Friday, April 30, 2010

Open Country-Kaki Warner

Open Country
Kaki Warner
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234303

In 1871 at the suggestion of her sister’s doctor, nurse Molly McFarlane travels from Atlanta to Savannah to see her sibling Nellie who is dying from lung disease. Molly’s brother-n-law Daniel Fletcher is nasty to her; telling her to go home. Nellie pleads with Molly to run off with her two preadolescent children from a previous marriage, as she fears for them under Daniels martinet abuse.

As Molly flees with her niece and nephew, in nearby Jeanerette, Rustin lectures Daniel for failing to find what his late father-in-law hid as the wealthy man plots a second Southern rebellion because war is money. Meanwhile, out west a train wreck leaves Patrick Henry “Hank” Wilkins near death, remorseful but desperate Molly marries him so she can inherit at least an insurance claim to take care of the kids and hide from her odious brother-in-law’s operatives. Instead Hank recovers, but is clueless re marriage and a train wreck. He takes his wife and her wards to his family ranch in the New Mexico Territory where his family embraces the newcomers. As they fall in love and his memory returns, her Georgia roots are arriving.

The second of the Blood Rose trilogy (see The Pieces of the Sky) is a wonderful historical tale starring a strong ensemble cast. A key fresh premise is the push for a new Confederacy revolt as personal economic gain due to war motivates Rustin and his cohorts, who stole gold from the south several years ago. With an intriguing lead couple whose marriage is shaky as he knows part of the truth in spite of two frightened children needing them and the rest of the Wilkins, fans will appreciate this superb Reconstruction Era romance.

Harriet Klausner

Amandine-Marlena de Blasi

Marlena de Blasi
Ballantine, May 18 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345507341

In 1931 in Krakow, Poland, an unmarried aristocrat gives birth to a female. To protect her foolish unwed daughter, her mother the Countess lies by telling the new mom that the baby died. The grandmother sends her newborn illegitimate granddaughter to a convent in Montpellier, France run by Abbess Mother Paul and raised by a governess Solange Jouffroi, who names the infant Amandine Gilberte Noiret de Crécy.

Mother Paul detests Amandine while the other sisters are wary of her; only Solange loves her ward. Over the years Amandine wonders why her mom and grandma abandoned her and why the abbess overtly displays her loathing. When scarlet fever ravages the convent, Solange takes Amandine with her to stay with her family as the Nazis blitzkrieg of France turns the two day journey by train into a dangerous odyssey.

This is a wonderful historical tale with a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy; as once the basic biological needs are met, Amandine seeks self actualization by wondering where she belongs. Except for Solange whom she loves as her mom, she fears something is wrong with her for so many to abandon her or loathe her. That sense of identity lost before it is even set make for a strong thriller further anchored in time and place during an era of Nazi atrocities as war engulfs Europe.

Harriet Klausner

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People-Farahad Zama

The Marriage Bureau For Rich People
Farahad Zama
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234242

In Kapu, India, Mr. Ali tried retirement only to find it tedious. Needing something to do as the ennui is fossilizing his brain, the bored Muslim opens up a marriage bureau. Mr. Ali is surprised to find his endeavor successful as clients seeking a mate that meets their stipulation flock to him. He hires Aruna, a single young woman from an impoverished Brahmin family.

Mr. and Mrs. Ali struggle with their activist son Rehman, who believes in human rights while Aruna tussles with an increasingly hostile situation at home. Ironically Aruna would prefer to be a client and knows who she wants, but being penniless that is a bitter unrequited dream becauseas the Romanian doctor accompanied by his family seeks a more suitable match.

This is a very reflective contemporary drama that digs deeply into modern India’s struggles with religious, gender and caste egalitarianism when the country has an institutionalized history of inequality. Yet even with these powerful topics, it is the cast who make the relationships work; as for instance Mr. Ali looks forward to his next fight with his son. Although many of the problems between people are resolved too easily and rapidly, fans will enjoy Mr. Ali’s pragmatic solutions to the age old problems of love vs. tradition.

Harriet Klausner

Husband and Wife-Leah Stewart

Husband and Wife
Leah Stewart
Harper, May 4 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061774508

Feeling some guilt, novelist Nathan Bennett confesses to his wife Sarah Price that he slept with another woman. She is stunned by his confession, which changes her priorities from which dress to wear at a wedding would make her look less fat to what to do about her relationship with Nathan; factoring in their two young children, Mattie and Binx.

Whereas Nathan feels remorse, Sarah feels anger. She considers her options by looking at her past through a decision analysis of what could have been her life if she chose a differentpath. She ponders leaving her spouse and taking the kids with her of course while her anger grows as she gave up poetry writing and wants to be known as a poetess again. Then there is to consider her friend Rajiv, who has loved her forever.

This is an interesting family drama in which an extramarital one night stand has shattered the trust between Husband and Wife. The lead couple feels genuine especially their emotions. However, it is the tense intriguing look back by Sarah who deeply examines lost opportunities when she made pivotal choices who makes the story line profound. Although the ending seems off kilter as a throwback to Austen’s Regency era, fans will still appreciate this deep character study of one major indiscretion which has incredible relational costs.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Evangeline-Ben Farmer

Ben Farmer
Overlook, Apr 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9781590200438

In 1755 the British army ruthlessly marches through one of their colonies Acadia to evict the unwelcome French citizens from their homes and loved ones. Families are torn apart without regard as ethnic cleansing of the French Catholics is the regal policy.

As part of the royal eviction, lovers Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse are separated, deported, and sent to different areas in the colonies that leave them several hundred miles from one another. Evangeline makes a concerted effort to find the love of her life. Her trek is dangerous but she believes it is worth it though he may be in the lower English colonies, out west amidst the French colonies, or as far away as the Louisiana bayous where many Acadians ended up after the “Great Expulsion”; she chooses Louisiana on a decade odyssey accompanied by trapper Bernard Arseneau and priest Father Felician.

Ben Farmer provides an intriguing novelization of the classic Longfellow poem. The story line brings to life the French-British conflict in North America as it intrudes on colonial existence. Although the history overwhelms the cast even the title character, readers will enjoy Mr. Farmer’s detailed impressive look at the impact of the hostilities between the French and British had on the North American colonists and the regional Indian tribes

Harriet Klausner

Welcome to Harmony-Jodi Thomas

Welcome to Harmony
Jodi Thomas
Berkley, Jun 1 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780425235102

Although they named the town they established Harmony, the three Texas families who founded the place should have named it acrimony as the McAllen, Matheson, and Truman brood detest one another. They compete with one another over who should run Harmony while Sheriff Alexandra McAllen goes on drinking binges every Saturday night with fire chief Hank Matheson always nearby to clean her up

Teen Reagan worked in a nursing home where she enjoyed hearing elderly resident Beverly Truman tell stories about her hometown of Harmony. When Beverly dies, Regan decides to relocate in Harmony; borrowing the late woman’s surname. Beverly’s brother Jeremiah realizes almost immediately upon meeting Reagan that they do not share bloodlines, but decides not to expose her. Instead he allows her to keep her ruse as he welcomes her into the family.

