Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Lumby Lines-Gail Fraser

The Lumby Lines
Gail Fraser
NAL, May 1 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 978-0451221391

Forty years ago when their lives were tanking, Mark and Pam Walker knew they needed a respite together. They had planned to visit historical inns, but kept kicking the can until they decided this was no longer acceptable. So each year since, they have visited rundown due to a fire Montis Abbey in Lumby in the Northwest, built in 1893, but the Church and then the affluent allowed it to deteriorate. Now the Walker pair wants to turn the edifice into an inn with them running a restaurant there.

Nothing occurs in town that gets passed the notice of The Lumby Lines owner William Beezer. He opposes the outsiders moving in and forming a business as he fears what makes his town quaint and quirky will soon be inundated by other “fungi”, which will drive the long time families away. The mayor is silent on the issue as the burned down Montis Abbey is not a nice place to do his business in public

The reprint of the first Lumby rustic village family saga is filled with fun subplots over the top of the Rockies. Whimsical, uplifting and warm, The Lumby Lines’ newspaper makes the tale enjoyable with columns like the Sheriff's Complaints and quoting the mayor barking out orders. Although rural conquers urban too easily and with a nod to Mossy Creek, Gail Fraser does so with humor as Beezer steals the show from the outside upstarts with his amusing commentaries.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Glaen-Fred T. Lybrand

Fred T. Lybrand
Barnabas Agency, Feb 14 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780578046525

College grad student Annie is shocked and confused when her mother calmly informs her that she is divorcing Annie’s dad. She had thought her parents were happy together and there for one another. As she looks around her, Annie notices the downside of her younger sister’s relationship and those of her BFF Jennah. Relationships make no sense as a person gives up so much in return for being hurt so conceals the truth to abate the hurt.

Annie signs up for a class on Original Non-Fiction 101 taught by Professor Glaen Breuchis. On her first day in class, Annie looks around to find she is the only pupil. Professor Glaen explains that the administration is well aware he is teaching a class with only one student attending. He begins mentoring her to learn what is important in relationships is the truth. By being honest with others, Annie finds out that others will respect and admire you and most will reciprocate with veracity.

This is an interesting approach to encouraging and mentoring people to be honest and sincere in their relationships with others. The cast is solid especially the professor and his sole student while the fascinating story line simplistically focuses on Annie (and readers) learning how best to relate. Using a character study fiction, Fred T. Lybrand provides an engaging self help primer.

Harriet Klausner

The Hittite-Ben Bova

The Hittite
Ben Bova
Forge, Apr 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765324023

The Empire of the Hatti had defeated the Babylonians, Egyptians and many more, but face defeat from within by treachery. The emperor was stripped of his clothing by his sons and hence the Gods abandoned Hatti. Lukka leads his military unit home seeing the capital Hattusas ablaze from a distance. When they arrive inside the burning city they see gangs of drunken youths looting and killing. Lukka finds his dying father who informs him that his wife and sons might live, but are gone as property of the slavers.

He concludes his family would be sold in Troy. Leading his force to Troy, he finds the city under seize by the Achaians, whose lack of discipline makes Lukka ill to need them as an ally. He learns his spouse is a slave and vows to rescue her anyway he can and to learn the fate of his sons. Thus he begins the construct of a wooden horse that if he understands human nature should enable him to see “the face that launched a thousand ships”.

This is an interesting retelling of the Trojan Horse with the above description only the beginning as the reader also for instance obtains Helen’s side of the saga instead of the usual male machismo as she is all these super hunks’ Achilles heel. Lukka is a fascinating military leader who understands war has three offspring: death, maiming and slavery. He knows when his men fight, some will die, some will be maimed, and maybe a few captured and tortured as slaves. Fans will enjoy Ben Bova’s rendition of part of Homer’s the Iliad

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 26, 2010

Matthew’s Story-Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Matthew’s Story
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Putnam, Feb 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156212

In Bet Guvrin, eight years old Levi diligently studies to become a priest. He is a happy child who loves God, his parents and adores his baby brother Chavivi. One night soldiers of Herod the Great arrive at his home and kill his sibling; as they have all killed all infant males since the Magi claimed the Christ was born. Herod insists he is the King of the Jews and not some pretender.

Levi still believed in God but his adulation turned to loathing as he blames the Lord for his baby brother’s death. He rejects the priesthood and instead becomes a Roman tax collector. His people detest him as he becomes wealthy at their expense, but he feels empty inside until he meets Jesus. He becomes his disciple and changes his name to Matthew and follows him loyally. Jesus tells him he will feel the pain Matthew felt when He follows his Father’s wishes.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins use a contemporary interpretation to tell Matthew’s Story, a disciple who transformed from youthful pious believer, to odious sinner to saint thanks in part to Jesus. The use of modern day vernacular makes it easier on the audience to understand the message and power of Christ especially in altering Matthew’s life; though in fairness some readers might question free will. As with Mark, Luke and John, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins provide a strong biblical biographical fictional account of a disciple of Jesus.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl Who Chased the Moon-Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam, Mar 16 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807219

With the death of her mom Dulcie, Emily Benedict moves in with her maternal grandfather whom she never met in Mullaby, North Carolina. She hopes to better understand what motivated her mother to abruptly run away from home and never return. However, not everyone welcomes the daughter of Dulcie while the newcomer finds life with her gentle giant grandfather kind yet odd especially accentuated by the changing wallpaper.

Julia Winterson welcomes Emily with a cake. She hopes to pay off her dad’s debt, which would enable her to shut down his restaurant and leave town to open a bakery elsewhere. Sawyer hopes she will stay and give him her heart as she owns his. Win Coffey and Emily are attracted to one another too, but their families are at the heart of the secrets that the outsider seeks to learn.

