Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Echo In The Bone-Diana Gabaldon

An Echo In The Bone
Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte, Oct 2009, $30.00
ISBN: 9780385342452

With the hostilities everywhere, it is unsafe to journey; as the rebels seem heading to certain defeat. Ironically travelers Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire Randall know the upstart colonial Americans ultimately win the war against the mother country England because she read the outcome in twentieth century history books. They travel together along with others as Clare fears for the safety of her spouse and his son fighting for the British; her schooling and history books never told her what happened to her Jamie.

In the twentieth century, their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger and their children struggle with adapting to life in the future. However, though they connect with the Mackenzie clan, another time traveler has arrived and a real threat to their well being has surfaced.

This is an exciting historical thriller that takes readers on a tour of the battlefields and Europe as people die during the American Revolution. Claire is terrific as she knows the ultimate outcome, but neither the personal outcome nor that trouble has traveled to the twentieth century. Well written with the deep characterizations, fans will relish Fraser and company’s latest tale as Diana Gabaldon overcomes the completing of all the previous major threads in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by expanding the minor left behind subplots into a great entry.

Harriet Klausner

Rainwater-Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster, Nov 3 2009, $23.99
ISBN: 9781439172773

In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse. Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella. Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts. The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son. Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child. However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don’t. Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law. Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis. David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life. Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Christmas Secret-Donna VanLiere

Christmas Secret
Donna VanLiere
St. Martin’s, Oct 13 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780312558369

Single mom Angela Christine Eisley raises her two young children (seven year old Zach and five year old Haley), but it is not easy as she works long hours for low wages and tips as a waitress while her former spouse Brad refuses to pay child support. He insists he will pay for the kids when he gains custody of them as he knows she can’t keep paying court fees

Even as crummy as her job is Christine is shocked when she is fired for being late again as the teen baby-sitter failed to appear in a timely manner. Although despondent and fearful that she and the kids will be evicted, Christine saves the life of an elderly woman, but does not stay around for accolades. The woman works at Wilson’s Department Store whose owner sends his unemployed grandson Jason to find the angel Christy, who no longer believes in the wonderment of Christmas.

Typical of her previous warm holiday tales that bring so much hope and promise to readers, Donna VanLiere provides a charming story of people in need of the miracle of love. The ensemble cast is fully developed with only Brad being Scrooge the sole stereotype. Fans will relish Jason’s search for much more than just the Angel Christy and Angela Christine’s need for the magic of Christmas to return to her life as readers know it is no secret that Ms. VanLiere always writes a tender heart warming Christmas tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Return-Victoria Hislop

The Return
Victoria Hislop
Harper, Oct 6 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061715419

Her marriage to a much older Englishman is tedious so Sonia and her best friend Maggie take dancing lessons. When she sees pictures of her mom, Sonia decides to learn more about her maternal heritage in Spain. She and Maggie fly to Grenada for flamenco lessons to escape from the monotony and find the former’s roots.

At a café, the owner tells Sonia about his family in the 1930s. Concha and Pablo Ramirez raised four children while running a café in town. Antonio is a teacher; Ignacio is a matador; Emilio is managing the café; and their only daughter Mercedes is a flamenco dancer, who loves guitarist Javier Montero. Life is good for the Ramirez brood until the Spanish Civil War erupts.

This is a super look at Spain that fascinatingly uses the impact of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s that killed a half million people in three years on yet unique aspects of the culture survive such as a love of dance and the risk of bull-fighting. Readers will appreciate this tour hosted by the Ramirez family as Sonia finds her maternal roots and much more; symbolized by seven decades old dancing shoes.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cookie Christmas Club-Ann Pearlman

The Cookie Christmas Club
Ann Pearlman
Atria, Oct 20 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439158845

In Ann Arbor, the twelve members of the Christmas Cookie Club meet on the first Monday of December as they have for sixteen years with a baker’s dozen homemade cookies; one to exchange with each other and one for charity. Although the membership has changed over the years, it remains twelve stalwart females who also bring a covered dish and wine as they update one another re what has happened while Al Green sings about love in the background.

Marnie hosts this year’s war stories gala. She tells them she is concerned about her pregnant daughter. Other relay their fears and worries about themselves and their loved ones. Each shares their deepest trepidations with the other Christmas Cookie Club members.

This is an enjoyable contemporary relationship drama that celebrates the bond of sisterhood. The anecdotal story line is engaging but the cast is too large as few of the entries go deep enough for the reader to care about most of the individuals. Still fans who appreciated Karen Joy Fowler’s the Jane Austen Book Club will want to read about the supporting strengths of deep friendships.

Harriet Klausner

Americans in Space-Mary E. Mitchell

Americans in Space
Mary E. Mitchell
Dunne, Oct 13 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312372453

In Boston, forty-two years old Kyle Cavanaugh suddenly died from an undiagnosed heart condition. He had been seemingly in perfect health even having a full head of hair when he passed away leaving behind a grieving stunned wife Kate, an equally shocked teenage daughter Charlotte and their two year old toddler Hunter.

Two years later, the Cavanaugh family has disintegrated as a loving unit though the surviving trio still lives together. A guidance counselor Kate remains a tired disbeliever scorning health providers for missing her lovely spouse’s condition. Charlotte stopped butchering the violin and has become a sullen angry teen who cannot talk to her mother. Hunter’s companion is Heinz ketchup bottles. The affluent techno linebacker next door kindhearted "Auntie Marge" is the only reason the deceleration into total collapse has been somewhat aborted. Deciding she needs to finally reach her two children, Kate takes them on a road show over the objection of her oldest and the bewilderment of her youngest.

Although a five tissue tear jerker, the four Cavanaugh members (Kyle through the memories of the older two) make for a profound look at grief when a relatively young seemingly healthy patriarch suddenly dies. Kate is terrific at the high school where she works and Charlotte attends but cannot communicate with her daughter without screaming and door slamming. Charlotte’s brooding and ire are overdone yet enhance the drifting apart like Hubble’s theory on an expanding red-shifting universe. However, the story line is owned by Hunter who will leave readers with plenty of empathetic tears.

Harriet Klausner

In the Falling Snow-Caryl Phillips

In the Falling Snow
Caryl Phillips
Knopf, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307272560

Keith Gordon’s parents came from the West Indies settling in England where he was born in the early 1960s. He was raised by his white stepmother and is therefore comfortable with both races. Keith married a white Annabelle, whose family excommunicated her due to her marrying him but after two decades together they have been separated for two years now.

Recently Annabelle has become increasingly worried about their seventeen year old son Laurie who will not talk to his father as if his dad is at fault for the teen being biracial. At work Keith heads the London unit of Race Equality, but the social worker is under investigation as a subordinate has accused him of harassment; not that it matters much anymore as he has begin to conclude his work is meaningless. Filled with despondency while pondering is that all there is, Keith even considers what to do about his estrangement with his West Indies’ dad.

This is a super timely look at racial identification in a changing world as the EEO question of which race you belong to seems obsolete with the increasing number of bi-racial people. Keith is a terrific character who deliberates over his identity as a second generation Englishman who stands out in the snow white stereotype picture of his countrymen. His third generation offspring feels alienated and resentful even as his dad reflects who he is and is that all there is in life.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Inn-Tim Whitney

Thanksgiving at the Inn
Tim Whitney
Bancroft, Oct 1 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781890862640

Two years ago the mother of teenager Heath Wellington III walked out on him and his dad Junior. Since she left, Junior treats his son as a slave with chores all the time when the kid is not in school, which he is not having been suspended for cheating. When Junior’s dad dies, Heath realizes he cannot remember what his grandfather Senior looked like as they drive to Massachusetts for the funeral. Senior’s lawyer Lloyd explains that Junior and Heath will inherit the Sleeping Inn if they run the place for three months and take care of the residents.

Heath feels at home at the B&B with the Jamaican sage Winsted, elderly Mrs. Farrel who is giving away her late husband's fortune one letter at a time, muscular children’s author Mustang Sally, and TV news couch potato Carter. He also likes neighbor Savannah who apparently is his dad’s first love, and her autistic daughter Tori. On the other hand he loathes his father who sees the world as one endless loveless chore.

This is an engaging inspiring family drama as the son becomes the father (think of Chapin’s song Cat in the Cradle) although Senior learned too late what he did to his offspring. Senior’s legacy is letters trying to reach Junior before he repeats the mistake with the III. In light of a photo showing three generations of smiling male Wellingtons, the lack of the back story between Senior and Junior hurts any transformation that may occur. Still fans will enjoy this fine holiday tale as everyone learns to be thankful for all the good in their lives by celebrating together THANKSGIVING AT THE INN.

Harriet Klausner

Who Do I Talk To?-Neta Jackson

Who Do I Talk To?
Neta Jackson
Thomas Nelson, Oct 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781595545244

In Chicago, Gabby Fairbanks knew her husband Philip was upset, but did not realize how much so until he kicked her to the street by changing the locks on their penthouse, ripped up her credit and debit cards, canceled her cell and vanished with their sons PJ and Paul. She is homeless along with her elderly mom and their canine Dandy. Gabby can handle a lot and is not overly concerned about where they will live as she can stay at the Manna House women’s shelter where she also works, but she is angry and despondent feeling betrayed especially concerning her kids.

Filled with grief to her bone marrow, Gabby tries to recover her sense of self worth as she now lives with her “clients”. The Yada Yada Prayer Group and the residents try their best to encourage Gabby to move on, but also go after Philip as she has rights too especially since her children need her. Still she has no one, not God, her lawyer, her two sisters or her aunt, to talk to as the big hurt is deep inside her soul and will soon worm hole even deeper.

The second Yada Yada House of Hope tale continues the life crises facing Gabby as she has temporarily answered her previous question WHERE DO I GO? Now she mentally feels like a tsunami has passed through her brain as she wonders WHO DO I TALK TO? Readers will fully relish her anguish and rage even at God as more personal catastrophes assault the beleaguered Gabby.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Limelight-Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson
Multnomah, Oct 6 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400070824

Claudette never minded living on the edge of the LIMELIGHT as the wife to her beloved Hollywood legend, director husband Gavin Fiore. However, when he dies her heart breaks as she grieves her loss and fears being alone for the first time ever. She also learns she is bankrupt as all that money Gavin earned was misused by their thieving accountant.

Distraught Claudette tries suicide, but fails even at that. Despondent after her release from the hospital, she returns home to Silverton having no longer a house in Beverly Hills as that was sold to pay back taxes. Claudette has no skills whatsoever and being old means no longer can she use her beauty to get what she wants. She turns to her estranged sister Violet at the senior citizen home, but that proves fruitless as does her understanding Mother whose faith has never wavered. It is Gavin’s letters that inspire Claudette.

This is an entertaining inspirational tale that deeply scrutinizes religious beliefs, and personal values through the strong elderly characters. In many ways the story line is a second chance at family. Claudette, Violet, Mother and the late Gavin as well as others make for a powerful look at what matters in life is how you treat others away from the limelight as you can teach an old dog new tricks if the goal is right; for the protagonist it has become hugs in Silverton and one day hugs with Gavin in heaven.

Harriet Klausner

The Queen's Mistake-Diane Haeger

The Queen's Mistake
Diane Haeger
NAL, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451228000

As she waits in the Tower for her death, Queen Catherine Howard wonders how her life could go from a euphoric high with her love for obese King Henry VIII to where he will not receive her plea for mercy or her innocence. She reflects back on her past; thinking of her older cousin Anne Boleyn, second wife of the monarch; as her fate will prove the same. Still young, she wanted a love of a lifetime, but her naive misunderstanding of backstabbing and her youthful flirting that the King used to cherish has led her to affairs of the heart as she was betrayed by those the inexperienced female trusted; they made known to her spouse and in late 1542, she and her lovers were executed.

Although the wives of Henry VIII have starred in many books and movies, THE QUEEN’S MISTAKE is a fascinating biographical fiction that portrays Catherine Howard as foolishly naïve with her lovers especially of those of her age. By taking her peers as her lovers, she inadvertently insults the aging monarch who seeks to regain his lost youth with his young queen. Although not much new is provided in this look at one of the Tudor queens, fans will enjoy Diane Haeger’s take on sixteenth century aristocratic permissiveness.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 25, 2009

Angel Lane-Sheila Roberts

Angel Lane
Sheila Roberts
St. Martin’s Griffin, Sep 29 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312384821

In Heart Lake, Washington, quilt store owner Emma Swanson, bakery shopkeeper Sarah Goodwin and her niece Chocolate Bar owner Jamie Moore decide to do something nice for their small town. They organize the "keep the heart in Heart Lake” campaign asking residents to do something nice for someone else every day.

The three women plan to be role models, but not one expected the consequences of kindness. Emma’s Quilt Corner store may close; Sarah is lonely even as she gives free baking lessons and has met Sam; and Jamie has to face her fears of commitment since she met a widower single father of two, Josh the cop.

This is a fun Pacific Northwest small town tale that looks profoundly into a community and as deeply into friendship. The three amigas may have issues that make it difficult to be angels, but they each try anyway. With a warm fuzzy holiday feel, fans who appreciate an inspiring tale will know it does take a committed caring community to bring the heart to everyone.