However, the divided town must come together as a prairie fire bears down on it. Especially the three leading rival families or Harmony will be no more.

This fine small-town portrayal will remind readers of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Grove although Harmony has its own stamp, that of talented Jodi Thomas. The story line is mostly a sweet concoction of townsfolk welcoming outsiders like Reagan and readers. The prairie fire and the Sheriff’s drinking problem add tension and issues to an engaging but otherwise sugary portrait of a small Texas town.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Marrowbone Marble Company-M. Glenn Taylor

The Marrowbone Marble Company
M. Glenn Taylor
Ecco, May 11 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061923937

In 1941 in Huntington, West Virginia, eighteen year old orphan Loyal Ledford works as a furnace tender at the Mann Glass Company factory while also attending college. He likes his boss’ daughter Rachel and persuades her to go out with him. When the war breaks out, Loyal joins the Marine Corps.

After major combat tours, he comes home to a hero's welcome. He marries Rachel, they have two kids and he returns to the glass manufacturing factory. However, he suffers from the trauma of battle until he meets his cousins, the Bonecutter brothers. They form a partnership, The Marrowbone Marble Company and a company village that welcomes all races and proves successful over the couple of decades until the civil rights movement marches through the area threatening his business, his village and his family.

This super historical epic returns to the land of The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart as The Marrowbone Marble Company focuses on a man who is ahead of his time re race relations only to be threatened by those trying to catch up. After serving in some of the Pacific’s more harrowing battles, Ledford suffers from PTSD until he meets his relatives and their land, which turns him into a visionary. Readers who relish a profound historical tale will appreciate the life and times of the battle fatigued dreamer in the Mountaineer State as he keeps the insightful story line mostly focused although some meandering in the foothills occurs.

Harriet Klausner

Girl in Translation-Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation
Jean Kwok
Riverhead, May 4 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594487569

Eleven years old Kimberly Chang and her mom left Honk Kong looking forward to “Minhaton” and the Liberty Goddess, but her Aunt dumps them into an unheated roach hell dump in a nasty part of Brooklyn. Mother and daughter survive by working at a Chinatown sweat shop while Kimberly struggles to learn English.

Ashamed, Kimberly conceals her home life from her affluent classmates including her only friend Annette. Over the years in spite of having to work she tries her best at school as she knows her only hope out of abject poverty for her and her mom starts with a college scholarship.

This is a fascinating inspiring contemporary fiction starring a wonderful girl who conceals her impoverish life from her schoolmates and friends though she feels guilty doing so as her mom works so hard (as does Kimberly) to give her somewhat a life. Character driven, fans will feel empathy for the young heroine while rooting for her to make it to the Ivy league and to give her mom one day a piano. Adults and high school teens will appreciate the powerful Girl in Translation.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of the Tudor Court-D.L. Bogdan

Secrets of the Tudor Court
D.L. Bogdan
Kensington, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758241993

Mary Howard would do anything to gain her father’s approval. Thus when he directs her to stay near and assist King Henry’s latest love Anne Boleyn, she does. Doing this makes Mary feel bad as she feels for the kind hearted Queen Catherine rather than the arrogant Anne, but she needs daddy’s appreciative thanks so she obeys his wishes.

Over the years, Mary finds the monarch’s court filled with backstabbing as one queen replaces another. She hides her heart from everyone out of fear anyone who knows who she loves will use it as a weapon including her worshipped father the Duke of Norfolk, who would disown his daughter as he has ambitious plans for his daughter.

Using Mary Howard as a lens to look deeply at the court of King Henry VIII and his myriad of queens, readers obtain a somewhat fresh perspective on what has to be the zillionth historical fictional account of the monarch and his merry wives. Mary is an intriguing narrator who, until she finds love, lives to obtain her father’s approval. Though very well written with a fascinating lead, only fans of the Henry VIII saga will enjoy Secrets of the Tudor Court.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 22, 2010

He Walks Among Us-Norman Spinrad

He Walks Among Us
Norman Spinrad
Tor, Apr 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765325846

After watching stand-up comic Ralf perform, sleazy agent Jimmy “Texas” Balaban believes the man has the potential to be a messianic superstar in spite of Ralf insisting he is from the future in which the world is horrible grim place to live. Jimmy hires science fiction writer turning hack Dexter Lambkin and New Age wannabe guru Amanda Robin to make it happen.

Amanda buys into Ralf’s spontaneous rap without challenging him; on the other hand cynical Dexter is shocked that he too is being mesmerized by Ralf. However, Ralf’s message of a world dying unless we change today is overwhelming the comedian who wants to vanish like he did once before.

This is an easy read, but those readers who enjoy something satirically different will appreciate He Walked Among Us; as Norman Spinrad lampoons capitalist preachers in mega-churches, media, DC and Wall Street, etc. while the world is in crisis. Character driven fans will be reminded of the movie Network as the author also ridicules his fan base for being overly zealous over the wrong segue. With a strong cast including Jimmy Durante’s Schnozzola, this convoluted tale will have the audience ponder what is important in life.

Harriet Klausner

Bedlam The Further Secret Adventures Of Charlotte Bronte

Bedlam The Further Secret Adventures Of Charlotte Bronte
Laura Joh Rowland
Overlook, May 13 2020, $25.95
ISBN: 9781590202715

Charlotte Bronte wants to mourn the deaths of her sisters Anne and Emily, but Jane Eyre will not allow her to. She feels survival guilt as her two novelist siblings never saw their writings make it though now thanks in part to her tale Jane Eyre, she and her late siblings are the talk of the nation.

Charlotte has also ended her relationship with her beloved John Slade, whom she met during her Moscow adventure last year (see Secret Adventures Of Charlotte Bronte). Famous author William Makepeace Thackeray has mentored Charlotte and helps her deal with sudden fame and entrance to the literary lions of London. She is escorted on a tour of Bedlam Psychiatric Hospital, but one inmate looks like Anne’s twin and worse another has to be John. She challenges the officials re the latter’s identification and told he is Polish expatriate Josef Typinski, who escaped when a murder causes chaos. The authorities accuse Josef of the homicide while Charlotte gets involved.

Rotating perspective between Charlotte’s journal and Slade’s escapades, readers will fully believe the last Bronte sister’s adventures this time in England. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and feels plausible even with Charlotte turning into an amateur sleuth of sorts. As with the previous Charlotte Bronte’s secret adventures (in Moscow), fans of Victorian thrillers will be thrilled reading about the heroine’s bedlam escapades.

Harriet Klausner

The Life and Times of Homer Sincere Whose Amazing Adventures are Documented by His True and Trusted Friend Rigby Canfield

The Life and Times of Homer Sincere Whose Amazing Adventures are Documented by His True and Trusted Friend Rigby Canfield
Nathaniel Lande
Overlook, May 13 2020, $25.95
ISBN: 9781590203286

In 1946 in the French Quarter of New Orleans preadolescents Rigby Canfield and polio-stricken Homer Sincere meet over a game of marbles. The two youngsters become friends although the former comes from affluence and the polio-stricken tweener comes from poverty. They soon begin filming their neighborhood with an 8mm camera.

