Monday, June 28, 2010

Of Bees and Mist-Erick Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist
Erick Setiawan
Simon and Schuster, Jul 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416596257

Meridia’s home contains all types of magical spells and demons; not all kind. She thinks she will escape her hell of her dysfunctional battling parents when she falls in love with her knight in shining armor. She knows Daniel will rescue her.

However, Meridia had not counted on his family especially his mother making her parents look harmonious. Eva is abusive to everyone but especially her new daughter in law. She uses bees as spies and weapons of mass destruction. Her treatment of others including Meridia has her finally fighting back as Daniel fails to intercede between the two women in his life.

This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable that exaggerates Meridia’s overall purity and the evilness of her parents and mother-in-law; the spouse is a wuss who chooses neither side in the extended family war of good and evil. Ghosts and killer bees add excitement to the mix, but Meridia as victim in her parents’ home and Meridia as victim in her husband’s home is too frequent with little respite as Erick Setiawan argues that adhering to the Golden Rule does not mean others will likewise. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy the war between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law while the man who links them stays docilely neutral.

Harriet Klausner

A Dog's Purpose-W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose
W. Bruce Cameron
Forge, Jul 6 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780765326263

Toby is born in the wild with three siblings. However, he and his family are captured by humans. Whereas his mother wants freedom from their guards, Toby comprehends human speak and likes the kindhearted woman running the shelter for stray dogs like him. However, Toby is hurt when a new vicious canine attacks him. The woman puts him down in act of euthanasia.

He returns to life as Bailey the golden retriever pet of young Ethan. They live during the school year with his parents, but in the summer the lad and his dog live with his grandparents on their farm; both are attracted to Hannah. When Ethan is a teenager, a schoolmate burns down Ethan's house; injuring him. He and Bailey recuperate at the farm even as the boy’s parents separate. Bailey comforts Ethan before dying of old age.

“He” comes back as a female Ellie the K-9 police dog until she loses her sense of smell. She remembers her bond as Bailey with Ethan. When he returns for the fourth time as Buddy he searches for his Ethan, a lonely elderly person living alone on the family farm.

This is an exhilarating and poignant parable that showcases a canine’s love for his human companion as Toby and his three latter reincarnations never forgets his bond of love with Ethan. Well written, readers will enjoy this fine tale as a cat may have nine lives, but a dog with purpose has at least four lives.

Harriet Klausner

Tatiana and Alexander-Paullina Simons

Tatiana and Alexander
Paullina Simons
Avon, Jun 29 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061987465

In 1941 eighteen year old Tatiana Metanova and Red Army Officer Alexander Belov met and fell in love (see The Bronze Horseman). She becomes pregnant while he goes off to fight Hitler’s army. Tatiana believes her beloved died so as a single mom widow manages to get to Ellis Island via Scandinavia and the across the Atlantic. Tatiana changes her name to Jane Barrington and gets a position as a nurse on Ellis Island while also raising her son Anthony, but misses her beloved Alexander

Meanwhile Stalin’s Secret Police arrests Alexander who is accused of being a traitor. He is sentenced to die. He looks back ironically to when his father, a communist believer, left a nice middle class existence in America to relocate the family in Stalin’s impoverished Russia. However, those thoughts add to his pain. Only remembering his beloved Tatiana keeps him going through the torture and the expectation of death.

The sequel to The Bronze Horseman changes perspective from Tatiana’s vivid descriptions of the horrors of war especially the Battle of Leningrad with her one light being Alexander; to his bleak tale of all’s deadly on the German front especially his only stay of execution being the lead of a suicide mission with his one light being Tatiana. The terrific story line uses the atrocities of war as the backdrop to the human spirit when love can overcome so much. Tatiana and Alexander is a love story that tugs at the heartstrings.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Temptress-Paul Spicer

The Temptress
Paul Spicer
St. Martin’s, Jul 20 210, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312379704

In 1899 Alice Silverthorne was born in Buffalo. Her father was a self made lumber baron and her mother a Chicago socialite. In 1913 the family imploded as law suits are filed to include custody of Alice. In 1920 Alice and her guardian Aunt Tattie go to Paris where she meets Count Frederic de Jantze. They marry and she gives birth to her first child in 1922. The family spends much of their time in Kenya. In 1927 Alice fails to kill herself and her lover Lord Raymund de Trafford when he dumped her. Five years later he becomes her second spouse. Meanwhile from almost her arrival in Kenya she has an affair for years with Joss Hay (Lord Erroll). In 1941 Joss is shot to death; soon after Alice commits suicide.

The cold case murder was international news in 1941 and made into a book by James Fox and movie White Mischief. Using family documents and photos as Paul Spicer’s mom was a friend of Alice; the author makes a strong argument that the apparently passionate delusional Alice killed Joss and then herself. Historical fans and biographical readers will fully enjoy “The Scandalous Life of Alice de Jantze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll” as Mr. Spicer provides a deep nonfiction account in which he defends his assertion that Alice killed Erroll in her quest to be loved.