This is a warm whimsical tale with a strong message of don’t relive past transgressions forever especially when the present provides a chance for a different future. Readers will be hooked to learn the Dulcie-Coffey secret and root for the two couples to make it. Not even Dean Smith paints Tarheel magic as well as Sarah Addison Allen does (see Garden Spells).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One Hundred Great French Books-Lance Donaldson-Evans

One Hundred Great French Books
Lance Donaldson-Evans
BlueBridge, Mar 31 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933346229

This is a terrific introduction to French literature from the Middle Ages to modern times. Each entry is summed up briefly with a commentary so that no more than two pages are provided on those included. Starting with the classic Song of Roland and including well known works by renowned authors like Sartre, de Troyes, Pascal, Moliere, Racine, Hugo and others; One Hundred Great French Books is a great introduction to some of the best works ever. However, what makes this so complete is genres normally ignored by English literature anthologies, but not by Lance Donaldson-Evans. For instance the editor also includes the comic book Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo. With a wide gamut of genres, formats and centuries including twenty-fist century works like W, or Memory of Childhood by Perec, readers will relish this fine easy to use guide that says oui oui Francais.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Backlash-Aaron Allston

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Backlash

Del Rey, Mar 9 2010, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345509086

It is widely believed that the Sith were eradicated, but there remains a Lost Tribe on the Planet Kush. They use the dark side of the Force and eventually plan to spread out to rule the galaxy. Grandmaster Luke Skywalker and his son Ben, meet Sith Master Lada Rhea who they killed and her apprentice Vestara Khai who is on intent on killing them in the mysterious Maw where a force wielding creature resides.

This sentient being is sending out messages to Jedi who when children hid in the maw and now are going insane. Han Solo and his wife Leia are criminals after taking insane Jedi from Coruscant to a safe haven in the Transitory Mists. Their activity is an affront to Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala who is furious and whose goal is to make the Jedi become subservient to her. Luke and Ben track Vestara, the Sith apprentice without a master, to Dathomir where they become embroiled in a clan war in which dark side Force practitioners abet Vestara.

The fourth Fate of the Jedi science fiction thriller is loaded with action and plenty of intrigue which fans of the saga will expect. The story line is refreshed by a deep look at a new world and its culture. However, it is Vestara who makes the thriller work as she is a unique Sith unlike any seen before; incredibly she steals the show from the Skywalkers and Solos. By nature she is evil, but by nurture she shows signs of the light. Readers will relish this strong entry as Vestara brings new meaning to the dark and light sides of the Force.

Harriet Klausner

Freedom by any Means-Betty DeRamus

Freedom by any Means
Betty DeRamus
Atria, Feb 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439126752

These fifteen well written true stories focus on courageous individuals trying to either escape from slavery or applying extraordinary methods to enable blacks to escape from slavery. The first entry “The Big Bluff” sets the tome when freeman John Bowley arrives at a Maryland Slave auction to take his family with him as they are up for sale. In “Waters of Hope” slave Arnold Gragston rowed escaping slaves across the Ohio River to safety; others like black barbers Daniel Strawther and Jerry Jones did likewise. Others are equally brave like Nelson Gant who risks his life and freedom for his love of Anna Maria Hughes or putting their money where their mouths were like James Henry Cole and Clara Brown as economics was as big if not bigger roadblock to freedom. Although some of the record is missing requiring Betty DeRamus to speculate, the overall courage is documented. Divided into three sections, this is a winning historical as readers obtain a wider perspective of the risk people took for freedom not just for themselves, but for loved ones and even strangers; summed up in the last entry of “Don’t Call her Mammy” re Mary Ellen Pleasant, the “mother of the civil rights movement in California”.

Harriet Klausner

The First Thing and the Last-Allan G. Johnson

The First Thing and the Last
Allan G. Johnson
Plain View Press, Feb 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9781935514411

In Boston on his wife Katherine’s birthday, David Stuart explodes into a rage. As he has done before to Katherine, he batters her while blaming her for causing him to use his fists on her. This time Katherine knows it is different as he hits her face and slams her head several times; he always avoided that. When he grabs their preschooler Ethan, she begs him to give their child to her. He throws him against the wall breaking Ethan’s neck. She knows she is next, but grabs a knife and kills him.

She is rushed to the hospital. In spite of massive internal bleeding to include removal of her gall bladder, and emergency repair to her ripped liver and kidneys, the cops wonder whether she is a murderer. At the hospital and later on in her parents’ home, her family cannot cope as they blame themselves for not intervening and her for not leaving.

Vermont resident Lucy Dudley reads in the Globe what happened and visits Katherine at the hospital and invites her to live on her farm; she decades ago survived a similar ordeal. Katherine leaves for Vermont where Lucy hopes to help her heal.

This poignant shocking look at an abuse victim during a deadly assault from her loved one enables readers to see inside Katherine’s head as she is battered and Ethan killed. The afterward is also intriguing with the cops and even her brother wondering if she used excessive force while her parents try to avoid any culpability for not intervening. The two women help one another as they develop a loving friendship though Lucy’s efforts towards aiding Katherine in coping with her trauma are more obvious. The First Thing and the Last is must reading as Allan G. Johnson gets deep into the mind and soul of an abuse victim.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: And Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution
Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson
Bantam, Feb 23 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780553385786

Somewhat tongue in cheek, this is a terrific look at cloning that simplifies using humor without dumbing down DNA sequencing. The authors answer key questions and provide warnings. One particular caution is allowing your DNA sequence to appear on the Internet that will remind readers of Miss Manners’ warning about social networking. Readers will ask how do I defeat a clone who has been enhanced to be superior. Answer is experience and knowledge. The future appears to be chocolate-flavored broccoli that Bush 41 would enjoy, but not to worry as humans have a long time history of genetic engineering in farming and animal domestication. So although stem cell research appears to have cures for illnesses, Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson make a serious Dr. Frankenstein case that good intentions pave the road to hell with unintended consequences. So be prepared to out think your healthier clone. This is a great science book that combines jocularity with easy to read and understand biotechnology.

Harriet Klausner

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart-Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone
Knopf, Mar 2 2010, $22.95
ISBN: 9780307271686

In 1874 in Edinburgh, newborn Jack is near death from a frozen heart when his teenage mother abandons him. Midwife Dr. Madeleine attaches a cuckoo clock to his heart to get it started. Her desperate effort saves Jack’s life and she raises him as her son while tending to the needs of her prostitute clients.

However as he grows up, Madeleine constantly reminds him to never fall in love as his heart will fail him. When Jack sees Miss Acacia, a street singer who is as tiny as he is, he falls in love. This stimulates his heart to a point where if it does not ease off it will kill him. At school, Joe warns Jack to back away from Miss Acacia as she is his. They brawl until Joe loses an eye forcing Jack to flee to Paris. There he meets magician-clockmaker Georges Melies who tells him to ignore his man-made heart-clock and use his God-made heart to find his Miss Acacia.

With a nod to Oz, The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a wonderful whimsical historical fantasy with an underlying message of a person must follow their heart which leads to the road to happiness. The story line is fast-paced though a late spin involving the return of Joe detracts from the lyrical romantic tale. Still fans will enjoy this fine fantasy as Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone provide a warm story of love.

Harriet Klausner

The Creation of Eve-Lynn Cullen

The Creation of Eve
Lynn Cullen
Putnam, Mar 23 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156106

In 1560 sixteen years old Elizabeth of Valois becomes the third wife of King Felipe of Spain. She was a student of Michelangelo and her being a woman; so King Felipe selects female artist Sofonisba “Sofi” Anguissola to mentor the new queen on painting. Both feel isolated in the backstabbing royal court where squabble is the norm and affairs persistent. The painter and the royal forge a friendship that goes way beyond teacher and pupil as each realizes they can rely on the other to have their back.

Told mostly through the perspective of the renaissance artist, The Creation of Eve is a superb historical fiction that reads more like an autobiography of the sixteenth century artist. The Spanish court of King Felipe is a deathtrap for the naive as the queen and the painter quickly learn. That insidious atmosphere of two outsiders is a prime impetus for each to turn to one another in friendship. From the First Notebook entry in 1559, this fine tale contains a strong eye on the era that sub-genre readers will relish The Creation of Eve.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eleanor the Queen-Norah Lofts

Eleanor the Queen
Norah Lofts
Touchstone, Apr 20 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439146118

In the twelfth century, Eleanor of Aquitaine was probably the most influential woman in Europe. She married French King Louis VII and accompanied the devout ruler on the failed Crusade in the Holy Land; there she was not just an idle observer. However, though she gave him two daughters, she could never fully get past his male advisors who her spouse preferred to heed. Fifteen years after they marriagd, they divorced. Back in Aquitaine, she met teenager Henry Plantagenet, twelve years her junior. They marry and one day soon he became England’s King Henry II of England. They had many offspring and seemed a perfect couple until she discovered his infidelity with Rosamonde. Her furor led to a family schism between her husband and their sons as she lingered in prison for almost two decades.

This is a superb biographical fiction tale starring a strong medieval woman who was queen to two powerful kings in two countries. Eleanor comes across somewhat as a modern female, which attracted powerful men to her, yet ironically also led to her troubles with them. Twelfth century France and England are vividly described as is the failed Crusade. However, even with several powerful rulers in her life, Eleanor the Queen rules over her spouses and offspring monarchs in Norah Loft’s fine historical fiction novel.

Harriet Klausner

Imaginary Jesus-Matt Mikalatos

Imaginary Jesus
Matt Mikalatos
Tyndale, Apr 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781414335636

Matt Mikalatos thought his robed and sandaled buddy was Jesus. However, he awakened to the fact that his companion is an Imaginary Jesus. Thus he decides to search for the real Jesus in present day Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and ancient Judea. Thus begins Matt’s quest for finding the real Jesus and not the imaginary ones most people create out of need or false ones making proclamations as he encounters as many Jesus as there are Elvis impersonators; even observing one being punched out.

This is an intriguing often difficult adventure tale to follow as Mr. Mikalatos turns Christian fiction upside down while exploring its central lead character; as the author insists most often the individual creates a mental construct of Jesus. The quest is inane yet amusing and fun as Matt seeks the truth to so many complicated questions like free will and the real Jesus. Not for everyone, Imaginary Jesus is an interesting search in which the author irreverently asks: Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Harriet Klausner

Disaster Status-Candace Calvert

Disaster Status
Candace Calvert
Tyndale, Apr 1 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9781414325446

The emergency room of Pacific Mercy Hospital has a sudden deluge of farm workers arrive, some are barely conscious with respiratory distress and foam coming from the mouth. The staff quickly goes into emergency mode as more patients appear. They later learn that a plane carrying pesticides crashed into a building containing chemicals, blending into a toxic mix that spread rapidly.

During the crisis, charge nurse Erin Quinn meets fire department Fire Captain Scott McKenna. Based on a previous tragedy, he is a by the book first responder while she believes thinking out of the box is needed to save lives. In spite of their vast philosophical divide, they have feelings for one another that each ignores as her father abandoned the family and he feels guilt for not freeing his sister from her churlish husband leaving their son parentless. Erin decides Scott is just like every man she met. Yet she also believes his nephew Cody needs her expertise as he suffers from a bad leg infection that might lead to amputation. As they continue to work the crisis while falling in love, Cody makes friends with someone who vows to protect him no matter what the cost is.

Hopefully Disaster Status is the first book in a new series that readers will enjoy due to the heroic first responders working diligently during a frantic medical crisis that overwhelms their resources. The lead heroes are stubborn, but can be counted on when the chips are down. Fans will admire both as they try to do what each feels is right especially when the need is crushing.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mistress of Rome-Kate Quinn

Mistress of Rome
Kate Quinn
Berkley, Apr 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780425232477

In the reign of Emperor Domitian, Thea of Judaea lives in Rome having been purchased as a slave to Lepida Pollia. However, her owner becomes spiteful and outraged when the Jew and Arius the Barbarian gladiator become lovers. Lepida plans to end their relationship as she wants the savage as her pet.

Instead Thea survives as a singer concealing her son from her enemies. However, the Emperor Domitan becomes obsessed with Thea and makes her his present toy. She survives again her new lover’s excesses only to have Lepida expose her to the Emperor of having a secret lover Arius and an offspring. Thea knows she must do something to save her family (her son and her lover), but how remains out of reach.

Mistress of Rome is a great late first century historical thriller driven by a strong cast especially the title character. Thea is a great lead protagonist, but in many ways Rome circa 82 AD owns the tale as the city comes across dark and decadent starting at the top with the brutal Emperor. Readers will relish this deep look at the Roman Empire ruled by a paranoid emperor who has cause for his paranoia, which he caused in the first place.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Miss Julie Renews Her Vows-Ann B. Ross

Miss Julie Renews Her Vows
Ann B. Ross
Viking, Apr 6 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780670021550

Miss Julia warns Mr. Pickens that he better not break the heart of her late husband’s mistress four months pregnant Hazel Marie. Pickens, married three times, swears they will marry. Hazel Marie’s son Lloyd is elated with his new daddy while Miss Julia and her second husband Sam plan a bridal party though the bride is not invited as the hostess lies to her guests that Hazel Marie married in San Francisco a few months ago.

Pastor Larry Ledbetter invites Sam and Julia to a marriage counseling seminar hosted by a Christian shrink Dr. Fred Fowler. Sam agreed, but Julia is panicked that Fred is the host. After her cheating first husband died, Fred was nice to lonely grieving Julia until they began kissing in the chapel; Ledbetter caught them. Fred blamed Julia. She fears Sam’s reaction to her being labeled a loose woman.