When Homer’s mother dies, he is dispatched to La Vielle Maisona foster home run by Father Rivage. An ex-con, the Father funds the facility with art forgeries and cider sales. He gets intelligent Homer interested in the classics and encouraging the lad to become a “Soldier of the Word.”

The two friends meet again in Manhattan when both obtain work at Time-Life. However as they travel the world, they fall in love with the same woman Daisy, but their first dream of Hollywood filmmaking remains strong and binds them together.

This is an interesting slice of Life that uses real persona and events to anchor time and place, but stars two intriguing lead characters and to a lesser degree the woman who loves both of them. The historical Americana tale is driven totally by Rigby and Homer, though the former tells the tale of how extraordinary the latter, best friends forever, was. Although the story line never fully gels as in many ways it feels more like vignettes, fans will relish Rigby Canfield’s biographical fictional account of his BFF.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Frances-Janice M. Van Dyck

Finding Frances
Janice M. Van Dyck
Winston-Higgins, Apr 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9780982614006

Suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that makes breathing difficult, Frances is ready to join God. When her latest attack occurs, she lies down calmly waiting for God to embrace her and does not call her spouse Bill who remains in denial and would call 911. However, when death fails to come right away and the pain turns excruciating, she manages to get Bill to call 911.

Frances needs emergency surgery to remove the infarcted bowel, but though she prefers to say no intrusive operation, she needs professional care that will be covered by insurance at the hospital but not at home. Frances pleads with her son William to allow her to die although she knows her husband and her other children will refuse. When the operation fails, her doctor wants a second try, but Frances says enough; she chooses a death with dignity decision opting for hospice care rather than hospital treatment, but her family wants her to reconsider.

Avoiding melodrama, Finding Frances is a great family drama that looks deeply at the impact on everyone when a loved one is dying. Frances is the most adjusted due to her belief in the afterlife; her husband and three adult children cannot let her leave them without fighting for her to keep trying. Making a strong case for end of life counseling for a family, readers will appreciate Janice M. Van Dyck’s insightful drama; as spending time with Frances and her family provides a profound timely look at dying.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Modern Girl's Guide To Sticky Situations-Jane Buckingham

The Modern Girl's Guide To Sticky Situations
Jane Buckingham
Avon, May 11 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9780061776359

This is a fun well written reference book with concise answers to specific embarrassing, often silent screaming scenarios facing females (and by extrapolation of relational implication males) in modern society. The topics run the gamut of nine sticky chapters (love; weddings; home; family; parties, beauty fashion, and shopping; work; and on the go) and one dedicated section to the Icky. The topics include a vast range. For instance, Jane Buckingham provides short treatise on giving a toast in public when public speaking requires adult diapers to social internet commentary on your date mate to secret physical issues that range the gamut to having kids at home, etc. Whether it is the “Sticky” or the “Icky” Ms. Buckingham provides easy to follow and apply advice on how to survive and often thrive during a social tsunami that might feel yucky and sticky.

Harriet Klausner

Sins of the Mother-Victoria Christopher Murray

Sins of the Mother
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone, Jun 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416589181

In a former life, Jasmine Larson Bush was a stripper, a liar, an adulterous, and a thief. She told her husband Hosea that her daughter Jacqueline was his, but she was actually Brian Lewis’ biological offspring. He assumed she was is child. Jasmine is married to a prominent pastor who preaches at the famous City of Lights Church and has a TV show. She believes her life is perfect.

Her idyllic life crumbles at the mall when she leaves her daughter with Mae Frances, who she thinks of as her mother, and goes to the bathroom to change her son’s diaper. When she returns her daughter is nowhere to be seen. Mae Frances took her eye off the child for a moment that proved long enough for the girl to vanish. The police treat the disappearance as a kidnapping. As days pass with no sign of progress, Brian offers to help because he feels a connection to the daughter although he gave up his parental rights. As Jasmine tries to entice Brian into starting a new relationship with her, he wants to get back with his ex wife. Emotionally shattered, Jasmine collapses but a forgiving Hosea takes care of his wife while praying to the Lord to bring home their daughter to them safely.

This is the most emotionally draining experience of Jasmine’s soap operish life (see Lady Jasmine, Temptation, A Sin and a Shame, and Too Little, Too Late) and she copes with it, understandably, extremely poorly as she is particularly vulnerable. Readers empathize with her while admire Hosea and to a lesser degree Brian. Victoria Christopher Murray has written her most compelling tale to date as Jasmine and the audience will go from despondent emotional draining to spiritual uplifting in an intensely charged thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Miss You Most Of All-Elizabeth Bass

Miss You Most Of All
Elizabeth Bass
Kensington, May 1 2010, 20.00
ISBN: 9780758235107

Cancer victim Rue Anderson; her sister Laura Rafferty; and veteran Webb Saunders run the Sassy Spinster Farm in, Texas. The spread proves a great success as the “inmates” guests want to get down and dirty with work on a farm like planting and harvesting, etc. . Having just finished chemo treatment, Rue looks forward to sharing joint custody of her tweener daughter with her ex.

However, her recovery has a setback when the cancer returns. Worse is the return of the siblings’ younger pain in the butt stepsister Heidi Dawn Bogue to the farm. Heidi hides her reason for returning to a place she loathed when her mom married the sisters’ dad when she was a teen. In fact she needs to stay low as she is on the lam from her psychopathic Brooklyn embezzler boyfriend.

Readers will enjoy this character driven Texas family drama due to a strong lead trio and a solid support cast even if the Brooklyn mobster is somewhat stereotyped. Done with humor and wit (for instance, naming a child Portia is not Shakespeare literary allusion but an expensive car) Miss You Most Of All is a profound poignant relationship drama as three sisters find their groove.

Harriet Klausner

Nowhere, Carolina-Tamara Leigh

Nowhere, Carolina
Tamara Leigh
Multnomah, May 18 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781601421678

In Pickwick, North Carolina, when Maggie was a teen she was wild and out of control who never said no to her boyfriends until she got pregnant. Having a child changed Maggie who turned to Christianity for help as a single mom raising a kid alone out of wedlock in “Nowhere”, Carolina as she calls her hometown.

Maggie never bothered to learn who sired Devyn although there were three candidates; two still living in town. Her attitude changes when the third, her high school sweetheart Reece Thorpe, returns to their hometown. Fearing one or more of the male candidates might pursue a paternity custody suit and now obsessed with a need to know, she prays Reece is the one because she still loves him. Maggie serendipitously obtains DNA samples of the trio to find out who is Devyn’s dad.