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Glass-Marci Alborghetti

The Christmas Glass
Marci Alborghetti
Guidepost Books, Oct 1 2009, $15.99
ISBN: 9780824947767

In 1940 as Mussolini brings Italy into the European war on the side of Germany, the widow Anna runs a small orphanage that quietly has given shelter to Jewish children. Although she knows she is doing the right thing by allowing the Jews into her orphanage she has one regret. Anna fears the Fascists will destroy her family heirloom given to her by her mom, a dozen hand-blown Christmas ornaments, in retaliation for housing the Jews. Refusing to allow the kids to be kicked out, she carefully wraps the precious twelve and sends them to her married cousin Filomena, mother of twin toddlers. When the war ends, Filomena and her family leave Europe for America.

Over the decades, the glass ornaments are passed around the family so that twelve different people possess one each. In 2000 octogenarian Filomena fears her family has lost its way as nothing brings them together. As the matriarch and with a nod to Anna, Filomena demands the return of the twelve ornaments to be delivered in person by the family member possessing it. This will be a Thanksgiving to remember as a lovely reunion or the end of the tenuous ties.

This is an engaging family drama that feels relevant in today’s shrinking world in which ironically extended families are moving further away from one another. The story line focuses a chapter each on the twelve possessors of the CHRISTMAS GLASS so that the readers learn what each person thinks with Filomena being the past owner. In some ways anecdotal rather than a linear plot, Marci Alborghetti provides a deep look at what denotes family just prior to the twenty-first century.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hypnotizing Maria-Richard Bach

Hypnotizing Maria
Richard Bach
Hampton Roads, Sep 2009, $18.95
ISBN: 9781571746238

Flight instructor Jamie Forbes was flying from Washington State to Florida when he is just north of Cheyenne and an hour from North Platte, Nebraska when he receives the panicked SOS from sexagenarian Maria Ochoa who says she thinks her husband is dead. Her spouse Juan was flying them when he collapsed into unconsciousness. Calmly Jamie talks Marie, who never flew before, through the steps to safely land the plane before finishing his own flight; as he did not stick around for his fifteen minutes of fame.

Afterward reporters question Maria, who insists a stranger entered her plane and hypnotized her into landing the plane before disappearing. Hearing Maria’s commentary leads to Jamie contemplate what is real even as he meets his own angelic guiding stranger and learns how to truly teach is to guide but allow your students to do.

HYPNOTIZING MARIA is a thought provoking philosophical character driven thriller. The story line is a fast-paced one sitting novella as Jamie (and readers) contemplates what is reality and how does one truly instruct someone else when each has there own interpretation of what they sense is real. Richard Bach soars with this cerebral tale that will leave his audience pondering metaphysical questions and challenging Jamie’s answers to them; wonderfully encouraged by the author to do just that as the right answer is personal.

Harriet Klausner

Across the Endless River-Thad Carhart

Across the Endless River
Thad Carhart
Doubleday, Sep 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780385529778

Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was born during the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1805; his mom was Sacagawea while his father Charbonneau was a French trapper turned translator. As an infant he made it to the Pacific; as a boy he went to school in St. Louis and at his mom’s village. He learns several languages growing up in his divided lineage.

European naturalist Duke Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg is in the United States analyzing and classifying North American flora and fauna. Baptiste assists him and accompanies him back to Paris where he becomes the toast of the nobles though not one of them; only the Duke’s cousin Princess Theresa understands his duality but she has a pragmatic outlook that excludes the mixed breed. Baptiste meets and falls in love with Irish expatriate Maura Hennesy. However, in his early twenties after five years on the continent he decides to go home with his Maura at his side.

This is an entertaining biographical fiction of the youngest member of the Lewis and Clarke expedition. Baptiste is a fascinating character whose bi-racial background makes him in at the highest levels of European aristocratic society and yet never really in. Fans will feel they are transported to the first half of the nineteenth century in Europe and Americas as the imagery is incredible vivid. Although more a series of anecdotal occurrences that bring to life time and place than a cohesive novel, ACROSS THE ENDLESS RIVER is a fascinating historical fiction that takes a fresh timely look at contrasting two worlds through a lead character who has a foot in both and in neither.

Harriet Klausner

Critters of Mossy Creek-Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Debra Dixon, Michele Hauf, Martha Crockett

Critters of Mossy Creek
Sandra Chastain, Deborah Smith, Debra Dixon, Michele Hauf, Martha Crockett
Belle Books, Sep 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780984125821

The Creekites of Mossy Creek, Georgia love their small town, but even more so their beloved pets. Some of the animals are the significant others of humans even married couples. The Naked Bean coffee and bakery shop owner Jayne adopts a Cairn terrier as her mouser to hunt mice when Emma the cat proves to be a watcher only. An elderly canine escorts an orphaned newborn dog to a child. The Widow Peggy tries to find the jewel thief using a cam only to find insider feline thievery. Pets even lower blood pressure by a human adopting a mom and her kitten. There are others who bring joy to the residents such as the Parrot who sings and dances (if Ed Sullivan was alive) and then there are humans who bring nurturing and love to animals like the Eagle Scout who saved ironically the eagle. This is just another moment in the human-animal love affair of Mossy Creek that adds to why the small town of 1700 is special; if you don’t believe me, ask Mayor Ida Hamilton or better yet read the books for a slice of rural southern life.

Similar in tone as the previous Mossy Creek anecdotal tales, CRITTERS OF MOSSY CREEK focuses on the human-animal relationships of the residents as the people get more from the unrequited love and loyalty of their pets. Fans of the saga and pet lovers will fully appreciate the latest entry as all is well in Mossy Creek for a large part due to the animal population.

Harriet Klausner

Leaving Yesterday-Kathryn Cushman

Leaving Yesterday
Kathryn Cushman
Bethany House, Oct 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780764203824

When police Detective Thompson arrives at her door, Alisa Stewart almost has a heart attack as she fears the cop is here to inform her that her only surviving son Kurt is dead. However, the officer only wants to talk with Kurt to learn what he knows about the brutal beating murder of a dealer.

Still frantic with worry, she is finally relieved when Kurt calls her to tell her he is off the street and in rehab. She feels he is turning the corner and thanks the Lord for this miracle. Meanwhile as her spouse considers a divorce, she considers an affair, but soon has to think about second chances when the police arrest a perp for the drug related murder that she begins to fear Kurt committed, but sticks to her mantra of by pretending it didn’t happen it will make it go away.

Although the trials and tribulations tests that Job faced may make him the only person ever to have more calamities tossed at them than Alisa, which can be overwhelming to the reader, LEAVING YESTERDAY is a fine family drama. Alisa holds the story line together as her worries about Kurt turn into a personal morality crisis of right vs. wrong with her fear being her son committed the killing and her concealing her belief goes against her Ten Commandment like ethics. Even her pretending he didn’t do it does not ease her mind. Although her crises with her spouse and with her potential lover feels intrusive, LEAVING YESTERDAY is a strong look at personal morality in a world in which define is holds no one culpable.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Book of Samuel-Erik Raschke

The Book of Samuel
Erik Raschke
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 13 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312379698

Samuel Gerard is a regular twelve tear old boy doing things like his schoolmates do; for instance giving his parents a hard time, coping with his pious grandmother and equally religious father, and flirting with the girls at school. One day, with no warning, his father walks out on his family to preach the word of Jesus. Samuel’s life changes for the worse as he is now responsible as the man of the family though not yet a teen.

His friends antagonize and fight with the Hispanicc students and he joins them. His depressed mom needs cheering up and his energetic grandma needs to be placed in a home because the present living conditions are not working any longer. His cousin, forced to leave his hometown due to causing trouble there, moves into the Gerard household; enhancing an already tense family situation. Samuel is angry at the world and takes it out on those who care about him. When his father comes home for a short respite from his mission to save souls, Samuel does not recognize this stranger who used to be his dad. Finally his friends demand he join them as they resolve to handle the Mexican “problem”.

The protagonist has to cope with a series of painful events as a modern day Job rather than Samuel, but has the tenacity and soul to handle his traumas; rejecting his father’s path for redemption means abandoning your loved ones as that is an easy cop out. Erik Raschke uses real social issues like absentee fathers, immigration and aging parents to bring believability to the sudden need for a tweener to grow up rather quickly. Though some might insist Samuel adapts too easily, anyone who knows a single parent household with a latchkey child will realize he struggles with monumental personal changes from care free child to responsible young adult.

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Family-Rowan Coleman

The Accidental Family
Rowan Coleman
Pocket, Sep 22 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439155288

Corporate manger Sophie Mills became the ACCIDENTAL MOTHER guardian to two kids (Bella and Izzy) when their mom her BFF died in a car crash. She met their father Louis and attracted to one another the two adults agreed to become the ACCIDENTAL FAMILY raising the children together.

The four move to Cornwell where they hope to forge strong relationships. However, as they get to know each other better with Sophie in a nearby B&B and Louis with the girls, he learns he sired another offspring, an adult son. Sophie begins to worry because Louis is spending less time with her and his two younger kids and more with Wendy, the mother of his son Seth; Sophie has other doubts about always and forever with a man who’s loaded with historical relationship calamities.

The second “accidental” drama is an engaging character driven contemporary as Sophie loves her two wards and is attracted to their father, but has doubts about his staying power. The ensemble cast is fully developed especially “that Wendy woman” and Seth as they add either pathos, humor, or both to this fine expanding family drama sequel. Fans will wonder if Sophie will choose muddy whatever or high heels.

Harriet Klausner

In a Perfect World-Laura Kasischke

In a Perfect World
Laura Kasischke
Harper, Oct 6 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061766114

The Phoenix flu has caused pandemic destruction around the world. Amidst the growing disaster, widower father of three children pilot Mark Dorn, asks thirty something flight attendant Jiselle to marry him. His picture of a rosy cottage instead of flying with irate passengers and jealous peers and her chance to finally be the bride and not the bridesmaid has her saying yes.

However, as Mark keeps flying, Jiselle stays home with her three stepdaughters who do not hide their animosity or scorn of her. When the flu forces Mark to remain overseas for months in quarantine, Jiselle and her stepchildren must strike an accord because survival in a seemingly dying world means cooperation between the four stranded females.

From its opening line of “If you are reading this you are going to die” (putting aside metaphorically implications of who is not), Laura Kasischke hooks her audience into reading this and hopefully not dying immediately afterward. The story line is extremely vivid and brilliantly contrasting the impact of the disaster and the efforts to survive as the four females go from two warring camps to a cohesive family unit. Fans will appreciate this timely well quilted thriller as an extended family struggles to survive in a world turned upside down due to the pandemic flu.

Harriet Klausner

White Picket Fences-Susan Meissner

White Picket Fences
Susan Meissner
Waterbrook, Oct 6 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400074570

In Southern California, when her brother Bart Bachman runs off to Poland on some allegedly family roots drama, he leaves his motherless sixteen year old daughter Tally behind and homeless. Knowing her sibling’s chronic irresponsibility, with her husband’s support Amanda Janvier offers to give her teenage niece a roof. Amanda hopes she and her spouse can provide Tally positive role models.

Tally and her seventeen year old cousin Chase become friends while interviewing Holocaust victims on a class project. The teens soon uncover secrets re their extended family, but especially Chase, who suffers from nightmares involving a fire. As they dig deeper into the family mystery, the two cousins have unraveled the past that the older generation prefers left concealed back in the old country.

Purposely the family is hyperbolic characterizations of who are considered the “norm” for people residing inside the WHITE PICKET FENCES. Thus, the two teens bring freshness to this entertaining contemporary fiction when they nuke the so called paragon family model with their vigor for the truth. Although the forced ties to Europe and the Holocaust seem a stretch compounded exponentially by one another, Susan Meissner still provides her audience with a thought provoking look at families, past and present.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Christmas Clock-Kat Martin

The Christmas Clock
Kat Martin
Vanguard, Oct 13 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781593155476

In Dreyerville, Michigan, Teddy Winter is sad as his beloved grandmother, Lottie, who has raised him, is suffering from Alzheimer's; he watches helplessly as she rapidly loses her faculties. Lottie loves her grandson and in her lucid moments in between the fog, she knows what is happening to her; she is not concerned about herself, but worries about Teddy who will be an orphan living who knows where and with whom.

Meanwhile Teddy has one goal. He needs to find a way to buy a Victorian hand-painted clock that reminds Lottie of her childhood and even in the fog state gives her some peace. He persuades Joe the mechanic, to allow him to work in his garage station. Joe becomes fond of Teddy, but knows his prison record precludes him from taking care of the lad as he wants. He also knows he still has acrimonious feelings towards the person, his former fiancée, who he holds responsible for his drunken rage that led to his killing a man.

THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK is a fascinating Yuletide relationship drama as redemption and forgiveness are fostered by love and caring for others. Fans of uplifting holiday tales will appreciate this allegorical novella through three lost souls finding a small peace on earth with one another if they take a chance reaching out through the darkness to the shining light of love as symbolized by the clock.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Week in December-Holly Chamberlin

One Week in December
Holly Chamberlin
Kensington, Oct 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758214058

Becca Rowan feels all alone, but her loneliness is compounded whenever she sees her sixteen year old niece, Rain. She knows she made a deal with her older brother David and his wife Naomi to raise Rain, but now she wants to tell her biological daughter the truth. Still Becca also knows if she does she will destroy her family as she acquiesced as a teen giving birth that her sibling and his spouse would raise her daughter as their own and telling her the truth when Rain turned twenty-one.

During the annual family Christmas gathering, she plans to tell Rain the truth and to bring her daughter home. When she does, all hell breaks out. She feels remorseful wondering how selfish she was to break her promise while her brother and his wife are irate and feeling betrayed and Rain is upset and confused. Only the next door neighbor Alex provides her some comfort and advice as Becca tries to repair the disaster she caused.

This is an engaging family drama although the key catalyst in causing the trauma Becca comes across extremely selfish and shallow rather than emotionally disturbed. The rest of the Rowan brood are developed to the point of being understood by readers in the way they react to Becca. Interesting and well written, fans will enjoy this contemporary tale but feel disappointed that Becca’s mental anguish was not developed into crippling phobic loneliness way beyond her self-centered need.

Harriet Klausner

Breaking the Rules-Barbara Taylor Bradford

Breaking the Rules
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin’s, Oct 2009, $27.99
ISBN: 9780312578060

In London, the wealthy twenty-three years old granddaughter of Emma Harte suffers an assault. She decides to leave England for New York and pursue a career as a model. The young lady feels she has the looks, the know-how and most important the connections. Thus M is invented.

M proves reasonably successful as a model and ultimately works in Paris. She falls in love with actor Laurence Vaughn, but eventually that adversary of her family who attacked her in Chelsea recognizes her and sets in motion a plan to destroy M and her loved ones.

Although much of the tale occurs in 2006, there is a throw back feel to the interesting story line; mostly because of the long running Harte series and somewhat M’s courage under fire affirms she has Emma’s DNA; she knows when to flight and when to fight. This story is a convoluted with a seemingly zillion support players with respective but related histories of their own that do not tie well together even with the marvelous Ms. M at the vortex. Still fans of the saga will relish the thirtieth anniversary of A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE updated for the new millennium.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sounds Like Crazy-Shana Mahaffey

Sounds Like Crazy
Shana Mahaffey
NAL, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451227911

Her shrink Milton explains to Holly Miller that the repeated trauma led to her suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder as each personality has enabled her to cope. Holly does not recall what the trauma was, but knows her five personalities living inside help her almost as much as they drive her crazy. The “Committee” consists of the Boy in the red Converse with no face; the ancient meditating Silent One; Sarge the safety expert; Ruffles the chip eater, and Betty Jane the Scarlet O’Hara imitator.

She spent twelve Christmas holidays alone as mom remains in the Bay area discouraging her daughter form coming home. Meanwhile Betty Jane Holly works at a Manhattan diner in which she makes her best tips when her southern sexy Betty Jane persona outrageously flirts with the customers. Now Betty Jane lands them a TV gig with her flirtation; the rest of the Committee objects while Holly fears what will happen when she goes before the camera.

SOUNDS LIKE CRAZY is a fascinating tale of a woman suffering from a mental disorder though ironically she copes in society because of DID. The story line is at its best when it stays serious while each of the personalities knows when to take charge and when to remain dormant. When the tale turns to a Keystone Cops ensemble comedy, which occurs too frequently, the plot loses much of its insightfulness into the mind of a traumatized person. Still Shana Mahaffey provides an overall solid look at a person muddling through life due to her inner personalities.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Never Fancied Him Anyway-Claudia Carroll

I Never Fancied Him Anyway
Claudia Carroll
Avon, Sep 22 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061734779

In Dublin, Tattle Magazine columnist Cassandra writes a spiritual and psychic column answering questions from readers. Almost thirty she has been extremely successful at seeing glimpses of the future for over two decades. Her skill is somewhat limited to “flashes” of insight into the love lives of strangers.

Her wealthy friend Charlene arranges with her lover TV producer Jack Hamilton for Cassandra to appear on the air. There are two problems with the arrangement. First Jack is Cassandra’s dream lover though she conceals her feelings from her BFF and the fantasy of her dreams. Second whenever she is near Jack, her psychic skill fails to perform; a bit of a problem for TV.

With a bit of whimsy as the dreaded lists are letters from Cassandra’s readers asking for her advice, I NEVER FANCIED HIM ANYWAY is an amusing lighthearted frolic starring a wonderful protagonist. Cassie holds the story line together as she struggles between betraying her best friend and betraying her heart. Although Jack and Charlene are never fully developed beyond respective one joke acts, Claudia Carroll provides sub-genre fans with a quirky amusing contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Race for the Dying-Steven F Havill

Race for the Dying
Steven F Havill
Dunne, Sep 29 2009
ISBN: 9780312380717

In 1891 new Dr. Thomas Parks leaves his Connecticut home to practice medicine in Port McKinney, Washington with family friend Dr. John Haines. However, upon arrival in the Pacific Northwest town, he is in a near fatal accident that leaves him temporarily in a wheelchair while he heals.

His host’s daughter Alvina helps him recover. They are attracted to one another, but Thomas fears John runs a successful mail order elixir peddling business. Meanwhile Thomas finds western medicine means flexibility as he is a vet, a surgeon, a family practitioner and a coroner-medical examiner.

Far away in time and place from Posadas County, Steven F Havill provides a terrific cautionary historical tale that focuses on the late nineteenth century thriving mail order medical business with implications of similar Internet practices today. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the new Englander almost gets killed and never slows down as Thomas adapts to the expanded expectations by the locals and his fears his mentor is making money performing unethical practices; adding to his qualms is he is falling in love with his host’s daughter. Fans will enjoy this fine Americana tale as retired Under-sheriff Bill Gastner and current Under-sheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman take a breather.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sand Daughter-Sarah Bryant

Sand Daughter
Sarah Bryant
Berkley, Oct 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425229804

In 1187 the crusading Franks are in control of the Holy Land while the Muslim armies led by Salah ad-Din prepare a counter offensive against the occupying European forces. In that environs, two normally hostile towards each other Bedouin clans of the Hassan have settled on a peaceful coexistence as they share a common infidel enemy. To anchor their shaky friendship, Khalidah and Numair will marry. She does not want to wed her cousin, but knows she must for her people’s safety; however Khalidah is unaware her saying I do is a death notice for herself and her clan as betrayal is what awaits her and them.

The minstrel Sulayman persuades Numair to flee with him to save her clan. He promises to escort her to her maternal kin in Qaf; she prays to Allah that the Qaf Afghan warriors Jinn come to her aid. At the same time, her friend Bilal initially joins with Numair before switching to the Templar Knights as a spy lover of Salim, the sixth son of the Sultan; he also learns his dead father actually lives and is coming commanding a legendary unit as war will soon unite him with Khalidah.

This is deep Crusades era historical thriller that brings to life the Holy Land at a time in the late twelfth century when the Christian Franks are in control. The story line provides various perspectives of those caught up in the numerous battling factions, but especially the SAND DAUGHTER and her BFF. Fans of vivid tales of the Crusade will want to read this fresh saga.

Harriet Klausner

At Home on Ladybug Farm- Donna Ball

At Home on Ladybug Farm
Donna Ball
Berkley, Oct 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425229781

One year has gone by since Lindsay Wright, Cici Burke and Bridget Tindale left Baltimore to relocate and start over on Blackwell Farms in the Shenandoah Valley. The place was a dump, but the three single women worked hard; assisted but at times distracted by their grumpy housekeeper Ida Mae; Cici's 20-year-old daughter Lori who fled a California college to come “home”, and fifteen years old Noah Clete.

Now the farm has undergone much renovation and revealed some of its history to its current residents. They know what happened during the Civil War as this farm and its neighbor were home to battles and occupations. It was turned into winery, a cheesy creamery, and a WWII refugee camp. Now Ladybug Farm is home to another generation of misfits.

Using flashbacks to tell the history enhances a warm tale of love and friendship as Donna Ball informs her audience what happened to those and more who spent A YEAR ON LADYBUG’S FARM. The cast is solid as each still struggles with what they want, but have come a long way baby from where they were especially the trio of Maryland expatriates. Fans will enjoy the return visit to the three single women and their three “wards” as fans will feel AT HOME ON LADYBUG FARM.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shadow Baby-Alison McGhee

Shadow Baby
Alison McGhee
Three Rivers (Crown), Sep 22 2009, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307462282

During a blizzard in Upstate New York, Tamar Winter’s father rushes his pregnant daughter to the hospital. However, he makes a wrong turn in the extremely poor driving conditions and ends up in a ditch. Tamar gives birth to twins by herself, but one dies.

Twelve plus years later the surviving twin Clara winter, with a small w surname because she loathes the season of her birth, wonders whether her dead sister could have lived if they made it to the hospital and who her father and grandfather are; her mom refuses to talk about that incident or anything related to the past. Feeling isolated and perhaps a bit guilty for surviving, Clara makes up stories about people she knows. When she meets lonely elderly immigrant metalworker Georg Kominsky as he hangs up his hand-crafted lanterns in the woods, she feels they are soulmates. He too knows the power of winter when the lantern he gave his younger brother failed during a snowstorm leading to his death. Georg mentors Clara on turning throwaways into beautiful objects and to welcome her grandfather into her life; in turn the tweener hopes to reconcile her mother and her grandfather.

This is a terrific tale of lost souls finding one another with tragedies leaving survivors mentally fractured. Character driven with a strong lead youngster and solid support from her mom, her new BFF and her grandfather make for a fully developed well written story line as the key players bring angst, sadness and a need to help one another move on especially past the blame, regret and remorse.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Evolution of Shadows-Jason Quinn Malott

The Evolution of Shadows
Jason Quinn Malott
Unbridled, Oct 20 2009, $14.95
ISBN 9781932961843

In 1995 in Sarajevo, American photographer Gray Banick vanishes. Years later, his former Chinese-American lover Lian Zhao receives a letter from Gray’s interpreter Emil Todorovic who worked for the missing photographer asking about him.

Although she married someone more acceptable to her parents, Lian always loved Gray. She leaves Kansas City for Serbia hoping to locate him. In Sarajevo she meets Gray’s mentor Jack MacKenzie whose family finally gave up on him when he spent more time in hot spots than at home and Emil. The three begin a quest to learn what happened to Gray.

THE EVOLUTION OF SHADOWS is a strong war drama that makes the case that those who see the horrors of combat even non fighters like reporters need bonds of friendship to emotionally survive; the US Army affirms this premise with buddies being a key element to prevent suicide amidst the troops. Each of the key cast members feel genuine even the missing Gray who is seen mostly though the flashbacks of his compatriots. Jason Quinn Malott provides a powerful character driven tale that avoids turning nostalgic or maudlin.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tales Of The Ten Lost Tribes-Tamar Yellin

Tales Of The Ten Lost Tribes
Tamar Yellin
St. Martin’s, Sep 29 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780312379131

These are ten well written fascinating interrelated TALES OF THE TEN LOST TRIBES that look deep at the Wandering Jew exiled to travel the world as does the narrator does meeting other lonely displaced people mostly in self exile. In Reuben she admires her Uncle Esdras who soars like a bird from place to place while her dad considers his brother a wandering wastrel. In Simeon she meets on board a ship Nikos who knew everyone but no one knew him. In Dan, her dad’s efforts to find book treasures prove as futile as her uncle’s efforts to find an anchor because when her father dies, his books will be sold. In Naphtali, she leaves home for the last time as her mom has died, but though she has a student room she remains as rudderless as does Professor G whose search for his lost language leaves him mute.

There are six more profound allegorical tales of wanderlust and exile with a stark helpless beauty symbolized by her dad with his perpetual editing of his tiny tome and his book collection. A person can never finish wandering; as home is never the same once you step outside. So each step away is just like the lost tribes after the Assyrians scattered them to find new homes.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Immortals-Amit Chaudhuri

The Immortals
Amit Chaudhuri
Knopf, Aug 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307270221

In the early 1980s in Bombay, classically trained by his father Apura Lal, Shyam is in demand by the affluent to tutor them or their offspring in voice. Shyam has come a long way from his famous father who sang only traditional classics while he teaches singing popular tunes mostly to wealthy women.

One of his better students Mallika Sengupta asks Shyam for a secret favor. She resents having to give up her chance for a musical career to marry a corporate exec so she wants to give her sixteen years old son Nirmalya a chance to make it in music. Shyam agrees to work with the rebellious Nirmalya , but the teen does not want to work with the teacher he scorns for selling out his soul for a few rupees; in fact the lad admires Apura for adhering to the classics; Nirmalya’s preference.

This is an interesting look at Bombay through the eyes of two families (representing three generations) as music connects everyone. The story line is vivid with the sound of music, but the obvious conflict between parent and offspring feels muted. Still, in spite of the toning down of the clash, fans will enjoy this stylish refrain as “the magic is in the music and the music is in me” (Lovin’ Spoonful) and you; just the preference differs.

Harriet Klausner

The Haunting of America-William J. Birnes and Joel Martin

The Haunting of America
William J. Birnes and Joel Martin
Forge, Sep 15 2009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765313812

The authors take a close look at alleged haunting in America going from colonial times to 9/11. There is a myriad of claims over the three plus centuries as the writers describe what allegedly occurred with the emphasis on the paranormal aspects of an event. William J. Birnes and Joel Martin evaluate the possibility as to whether black magic was actually practiced just prior to the Salem witch trials and a couple of George Washington tales especially several sightings at Gettysburg and other battle sights. Other presidents also receive focus like Jackson who testified at the Bell Witch incident and Lincoln who supposedly dreamed of his assassination. Filled with charming fakes like Margaret “the big toe” Fix and hypnotic charmers like Franz Mesmer, THE HAUNTING OF AMERICA is a fascinating look at the alleged paranormal history of the country. The book includes Houdini, Doyle, Edison and Rhine as the para intertwines with the normal whether it is the Ford Theater, Valley Forge, the White House or even the early evolutionary leap of ultra adaptive Cro-Magnan and even more adaptive Homo sapiens, perhaps seeded from an ET visit. This is a fun account to read; just leave behind the skepticism as the entertaining tome lacks any.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Napoleon in Egypt-Paul Strathern

Napoleon in Egypt
Paul Strathern
Bantam, Sep 15 2009, $18.00
ISBN: 9780553385243

In 1797, General Napoleon Bonaparte led a successful campaign in Italy, which led to him becoming a hero in France. One year later, he had grandiose plans to emulate his hero Alexander the Great by conquering India. However, first he decides to conquer Egypt. He leads an army of 40,000 across the Mediterranean Sea to Alexandria and easily defeats the local military in a series of battles that led to the French occupying Cairo. However, as easy as the military victories proved, the replacement of a local corrupt government based on the ideals of liberty and justice fail to take root. Shockingly he finds himself head of what is considered an occupation force by locals and soon a counterinsurgency ignites to kick the French and their nation building out of the Egypt. On the way back across the Mediterranean, Lord Admiral Nelson and the English Navy destroy much of Napoleon's navy.

This is a well written historical with timely reminders that resonate with what has happened in the two American Middle East wars. Napoleon wins the war in Egypt, but loses the peace as people resent occupying forces while on the home front he claims mission accomplished. Insightful, Paul Strathern provides a deep look at Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign that proved disastrous to the French, but not to him as he raced home proclaiming victory; chutzpah at its sneakiest. Ironically his scientists uncovered ancient ruins that proved the most lasting event of his ill-fated campaign as their findings changed humanity.

Harriet Klausner

Close Relations-Susan Isaacs

Close Relations
Susan Isaacs
Avon, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061735318

In New York City, Marcia Green is a successful political speechwriter. However, her family, instead of marveling at her success, loathe her job that her mom and aunt believe interferes with her meeting a nice Jewish dentist to marry and bear grandchildren. Just because she is thirty five, divorced from Barry Plotnick and happy with her work and sex with Jerry Morrisey are irrelevant to her mom and aunt. They cannot understand how Marcia can live with someone whose DNA runs towards boiled potatoes instead of appreciation of the fine art of a knish.

However, when Marcia meets her Mr. Perfect, she wants to run away before her family stalk him. David Hoffman is affluent, handsome and intelligent as expected of a Harvard Law School Graduate; but his greatest trait besides not mentioning his alma mater is his fearlessness when he enters the Green family jungle. As he falls in love, she remains in a state of “Definitely, Maybe” denial.

This is an entertaining reprint of a 1980 fine character study although the support cast consisting of her family and co-workers are purposely hyperbole stereotypes. Marcia is marvelous as her professional life is perfect (at least she says so) and her personal life a mess (at lest her mom says so). When David enters her life, he nukes her feelings as she reconsiders what she wants in a man looking back to Forest Hills HS and her crush on Barry for guidance. Fans will enjoy this pre-Twitter era tale with a touch of chick lit before that became fashionable.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When You Went Away-Michael Baron

When You Went Away
Michael Baron
Story Plant, Oct 6 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780981956800

In Port Jefferson, Long Island, Gerry Rubato believes his life is perfect. He loves his wife of two decades Maureen and adores their teenage daughter Tanya. Gerry likes working at Eleanor Miller, Inc where he is highly respected as the chief of the new products development team.

His life begins to turn upside when Maureen informs him she is pregnant. Soon afterward without warning his seventeen year old daughter runs away with her boyfriend. Maureen gives birth to Reese, but one month later she dies. He is a single father raising an infant, mourning his wife’s death and worried about his oldest child at a time when his deportment is critical for innovation in the Christmas catalogue, whose suspense ran out while he was burying his wife and his life. He will spin further into chaos as Gerry relooks his values.

This is an intriguing character study of a person who seems to have everything perfect only to feel like a tsunami swamped his ideal life. Gerry is terrific as he tells his tale of happenings changing to woe changing potentially back to happiness if he takes chances that he is afraid of because love hurts. Although the ending is too neatly problem resolved rather suddenly, fans will enjoy following Gerry’s struggles with grief for his late wife; fear for his runaway daughter; indifference towards his deadline job; and joy raising his bubbly newborn.

Harriet Klausner

Goldengrove-Francine Prose

Francine Prose
Harper, Sep 8 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780060560027

In the summer in Mirror Lake in the northeast, seventeen year old Margaret drowns. Her family reacts differently to the accident though each mourns their loss. Her father regrets naming his daughter after a girl who mourns the loss of summer in “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child” by Gerard Manley Hopkins and to escape his grief and remorse turns to end of the world scenarios on the latest book he will never finish. Her younger sister Nico tries to put a scientific spin to her feelings of loss while writing down how she and her parents react; even in death Nico still struggles with understanding her late older sibling’s penchant for the dramatic like a poet out of control yet at the same worshiped Margaret’s overt confidence. Their mother Daisy turns to pills as she buries her soul with the body of her oldest child.

At times Nico notes her parents act like they still have two children at home with conversations as if Margaret will respond. Each grieves the loss differently and separately.

Although Nico seems more the adult than her parents, this is a fascinating look at dealing (or not) with the sudden unexpected death of a love one. None of Margaret’s family was prepared obviously for the drowning. Although totally a character study with an extremely thin plot, fans will enjoy Francine prose’s (great surname for a novelist) fine probing prose of the debilitation caused by hiding in the early phases of grief as if expecting the dead person to reanimate.

Harriet Klausner

Windfall-Penny Vincenzi

Penny Vincenzi
Overlook, Oct 2009, $26.95
ISBN 9781590202470

In London by1935, Cassia Tallow has been married to a practicing doctor Edward for seven years while she has stayed home to raise their three young children. She is somewhat envious of her spouse as she also was trained as a doctor, but he insists she stay at home.

Cassia is scrubbing the alter steps when she learns she inherited a fortune from her godmother, Lady Beatty, who drank Champagne with the rich, aristocratic and famous like Edward VIII. With a half a million pounds, Cassia has the means to join the upper crust if she chooses or practice medicine to the neglected working-class women as she once dreamed of; something her husband objects to. However, Cassia soon begins to learn that her liberating windfall may not rightfully belong to her; ethical as always, she investigates with a need to learn the truth. Sometimes the truth will not set you free as Cassia learns that with each revelation comes increasing danger.

This a typical entertaining Penny Vincenzi historical thriller as the ethical heroine tries to do what is right, but finds that dangerous. Cassia makes the story line work as her actions after learning of her WINDFALL place her in opposition with her demanding spouse and to a degree her children, but eventually she goes after what she wants for herself: providing medical care to impoverish women. Fans of the author and those who enjoy a between World Wars English historical will want to read Ms. Vincenzi’s blockbuster bonkbuster as the British would say over a cup of Earl Grey.

Harriet Klausner

The Goodbye Summer-Patricia Gaffney

The Goodbye Summer
Patricia Gaffney
Avon, Aug 2009, $12.99
ISBN: 9780060836870

In Maryland, thirty-three years old music teacher Caddie Winger knows this is the worst summer of her life. Her close friends at Wake House; a convalescent home for the elderly and those recuperating from crippling accidents including her Nana who broke her leg; have been dying; although rationally she knows they are either septuagenarians or octogenarians. Caddie mourns their passing as she has made friends with many of them since she spends much of her free time at Wake House.

It is people like elderly resident Thea who persuades Caddie who smoke joints with her while others encourage her to live life to the fullest even as the younger woman worries her beloved Nana seems to get stranger with each passing moment. Struggling with no money and no confidence, Caddie is attracted to thirtyish resident Henry Magill, who is recovering from a sky-diving accident that left his fiancée dead.

This is a captivating perhaps overly teary tale of a woman who has not taken any life FLIGHT LESSONS until the senior citizens and Henry persuade Ms. Sorrowful Winger (great surname for a grounded sad eyes) to imitate Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. The storyline is aptly titled yet ironically readers know for the thirty-three years old piano teacher this is the most wonderful summer of her maudlin life.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Transformation-Terri Kraus

The Transformation
Terri Kraus
David C. Cook, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781448673

In Shadyside on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, real estate developer Samantha Cohen plans to renovate the historic Blue Church into an in crowd restaurant and nightclub. She hires contractor Oliver Barnett to help her change the religious site. His pious mother is upset as she sees this as blasphemy by her son and that Jewish woman.

Samantha and Oliver are attracted to one another, but he is a Christian while she is Jew. Christian not only is a believer, he would never hurt his mom by bringing home someone of another faith. Meanwhile his mom encourages his kind likable former girlfriend Paula to go after Oliver who is in love with Samantha.

The latest Project Restoration tale (see THE RENEWAL) is an interesting contemporary religious romance that in some ways is the gender bending retelling of the biblical story of Ruth. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as each has religious issues and family tsuris to overcome if they are to forge a loving relationship under God; but who’s God. With a strong cast complementing the prime duet, Terri Kraus provides a strong look at love and religion in the modern world.

Harriet Klausner

Three Weddings And A Bar Mitzvah-Melody Carlson

Three Weddings And A Bar Mitzvah
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9781589191082

At 86 Bloomberg Place, several weddings are being planned, but there are problems trying to work out the scheduling logistics. Each of the couples want their nuptials there way, but families have other ideas.

Lelani and Gil want a simple wedding while his Latino family wants to throw the ceremony of the decade. Kendall and Kiliki want to be married before she gives birth so they select a coming soon weekend, but end up picking a weekend that could prove too late. Marcus is in Africa leaving behind a concerned Megan while Anna fears she lost Edmond.

Although the plot is stretched very thin through three books (see 86 BLOOMBERG PLACE and I HEART BLOOMBERG), the final tale is a frantic fun finish as the frenzied occupants find love and God helping them prepare for two weddings on the same day. The cast is solid as each of the women and their men (even Marcus in Zambia) are fully developed. Fans will enjoy prolific writer Melody Carlson’s enjoyable race to the weddings.

Harriet Klausner

Stretch Marks-Kimberly Stuart

Stretch Marks
Kimberly Stuart
David C. Cook, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781448925

In Chicago social worker Mia Rathbun and her boyfriend Lars enjoy their carefree life together. All is perfect in their world until Mia becomes pregnant. Lars wants nothing to do with a baby or for that matter a pregnant woman; he deserts his girlfriend. The neighborhood rallies around Mia to assist her especially her BFF Frankie.

Still Mia feels abandoned and afraid, but rejects abortion or adoption as she plans to raise her child. Her estranged mother, Babs, arrives to help her daughter raise her grandchild. Although filled with good intentions, mother and daughter argue, fuss, and fight as Mia does not appreciate Babs' efforts especially as Babs still has meltdowns at inopportune moments.

STRETCH MARKS is an amusing yet deep relationship drama starring two beloved enemies who apparently need to be on opposite sides of the continent. The story line is fast-paced though a bit thin as mother and daughter war and love while neighbors like Adam try to charm both ladies into a peaceful coexistence. Fans will enjoy this fine character study of a mother and daughter reunion with the next generation on the way.

Harriet Klausner

In The Arms Of Immortals-Ginger Garrett

In The Arms Of Immortals
Ginger Garrett
David C. Cook, Sep 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780781448888

In 1347, a ship arrives in Sicily containing a deadly cargo. Soon the villagers are falling ill in rapid succession with most dying.

The locals react differently to the Black Plague that is killing so many. The Baron's daughter Panthea Campaigna ignores the villagers with her focus totally on increasing her wealth as the killings would never touch her and besides her only fear is being poor like the villagers. An outcast due to her healing skills, Gio tries to help those ailing and dying although some look at her as the cause. From a distant future place and era Mariskka Curtis, not in the Book of Life in her time, recognizes the Black Plague and assists Father Lazarro by offering comfort to those receiving the last rites as the true Blood Month has begun.

The second Chronicles of the Scribe tale (see IN THE SHADOW OF THE LION) is an incredible historical thriller that looks deeply at the Christian religion in Sicily during the worst of the Black Plague when beliefs apparently failed those praying for a miracle. The first night over half of the residents are dead by morning; they are the fortunate ones. Contrasting lifestyles of the indifferent rich vs. the beleaguered poor that seem relevant today with the health care debate, Ginger Garrett provides a powerful look at a pivotal moment in Christian history when the belief in Jesus and God teetered under the wrath of the Black Plague.

Harriet Klausner

Ladies of the Lake-Haywood Smith

Ladies of the Lake
Haywood Smith
St. Martin’s, Sep 2009, $24.99
ISBN 9780312316952

With the death of the family matriarch Cissy, her granddaughters (Dahlia, Rose, Violet and Iris) must follow her stipulation in her will to inherit. The late former dancer demands the four sisters move from their respective Atlanta homes to her lakefront estate in the Georgia Mountains for 90 days.

The siblings agree on cleaning up the hazardous to your health house so that in three months they place it on the market to sell. They fail to comprehend that their late grandma wanted one last connection to her beloved ones even if that is from the grave. Cissy hoped they would understand how she lived her life and how she wants them to do likewise.

From the Hazmat cleaning debate to the sibling squabbles to the legal legacy, LADIES OF THE LAKE is an amusing poignant sisters’ drama that reminds readers of the importance of making quality and quantity time for loved ones. The four sisters, their late grandma and a catalyst hunk come across as full blooded especially the siblings when they mix war and love with each other. Although a romance with the key male outsider never quite gels, Haywood Smith leaves the red hats safely stored for another day as she provides a jocular yet profound family drama.

Harriet Klausner