The bridal party is a success although home nursing helper Etta Mae Wiggins is late. Everyone accepts why Hazel Marie is not there as she had a doctor’s appointment and that she and Mr. Pickens married. Soon afterward to get out of going to Fred’s seminar Julia claims to be ill and bedridden; and Etta Mae calls Julia from jail asking for Binkie the lawyer. She was accused by her client Francie Pitts of knocking her out and stealing a bracelet. Miss Julia continues to dodge Fred while working on proving Etta Mae’s innocence.

Miss Julia is her usual flustered self managing to make a mountain out of a mole hill to the delight of her myriad of fans. As always, the support cast is strong as they enhance the heroine’s fears and shenanigans while she also takes care of her friends and family. Although. Miss Julia’s behavior re not telling Sam the truth lacks her usual ethical fortitude, readers will let that slide as her escapes make for a fine cozy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Secret Daughter-Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter
Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Morrow, Mar 9 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780061922312

In 1984 in indigent Dahanu, India Kavita gives birth to her second daughter. She grieves what will happen to her child as poverty forced her husband Jasu to arrange the death of their first female baby. This time, however, Kavita names her infant Asha and gets her into a Mumbai orphanage so that she might have a chance.

In San Francisco, Indian expatriate Krishnan persuades his wife Somer, who cannot have children, to adopt a child from his homeland. They go to Bombay where they adopt Asha although Somer fears their daughter will only bond with her father because they are both Indian while she is American. Meanwhile Kavita grieves for her two daughters, but finally gives birth to a son. Years later while at college in California Asha obtains a journalism fellowship that enables her to visits Mumbai.

Interestingly the opening sequence that focuses on cultural gender issues in an abject impoverished environment are slow and lack the intensity one would expect with such a dynamic social concern. However, once Asha returns to India, the story line goes extremely deep into gender questions that haunt modern India as well as identity concerns that trouble the heroine who wonders whether she is Indian, American or Asian-American. Readers will appreciate this profound look at the value of girls when poverty rules.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whiter Than Snow-Sandra Dallas

Whiter Than Snow
Sandra Dallas
St. Martin’s, Mar 30 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312600150

In April 1920, the Swandyke Avalanche came down Jubilee Mountain in Colorado killing twenty schools kids; only four survived.

The parents wait anxiously as everyone digs frantically. Age, race, religion, gender and occupation no longer are dividers. Estranged sisters Lucy and Dolly pray for their five kids between them to be safe while the former’s husband Henry takes charge and the latter’s Tom gets druink. Black widower Joe fears for his beloved Jane. Jim and Grace also worry about their offspring. Elderly Minder keeps the Civil War cemetery clean, but now fears for his grandson Emmett. Essie is a popular French hooker who is actually a New York Jew; she hopes one day to be a real mom to her Sophie raised by a nanny. All share in common their fear that their child may be dead.

The ensemble cast seems genuine before and during the disaster; especially poignant is the reaction of panicked parents as race and occupation no longer matter. Time and place come across as key elements. Although the first abrupt change in whose background story is told comes out of nowhere, readers will adapt to the switching perspectives that enable fans to know how the cast will react to the tragedy.

Harriet Klausner

If You Follow Me-Malena Watrous

If You Follow Me
Malena Watrous
Harper, Mar 9 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061732850

American girlfriends Marina and Carolyn move to Shika, Japan to teach English to Japanese students. Although in Japan struggling to understand trash collection methods, the two female Yanks also have a hard time learning the native language. Still they teach in the same classroom with Hiroshi the translator assisting them.

The pair squabbles at times over what seems afterward mostly inane like what to do with the garbage while reflecting how they met at a grief support group. In fact Marina went on this trip so she could find some closure and move beyond her father’s death. As Marina turns to Hiroshi as a friend and to her students as a mental escape, Carolyn withdraws from her, the students and their translator. Ironically while Carolyn grieves deeper for her loss, Marina feels her father’s encouraging presence pleading with her to live life to the fullest.

If You Follow Me is a wonderful character driven tale of two Americans in Japan reacting to the culture shock in dramatically opposite directions. Marina and Carolyn are fully developed protagonists with the former embracing the country and the latter retreating from the country. The comparisons between the two Americans refresh an often told tale of an individual coping with a dramatic change in lifestyle (see Love In Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga).

Harriet Klausner

The Long Way Home-Robin Pilcher

The Long Way Home
Robin Pilcher
Dunne, Mar 30 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312354350

Claire Barrington loves her Scottish stepfather Leo Barclay who is her only living relative besides her spouse Art. So when Leo suffers a stroke, Claire accompanied by Art leaves New York’s East Village and their restaurant Barrington’s to help Leo recuperate. However, the man she adores and who has called her daughter for years making her feel good about life is not the same as he is no longer capable of caring for himself.

Claire prefers to arrange things as much as possible so Leo can remain home; Art suggests they buy the estate and establish a conference center while building a nearby cottage for Leo to reside in. The vultures arrive with plans and schemes. Marcus and Charity, his children from his first marriage who never forgave their dad for marrying Claire’s mom and raising her; want him placed in a home so they can sell the place. Claire’s childhood friend Jonas Fairweather suggests a public auction to raise money for Leo’s care. Remaining competent, Leo chooses Jonas’ concept, but Claire distrusts her friend’s motive when another bidder surfaces who she assumes will want to tear down the place and replace it with a major development.

The story line is an entertaining look at how relatives act when a beloved elderly family member becomes too ill to care for themselves, but remains mentally competent. Leo is the terrific focus of the rest of key players as each has different ideas re his future. Although his malicious offspring and the contriving scheming childhood friend never come across as more than as more than one dimensional boors, fans will enjoy the three way fight as Claire and Art want the best for Leo while hurtful Marcus, horrid Charity, and opportunistic Jonas want the best for themselves.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Jew Must Die-Jacques Chessex

A Jew Must Die
Jacques Chessex
Bitter Lemon, Apr 1 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781904738510

Like Asia and North Africa, Europe is on fire as Hitler’s bloody war spreads in all direction across the continent. Only Switzerland nestled in the Alps seems immune, but the economy is severely impacted throughout the nation as unemployment and bankruptcies are rising rapidly. Also even in this nation, dark Nazi nightmares exist as some locals work their insidious master plan.

In the Swiss market town Payerne, local Nazi leader Fernand Ischi blames the 500 unemployed out of 5000 citizens on the Jews. He encourages teaching them a lesson for being God’s abominations by taking their property. On April 16, 1942, Swiss Nazis salute the Fuhrer and his final solution when they persuade sixty years old Jewish cattle merchant Arthur Bloch to enter an empty stable. Once inside they hammer him to death with a crowbar and cut up his body placing the parts into milk containers to float away on the nearby lake on Hitler’s birthday. None even show the slightest remorse as Jews deserve this treatment as Ischi believes the first sacrifice takes him on his way to becoming the regional gauleiter leader of the Swiss Nazi Party. That is until the containers fail to float away; Kaddash is prayed for Arthur as it will be for six million others for eternity.

Based on a true horror story just like Jacques Chessex’s previous tale The Vampire of Ropaz, A Jew Must Die is a gripping translation of a superb French drama that will have readers shocked that such a hate crime occurred. The cast drives the novellas as the audience sees what motivates the monster and his goons to violence, the regional Jewish community to fear, and the local townsfolk to horror. Without preaching, Monsieur Chessex leaves readers to wonder why God tolerates acts of intolerance in his name.

Harriet Klausner

The Heretic's Wife-Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Heretic's Wife
Brenda Rickman Vantrease
St. Martin’s, Ape 13 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312386993

In 1528 at Gouch’s Book and Print Shop, siblings John and Kate Gough obtain banned protestant bibles and translate them into English at a time when the Lutheran reformation is outlawed. When John is caught and arrested, he saves his life by recanting his sins. His sister Kate understands why he repudiated his activity, but refuses to retract her actions and beliefs.

Kate meets and falls in love with biblical translator John Frith. He takes her to safety in Antwerp as religious wars seem imminent in England. King Henry VIII is increasingly frustrated with the Pope’s inaction on his petition to sanction a marriage to his mistress Anne Boleyn so he begins to look towards the Lutheran doctrine. To the contrary, Catholic supporter Thomas More burns heretics to keep England loyal to the Vatican. In these dangerous times, Protestants are subject to a heresy death penalty especially inside of England but even those who fled to tolerant Holland.

This is a refreshing superb Tudor historical that focuses on the impact of the religious wars on the working class. Perhaps the biggest adjustment for readers is Sir Thomas More as a fanatic willing to torture and burn heretics, a far cry from A Man for All Seasons. With a rare for novels of that era modern day relevance, Brenda Rickman Vantrease pulls no punches as she provides a profound look at what the royal-papal dispute does to the every-person English.

Harriet Klausner

An Absence So Great-Jane Kirkpatrick

An Absence So Great
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook, Mar 16 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781578569816

In 1910 eighteen years old Jessie Ann Gaebele is proof that single young women are going places no one dreamed possible just a few years ago. She has demonstrated skill as a photographer in Milwaukee though gender bias is rampant even when she is buying supplies or obtaining customers. Jessie Ann dreams of one day returning to her hometown of Winona, Minnesota to open up her own photography studio as currently she fills in for those ailing from mercury poisoning. When she triumphantly opens that studio in Winona she will prove to herself that she has not just come a long way, she had made it. However, she also knows her broken heart was an enabler to get her to leave Minnesota for the eastern side of Wisconsin.

Still as she struggles with male proprietors thinking they can accost a single woman, she also misses her home like the annual boat race, but especially Fred Gottlieb. When he arrives in Milwaukee for the photographic conference to receive an award, Jessie Ann wants to flee, but her time alone taking care of herself has given her courage. She will be polite and congratulate him, but keep herfeelings hidden while keeping a distance. However, Jessie is unaware that Fred has an agenda of his own.

Reaching back once again to her family tree for the sequel of her grandmother Jessie Ann as a late teen (see The Flickering Light for the earlier years), historical novelist Jane Kirkpatrick provides readers with a terrific "biographical fiction". The story line is fast-paced but owned by the lead couple especially the brave heroine who as a pioneer makes it in an era when single young women did not hang out shingles as craftsmen. The support cast like Marie Harms, daughter of the boarding house owner where Jessie Ann stays, enhances the profound look at how far women have come in a century.

Harriet Klausner

Alexandra, Gone-Anna McPartlin

Alexandra, Gone
Anna McPartlin
Downtown, Apr 13 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439123331

In Dublin, thirty something Alexandra Kavanagh disappears. Her husband Tom is stunned with his loss as she had no reason to vanish in his opinion, but if something bad happened to her he does not know and cannot seek closure.

Tom runs to into Alexandra’s best friend when she was growing up, Jane Moore on a stick elevator. Jane muses to the time when the pair drifted apart in their teens when she became pregnant. Now seventeen years since giving birth, she is a single mom, running an art gallery, her volatile mom, and managing her sister Elle’s painting career. Tom is taken aback by her energy as Jane urges him to search for his wife. Jane, and the other stickees (Elle and reclusive web designer Leslie Sheehan) join Tom on an Ireland-wide quest, but nothing new surfaces re Alexandra, Gone. However, the group finds separate solace as the sisters resolve their traumatic pasts, Leslie comes out of her hermit existence to make friends and Tom moves forward with his grief.

This is an interesting character study of four people seeking the missing connection that binds them. Each member of the quartet comes across unique with issues, but the bonding of friendship enables all of them to move on. Ironically the prime link Alexandra never is fully developed as insight into her is inductive through for instance songs she enjoyed. Thus the entertaining story line lacks any tension re Alexandra, Gone, but instead the humor and tautness come from the foursome’s personal problems.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Imperfect Birds-Anne Lamott

Imperfect Birds
Anne Lamott
Riverhead (Putnam), Apr 6 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594487514

Entering her high school senior year, seventeen year old Rosie Ferguson is a high achieving teen. Rosie is beautiful, an A student and a good athlete. Her mother Elizabeth is proud of her daughter.

Elizabeth feared the move to Lansdale in Marin County, but she, her husband James, and her daughter apparently adjusted rather easily though she prays Rosie stays away from the youth drug culture as she knows she herself uses alcohol to numb emotional excess. She and James vigilantly watch Rosie for signs of abuse and use as the square sells everything. However, in spite of their vigil, they fail to notice her daughter’s mendacity until it is almost too late. Risking their marriage, James and Elizabeth intervene while Rosie objects.

Rosie and Elizabeth return (see Rosie) in this profound gut wrenching family drama. The story line captures teen behavior with a strong need to ignore parental authority while also demanding privacy and the typical subsequent parental reaction. The lead trio is an awesome combination of love, defiance, and anger as Anne Lamott provides an intelligent psychological family drama.

Harriet Klausner

An Unfinished Score-Elise Blackwell

An Unfinished Score
Elise Blackwell
Unbridled, Apr 6 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781936071661

As she prepares dinner for her husband Ben, their deaf daughter Adele and best friend Petra, concert violist Suzanne Sullivan hears of her lover’s death over the radio. She conceals her grief over the death of her beloved orchestra conductor Alex Elling. She avoids a meltdown due to their shared love of music, which gets her through the meal, his funeral and the next few weeks.

A couple weeks after Alex is buried, his widow Olivia begins calling Suzanne leaving messages hinting at exposing her. Olivia demands Suzanne complete her late spouse’s final score or else face ridicule and worse when she is revealed to her family and the orchestra as a cheating spouse. Unable to mourn in public, Suzanne detests the extortion but also wants closure by honoring her beloved so she decides to complete An Unfinished Score that Alex was composing in honor of his cherished lover.

Although overwrought with too much angst, An Unfinished Score is an enjoyable character driven tale. The two female rivals (over who “owns” Alex’s memory) dominate the stage in spite of seemingly the entire Chicago and St. Luis orchestras and her quartet performing. The audience will enjoy this fine tale of grieving in silence.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate Of England

The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate Of England
Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks, Mar 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402237669

King Edward IV marries Elizabeth Woodville in secret. Elizabeth’s family, including her six year old sister Kate, is escorted to the royal court. Over time with maturity Kate overcomes her amazement of the regal world to marry the Duke of Buckingham, Harry Stafford.

However, both her biological and marital families are caught in the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York. While King Edward IV fights to remain on the throne, Harry has to choose between loyalty to his brother-in-law and his best friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester who covets the crown.

This is an entertaining biographical fiction that enables the audience to observe the late fifteenth century royal power struggles through the observations of the beleaguered queen’s younger sister and her spouse. They, especially Harry, are yanked between extended family loyalty and his friend. Fans of English historical fiction anchored by facts will enjoy the exciting saga of The Stolen Crown.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Balancing Acts-Zoe Fishman

Balancing Acts
Zoe Fishman
Harper, Mar 10 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061711800

The four women graduated from Boston University ten years ago. They knew one another other, but would not consider themselves close friends. Each had dreams. Charlie was going to own wall St; Naomi was going to be a famous photographer; Sabine was going to write great novels; and Bess was going to be a famous investigative reporter.

They meet at the ten year college reunion in Manhattan. Charlie left Wall St. to open with partners Julian and Felicity a yoga studio in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn; Sabine edits romance novels; and Bess writes for the celebrity gossip tabloid Pulse. None are happy though Charlie is probably the closest even with her studio in financial trouble she has boyfriend issues. She invites the three other grads to come to Brooklyn for yoga; they agree and over six weeks of an introductory class all four realize their lives are unbalanced; becoming true friends each tries to bring some balance to their lives.

Though sisterhood bonding is not a new concept, Balancing Acts is an entertaining tale as each of the four women face their issues over the six week yoga course and soon form a tight bond that helps each balance responsibilities and rekindle burned out dreams. A superb support cast enhances the audience’s understanding of the quartet. Readers will root for each one of the leads to balance their respective acts as these likable females soon are there supporting one another.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Necessary Heartbreak-Michael J. Sullivan

Necessary Heartbreak
Michael J. Sullivan
Gallery (Simon & Schuster), Mar 302 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439184233

When his wife died giving birth to their daughter Elizabeth fourteen years ago, Michael lost his faith and most of his heart was interred with his spouse. The only person he cherishes is his offspring as he keeps everyone else at a distance.

One day when the father and daughter are carrying crates into their church, they find a trap door in the sub-basement. Unable to resist, they enter and begin walking a long tunnel. When they finally exit, the duo find themselves in Jerusalem one week before the execution of Christ.

Initially the time travels assume they stumbled into an incredible movie set, but soon realize otherwise when they observe a Roman soldier harming a man. They intercede only to have Mike incarcerated in the same prison as the person he tried to liberate. Another Roman soldier helps Mike escape, but later learns he wants something from him: Elizabeth. The man blocks the entrance to the tunnel forcing the Sullivan duet to remain in first century Jerusalem. Leah, who believes Mike should know her, provides food and shelter. As attraction between her and Mike grows but they know he and his child do not belong there. Leah is willing to sacrifice herself if needed to enable the love of her life and his daughter to go home.

Michael J. Sullivan has written an exciting refreshing biblical thriller in which his namesake hero meets Jesus who prophesized his coming and a who’s who of the final days. The story line adheres to the Bible yet provides a secular spin with no preaching. Readers will enjoy this fine tale of two people displaced in time and place; people who have a role as frustrated watchers of the last days of Christ; unable to change what they knows as history.

Harriet Klausner

Parrot and Olivier in America-Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America
Peter Carey
Knopf, Apr 20 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307592620

In France, the aristocratic parents of Olivier-Jean-Baptist de Clarel de Barfleur are concerned with the safety of their son after his involvement with Louis XVIII, Napoleon III and Charles X. To keep him away from the guillotine, they ship him to the former colonies struggling with the concept of democracy.

Knowing how easily Oliver gets into trouble, his father hires John “Parrot” Larrit the impoverished printer’s son is sent with him as his secretary. Neither like nor respect the other. Oliver’s haughty mouth gets them in trouble in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and points in between while Parrot expedites them from one incident after another; having gotten his first hand training in the Australian penal colony.

Rotating perspective, this is a great fictionalized account of Alexis de Tocqueville’s travels in America. Jocular yet poignant, readers will appreciate the same event as seen radically different by the son of the aristocrats vs. the son of a widower engraver. Parrot and Olivier in America will make the short lists for historical novel of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 8, 2010

Five-Star Fleecing-Maura Stone

Five-Star Fleecing
Maura Stone
A WinS Publication, Dec 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9781449932299

In 1995 after losing her legal position at a firm doing questionable practices, Linda Lane obtains a job as assistant resident manager at the Manhattan luxurious Supreme Superior Hotel. Her boss Herr Ganiff explains the rules of working at a five-star hotel and assigns her to work up a plan on how to keep their high rollers happy while also bringing in some middle income.

However, Linda observes all sorts of questionable practices at the hotel owned in absentia by a Japanese trio. In fact, she sees theft, poor handling of guests and a management team that takes care of itself exclusively. As she tries to ignore what she observes, Linda thinks of her father who told her to never back down from an ethics scenario as she did as a lawyer.

This is a superb scathing satire of the hospitality business at a time when Wall St. is in the news with Too Big To Fail bonuses to many of those who failed. The cast is eccentric and over the top of the Empire State Building with me-me attitudes that stun idealistic newcomer Linda Lane who cannot understand the philosophy that the guest must not get in the way of bonuses. Maura Stone provides a well written tale of avarice, American style of capitalism.

Harriet Klausner

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand-Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson
Random House, $25.00, Mar 2 2010
ISBN: 9781400068937

In Edgecombe St. Mary, sexagenarian English Widower Major Ernest Pettigrew grieves the death of his younger brother, Bertie. As a memento of growing up together, Ernest wants Bertie's antique Churchill shotgun, which is part of a set in which he owns the other piece. However, his sibling’s wife Marjorie refuses to give it to him. Meanwhile Ernest’s son Roger salivates over selling the Churchill collection.

Ernest is attracted to Pakistani shopkeeper Widow Jasmina Ali who he buys his tea from and enjoys discussing literature especially Kipling with her. He wants to court the single mom though Roger interferes as does the village socialites; each has their own reason while her nephew Abdul Wahid demands she give him the shop as women should not be storekeepers by themselves. However the major plans to ask the shopkeeper to accompany him to the dance at the club unaware of the volatile theme.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a great contemporary English village romance with a very modern day theme of two subcultures clashing when a person from each group falls in love with someone from the other side, a Romeo and Juliet taboo. The story line is character driven by the strong lead couple who has feelings that is unacceptable by their families and friends. Jocular and poignant, Helen Simonson writes a relevant tale of forbidden love even for middle aged military veterans who risks his place in the village by taking a last stand for what he wants.

Harriet Klausner

Postcards from a Dead Girl-Kirk Farber

Postcards from a Dead Girl
Kirk Farber
Harper, Feb 16 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061834479

His former girlfriend Zoe began sending Sid Higgins postcards from all over Europe. However, the cards are all over a year old and Zoe seems to have fallen off the face of the planet. He decides to travel to Europe to make sure zany Zoe is okay though he doubts he will locate her.

Sid easily arranges his getaway as a perk working for a New Jersey travel agency. Before crossing the pond, he opens his soul to his boss, his neighbor, the mail carrier, his sister the physician and his best listener Zero the dog.

This is an amusing often poignant tale that takes the audience deep inside of Sid although he can be irritating to the point fans will emulate his sister by shouting at him to get a life and move past a relationship that has been dead for a couple of years. Zero makes the story line fun with his precious reactions to his owner’s tales of woe is me when all he wants is chow. Although Sid’s obsession can be wearisome at times, Postcards from a Dead Girl is a profound character study.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Something Out There-Richard Bausch

Something Out There
Richard Bausch
Knopf, Feb 9 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307266279

These eleven superb short stories take seemingly inconsequential events that occur on a larger stage like snow storms and floods to argue what is sacred about a relationship. Using a sort of butterfly effect Richard Bausch leaves his audience pondering whether it is better to not love than lose freedom as relationships require ceding something and fail to last anyway as constant compromise or accession becomes the norm. All the entries are well written although some have appeared in other publications. Especially superb are "Reverend Thornhill's Wife" who has a great caring spouse but remains so unhappy she takes an Internet stranger to their bed; “Byron the Lyron” who only loves his dying octogenarian mother as does his former boyfriend; and "Blood" as a younger brother obsesses over his sister-in-law. Metaphoric symbolism abound as nature is meant to be loose and wild not fundamentally churched as in "Sixty-five Million Years" while power outages is the norm for those trying to maintain a relationship as told in "Son and Heir" and the title tale. readers will appreciate the profound look at the evanescent "One Hour in the History of Love" as Mr. Bausch makes a strong case that to err is human; to relate is divinely impossible.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret of the Glass-Donna Russo

The Secret of the Glass
Donna Russo
Kensington, Mar 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780758226921

In Venice the renowned Murano glassmakers feel the pressure of laws that insist they must remain inside the city and limit females. Zeno Fiolario is one of the best artisans, but his equally talented oldest daughter Sophia must hide her skill serendipitously taught to her by her father or both will be severely punished. When Zeno becomes ill, Sophia as the oldest of his daughters accepts marriage to middle-aged Pasquale da Fuligna, who covets owning the Fiolarios’ glass factory.

Pasquale brings his fiancée to the Doge's palace, where she meets Galileo. The scientist, in trouble with the Church, commissions her in secret to construct a secret lens for him. Encouraged by her beloved impoverished courier, she creates a glass device to enable long distance sight. However, her association with Galileo places her and her family and beloved in trouble with the papacy.

This is a superb historical fiction tale that brings to life the age of Galileo in Venice through the eyes of an illegal Murano glassmaker. Ironically, like Galileo who is in heretic trouble with the Church; Sophia violates the gender restriction law. She learns skill is irrelevant. Readers will relish this strong seventeenth century story as The Secret of the Glass is due to the maker.

Harriet Klausner

The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate Of England

The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage That Forever Changed The Fate Of England
Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks, Mar 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402237669

King Edward IV marries Elizabeth Woodville in secret. Elizabeth’s family, including her six year old sister Kate, is escorted to the royal court. Over time with maturity Kate overcomes her amazement of the regal world to marry the Duke of Buckingham, Harry Stafford.

However, both her biological and marital families are caught in the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York. While King Edward IV fights to remain on the throne, Harry has to choose between loyalty to his brother-in-law and his best friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester who covets the crown.

This is an entertaining biographical fiction that enables the audience to observe the late fifteenth century royal power struggles through the observations of the beleaguered queen’s younger sister and her spouse. They, especially Harry, are yanked between extended family loyalty and his friend. Fans of English historical fiction anchored by facts will enjoy the exciting saga of The Stolen Crown.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 5, 2010

Butterfly Tattoo-Deidre Knight

Butterfly Tattoo
Deidre Knight
Samhain, Feb 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781605045443

In Hollywood due to an electrical failure at her office, former TV actress Rebecca O'Neill meets bisexual electrician widower Michael Warner accompanied by his eight years old stepdaughter Andrea Lauren Richardson when he answers her call. The two adults are attracted to each other instantly, but Rebecca suffers from PTSD following an assault several years ago. Her assistant Trevor informs her that the electrician’s gay life partner just died.

Michael has his emotional issue since his life partner Dr. Alex Richardson died in a car accident caused by a DUI driver that has physically and emotionally scarred his stepdaughter whom he does not know and resents him. Rebecca empathizes with Andrea as she became a producer after a brutal assault disfigured her banning her from TV and movie roles. As the three emotionally scarred individuals become better acquainted, a potential family bond of love forms, but each fears trusting in such a fragile feeling that they know from experience is fleeting.

Rotating perspective especially between the two beleaguered adults, Butterfly Tattoo makes a strong case that love and nurturing makes a family. The three lead characters are profound as each has suffered a loss while the support cast enhances the audience understanding of what motivates the prime trio. With a couple of wonderful twists, readers will appreciate this strong deep look at love and family that affirms caring relationships comes in a zillion different packages.

Harriet Klausner

Reunion-JL Penn

JL Penn
CreateSpace, 2009, $11.95
ISBN: 9781442146860

In Maryland, thirty-seven years old budget analyst Jessica Stratford loves her husband Kyle in a double income no kid homes. She has several close friends from high school which include Candace and the rest of the posse. Meanwhile seemingly everyone she knows is on Facebook so she joins not expecting to stay on that often.

Unable to resist, Jessica looks up David Miller who she had a crush on in high school. They communicate over Facebook and learn about each other as he lives in Maryland and has a wife and children. They agree to meet and soon Jessica has to decide on remaining faithful and married to Kyle or going with David who swears he loves her.

This is a superb contemporary tale that uses the instant communication connection of Facebook to enable Jessica to link with David. The cast makes the story line work as the support characters especially Candace are strongly developed whether they just appear on the social network or in person and the lead triangle believable. Though the dynamics of David’s family is somewhat ignored, readers, especially those on one of the social network sites, will relish this terrific tale wondering who she will choose.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Big Girl-Danielle Steel

Big Girl
Danielle Steel
Delacorte, Feb 23 2010, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385343183

Victoria Dawson loves her younger sister Gracie, but always felt inferior to her sibling. Her parents especially her father confirmed that belief making it clear she was a failed test before they got it right. Mom just sits silently in affirmation.

Victoria leaves home accepting a job at an elite Manhattan school, but her verbally abusive dad calls her a loser for taking such a position. She begins to have an obesity issue and firmly believes she is unlovable although she seems to have everything going as a swinging single in New York.

This is a fascinating character study of a woman who seems to have everything, but lacks self esteem after growing up being told she was a worthless loser while her sister was perfect. Victoria is an intriguing individual who rates herself as useless because that is all she heard from her parents. The problem with this family drama is just how verbally abusive her parents are towards the Big Girl as they are so over the top with their nastiness towards their first born vs. their kind nurturing of their second child, they lack credibility and are two dimensional. Still in spite of the cardboard vicious parents, fans will root for Victoria to realize how much she has going; overcoming negative fostering.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Here Burns My Candle-Liz Curtis Higgs

Here Burns My Candle
Liz Curtis Higgs
Waterbrook, Mar 16 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781400070015

In 1745 Edinburgh, Highlander Lady Elisabeth Kerr marries royalist Lowlander Lord Donald Kerr. She conceals from her spouse that she is a pagan worshipper who believes in the ancient auld ways; he hides secrets from her as well.

Meanwhile his mother Lady Marjory hides gold underneath her floor, adores her adult sons, and struggles with remorse and guilt, which is buried in Greyfriars Church cemetery. Her other son Andrew and his wife Janet worry over her family and its impact on them as danger mounts with Prince Charles Edward Stuart leading the Jacobyte revolt into Edinburgh. The secret of the five Kerr’s explodes open threatening all of them and others.

Here Burns My Candle is a well written inspirational historical tale that takes a bit of time to establish the time and place, and to introduce the relationships between the key characters and the flaws of each of them. Once done, the story line rapidly accelerates as rebellion seems imminent and no one in Edinburgh and perhaps all of Scotland can avoid it. Caught in this explosive rebellious time is the Kerr family as their personal issues also ignite. Fans will enjoy this entertaining evangelical eighteenth century character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

As Young As We Feel-Melody Carlson

As Young As We Feel
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook, Mar 28 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764973

In Clifden, Oregon, the four females named Linda met in the first grade and became friends. They agreed to use their middle names to ease identification in the Four Lindas club. The quartet vowed to remain BFFs, but high school has a way to break up forever clubs.

Almost five decades have passed since the women first formed the Lindas club. Each went their separate ways with Janie becoming a New York attorney; Abby feeling the pangs of her empty nest with the kids gone; Marley as a failed artist lost her élan and free spirit attitude; and Charlotte the starlet whose Hollywood time is over. Each has decisions to make in their middle years, but though they had lost contact until now, they remain BFFs having each other’s back.

This is an entertaining character driven tale starring the Four Lindas who in their early fifties face differing crises, but with their BFF namesakes do so with courage and encouragement. Although the plot is thin, fans will relish that with faith and friends in your heart, a person can achieve so much more to overcome what eats at their soul. Melody Carlson provides a wonderful inspirational that will have fans wanting to see how the Four Linda’s rock Clifden.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 1, 2010

In the Midst of It All-Tiffany L Warren

In the Midst of It All
Tiffany L Warren
Grand Central, Feb 22 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780446195164

Teenager Zenovia has spent her entire young life caring for her schizophrenic mother. Tired and seeing a foreboding future of always being there for her mentally troubled mom, Zenovia does her best. When members of the Brethren of the Sacrifice Church arrive, Zenovia feels welcomed by them and though skeptical knows adding God into their lives will help them especially with her mom’s excitement re the bible.

Seventeen years ago, Audrey saw her future husband in a vision; now she sees her one day spouse Phillip in person at the church. They marry, but instead of Zenovia’s life improving, it turns nasty as her stepfather and the rest of the flock want Audrey to stop taking her schizophrenic medication that prevents her mom turning violent, but the congregation insists she is suffering from demonic possession. With the help of church peers, Zenovia works hard at school and obtains a college scholarship to escape; knowing one day the call she dreads will come.

This is a timely inspirational tale with a strong message that people should look closely at who interprets God’s words; sort of a historiographer evaluating the history writer’s background. Profound, Tiffany L. Warren provides a thought provoking exhilarating story line with a deep message encouraging people to apply the free will God has granted us to make your own interpretation and decision; as those who conveniently let others do so may be led by false profiteering prophets.

Harriet Klausner