The second Southern Discomfort inspirational contemporary drama (see Leaving Carolina for Maggie’s cousin Piper’s saga) is an enjoyable tale starring a wonderful small town cast. Character driven by the overly obstinate Maggie and her relationships with the possible biological fathers, fans of Three Men and a Baby with a religious spin will want to visit Nowhere, Carolina.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer People-Elin Hilderbrand

Summer People
Elin Hilderbrand
St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 27 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312628277

Attorney Arch Newton died in a plane crash. His grief-stricken widow Beth decides to go ahead with their summer plans leaving Manhattan for Nantucket accompanied by their twin children Garrett and Winnie. Also joining the Newton trio is seventeen year old Marcus; the son of a client accused of killing her sister-in-law and niece Arch was defending before he died; Arch invited Marcus.

Grieving Garrett is angry with Marcus being with them as he blames the latter’s mom for his dad’s death. Nantucket native David, separated from his wife, wants a second chance with Beth who seems receptive foe a fling with her first love, but hides something from her wannabe lover and her offspring. Garrett and David's older daughter form a relationship as does Winnie with Marcus.

The third Nantucket family drama (see The Beach Club and Nantucket Nights) is an enjoyable tale starring a grieving family in crisis. The cast is solid just not as deep as should be with each one dealing with the summer of his or her discontent. Although not profound, Summer People is a fine tale of three interlocking families struggling to move on.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 19, 2010

The One-Week Job Project: One Man, One Year, 52 Jobs-Sean Aiken

The One-Week Job Project: One Man, One Year, 52 Jobs
Sean Aiken
Villard, May 4 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345508034

After graduating from college, Sean Aiken tried travel, but that was not his thing. He came home and his mom suggested teaching while his sister recommended an entry level professional job. His father provided sage advice to find something you like. He decided to test a job a week so he set up a web site as such. Starting with bungee jump master at Whistler in British Columbia and ending as Mayor of Port Moody also in BC with a variety of points in between, Mr. Aiken tested 52 distinctly different jobs. Whether he is in Ontario, Wyoming or Beverly Hills, Sean lived up to his mantra to enjoy what your doing while doing do your best.

Gimmicky, but well written with an underlying philosophical theme of what is happiness, this is surprisingly a rather deep look at people today through various blue collar and white collar positions; considering that the book is 300 pages and fifty-two jobs are highlighted. Part of the depth is the introductory format used with each new position so that in a small text box specific information is provided enabling Mr. Aiken to focus on what he learned about each job. Beer brewing vs. wine making vs. cow milking sum up the odyssey as Mr. Aiken asks not just the job seeker but anyone to define whether success denotes happiness.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Within the Hollow Crown-Margaret Campbell Barnes

Within the Hollow Crown
Margaret Campbell Barnes
Sourcebooks, Apr 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402239212

Unlike his father Edward the Black prince, his grandfather Edward III, or his namesake Richard the Lionhearted, Richard Plantagenet never wanted to be king. However, in 1377 at eleven years old, he is crowned ruler of England under the control of a Regency Council led by his Uncle John of Gaunt. He hated their control and was pleased with parliament’s dissolution of the Council though his Uncle John remained his top advisor. However, it was his happy marriage to Anne of Bohemia that gave him the strength and spirit to make difficult decisions in a strife torn kingdom; as his prime goal was to end the Hundred Years War and other such conflicts. He proved successful at fourteen when he ended the Peasants' Revolt. England prospered under his valiant rule until his beloved Anne died in 1394. Richard II was never the same and soon was betrayed by his cousin.

This is a fascinating work of biographical fiction that will remind readers of the Shakespeare tragedy as a great ruler falls apart after his heart dies along with his beloved Anne. Written in 1948, Within the Hollow Crown holds up as a strong historical fiction that brings to life the late fourteenth century England, a place where intrigue and betrayal outlive a monarch trying to bring peace, harmony, and prosperity to his kingdom.

Harriet Klausner

Jordan’s Crossing-Randall Arthur

Jordan’s Crossing
Randall Arthur
Multnomah, Jun 16 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781590522608

His wife Susan and their two children seventeen years old son Chase and thirteen year old Donica had doubts bigger than the Atlantic Ocean, but liberal pastor Jordan Rau could not pass up the 50% increase in pay by leaving Chattanooga for Munich. In spite of their concerns, he relocates his family to Germany. To Jordan’s amazement and affirming his decision, Chase finds his first girlfriend Heather Anne Mosely, a classmate at the DOD HS.

However, Jordan’s belief he did the right thing collapses when Chase is viciously and senselessly murdered as he blames himself as if he killed his son. His family, his congregation, other pastors and psychologists try to help Jordan heal, but he cannot as he asks God why punish his innocent only son instead of his guilty father who left home for the wrong reason. He vows to find his son’s killer(s) and bring the wrath of his sword onto them; deserting God like God deserted him.

This is an entreating inspirational tale that grips the audience with the formerly logical liberal pastor replacing his “turn the other cheek” belief system with an “eye for an eye” vengeance is the pastor. Although some incidents seem over the top of the German Alps, readers will relish this character driven tale; wondering whether Jordan’s Paradise Lost of logic based faith will ever return him back to a believer in the goodness of the Lord.

Harriet Klausner

Return To Sender-Fern Michaels

Return To Sender
Fern Michaels
Kensington, Apr 27 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780758212733

When Rosalind Townsend was seventeen years old she learned what she considered a life lesson about men and responsibly. Pregnant, her affluent one night stand partner in Atlanta Nick Pemberton deserts her by returning her letters unopened; while her abusive ultra pious father kicks her to the Georgia dirt as no Jezebel will live under his roof. Against the odds, she makes a life for herself and her Will.

Almost two decades later, when NYU accepts Will as a freshman, Lin accompanies her son from Georgia to the Big Apple. Lin runs into now millionaire CEO married Nick; in a pique of avenging anger she wants him to pay with a disruption to his perfect life for the offspring he rejected years ago.

Although over the top of the three stacked Empire State Buildings, Fern Michael fans will enjoy this engaging contemporary soap opera with a couple of more soapy spins re Nick, his wife and his doctor. Readers will admire Lin who has come a long way from Miss Stinky Pants’ child abuse victim to being a great mom and dad to Will, but still seeks revenge with the wealthy northerner who ignored her plea to help care for her unborn.

Harriet Klausner

A Thread So Thin-Marie Bostwick

A Thread So Thin
Marie Bostwick
Kensington, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758232168

In New Bern, Connecticut Garrett Dixon helps his mom Evelyn at her Cobbled Court Quilt Shop while waiting for the return of his girlfriend Liza Burgess attending art school in New York City. Twenty-two years old Liza, whose mom died as she graduated from high school and who never met her dad, thinks of Evelyn as her surrogate mother although her maternal Aunt Abigail helped raise her.

Garrett proposes on New Year’s Eve. Although she has doubts higher than the Empire State Building, Liza accepts. While Aunt Abigail plans on throwing the New England wedding of the century, Evelyn, who loves Garrett and Liza, fears they are too young to marry. Complicating matters for Liza is a career opportunity that suddenly arises adding to the already teetering dilemma of what to do as she does not want to hurt those she loves, but by doing so she thinks she will hurt herself..

Rotating viewpoint, the third Cobble Court family drama (see A Thread of Truth and A Single Thread) is an entertaining contemporary that follows the narrow tale’s thread throughout. The cast is solid especially the wobbling lead Liza and her loved ones. Fans who enjoy a character driven story will want to read the aptly titled A Thread So Thin.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Little Known- Janice Daugharty

The Little Known
Janice Daugharty
Bell Bridge Books, Feb 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780984125852

In Statenville, Georgia, integrations is creeping at a snail’s pace as both whites and blacks prefer segregation. For example twelve year old Knot Crews attends the same school as the white kids, but never talks to any of them for fear of reprisal.

As another boring hot summer draws to an end, Knot observes the local cops chasing after a bank robber. The thief drops is sack of cash while fleeing the scene, but only Knot notices the bag as the cops focus on the felon. He picks it up and opens it. Inside is 1000 one hundred dollar bills. Not a fool he knows he cannot spend the loot as no one would believe a black kid had even a solo hundred dollar bill though he wishes he could as he goes hungry too often; his single mom spends more on booze than him. However, he feels he can help his even more impoverish neighbors. The young Good Samaritan begins anonymously mailing money to the downtrodden. However, to his shock the cash is not spent in necessities but on luxuries like TVs and liquor; though a few battered women of both colors use the money to escape with their kids from abusive relationships.

This is an intriguing historical coming of age tale that contains several life lessons for the reader (high school age and above) and definitely for Knot. He keeps the insightful story line focused as he tries to do what he believes is the right thing with his income redistribution plan. With a strong spotlight in mid 1960s Georgia, The Little Known is a fascinating slice of Southern life from a bygone era, but the generalizations apply anywhere.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 16, 2010

Club Rules-Andrew Trees

Club Rules
Andrew Trees
St. Martin’s, Mar 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312570279

The Edna Glen Country Club contains several social levels besides the working stiffs who are in the ooze beneath the food chain whether they wear a suit or jeans. At the bottom rung are the devourers of their young hanger-ons hoping to find a way to make it up the ladder. Just above them in the pecking order are the sacrificial hopeful, which include most of the nouveau riche with an exceptional few higher up due to fame. Near the top are the most affluent preferably with old money making new money. Finally the royal rulers are Anne and Preston Baird Winthrop; their word is gospel while everyone worships the pair as the holy leadership due to the Winthrop Trusts; all covet them and thrive to replace them as monarchs.

When the first flaw in the perfect regal marriage occurs, vultures arrive with hopes and scheme to move up the ladder. Anne believes Preston is cheating, but not sure with who though she has guesses. Norman Bond plans to take advantage of Anne's suspicions as he tries to move past being the court jester butt of vicious jokes to become her loyal confederate and protector; even while his moves angers his recently born again wife. Scandal is in the air and everyone at the Country Club plots to use someone else's misery to rise in the pecking order.

Using a country club as a microcosm of society, Andrew Trees provides a powerful poignant look at class warfare. Each rung of the food chain has rules while the entire ecosystem also has rules in a sort of Lord of the Flies crossed with the Ugly American meets The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Everyone is skewed as double bogeys are the country Club Rules.

Harriet Klausner

Club Rules-Andrew Trees

Club Rules
Andrew Trees
St. Martin’s, Mar 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312570279

The Edna Glen Country Club contains several social levels besides the working stiffs who are in the ooze beneath the food chain whether they wear a suit or jeans. At the bottom rung are the devourers of their young hanger-ons hoping to find a way to make it up the ladder. Just above them in the pecking order are the sacrificial hopeful, which include most of the nouveau riche with an exceptional few higher up due to fame. Near the top are the most affluent preferably with old money making new money. Finally the royal rulers are Anne and Preston Baird Winthrop; their word is gospel while everyone worships the pair as the holy leadership due to the Winthrop Trusts; all covet them and thrive to replace them as monarchs.

When the first flaw in the perfect regal marriage occurs, vultures arrive with hopes and scheme to move up the ladder. Anne believes Preston is cheating, but not sure with who though she has guesses. Norman Bond plans to take advantage of Anne's suspicions as he tries to move past being the court jester butt of vicious jokes to become her loyal confederate and protector; even while his moves angers his recently born again wife. Scandal is in the air and everyone at the Country Club plots to use someone else's misery to rise in the pecking order.

Using a country club as a microcosm of society, Andrew Trees provides a powerful poignant look at class warfare. Each rung of the food chain has rules while the entire ecosystem also has rules in a sort of Lord of the Flies crossed with the Ugly American meets The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Everyone is skewed as double bogeys are the country Club Rules.

Harriet Klausner

Stay A Little Longer-Dorothy Garlock

Stay A Little Longer
Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central, Apr 30 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446540193

In 1918 in Carlson, Minnesota, Alice Tucker gives birth to Charlotte with her sister Rachel Watkins as her midwife. Soon afterward Alice dies. Rachel knew she really died when her spouse Mason was killed in WWI; she loathes the dead man for deserting his wife.

By 1926, Rachel is bone tired as the town’s midwife, running her family's boardinghouse, caring for her drunk uncle and shell-shocked mom, and most important raising her niece, Charlotte. In a remote dilapidated cabin resides a scarred male. When Charlotte meets the sick man, she wants to help him. She persuades her Aunt Rachel to nurture him back to health. As he heals, he works as a handyman making repairs to the boardinghouse. Rachel and her grateful employee become friends as each appreciate the serenity the other brings. However, Mason’s affluent unscrupulous brother Zachary the banker covets the Watkins’ property and causes problems and ultimately a tragedy with his machinations, but also leads Rachel and the stranger to understand their relationship especially after the truth surfaces.

With a great late twist, Stay a Little Longer is an emotional profound Americana tale that focuses on the aftermath of WWI several years after the Armistice in a small town in Minnesota. The strong ensemble cast brings to life the era while Rachel holds the deep story line together. Although Zachary feels somewhat like a caricature of an avaricious banker (no oxymoron asides) such as an obese Snidely Whiplash, fans will relish this terrific historical.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Threadbare Heart-Jennie Nash

The Threadbare Heart
Jennie Nash
Berkley, May 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425234105

University of Vermont Professors Lily and Tom are in Santa Barbara visiting her octogenarian mom Eleanor along with their two adult sons, one daughter in law and one grandson in California. Their married son is having marital issues, but overall everything seems okay to the sandwich generation. Trice married and quite wealthy from her business, Eleanor offers to buy the nearby Halewood avocado ranch for her daughter, who initially says no as she prefers not to depend on her mother’s money.

However, she and Tom discuss the potential purchase and they agree to a change in lifestyle to pursue middle age dreams. She no longer will update the textbook she has published and he stops writing a new science curriculum. Instead he will start over with the ranch while she turns to her passion knitting. He will grow and sell avocados, she will stitch clothing and other items. The conversion seems smooth even with her commanding mom nearby until the deadly fire.