Harriet Klausner

32 Candles-Ernessa T. Carter

32 Candles
Ernessa T. Carter
Amistad, Jun 22 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061957840

African American Davidia Jones grows up on Glass, Mississippi with a mother who does nothing for her. By the time she is six she knows the smell of an alcoholic and the noise of sex. The only thing good about being especially dark skinned is that the bruises don’t readily show. As a young teen, already a victim of neglect and abuse, Davie assumes she is ugly; enhanced by the cruel comments at school where she is called Monkey Night. Her unrequited attraction to the top jock James Farrell augments her feelings of the ugliest non in Mississippi.

In 1984, fifteen years old Davie sees Sixteen Candles in the only theater in town. She cries about the ending in which a loser wins and decides to leave Glass. Davie gets a ride out of town with a long haul truck driver. In Los Angeles, Davie obtains work as a 1940s chanteuse as she reinvents herself. All is great until James arrives at the club where she performs. He fails to recognize the thirtyish Davie, which hurts her, but he clearly wants her. Davie seeks revenge for her mistreatment in Glass so she hides who she was and plans to break his heart. She failed to calculate either falling in love again or Mississippi mud returning to destroy her chance for that Molly Ringwald ending.

Tthis is an entertaining at times intense look at an abused bullied child as a thirty something adult. Davie is terrific holding the tale together with her prime desires fighting one another since James reentered her life; though in some ways for the first time as their high school spheres were as far apart as the sun (him) and relegated Pluto (her). Although the story line has no major twists, readers will enjoy 32 Candles rooting for Davie.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Unexpected Son-Shobhan Bantwal

The Unexpected Son
Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Aug 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780758232038

Middle-aged Vinita and Girish Patil enjoy their middle class lifestyle in suburban New Jersey. Married for almost a quarter of a century, the Indian-American couple has a daughter.

However, Vinita’s perfect world shatters when she receives a shocking letter postmarked Mumbai. Inside is a letter informing her that the illegitimate son she birthed stillborn back home in Palgaum, India actually lives. Her brother Vishal admits he orchestrated the hoax for her sake and that of his nephew. Now her first born, Shivraj College chemistry Professor Rohit Barve is dying from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Vinita remembers years back when she was pregnant and Rohit's biological father Som Kori refused to marry her as their respective people from differing cultures even languages were feuding. She finds out when she arrives to meet and hopefully help her son they still are.

This excellent contemporary provides strong insight into the Indian-American culture (a trademark of talented Shobhan Bantwal; see The Sari Shop Window), a mother’s eternal love for her offspring, and a fascinating “border” war inside a small village in India. Character driven, The Unexpected Son is a super Indian-American tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nights Beneath the Nation-Denis Kehoe

Nights Beneath the Nation
Denis Kehoe
Serpent's Tail, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846686795

Decades ago in the early 1950s Daniel Ryan was a teen from a poor family when he moved to Dublin. However, he was taken aback when he realized he preferred sleeping with men. He hd grown grown up in a small town that proclaimed homosexuality is an asylum disease for the mentally insane perverts or a devil’s sin. He fell in love, but his relationship ended poorly and he fled Ireland for New York.

In 1998, wealthy septuagenarian Daniel returns to Dublin for the first time since he fled in shame in 1951. Nothing seems the same to him and he feels no one his age has anything in common with the cosmoplitan man he has become after five decades in Manhattan. In his birth land, Daniel feels like a stranger in a strange land.

This is a complex, perhaps too compicated comparative look at a man in two stages of his life; as the story line rotates between young Daniel learning with energy and elan his sexual proclivity vs. the eldery acrimonious Daniel having lived a life alone in exile. Nights Beneath the Nation is a fascinating protrait of a young and old gay male struggling to accept his sexual preference.

Harriet Klausner

The News Where You Are-Catherine O'Flynn

The News Where You Are
Catherine O'Flynn
Holt, Jul 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780805091809

In England, middle aged popular news anchor Frank Allcroft overly reflects where his life has been and where he is going. He hates his job and knows how his peers scorn his talent or lack of as they would insist. He struggles with an eternally depressed mother since his father the architect who was never around anyway died. However, the recent death of his buddy Phil shakes Frank to his core as he ponders mortality; that of his own.

Frank understands his broadcasting is inane with all the news unfit to air. He wanders the town seeing how many things change yet remains the same. A distraught Frank feels for the lonely people living and dead; visiting graves in which no one cares. He detests urban blight but loathes even more demolition as he is unable to move on unlike his mom who insists good and bad are always memories that need to be demolished so one can move away from the past and live in the present.

With a nod to the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, this is a strong somewhat melancholy character study of someone who reflects on his life and concludes the world is terrible place to live especially when one feels alone as he does, but dying alone is the punctuation end. Yet in spite of his gloomy outlook on past, present and future, Frank never turns self-pitying as he is stoic believing that’s life and death; which ironically leaves the reader with hope. Character study fans will enjoy the story of Frank, caught between a rock and hard place inside his mind yet never quite crushed. The News Where You Are is powerful storytelling

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Under A Maui Moon-Robin Jones Gunn

Under A Maui Moon
Robin Jones Gunn
Howard, Jul 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781416583394

In Portland, Oregon, with the kids grown up and out of the house, Carissa and Richard Lathrop look forward to the empty nest together. However, she expected to spend most of her free time with her beloved husband. Instead, Carissa is fired due to the economic downturn while Richard’s counseling work as a psychologist keeps him away from home a lot while when he is at their nest he is mentally exhausted and finally his volatile clients are coming to their house.

Clarissa is disappointed with Richard as she feels he has turned to work to spend less time with her. Since he is avoiding her, she accepts a retreat on Maui where she plans to pray to God to help her with the direction her marriage is heading, but Kai distracts from her feelings of desertion by her spouse and the Lord.

This is an interesting inspirational character study as dedicated Dr. Lathrop and his wife Carissa seem to be drifting apart with different needs at a time when they should come together. Carissa is disappointed in her husband, but also fails to understand how important his need to help is. On the other hand, Richard is superb with his unstable clients, but fails to be there while his wife deals with losing her job after the kids left home. Under the Maui Moon is a profound contemporary; as Robin Jones Gunn deftly interweaves into the enjoyable plot that God holds your hand, but you still must reach out to the Lord and to your loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Corduroy Mansions-Alexander McCall Smith

Corduroy Mansions
Alexander McCall Smith
Pantheon, Jul 13 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307379085

In London, several eccentric people reside at Corduroy Mansions. Wine merchant and connoisseur William wants his twentyish year old son Eddie to move out, but a nuclear bomb is not going to budge his offspring. He gets Freddie the vegan canine whose prime mission is to propel Eddie to move in with people his age. Restaurateur Marcia wants Eddie out of the house also so then she can make a move on empty nester William.

Another occupant Dee works at a vitamin store where she tries to help a peer who she feels needs to cleans his system of excess salt. Her flat-mate Jenny earns a difficult living working for detestable MP Oedipus Snark, who treats his employee like a low form of dog excrement. Snark’s mom Berthea is writing the definitive biography of her son while her agent Barbara wants to become Mrs. MP.

As the walls crumble around the quirky residents, their squabbles make for an enjoyable slice of London life. Low keyed and not for everyone, fans of the author will enjoy the jocularity of everyday people interrelating in a dysfunctional manner as Corduroy Mansions is sort of like an aging supercollider with the people living there as the subatomic particles being sliced and diced. More like Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street books, than his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, this is a fun look at the foibles of human interactions.

Harriet Klausner

Unwilling Warrior-Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar

Unwilling Warrior
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar
Realms, Jun 2010, $10.99
ISBN: 9781599799858

Although the War Between the States makes it unsafe to travel, following the death of her mother, Valerie Fontaine leaves her Virginia boarding school to come home to New Orleans. However, her father makes it clear she is unwelcome.

Her dad decides to marry Valerie off perhaps to neighbor James Ladden who she despises. She prefers his guest combat photographer Benjamin McCabe who is in town searching for his missing brother Luke who vanished during the Battle of Bull Run. He is nice to her and falls in love with her. When her dad is arrested, he sends her to his home promising he will follow her once he finds Luke. However, she finds his home unwelcoming while her beloved continues his search for his younger brother.

The first Season of Redemption, Unwilling Warriors is a strong inspirational with a message that God is there for those who are there for the Lord even at the darkest loneliest moments. The story line transports readers to the Civil War in which many people feel God abandoned them, but those who find their way back or who have never lost their way will find the Lord helping them with their grief, sorrow and remorse. With a strong cast especially the heroine and a wonderful sense of time and place, Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar provides an insightful opening tale as Valerie logically knows how untrue her feelings are yet still feels abandoned by her father, her beloved and even God.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Captive Queen-Alison Weir

Captive Queen
Alison Weir
Ballantine, Jul 13 2020, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345511874

An octogenarian Eleanor of Aquitaine is ready to die. The wife of two monarchs and the mother of several kings, Eleanor is tired as most of her eleven children are dead with only John her youngest and her namesake still alive. She looks back to her years as the unhappy wife of pious King Louis VII of France when she gave him two daughters and an annulment. She was euphoric to meet younger Henry II, but though they had nine children together her happiness died when he began to ignore her astute mind and ultimately her body to look elsewhere for advice and pleasure. Turning to her children, she supports their claims to the throne against their father who was once her passionate lover with nine children in thirteen years. By 1202 with John on the throne, