs pathos and humor to relate the cultural and political changes that swept across Uruguay. The three women are terrific unique protagonists who hold their part of the tres tales together as each in their way believes in a better life for herself, her loved ones, and her country. This historical fiction will be on the short lists of best historical novel of the year.

Harriet Klausner

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women-Kris Radish

The Shortest Distance Between Two Women
Kris Radish
Bantam, Aug 18 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553805413

In Higgins, South Carolina, the biggest annual event is the Gilford family reunion. The yearly happening is headed by the widowed matriarch Marty as a Five Star general and three of her four adult daughters as Field Generals. However, the youngest daughter forty-three years old Emma is the NCO making sure the gala comes off all right; in fact making sure the lives of her older siblings, their spouses and children, and mom come off all right.

One blast from the past changes everything when Samuel leaves a voice message asking Emma if she would see him. He wants to start over. Emma on the one hand does, but fears he will leave especially after the Higgins chaos; on the other hand she wants him to go to hell. Her family collapses without her helping hand since she now needs a mental helping hand from them but none step forward. Samuel’s return forces her to relook her relationships as the spinster who is the dependable one never gets the hunk because she is too busy.

This is an engaging regional family drama that is fun to follow but clearly over the top of Sassafras Mountain with the Gilford “kick the can” rules; that includes an overwhelming ensemble cast making it at times difficult to recall who’s who. Still this is entertaining tale that reminds the audience to be responsible but take time out to enjoy life with your love ones.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories- Peter Neofotis

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Eleven Stories
Peter Neofotis
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $19.99
ISBN: 9780312537371

These eleven tales focus on eleven different people (one per story) who live in the small Shenandoah Valley town of Concord between 1951 and 1974, but no in chronological order; for instance the opening act “The Vultures” occurs in 1963 twelve years after Jethro the stone carver artist found the artifact (story III). The stories interrelate with Concord as the prime connection throughout but also something that occurs to one person in a tale impacts another in a different entry; part of the fun is that the cause of an effect sometimes is described in a tale after the impacted person’s story is told (a sort of quantum physicist). Overall the anthology contains several super entries and no clinkers; though some thematic repetition happens so it pays to spread the eleven stories over a couple of weeks. Issues based on bigotry are frequent (see "The Botanist" and "The Builders"). With a nod to Thomas Jefferson, fans will enjoy these engaging short stories filled with some dark twists as Concord, Virginia comes across real and surreal at the same time. This is an engaging refreshing collection.

Harriet Klausner

Gone to the Dogs-Mary Guterson

Gone to the Dogs
Mary Guterson
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312541798

Brian displayed his guts when he telephoned his fiancée Rena the waitress to end their seven year relationship. Angry especially over his cowardly means of dumping her, an outraged Rena kidnaps his dog Tilly only to learn the canine with a girl’s name is a boy and as an aside her ex (that is Rena’s ex and not the dog formerly called Tilly) has a new girlfriend.

To make matters worse for Rena, her late fifties mom has a new guy Dr. Ron in her life and her sister’s perfect Orthodox Jewish marriage is falling apart. Her family decides to find a man for Rena; their latest selection is kind hearted but ethical Chuck, who tells her, he likes her, but she needs to move forward starting with returning formerly Tilly to Brian. Rena blunders making her conclude that to err may be human, but no one especially the errant one forgives.

This lighthearted chick lit tale is fun to read due to the interaction between Rena the neurotic who expects her family to blind date her with a serial killer and her stereotyped (by her) family, who serve as her straight men and women for her asides. Amusing, fans will enjoy this frolic as Rena wails to no one there Who Let the Dogs Out (nod to the Baha Men) and this is not Cleveland.

Harriet Klausner

Bed and Breakfast-Lois Battle

Bed and Breakfast
Lois Battle
Penguin, Sep 1 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780143116431

Widow Josie Tatternall does not have fond memories of her womanizing dictatorial late spouse, who treated her like he did the soldiers he led. The septuagenarian owns the Point Bed and Breakfast in Beaufort, South Carolina. .Christmas is coming and feeling her age after calling 911 when her bridge playing pal Peatsy collapses, Josie wants her three adult daughters to visit her for the holidays.

As her sister reminds her, that will take a miracle. Her oldest Camilla has not come home in ten years, vowing back then never; however, depressed that her job may be gone, her lover definitely gone, and her period probably gone due to she fears a pregnancy, Cam accepts the invitation.

Her middle child Lila Gadsen of Hilton Head immediately accepts. She hopes seeing mom will allow her to escape for a week from her politician husband and his attitude, and their two teens with attitude that only prescription medicine alleviates the headaches.

Her youngest Evie lives in Savannah where she writes a newspaper column that exposes her family to ridicule as they are often the topic. She also accepts her mom’s invitation.

The four Tatternall females converge on the Point with good intentions to let bygones be bygones. Christmas Eve is a catastrophe in spite of the good intentions. The three daughters are together for seemingly for only nanoseconds and each is ready to run home.

This reprint of a well written regional charmer affirms that the family that gets together fights together, but hopefully also loves together. Josie is the star though her daughters obviously play key roles in the bickering and arguing, and some wise acceptance and consideration of others. Fans will enjoy this engaging family drama as everyone grows stronger with increased perceptive understanding of those you thought you already know.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Slippery Year-Melanie Gideon

The Slippery Year
Melanie Gideon
Knopf, Aug 4 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 978-0307270672

This is a fascinating autobiography by a forty something woman looking at her life as a twin growing up with three sisters; as a wife with a wonderful caring husband; and as a stay at home mother of a preadolescent adorable child. Melanie Gideon in the phases she has lived asks herself what has she achieved as she ponders whether future generations of Gideon’s will know her name; the answer is probably yes due to this amusing memoir that reflects on her life. The best part of THE SLIPPERY YEARS is the self assessment that would please Covey’s Seven Habits. The impetus for the internal review was her spouse buying a vehicle that has no logical place in the burbs where they live. Her conclusion was that she had misplaced or killed her spontaneous gene while her husband still did the occasional inane escapes like they did when they were in their twenties; when they lived life as if there was no tomorrow and ironically also felt immortal. The biggest change that made them cost conscience was the birth of their child; cost conscience until her husband buys the van. As she realizes “the changing from sunlight to moonlight” (Reflections on My Life by Marmalade), Ms. Gideon vows to recapture some of those sun rays as their kid is okay and will not mind her parents doing something silly; or at least the child will get over it fast if she perceives it as embarrassing; as children are resilient. This is a winner that will have the audience reflect on their lives and wonder if that is what they want their offspring to remember about them.

Harriet Klausner

Hugh & Bess-Susan Higginbotham

Hugh & Bess
Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks, Aug 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402215278

In 1341 thirteen years old Bess de Montacute is outraged and humiliated that she has been directed by her parents to marry Hugh le Despenser. It is bad enough he is twice her age and her breasts remain childishly flat, but the widow (her spouse died when she was eleven) is galled that his heritage is that of the son and grandson of traitors (see THE TRAITOR’S WIFE). She is aghast that her surname will be that of a disgraced family.

Hugh is as outraged as Bess over the arranged nuptials to a child bride, but is more accepting or at least hides his ire better. He knows to regain good standing for himself and his family; he must marry the bratty daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, a close advisor and friend to King Edward III. To him it simply means marrying for duty rather than love. As war and plague devastate England, against all odds Hugh & Bess fall in love.

This is a terrific fourteenth century historical romance starring two people forced into a political marriage who find love. Bess is a reluctant wife as this time she is expected to live with her husband unlike when she previously wed and remained home; High is a fabulous lead male who loathes marrying his young bride, but has no choice if eh wants to remove the stigma. Their changing relationship over a decade as she matures makes for a fine tale of love amidst betrayal, back stabling and war.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A River Called Time-Mia Couto

A River Called Time
Mia Couto
Serpent’s Tail, Sep 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781846686719

In Mozambique, the family patriarch Dito Mariano is near death. His family already divided and spread across the civil war wracked nation is further split because he was the only one holding them together. Still they all make a pilgrimage to pay homage to Dito as they come to bury him and the obsolete past he represents.

His grandson Mariano is among those who have come to Nyumba-Kaye, his grandfather’s house named in two languages, for the funeral. Although he has been at school, he understands family tradition and hopes to reconcile the Northern and Southern sides of the family in honor of his ancestor. However, his Uncle Ultimio plans to convert Nyumba-Kaye into a luxury hotel although he knows his father would loathe the idea that he markets it to the family as development, but the whispers of the past including his grandfather tells Mariano the younger to save the family heritage from the ravages of the curse called progress.

This is an extremely complex family drama that brings to life Mozambique through the divided live and ironically dead members of the Mariano brood. There is no easy linear chronological order to the deep storyline as the grandfather and his grandson narrate the goings-on past and present in a realm where ancestors reside along with those souls who never made it out of the womb alive; each has a tale to tell through Dito who has one foot with them and one foot with his warring family that emulates the civil war that has ravaged the island nation. A RIVER CALLED TIME is a complicated and rightfully convoluted super look at a different culture.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Virgin's Daughters-Jeane Westin

The Virgin's Daughters
Jeane Westin
NAL, Aug 2009, $16.00
ISBN: 9780451226679

The younger sister of the late Lady Jane Grey, Lady Katherine Grey admires Queen Elizabeth and vows to be loyal and faithful especially to the monarch’s decree that her female retinue must remain virtuous. Lady Katherine has no problem remaining pure as no man attracts her enough to give away her virginity.

However, when Elizabeth falls in love with Sir Robert Dudley, Katherine assumes that frees her from her vow of chastity just like the queen she emulates. Katherine falls in love with the Earl of Hereford, but Queen Elizabeth begins to suspect her of seditious acts to take the throne like her sister did.

Over time, Elizabeth turns increasingly acrimonious as she cannot fully act on her love for Essex. Her Lady in Waiting Mary Rogers understands firsthand what that means as she loves the queen's godson, but that could mean death for both of them.

Although a look at Queen Elizabeth through how her Ladies in Waiting sees her has been over done, as well as the Grey sisters (see the Alison Weir’s novels), Jeane Westin provides a fascinating look at the court over time. The Queen becomes angrier and frustrated but not as much as her Ladies in Waiting, who know that love is a seditious act. Well written, fans who cannot get enough of Elizabethan Era historical fiction will want to read THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTERS trying to remain loyal to their Queen bit also struggling to survive falling in love in the “Court of Elizabeth I”.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sassy-Gloria Mallette

Gloria Mallette
Gemini Press, Jul 20 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780967878935

Romance writer Sassy Davenport is a very good author, but has one problem; she has issues describing the romantic moments as she has no experience. At a book signing, a customer and obviously a fan, architect Norris Yoshito asks her to autograph the ten books written by her that he is buying. She is stunned as males never read her books; even her close friend Kenneth refuses. In fact Norris stopped for a moment at the store not intending to buy books from an unknown author, but the first time ever he saw her face (nod to Roberta Flack); he became a believer in love at first sight.

They become an entry as Norris wins her heart with his kindness towards her. That changes when he arrives and forces Kenneth to leave her apartment; he angrily screams at her, scaring Sassy. Soon afterward, even more frightening to her, Norris insists he never came to her apartment and has never met Kenneth. Sassy loves him but now fears him as she witnessed what he denied and the police want him for the murder of people who were close to him as they have witnesses; yet she sees how tender he is towards her beloved cousin Bernard, dying from AIDS.

This is a fascinating psychological drama as readers will wonder whether Norris is a clever killer, has an unknown twin, suffers from dissociative disorder, or someone sinister and loathing like his Tokyo childhood buddy somehow disguised as him. Sassy knows that the Norris she loves is kind and caring towards others, which compares favorably vs. Kenneth who thinks of Kenneth first and last. The other Norris is violent and apparently deadly. Fans and Sassy will wonder who he is and what he pans for her.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 17, 2009

That Old Cape Magic-Richard Russo

That Old Cape Magic
Richard Russo
Knopf, Aug 4 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780375414961

When Jack Griffin was growing up in New England, he vowed to never follow in the footsteps of his academia parents, both professors. Instead he fled to Los Angeles where he became a screenwriter and ultimately married Joy.

Ironically, after his parents die, he and his spouse move east as he accepts a position as a professor of film. As Jack has the urns containing the dust of his parents in his trunk, he looks back at his life wondering is that all there is. He thinks of his honeymoon with Joy at the cape where he demanded they go and a year later to Maine where she demanded they go. He reflects on the marriages of his parents and her parents while pondering whether he needs to call its quits on his.

This is an intriguing look at relationships with the emphasis being on marital, parent-adult offspring, and parent adult offspring’s spouse. How haunting these combinations can be is accentuated by Jack’s inability to spread the ashes. With flashbacks, the audience sees how dynamics change over time due to age and marital status. Although Jack can overkill a poetic soliloquy with a passionate display of motor mouth, fans will appreciate Richard Russell’s deep look at relational magic.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Table Manners-Mia King

Table Manners
Mia King
Berkley, Aug 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425227893

In Seattle although the television cooking show she starred on, The Simple Life, died followed by her life imploding, Deidre McIntosh has made a sweet comeback. She is about to sell Sweet Deidre desserts and has a wonderful boyfriend Kevin Johnson, whom she thinks she loves.

However, Deidre’s second perfect world implodes again. Kevin's former fiancée Sabine Duran, as in incredibly gorgeous, charming, and thriving, has returned to reclaim him. Her opponent for the affections of Kevin is so beautiful and successful while Deidre’s new business is failing before it can be started and don’t even try to compare beauty. She knows she cannot compete for Kevin, but vows to try anyway and she refuses to quit on Sweet Deidre.

The enjoyable sequel to GOOD THINGS, TABLE MANNERS, is a fine contemporary romance that once again focuses on Deidre who decides to “create” a recipe for her life; sort of a strategic plan with two operational objectives: make Sweet Deidre a success and win Kevin. Although the final sweetened baked goods are obvious, fans will enjoy observing the pasty chef implementing her recipe for life.

Harriet Klausner

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners-Luanne Rice

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners
Luanne Rice
Bantam, Aug 4 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780553805147

In spite of her wealth, heiress Lyra Nicholson is lonely while living on Capri, Italy. Her two teenage daughters, sixteen years old Pell and fourteen years old Lucy are almost as lonely as their mom while residing with their grandma in Newport, Rhode Island.

Lucy, a math prodigy, with the help of her best friend Beck tried to use equations to contact her late father, but failed (see Geometry of Sisters). Pell decides it is time to confront Lyra so she travels to Italy to demand her mother finally be a mom to them; having abandoned them years ago. Playwright Max Gardiner, who loves Lyra, encourages Pell to go for it while the older daughter is attracted to his nineteen years old Rafe, a recovering addict.

This profound sequel to GEOMETRY OF SISTERS focuses on the older sister (whereas the previous one centered on Lucy) who after a decade of separation has come to challenge her mom. Ironically when mother and daughter meet, the former seems like a young teen and the latter appears as the more mature fortyish parent. Capri with is vivid setting enhances a deep look at families that as a unit may not survive a tragedy, but the component members endure coping in their own ways.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Benny & Shrimp-Katarina Mazetti

Benny & Shrimp
Katarina Mazetti
Penguin, Jul 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780143115991

In northern Sweden, librarian Desiree the “Shrimp” is adjusting to becoming a widow while Benny the dairy farmer works his family land. Neither realizes how lonely they are until they unexpectedly meet at a cemetery where Benny is visiting his late mom and Desiree her recently deceased spouse. Each is reticent but attracted to the other.

They hit it off as each finds a need fulfilled with the other. However, soon after the first euphoria wears off, Benny prefers cows while Desiree devours books. Desiree detests his dilapidated farm while Benny loathes her indifference towards housekeeping. However, as their social diversity proves wider than the Baltic Sea, they both fear loneliness and rationalize the sex is great; but at night alone each ponders is that all there is?

The story line rotates perspective between two lonely thirtyish people who find a precarious relationship that is anchored on sex as they share little else in common. Both characters are fully developed so that the audience can see what motivates them and especially what turns them off; ironically their significant other fails to comprehend what makes them shut down. Well written, the plot makes a strong case for compatibility as opposites may attract but cannot remain cohesive. Although the ending is forced and feels unrelated to what has happened between the librarian and the farmer, fans will enjoy Katarina Mazetti’s answer to the Beatles’ question of Where do all the lonely people go? (Eleanor Rigby).

Harriet Klausner

One Good Affair-Tess Stimson

One Good Affair
Tess Stimson
Bantam, Aug 4 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780385341271

Pediatrician Ella Stuart knows her thoughtful husband Jackson loves her, but also believes her lover William Ashfield loves her too. William turns to Ella when either his disturbed wife Beth or his rebel without a cause teenage daughter, Cate send him over the edge with nonsense. Ella and William are happy with their arrangement.

Everything changes abruptly when Ella's husband drops dead making her single and available. William knows his spouse needs him, but thinks when is it time for him to consider his needs. He also believes his daughter Cate would be in trouble by his leaving them for his beloved Ella. Soon he must choose knowing someone he cares about will be hurt.

This is an entertaining relationship drama starring a fully developed relatively small ensemble cast. The story line rotates perspective between the four prime players as Jackson’s death forces his widow and her married lover to make decisions that impact on his wife and daughter. Although the story line seems overly stretched and doubtful especially the late Cate factor as the reader after a while will hum Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? and You Didn’t Have to be So Nice (Lovin’ Spoonful). ONE GOOD AFFAIR is overall an enjoyable read.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Bad Day for Sorry-Sophie Littlefield

A Bad Day for Sorry
Sophie Littlefield
Minotaur, Aug 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312559205

In Missouri, after several years of abuse from Ollie Hardesty and not believing in divorce, Stella took care of business. The widow opens up a sewing shop and could wear a T-shirt that says “I survived domestic violence the old fashion way by burying my spouse”.

Stella also believes she needs to help battered women like she was as a form of redemption for putting up with Ollie much too long and as an avenging angel dispatching retribution on these bullies. Stella keeps an eye on Roy Dean Shaw, ex mean ass husband of gentle mom Chrissy Shaw. When Roy Dean abducts Chrissy's two years old son Tucker, Stella decides this punk needs a permanent lesson in how to treat a lady. She affirms her feelings about this abusive moron when she learns he is part of the stolen auto parts mob. Chrissy, upset with his taking her infant, has had enough. As Sheriff Goat Jones watches Stella with his dreamy eyes, she hopes it is for her body and not her activity asshe leads Chrissy into hell as they team up to take care of Roy Dean and his car ring associates to rescue the baby from the mob.

This is an enjoyable jocular frolic as middle aged Stella takes on the world with no looking back as to whom she runs over when she does. She makes the tale work although the rest of the key cast members are fully drawn especially Chrissy and Roy Dean. The latter will soon learn what the wrath of a lioness is as she and her sidekick kick butt to rescue the infant. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY is a good day or three for readers.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Summer Kitchen-Karen Weinreb

The Summer Kitchen
Karen Weinreb
St. Martin’s, Jul 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312379254

On Halloween in Bedford, New York, Nora Banks answer the doorbell as she has done all evening though this trick or treat visitor is a bit late so she assumes it is teenagers. She has her candy ready only those at the door are not there for sweets. The Feds arrest her husband Evan.

Nora and her three adolescent sons (seven years old Thomas, five years old Nicholas and three years old Charlie) quickly realize not just the affluence is gone; they are treated like felons by those who were friends until Evan was taken away. The children’s nanny Beatriz remains loyal and soon the three kids are being raised by a household run by the two women. Nora opens up a baking business THE SUMMER KITCHEN bakery-café to bring in some needed income and considers an affair; as the five members of the household struggle to become entrepreneurs over the objection of the Bedford wives who spend the summer on the Cape.

This is an entertaining inspirational family drama as Nora and her horde roll up their sleeves rather than wallow in self pity and recriminations; in other words they move on trying to regain equilibrium. The wealthy townsfolk who were their friends before the fall prove shallow and though that is a key impetus for the Banks making it; they come across as less dimensional than the more famous Bedford Wives. Still fans will enjoy this fine tale of a family bonded by need and love, but also seeking actualization form loved ones and especially their selves.

Harriet Klausner

The Calligrapher's Daughter-Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher's Daughter
Eugenia Kim
Holt. Aug 4 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780805089127

When his daughter is born, aristocratic traditionalist Han refuses to name her because Japan occupies the Korean Peninsular. Instead the newborn becomes known as “baby”, etc. Fives years after her birth she is lovingly nicknamed Najin, the name of her mom’s hometown. When Najin turns fourteen years old, her strict father decides she needs a spouse of his choice. Her usually obedient mother objects and instead sends her daughter to the royal court.

Najin graduates from college and becomes a teacher. She goes home to marry, but soon afterward, her loving husband obtains a visa to study in America while she is denied one due to her humanitarian activities. The Japanese occupation turns brutal as they assault Korean tradition and destroy affluent families like that of calligrapher Han. Najin is arrested and incarcerated as a spy while the war expands into WWII.

This is a super look at Korean history from WWI through WWII as seen by the heroine, but also provides some insight into the rich heritage of the country. For instance the ruling Joseon Dynasty lasted over five centuries before the Japanese finally destroyed it in 1910 though the seeds of interring the Yi monarchy occurred in the 1905 Russo-Japanese Treaty that ironically is highly regarded in American history books as top rate Teddy Roosevelt diplomacy. The story line is super as the audience follows Najin’s life, but is owned by the profound look at the brutal Japanese occupation, which turns THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER into an excellent biographical historical fiction novel based on the life of author Eugenia Kim’s mom.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 10, 2009

Easy on the Eyes-Jane Porter

Easy on the Eyes
Jane Porter
5 Spot, Jul 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446509404

Thirty-eight year old hostess of “America’s Sweetheart, Tiana Tomlinson wants to move past entertainment news to real news. However, she fears for her employment as the show’s producer plans to bring in a younger fresher face to co-host Wither. She is also strongly suggested to have a face lift or face dire straits.

Plastic surgery is a downer as she does not want any part of it, but losing the show is a bigger issue for Tiana as America’s Sweetheart has saved her life and soul since her beloved husband died seven years ago while covering a story in a dangerous part of the world. Tiana meets Hollywood plastic surgeon Michael O'Sullivan and reacts with hostility, a defense mechanism that hides her attraction from him as much as from herself.

This is an engaging chick lit romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy though Tiana’s mixed reaction to Michael never quite seems real as it is obvious from the first cut they want each other and will quickly get each other. Still the story line is fun to follow as Jane Porter explores Hollywood’s youth obsession making cosmetic plastic surgery a recession proof industry in Southern California.

Harriet Klausner

The Crying Tree-Naseem Rakha

The Crying Tree
Naseem Rakha
Broadway, Jul 2009, $22.95
ISBN: 9780767931403

In 1983 Union County, Illinois deputy sheriff Nate Stanley calls his wife Irene to inform her without warning that he accepted a position as a deputy post in Oregon. Irene is angry at her husband for not talking to her before he took the job with his Viet Nam buddy and frightened as she never was west of St, Louis. Still insisting he knows what is best for her and their two kids (teenager Shep and tweener Bliss), he relocates the family.

In Blaine, Oregon, fifteen years old Shep enjoys exploring the countryside and seems settled to the living on the West Coast. However, one day Nate comes home after a shift to find his son in their kitchen savagely beaten and shot in what looks like a robbery turned ugly; Shep dies in his arms. Stunned, Nate and Irene go after the accused cold blooded killer of their oldest child mechanic Daniel Joseph Robbin with cold blooded determination over the next two decades until he is executed by the state. During much of the obsession, Bliss becomes de facto caretaker of her parents as Irene lives for the devil’s death and Nate cannot find any solace. However, in 2004 with the execution date set, Irene knows she must see and forgive her son’s killer, whom she recently began exchanging letters with, if she is to move on.

THE CRYING TREE is a fabulous family drama that focuses on what happens to surviving loved ones when a violent unexpected tragedy occurs. The five key players in this calamity are fully developed in 1983 and in 2004; ergo the audience sees how much they each has changed over the two decades from the murder to the execution. Although a major “truism” twist will be seen early by everyone and feels intrusive, fans will appreciate Naseem Rakha’s engaging aptly titled character story.

Harriet Klausner

The Elephant Keeper-Christopher Nicholason

The Elephant Keeper
Christopher Nicholason
Morrow, Aug 4 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061651601

In 1766, the Dover arrives from the East Indies docking in Bristol, England. Rumors spread like an out of control blaze that something special is on board. Though most assume it is a mythological creature, it turns out two young elephants each over twelve feet and the other live cargo like the zebra is at first sight assumed by many as mythological beasts.

The affluent patriarch of the Harrington merchant family buys the elephants as a present for his kids. He assigns young teenager Tom Page as the groom of the pachyderms living on his estate. Tom names them Timothy and Jenny. Tom becomes attracted to sassy maid Lizzy Tindall, especially after she is kind to his Jenny. However, when Jenny and Timothy are sold to separate owners, Lizzy tells him ironically to forget Jenny (and Timothy) as she is "only an Elephant", angering Tom. He goes with Jenny though he is saddened by his having to leave Timothy. As the pair moves from one owner to another, he tries to keep up with Timothy’s health until Jenny is moved into a hovel in London where Tom deserts her for the highlights of the decadent big city. Eventually, he realizes what he has done and returns to his Jenny; writing her story a few years after they first bonded.

This is an excellent refreshing historical tale that uses the uniqueness of an elephant in Georgian England to tell a coming of age tale of loyalty in a violent era in which animal rights are non existent. Jenny is terrific as she is able to communicate her needs and caring for her human groom to Tom (and the reader) even when he deserts her temporarily; Tom understands her as she is his “soulmate” and realizes especially after London that his bond is unbreakable for his Jenny.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Deadlock-Al and Joanna Lacy

Al and Joanna Lacy
Multnomah, Aug 18 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9781601420558

In 1888 the Zarbo brothers are the meanest outlaws in the west. They are wanted for murders and bank robberies as they do not care who dies when they do a job.

In Colorado, U.S. Marshal John “The Stranger” Brockman arrests Lee Zarbo, but his siblings Todd and Chice remain free with plans to liberate him. Lee faces the gallows so the Zarbo brood decides to steal a page from the Old Testament by kidnapping John’s thirteen-year old daughter Ginny. If he wants her back alive, he must let Lee go; even the Lord cannot give John solace as he loves his three children and his wife with all his heart.

The latest Stranger inspirational western police procedural (see OUTLAW MARSHAL and the mid nineties Western Christian fiction saga The Journeys of the Stranger) is a fabulous historical thriller once the key players are introduced to the audience, but especially after the abduction of Ginny. John and his wife Breanna have doubts that Jesus will protect their daughter; their fifteen year old son John has given up on the Lord while his nine year old adopted sister Meggie expects nothing less than a miracle. Feeling like he is being tested, John struggles with what to do as his fans will rejoice with his journey to the Savior.

Harriet Klausner

Piggly Wiggly Wedding-Robert Dalby

Piggly Wiggly Wedding
Robert Dalby
Putnam, Aug 6 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399155574

In Second Creek, Mississippi, septuagenarian town mayor Hale “Mr. Choppy” Dunbar is marrying his sweetheart Gaylie Lyons of Lake Forest, Illinois whom he met and lost his heart to back in the 1940s and has not seen her since until recently. Her two adult children Petey and Amanda oppose their mom remarrying and relocating. Gaylie and Hale decide to invite both of them to spend time in his town so he can gain their support.

The local Nitwitts prepare for war because they want their mayor happy with the love of his life. This army of southern matrons and belles are planning to charm the northerners with sweet tea, but if that fails they will give the intruders a taste of steel magnolia justice as only a Mississippi Delta iron maiden can.

The third Piggly Wiggly Mississippi delta tale WALTZING AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY and KISSING BABIES AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY is a terrific second chance at love for senior citizens. The story line oozes Southern charm using humor to bring to life the local eccentric Nitwitts who know the world is changing faster than the speed of the internet as affirmed that the title supermarket in their town has been closed for several years. Fans of regional sagas will enjoy the capers of the Iron maidens as they prepare to either charm or rout their guests (or intruders as the case may prove) in the second war of northern aggression.

Harriet Klausner

Cleopatra’s Daughter-Michelle Moran

Cleopatra’s Daughter
Michelle Moran
Crown, Sep 2009, $25.00
ISBN 9780307409126

In 31 BC, with Octavian’s Roman legions led by Marcus Agrippa winning the war between the surviving duet of the original Triumvirate and invading Egypt; Marcus Antony and Cleopatra, knowing what to expect from Roman Emperor Octavian, chose suicide. However, Octavian wants vengeance for the affront Marcus did to his sister Octavia, when he dumped her for the Egyptian so he has his soldiers take the three offspring, ten year old twins Alexander and Selene and their younger brother five year old Ptolemy in chains to show off the fate of what happens to those who disobey him. However, Ptolemy dies during the voyage across the Mediterranean.

Over time both twins adjust to being part of Caesar’s family as the chains are somewhat removed but never figuratively far away as each sibling understands that at any moment they can be accused of anything whether justified or not. Everyone in Octavian’s circle wants to use them as the Emperor’s nephew Marcellus and his wife’s son Tiberius compete for the role of heir apparent.

Ancient Rome historical fiction fans will enjoy this strong tale as seen through the eyes of CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER Selene, who is sort of like a fly on the wall observing the rivalry to ultimately replace Octavia on the throne. The intrigue and manipulations of the two competitors, their supporters and retinue make for a fascinating historical fiction. Michelle Moran leaves the Emperor and his court with no clothes as she lays bare what drives him and those who ambitiously want to be his replacement.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Sari Shop Widow-Shobhan Bantwal

The Sari Shop Widow
Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Aug 25 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758232021

Anjali Kapadia had once dreamed of raising children, but after a decade since she cremated Vikram, the Indian-American has little hope of a second marriage as she has not found anyone she wants to marry though she has a secret boyfriend she hides from her parents. Nearing forty with her biological clock winding down, she has all but given up on her dream. Everything else in her life is good as she and her parents Mohan and Usha run the Silk and Sapphires upscale boutique in the Little India neighborhood of Edison, New Jersey where she designs clothing.

However, Anjali is ignorant of the fact that the shop is failing. Her desperate father Mohan asks his wealthy older brother for help. Anjali’s Uncle Jeevan-kaka has not been state side in five years, but comes from India to see what he can do to save the boutique. He is a benevolent dictator who drove Anjali and her mom crazy with his demands on his last visit. Jeevan arrives in New Jersey with his London-based business partner Rishi Shah, an expert on saving businesses buried in red ink. They plan to save the shop but also demand fifty-one percent ownership of the store. As Anjali and Rishi fall in love, she must decide can she trust him with her heart, her boutique, and her future when he already has a client girlfriend?

This is a super ethnic family drama from an author who consistently provides readers with great profound novels that give insight into the Indian especially the Indian-American Hindu culture (see THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER and THE DOWRY BRIDE). Once again the fully developed characters make for a strong deep look at Hindu life in central New Jersey with the romance augmenting the insightful look. Shobhan Bantwal's enjoyable novels are incredibly entertaining but also enlightening as the reader sips masala chai.

Harriet Klausner

The Hope of Refuge-Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook, Aug 11 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073962

Twenty-eight years old Widow Cara Atwater Moore accompanied by her seven year old young daughter Lori flee New York City following her husband Johnny’s death as his crony Mike wants her in his bed one week after she buried her spouse. She hides in Amish Country because she has some fleeting memories of being there happy as a child before the horrific foster care drained her soul. Mother and daughter go Dry Creek, Pennsylvania where she and her mom once stayed. However, the pair finds a surprisingly hostile greeting as none of the townsfolk want Cara or Laura there as they remember her mother Malinda Riehl Atwarer vividly.

Ephraim Mast is the one exception as he remembers Cara the child. He believes God would want him to help her and Lori and he does though he risks being shunned by his community even his family and his girlfriend Anna Mary Lantz. Cara distrusts Ephraim’s offers of assistance as she wonders what is in it for him. His sister Deborah also has issues as her beau of two years Mahlon Stolzfus seems distracted as if he plans to leave.

Ada's House Amish family drama is a terrific character driven tale as Ephraim sets the standard for everyone in Dry Creek when he risks everything to help the innocent but “shunned” due to maternal sins of Cara and Laura. The key cast members will have to look into the mirror as their values and beliefs stare back at them shouting shunning hypocrisy or the HOPE OF REFUGE.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 6, 2009

Speed Shrinking-Susan Shapiro

Speed Shrinking
Susan Shapiro
St. Martin’s, Aug 2009, $23.99
ISBN 9780312581565

Bestselling self-help author Julia Goodman is almost finished with her latest book Food Crazy, which assists people in dealing with food addictions especially sugar. She knows once done, she will make the rounds of the talk show circuit selling her tome just like she did with successful Up in Smoke.

However, her own support group vanishes at a critical moment. Her tough love psychiatrist Dr. Ness moves out of town; her beloved spouse Jake is in Hollywood working on a film project; and her BFF Sarah has married and moved to Ohio. Panicking that she is alone, she goes on a cupcake binge. Now with the Today Show coming soon, she needs to crash diet or be the laughing stock of self help. To return to slim, she needs a new doctor so she tests eight in eight days in a SPEED SHRINKING that leaves even Julia breathless and still feeling overweight.

Although the plot device has been used more times in recent years than Julia weighs after her binge, she brings freshness to the charming story line with her panic to lose the belly in Guinness Book record time. Fans will enjoy Julia’s frantic race as she runs through doctors and gurus while also boohooing her trio of support for deserting her just when sh needed them most. This is a winner as most readers can commiserate; including me who swears the cake hypnotically says “eat me” to the victim, moi.

Harriet Klausner

By the Time You Read This-Lola Jaye

By the Time You Read This
Lola Jaye
Avon, Aug 18 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061733833

In 1983, thirty year old Kevin Bates is stunned with the medical diagnosis. He has six months to live at best and no time to wallow in self pity or what if drills. Instead he wants to leave a legacy of fatherly guidance to his five years old daughter Lois. Thus he goes into hiding to write The Manual; an advice guide for his beloved child to use to help her navigate life starting when she turns twelve.

Seven years later, Lois still grieves the loss of her daddy. She is angry at her mom who is about to marry some creep; as if she forgot her late husband. Lois struggles when she first tries to read her dad’s advice to finding happiness and letting go pain, but over the years the Manual becomes her bible as she navigates through life until she finally meets her “one”.

This is an engaging look at the loss of a loved on from the perspective of a daughter who grieves her daddy until she begins to obtain solace in his last words. The story line follows Lois’ reading the Manual and incorporating the words of wisdom in her daily life. Although Kevin seems too perfect sort of like Kahil Gibran’s Prophet rather than a dying young man knowing he leaves behind a wife and little daughter, fans will relish this five tissue box tearjerker.
Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Lost Sister-Megan Kelley Hall

The Lost Sister
Megan Kelley Hall
Kensington, Aug 2009, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758226808

It has been one year since the Hawthorne, Massachusetts based SISTERS OF MISERY tried to kill Cordelia LeClaire on nearby Misery Island, but somehow she survived. While she seeks her estranged father Malcolm Crane, whom she blames for the tragedies that have devastated all the females in her family, Maddie feels guilt and remorse for not helping her new friend out of fear of retaliation by the Sisters.

She is away at school struggling with her weakness especially her failure to help Cordelia. Haunted by neurotic trepidations she returns to Hawthorne when she learns her mother is dying from cancer. When a Sister dies at a party hosted by the Endicott family to announce their plans for a new hotel on the site of the Ravenswood Asylum, the police arrest Finn and Reed, who are still suspects in the cold case of the disappearance Cordelia as murder suspects. Cordelia returns so one charge against Finn and Reed is dropped. Meanwhile The Endicott Hotel construction is stopped due a blaze destroying what has been built. The townsfolk are divided in opinion between a human or an otherworldly arsonist. Maddie and Cordelia team up to investigate who burned down the partially constructed hotel and killed the Sister, but neither trusts the other for good reasons; they better move past their suspicions of one another as something is stalking them.

The second Sisters of Mercy young adult fantasy will appeal to older readers as well due to the character driven tale containing a deep Gothic feel and haunting foreboding atmosphere that hooks fans of all ages. The lead amateur sleuths are terrific as they invesitgate while doubting the sincerity of one another at a time they better get over it or else. With strong ties to the late seventeenth century Salem Witch Trials, THE LOST SISTER is a super thriller as evil comes in all packages.

Harriet Klausner

Bird in Hand-Christina Baker Kline

Bird in Hand
Christina Baker Kline
Morrow, Aug 11 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780688177249

Alison and Claire met in elementary school and became friends. Clare met Charlie and Ben in London as three American graduate students. When Claire fell in love with Ben, she introduced her pal Charlie to Alison so he would not feel alone. The couples marry and remain friends over the past decade.

Following a book launching party for Claire, Alison drives home only to become involved in a fatal accident not her fault. A mother of two, Alison logically understands she did nothing wring, but her rationale thinking is superseded by her passionate guilt and sadness for the death of the boy in the other vehicle. Charlie is non-supportive of his wife implying she was at fault for drinking two martinis before driving although he puts on a pretense of caring. He has an agenda as he wants her to walk out of their marriage while he plots the end of his beloved Alison’s relationship with Ben so he can come out in the open with their affair.

Once readers (especially boomers) get past the similarity in names to the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, BIRD IN HAND is an interesting look at four people heading into middle age. Each of the quartet comes across genuine as snippets and vignettes bring out the back story of the past decade of two friendly couples; while the differing points of view enhance the audience understanding of the apparent destruction of two marriages. The key to this profound family drama is Christina Baker Kline does not moderate from her resolute unwavering glimpse at the end of marriages through the unblinking eyes of the four protagonists turning seemingly into antagonists.
Harriet Klausner

The Call of Zulina-Kay Marshall Strom

The Call of Zulina
Kay Marshall Strom
Abington, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781426700699

In 1787 in the Gold Coast of West Africa, Grace is the adult daughter of English sea captain Joseph Winslow and African Princess Lingongo. Grace’s maternal grandfather forced her mom into a marriage of convenience in order to keep his people safe from the slave trafficking. Seeing no wrong with having slaves or forcing his daughter into marital servitude, Joseph informs Grace and Lingongo he has arranged her marriage to haughty pretentious, English visitor Mr. Hathaway; who firmly believes his people and nation are doing a favor with the Africans.

Not only does she reject the snobbish superiority of her intended, Grace recently learns the family business is slave trading that has given her a very high standard of living to include her beloved enslaved Mama Muco to her horror and shame. Grace also realizes in some ways she and her mom are domestic slaves with no choices. She decides to take a choice as she flees into the night only to become embroiled by the passionate plea for freedom of Cabeto as he leads a slave revolt against their masters and traders at Zulina.

Timely with Congress working the long overdue apology, this is a strong look at the full slave trade business from deals of all sorts and the treatment of the enslaved. The cast is solid on both sides of the issue; especially surprisingly the Europeans. It is not just the traffickers who see it as the divine right of the superior white man’s burden to “care” for these human animals. The romance between aptly named Grace (as noted in the introduction John Newton went from slave transporter to abolitionist to Amazing Grace hymn writer) and Cabeto seems unneeded and forced. Still fans will appreciate this powerful realistic look at the destructiveness of slavery as Kay Marshall Strom states Zulina is Goree Island in Senegal, enhancing the case we must never forget less we repeat the horrific indignities.

Harriet Klausner

Gone to Green-Judy Christie

Gone to Green
Judy Christie
Abington, Aug 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781426700248

At the Dayton Press, reporter Lois Barker knows Ed, her beloved mentor at the paper, should have been named editor, but the central office hired a young suit who is at home in the accounting meetings and not the reporting sessions. Ed quits having “bought” his grandfather’s paper, the twice a week Green News-Item. Soon after Ed leaves Ohio for small-town Louisiana, Lois attends his funeral in Green, Louisiana.

Still grieving the loss of a man she considered a father, Lois also learns Ed thought of her as his daughter; she inherits his family’s newspaper. Not wanting to live in a rural town nor feeling experienced enough to manage a newspaper even one that publishes twice a week, Lois heads to Louisiana after a odd thought plopped into her mind that somehow she would be helped; still her plans is to sell the newspaper. Instead she finds a need in life as a gung ho progressive reformer demanding change so that the extremely depressed area can begin a Sportsman's Paradise renaissance to benefit all.

The fascination in this well written albeit unlikely inspirational tale is the changes in the heroine. She goes from independent Buckeye to unsure grieving Bayou Bengal to demanding progressive. Fans gets a look at the workings of a rural Deep South newspaper that is a tool for the “carpetbagger” to shine an ugly spotlight on the negative impact of sexism and racism, as well as the pressure on the media to acquiesce to the corporate and political bedfellows; all this inside of a solid religious element to include handling grief. Fans will relish this fine look at it takes a caring community guided by God’s loving hand to become all that a person can be.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Disobedient Girl-Ru Freeman

A Disobedient Girl
Ru Freeman
Atria, Jul 21 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439101957

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, recently orphaned five year old Latha Kumari is taken in by the wealthy Vithanages family as an unpaid except for room and board companion and servant of their same age daughter Thara. Over the next few years, spoiled Thara treats Latha as less than nothing. As the servant’s resentment grows, a communist tutor encourages her to never accept caste servitude. She also finds solace in Princess Diana’s rise from nanny to popular royal. Latha is outraged when her employers refuse to give her money to buy shoes she badly needs; her revenge is to seduce Thara’s intended, but unlike the soap operas that guide her, she finds her plan backfires.

Biso flees from her drunken abusive spouse, her dead lover and a town of uncaring people who call her "whore" loud enough for her to hear. She races to family in the north of the country expecting haven for her and her three accompanying children across a dangerous and deadly landscape. With terrorists everywhere threatening everyone, Biso and Latha meet with one’s tragedy becoming the other’s salvation.

Extremely timely, Ru Freeman focuses on the plight of women trying to survive in Sri Lanka where until recently the almost two decade civil war between the central government and Tiger Tamil was brutally fought with no thought for collateral damage. Relationships are keys to this super portrayal as the “owners” blithely ignore the needs of their “slave” while the teen servant is outraged by her mistreatment and lowly status. Biso in many ways is similar to Latha, but with maturity understands the plight for her and her offspring. Ms. Freeman without preaching makes a strong case that in society women tend to be the lowest while war places additional hardship on females who often end up in the excretion (from above) ooze below the food chain.

Harriet Klausner

Greetings from Somewhere Else-Monica McInerney

Greetings from Somewhere Else
Monica McInerney
Ballantine, Jul 7 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345506382

In Melbourne, Complete Events Management Lainey Byrne is used to wacky chaos when she sponsors an event, but always brings it together to the satisfaction of the client. Her personal life is also somewhat out of control as her boyfriend Adam the chef seems never around and her parents and three brothers leap from one end of the world crisis to another always expecting her to fix it, which she does quite nicely. Handling people chaos is her expertise.

Her agitated mom informs Lainey they need her help (what else is new). In Ireland, her paternal Aunt May left her B&B to her brother with the stipulation that the family must take over running the place for a year; if they fail to meet her condition, her cats become the owner. The family selects Lainey to run the place over her objection that she is busy, can’t cook and never cleans; important aspects of running a B&B. Instead Lainey loses the argument and heads to Ireland worried about leaving her loved ones to fend for themselves while struggling with an adjustment to life in the country and running the B&B. She feels fortunate to connect with her childhood friend Evie and begins to learn to pick and choose her charge up the hill moments while mostly let it be.

This is an engaging complex chick lit tale of an alpha female who has by default and overall personality trait become the prime caretaker of her extended family until she leaves them behind. While Lainey learns that she cannot care for everyone and handle everything; her parents and three brothers also learn responsibly to take care of their so called end of the world crisis. Read will enjoy GREETINGS FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE as life lessons comes to the Byrne brood.

Harriet Klausner

Forget Me Knot-Sue Margolis

Forget Me Knot
Sue Margolis
Bantam, Jul 14 2009, $13.00
ISBN 9780385339001

In Islington, Fabulous Flowers florist Abby Crompton runs her business quite successfully, but not so her personal life. Her fiance Honorable Toby Kenwood proposed a month ago, but has so far failed to provide her with an engagement ring.

However, she soon fails the mommy test when she meets her future mother-in-law the Dowager Lady Penelope Kenwood at Covenant Gardens though Toby forgives her for being tipsy. Abby had become soused when stuck on a lift with stranger; film director Rebound Dan who supplied her with the wine and wants to include Fabulous Flowers in a London based romantic comedy he is making. They hit it off, but he conceals some important details about his life especially his past. Having been toasted once though still engaged, Abby considers ending her rebound relationship, but Dan remains persistent.

FORGET ME KNOT is a lighthearted amusing British chick lit romance starring a likable heroine surrounded by eccentrics and more eccentrics (Islington seems like the capital of eccentricity). The story line is fun and breezy as Abby struggles between two men while wondering how her not any longer stay at home mom would handle each of her huggables. This is a fun inane frolic that never goes deep into the star, but fans of Sue Margolis will relish the cast’s antics.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Weight of Silence-Heather Gudenkauf

The Weight of Silence
Heather Gudenkauf
Mira, Aug 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327400

In Willow Creek, Iowa, Griff Clark has gone fishing when his wife Antonia awakens from her sleep to find their seven years old daughter Calli gone. She is worried because this is not normal for her child who has been mute for three years after a run in with her abusive father.

Checking with the neighbors, Antonia learns that Calli's best friend Petra Gregory is also not home. Distraught, Antonia turns to her long term friend, Deputy Sheriff Loras Louis to learn what has happened to her daughter. He arranges a manhunt even as he hides how much he loves Antonia from her.

Although it takes a minor adjustment, as the perspective rotates between five key players, this is a tense dark family drama that hooks the audience from the moment Antonia wakes up to the worst that could happen to her; much more so than the beatings from her abusive spouse. The realistic story line is fast-paced even with the rotating viewpoints, but never lightens up; so is not for everyone as the aptly titled THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE is very heavy as “Silence like a cancer grows” (Simon and Garfunkle’s The Sounds of Silence).

Harriet Klausner

Riverside Park-Laura Van Wormer

Riverside Park
Laura Van Wormer
Mira, Aug 2009, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778326526

Their marriage is considered the legendary happily ever after with only the fiftyish couple TV network president Cassy Cochrane and her spouse Jackson Darenbrook knowing their relationship is a sham. He cheats and has been cheating since they said their vows. Her latest lover has helped Cassy feel better about herself.

Bartender Celia Cavanaugh feels she is drifting as she seeks an anchor in life in spite of her coming from affluence. She enjoys her much younger lover, but his mom makes her feel her age.

Literary agent Howard Miller has killed himself at work to maintain the family lifestyle. When that proves lacking he takes out loans so his wife Amanda and their children can continual to live in luxury. However his workaholic lifestyle has his spouse considering a tryst.

Sam and Harriet Wyatt and their two daughters live an enviable affluent lifestyle. However, their perfect little world implodes when one of their darlings informs her parents she is pregnant and refuses to name the father of her unborn.

The sequel to RIVERSIDE DRIVE is an enjoyable relationship drama with four couples facing issues. Although readers never get deep inside any of the ensemble cast as there are too many leads with four equally prime subplots, fans will still enjoy the fast-paced happenings at RIVERSIDE PARK.

Harriet Klausner

The Alternative Hero-Tim Thornton

The Alternative Hero
Tim Thornton
Knopf, Jul 24 2009, $24.05
ISBN: 9780307271099

In the late 1980s, Clive Beresford loves the indie band Thieving Magpies. In fact the student worships the band’s frontman Lance Webster. Clive is a groupie of sorts as he attends every concert the band performs.

However, his hero destroys himself and vanishes from the pop culture scene. Now in his early thirties Clive remains heartbroken and betrayed since his superstar crumbled from the pedestal. Clive is unable to cope in relationships or at work. However, he soon learns his former hero lives nearby and so Clive revs up his courage to meet Lance using his newest job at a vet as the means, but also pretend he does not know this is his fallen angel because he plans to write an exposé.

THE ALLITERATIVE HERO is a wonderful look at music over the past two decades; especially deep is the present era with the audience seeing inside a fallen remorseful hero who was unable to deal with his growing fame back when he was rising. Lance in some ways is like Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ role of Louis Connolly in whimsical August Rush though in the movie he gets a second chance. The fun in the tale is Clive as a teen groupie worshipping his God and as an adult scheming to tell all about his fallen God. Although the story line contains too many rigged arrangements including the climax although in fairness that is what Clive is doing, fans will enjoy this dark comedic yet profound tale of the hero falling off the pedestal.

Harriet Klausner

Twenties Girl-Sophie Kinsella

Twenties Girl
Sophie Kinsella
Dial, Jul 21 2009, $26.00
ISBN: 9780385342025

In London twenty-seven year old Lara Lington has enough on her plate with her partner Natalie running off to Goa while their company L&N Executive Recruitment flounders. She becomes a bit worried about her mental state when her late Great Aunt Sadie arrives in full ghostly array as no one except die hard Ghostbuster fans believe in ghosts. To make matters worse her flapper dead relative demand her niece loosen up and have fun at a time she still recovers from Mr. perfect kicking her to the curb, and to find her missing necklace that she possessed for over seven decades.

Lara wants Sadie to leave as she realizes they share nothing in common except a desire to locate the missing necklace though their motives differ. As the TWENTIES GIRL relishes the twenty-first century, she and her hostess begin to discover they have much more in common than they thought especially on what matters in life as each wants to find love someone to love and be loved eternally.

This is an amusing paranormal chick lit tale stolen by the zany flapper girl mentality of Aunt Sadie who demands her great niece find her lost necklace that means everything to her and orders her to loosen up and have fun while seeking the “One”. Lara is terrific as the second banana in spite of being the main character. Except for the overused lists that are an overkill method in the sub-genre, Sophie Kinsella provides a super jocular yet poignant relationship story.

Harriet Klausner