The story line for the first half or so of the novel is a warm extended family drama with the cast having different personal crisis. The inferno that wipes out much of Lily’s family changes the plot to a person struggling with grief as she slowly though her knitting finds some sense but wonders if her seemingly coldhearted mother is right that giving one’s heart away is not worth the cost when death of the loved one is payment due. Although Eleanor is too harsh on her daughter at a time she can use hugs not tough love, she remains consistent that her theory is love hurts. Fans will enjoy the Threadbare Heart that reads more like two interrelated novellas starring a middle age woman trying to make a sense out of life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Will But His-Sarah A. Hoyt

No Will But His
Sarah A. Hoyt
Berkley, Apr 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425232514

Hoping to have learned from her late second cousin Anne Boleyn, ambitious poor orphan Katherine Howard believes she can survive being the bride of King Henry VIII in spite of her bloodlines; even if she wanted to say no, which she does not, Katherine knows no one lives to refuse the King anyway. Thus she shrewdly plans to foster the innocence of youth behind a docile nature that focuses on keeping her ultra proud spouse happy as her philosophy in No Will But His. When the aging Henry is unable to perform in bed, she takes his cousin on as a lover praying for a successor as the monarch's health deteriorates. However, like those before her, she is betrayed and exposed, and in her case imprisoned with her queenly role stripped away just a little over one year on the throne by Parliament before being executed for adultery.

The engaging fourth Wives of King Henry VIII biographical fiction novel is an intriguing look at Katherine Howard based on a different premise than the usual perception. Instead of the typical writing of Howard as a moron based on her writings, Sarah A. Hoyt believes the woman was clever, perhaps too cunning. Thus historical fiction fans will relish a different take on the rise and fall of Queen Katherine Howard.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 12, 2010

Crossing Oceans-Gina Holmes

Crossing Oceans
Gina Holmes
Tyndale, May 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414333052

Following the death of her mother, a pregnancy in which her lover David Preston dumped her without knowing she was carrying and a fight with her father, Jenny Lucas left Tulleytown, North Carolina vowing to never return. Six years later, she and her daughter Isabella have come home. Her oxygen carrying Mama Peg welcomes her granddaughter and great-granddaughter while her daddy remains hurt and distant until Jenny explains she is dying from cancer just like her mom though a different form of the killer.

Jenny seeks a caretaker for her child as she knows Mama Peg is not healthy enough and her dad failed her. She considers David, but when she goes to tell him he is a father, he is nasty. Ironically his wife Lindsay is nice. Her high school peer Craig Allen who rents a loft is kind to mother and daughter. However, the clock is running out on Jenny and she must decide what is best for her beloved daughter between her father and her former lover; both who failed her when she grieved her mom’s death at a time when she needed each of them; she fears they will do again but this time she cannot clean up the mess.

The key to this well written poignant weeper is no miracle occurs saving Jenny, but the right person is there for Isabella if the dying mom can get through the pain of her past to see the future as her dad believes David’s dad’s misdiagnosed his wife’s illness leading to her death. Character driven with a powerful ensemble cast supporting Jenny, readers will appreciate the angst filling an ocean as Jenny worries who will raise Isabella once she dies.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So Much for That-Lionel Shriver

So Much for That
Lionel Shriver
Harper, Mar 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061458583

Shep Knacker has always wanted to go to “The Afterlife” retreat when he retires. His plan to is sell his home repair business and stop driving on one the world’s longest parking lot, the BQE. Thus when he believes he can afford to move to the Third World haven he sells his business for a million dollars.

However, Shep made one major miscalculation. He failed to understand the hidden meaning to the excuses his wife of over a quarter of a century Glynis has given him to delay their retreat from America. He delays his departure for her and continues working for the guy who bought his firm until a tired Shep decides enough. He informs Glynis that he moving to an island off Tanzania. However, Glynis tells him that she desperately needs medical treatment in which his insurance will cover some of the bill. His Afterlife fund shrinks and Shep wonders how he has been trapped in his present life in which medical costs are killing his dream and consequently him; though he admits his complaints compared to his friend whose dealing with botched surgery and a daughter with an incurable disease feel like he is whining.

This is a powerful condemnation of the American health system that does not attempt to be subtle with its gut shots. At times the commentary feels forced, but as a whole, So Much for That hits home with relevancy as readers follow three subplots that are common problems. Shep watches his dream disappear with health care costs while his best friend lives in a health care nightmare. Although the verdict remains out on the Obamacare protecting more Americans, Lionel Shriver makes a strong case that the status quo denotes failure (and backroom death squad decisions), and tort limitations punishes the wrong party.

Harriet Klausner

Island Beneath The Sea-Isabel Allende

Island Beneath The Sea
Isabel Allende
Harper, Apr 27 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061988240

In 1770, with his father dying, twenty years old Toulouse Valmorain leaves France to take over Saint Lazare, the family plantation in Haiti. Over the next few years, Toulouse works hard and makes his slaves toil harder. He marries, and for his wife Eugenia of Spain, Toulouse buys a mixed racial child slave Zarite of Saint-Domingue, whose white father sold her into bondage. Toulouse directs mulatto courtesan Violette Boisier to mentor the young slave.

Zarite, known as Tete, lives in trepidation as abuse is her norm. She finds some escape in African drum music and voodoo loas. Meanwhile, Eugenia is going mad but gives birth to a son Maurice. Toulouse soon rapes Zarite, leaving her pregnant; once the child he assumes is his is born he gives the bastard to Violette and her military husband to raise the kid though he allows Rosette to be a companion to his Maurice. The French expatriate is unaware that another slave Gambo, who escaped to join the resistance, is Rosette’s sire. Led by Toussaint Louverture, a slave revolt occurs across the island; leaving Valmorain's plantation among others ruined. Gambo and Zarite helps him flee to Louisiana where his brother-in-law has bought him land. He frees Zarite as he promised, but tragedy continues to haunt them and their offspring.

This is an excellent timely historical tale that brings to life slavery in the Caribbean and the United States. Well written though no profound generalities are drawn, the story line enables the reader to better understand the motives of slaveholders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Thus, the powerful characters, not just those prime players as included above, make Island Beneath the Sea a multi decade saga worth reading.

Harriet Klausner

Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontes-Jude Morgan

Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontes (Paperback)
Jude Morgan
St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 27 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312642730

In 1821 in Haworth, Yorkshire, Maria Bronte, mother of five and wife to a Vicar, dies. Her widower husband Patrick sends his oldest four daughters to boarding school, but Maria and Elizabeth come home to die from consumption. His son Branwell becomes an addict while his three other daughters (Charlotte, Emily, and Amy) use pseudonyms to become poets and eventually novelists even as they dote on their father and brother. By 1855, all five of Maria’s offspring are dead none having reached the age of forty.

The key to this superb Bronte biographical fiction novel is, in spite of the title, the focus on all six siblings and their father with especially Amy and to a lesser degree Branwell getting equal treatment to their more famous siblings. Fans of the renowned authors (and their less famous siblings) will appreciate this fine Passion-filled homage to a first family of literature.

Harriet Klausner

Romancing Miss Bronte-Juliet Gael

Romancing Miss Bronte
Juliet Gael
Ballantine, Apr 27 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345520043

With the death of his wife, the Haworth, Yorkshire Vicar Bronte cannot deal with all his children. In 1824 the widower sends his four oldest daughters (Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily) to a charity boarding school; he kept behind his son Branwell to tutor and youngest daughter Anne. At the school the sisters were abused until Maria and Elizabeth caught consumption and were sent home to die. Bronte brought home his other daughters immediately. Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to study; while there Charlotte falls in love with her married professor before returning back to Yorkshire.

The three sisters begin to write under pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) to pay the bills of the two males in the family. Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and Jane Eyre are highly popular. However within a year of writing success, Charlotte’s three siblings die from consumption leaving her alone to deal with their despondent father. While his curate Arthur falls in love with her, the thirtyish spinster becomes the toast of the Ton as she has been identified as the author of Jane Eyre, but love eludes her in London where she falls for her publisher George Smith until she realizes that and her attraction to the professor were youthful infatuations; she begins to turn to Arthur who begins Romancing Miss Bronte.

Obviously targeting fans of the Bronte sisters, this is an interesting biographical fiction tale. The Bronte family comes across as individuals with some interesting connections to the novels they wrote; for instance the professor is the role model for Rochester and Charlotte’s discomfort with fame becomes the basis of the novel Shirley and The Professor published after her death. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the tragic lives of the Bronte siblings that takes the readers beyond the myth of a brood doomed to romantic misfortune.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's a Crime-Jacqueline Carey

It's a Crime
Jacqueline Carey
Ballantine, Apr 27 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345459930

LinkAge Telecom accountant Frank Foy is convicted of fraud and sent to prison. His wife Pat, a landscape designer, rejects his guilt; insisting a simple mistake occurred. Obsessed while living with their teenage daughter Ruby, Pat decides to prove her spouse’s innocence based on his explanation that fixing the numbers is standard acceptable accounting practice in the United States. She plans to make remittance to the victims.

Her efforts prove overwhelmingly futile but lead her to former best friend Ginny Howley and her first lover Lemuel Samuel. They offer to help her; although both mystery writers are victims of the firm’s collapse. Along with his teenage son and Ruby, they try to persuade Pat that Frank is guilty and deserves jail time for all the people he hurt.

Echoes of Enron and Arthur Anderson run throughout this unusual character driven tale of five people impacted by the fraud. The cast is solid although the changing perspectives can prove overwhelming and subtract from the morality tale of minimally correcting wrongs. Still this is an interesting look at the business of business in the Bush Era in which the White House and Congress are located on Wall St.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Queen of Palmyra-Minrose Gwin

The Queen of Palmyra
Minrose Gwin
Harper, Apr 27 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061840326

In 1963 in Millwood, Mississippi funeral insurance salesman Win Forest heads the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. His wife Martha is deathly afraid of her husband while their eleven year old daughter Florence is confused though she can clearly see her mom's trepidation. When her mother makes treks to bootleggers she leaves her child with her grandparents; another repetitive occurrence that bewilders the child.

At her grandparent’s home, Florence seems to always anger the ultra tall heavy black housekeeper, Zenie. Florence also spends time at Zenie's home in the rundown Negro neighborhood Shake Rag. As the civil rights movement explodes across the south, Zenie's niece Eva arrives to sell insurance to pay for her college tuition; igniting the racial tension even further.

The aptly titled Queen of Palmyra is a terrific historical drama that brings to life the period of Mississippi Burning but with more depth than the super movie. The key players represent various groups during the Civil Rights struggle with the extremes being Win willing to kill to retain what little power he has left and Eva willing to risk her life for economic and academic opportunities. Caught in the middle are Martha and Zenie pulled by their respective race to support their side when both want to be left alone. Observing all is the confused tweener who will remind readers of To Kill a Mockingbird. Character driven, Minrose Gwin captures the essence of a changing world.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Not Untrue and Not Unkind-Ed O'Loughlin

Not Untrue and Not Unkind
Ed O'Loughlin
Overlook, Jun 10 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9781590202951

In Dublin, newspaper editor Cartwright committed suicide. His shocked friends and colleagues cannot believe it. On Cartwright's desk, one of his newspaper buddies Owen Simmons finds a package containing a New York Chronicle photo he took over a decade ago in Africa of newspaper people they worked with. Simmons knows them all, but especially the woman he loved

He thinks back to Africa in the 1990s when they covered the deadly beat of a continent in perilous turmoil. Zaire was overwhelmed with civil war as was Nigeria. However, the worst was Rwanda where the rivers turned red due to the tribal genocide.

Not Untrue & Not Unkind is a profound look back into Africa as the continent implodes with violence as seen though Simmons’ flashbacks. The intrepid journalistic crew are horrified with what they witness, report and photograph as atrocities make headlines in the civilized West, which chooses mostly inertia except when economic interests are threatened. Not an easy read, aptly titled Not Untrue and Not Unkind affirms mankind’s cruelty to one another as the western journalists, who cannot fathom a rational reason for the violence while also knowing what they have seen will haunt them forever.

Harriet Klausner

The Invisible Bridge-Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge
Julie Orringer
Knopf, May 4 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781400041169

In 1937 Hungarian-Jew Andras Levi leaves his home town to attend architectural school on a scholarship to the Ecole Speciale d'Architecture in Paris. He also carries a letter from Hungary to ballet teacher Claire Morgenstern, a decade older than the newcomer. At the same he arrives in Paris, his older brother studies medicine in Modena and his younger brother drops out of school to perform on the stage.

As Andras' second summer in Paris ends, the Nazis begin turning the continent into a war zone; however his thoughts are on the older woman he loves and his fears for the safety of his family especially his brothers. He knows back in Hungary the cautious government holds up its agreement with Hitler by moving the Jews into hard labor camps. However Hitler wants more and the Hungarians comply.

This is a deep historical that focuses on the question whether love can thrive during horrific inhumane times like the Holocaust. Character driven, by the siblings and Claire, readers will feel for the lead players as each struggles to understand why the Nazi Final Solution is needed and why the collaborators who in many instances did not have even a life threatening reason to turn in an neighbor they knew and befriended for years. This is not an easy read as Julie Orringer paints a grim landscape filled with atrocities, but sadly as the author notes there are even darker true tales than that of The Invisible Bridge of inhumanity’s genocides.

Harriet Klausner

On Folly Beach-Karen White

On Folly Beach
Karen White
NAL, May 4 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451229212

In Noblesville, Indiana Emmy knows her beloved Ben died while serving in Afghanistan. Her parents help her with her loss.

In 1942 in Folly Beach, South Carolina, Widow Catherine is tired of grieving for her spouse Jim who died in Pearl Harbor. She persuades her cousin Maggie to go dancing. Maggie loved Jim, who dumped her for Cat. Maggie’s nine year old sister Lulu also loved Jim. The sailors want Cat while civilian Peter prefers Maggie, the only male who does. Peter informs her he cannot serve due to his asthma, but does his best checking the quality of his father’s leather goods made in Iowa for the military.

In 2009, six months have passed since Ben was buried; Emily hides inside her mom’s bookstore. Paige tells her daughter Emily that Folly’s Find owner Abigail is retiring and wants to sell her Folly Beach store. Emily reluctantly agrees to look at the store.

In 1942, Peter visits Maggie at her bookstore Folly’s Find where he meets a belligerent Lulu but he is gentle with her. Cat meets Peter who is polite but ignores her. Lulu is shocked as this is the first time she saw Cat lose a man.

In 2009, Emily rents a house that Abigail’s son Heath was building for him and his fiancée. After he needed radiation treatment for cancer, his engagement ended. Emily sees the tree in the garden with bottles tied to it. Inside are notes as there are inside books published in 1942. Lulu nastily tells her she is trespassing.

The two well written subplots rotate back and forth while complementing one another. .The links between the periods are the store and Great-Aunt Lulu, but the entire cast in both time frames is fully developed within the family mystery. Fans will relish visiting Folly Beach during WWII in which the rumored Nazi presence is on everyone’s mind and in 2009 when descendents look back over six decades ago.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Templar Knight-Jan Guillou

The Templar Knight
Jan Guillou
Harper, May 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061688577

In Anno Domini 1167, teenage Swedish knight Arn Magnusson was forced into joining the Knights Templar as they marched on The Road to Jerusalem; he left behind his beloved betrothed Cecilia unaware of her pregnancy and eventual exile to a convent on Gotaland. Now a decade later in the hot summer of what the Faithful call 575 after Hijra, Arn remains with the Knights Templar in the Holy Land but has moved up the ranks to become master of the fortress at Gaza.

Over the next few years he survives the battles with the Saracens and respects their shrewd strategic Sultan Saladin. Meanwhile, Cecilia misses her beloved Arn and their son who is raised by others as she remains incarcerated at a convent run by an abbess who loathes her for being a member of a rival clan. Following the bloody battle of Hattin in AD 1187, Arn’s twenty year commitment finally is over and he is free to go home, but fears what he will find there as he prays Cecilia is still his.

The second tale of the Crusades Trilogy is an excellent historical epic that grips the audience from the onset and maintains that hold as a decade swings by. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, readers will feel they are part of Arn’s command as Jan Guillou brings the twelfth century crusades to life.

Harriet Klausner

The Templar Knight-Jan Guillou

The Templar Knight
Jan Guillou
Harper, May 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061688577

In Anno Domini 1167, teenage Swedish knight Arn Magnusson was forced into joining the Knights Templar as they marched on The Road to Jerusalem; he left behind his beloved betrothed Cecilia unaware of her pregnancy and eventual exile to a convent on Gotaland. Now a decade later in the hot summer of what the Faithful call 575 after Hijra, Arn remains with the Knights Templar in the Holy Land but has moved up the ranks to become master of the fortress at Gaza.

Over the next few years he survives the battles with the Saracens and respects their shrewd strategic Sultan Saladin. Meanwhile, Cecilia misses her beloved Arn and their son who is raised by others as she remains incarcerated at a convent run by an abbess who loathes her for being a member of a rival clan. Following the bloody battle of Hattin in AD 1187, Arn’s twenty year commitment finally is over and he is free to go home, but fears what he will find there as he prays Cecilia is still his.

The second tale of the Crusades Trilogy is an excellent historical epic that grips the audience from the onset and maintains that hold as a decade swings by. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, readers will feel they are part of Arn’s command as Jan Guillou brings the twelfth century crusades to life.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 5, 2010

Admission-Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jean Hanff Korelitz
Grand Central, Apr 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446540711

As she nears forty, Portia Nathan is pleased with how well opening the diversity doors to Princeton University as its admissions officer has occurred. She wishes her personal life was anywhere near as good as she and her mom are at best estranged with one another; she conceals something critical from her spouse professor David, and her lover the English Department Chair left her to move in with his pregnant girlfriend.

On a recruiting trip in New England, Portia meets John, a teacher at the ultra-alternative Quest School. They fall into lust while she also likes what she sees of the students especially Jeremiah, whom she hopes to bring to Princeton. John stuns her when he says they met years ago when he attended Dartmouth, a period she prefers to forget as she was single and pregnant with a decision to make.

This is an interesting glimpse at the admissions process at an elite Ivy League school. The story line is totally driven by the only fully developed character Portia with everyone else playing a stereotypical role in support of her; enabling the audience to see deeply into what makes her tick. Although her asides on admissions, relationships, and assorted sundry turn at times to loquacious, fans will enjoy the discerning look at the admissions merchant of Princeton.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Boy Should Know How To Tie a Tie-Antwone Fisher

A Boy Should Know How To Tie a Tie
Antwone Fisher
Touchstone, Apr 20 2010, $19.99
ISBN: 9781416566625

Antwone who seen the movie or read the memoir Finding Fish will believe Antwone Fisher is the right person to provide a practical guide for at risk youths to make it in society. With its title instruction and sound advice on finance, grooming, daily hygiene and other key elements that teach a young man to be self sufficient and part of society instead of being condemned. Well written and easy to use, this inspirational primer with further insight into the author overcoming his resentment towards his foster father for never nurturing him with key improvements like tying the tie, this is a winning self help reference that anyone, especially young males, can use. Perhaps the only negative is that the prime targeted audience is the least likely to know the book is available and if they do will probably not read it without a mentor encouraging them. Still Mr. Fisher writes more than just an inspiring story; as he tries to give back more to the community inspiring others to do likewise.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Watermark- Vanitha Sankara

Vanitha Sankara
Avon, Apr 13 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061849275

In 1300 in Narbonne, France, as her mother dies giving birth to her, Auda is born bone white to the horror of the healer and her apprentice. To prevent the infant from spreading the devil's words, the frightened apprentice viciously rips out Auda's tongue. However due to her father's occupation as a scribe, Auda learns to read and write.

By 1320, as a team father and daughter try to persuade those who use parchment to switch to the paper her dad invented. Shockingly, a Vicomtesse orders some of their stock and hires Auda as her scribe. At the palace, an artist saves Auda from a witch-hunt, but she begins to write heretical verse about women's rights that places her in further danger from an inquisition that already distrusts her albino skin as that of the devil.

Watermark is an entertaining medieval tale that looks deep into life in France by someone whose difference subjects her to ostracism and with little impetus potential burning at the stake. Along with the invention of a new type of paper (perhaps the mother of invention for the printing press), Watermark is Auda’s saga of surviving as a mute albino with a skill taboo for women. Although believability seems lacking at times, the survival adventures of Auda in fourteenth century France is an engaging character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner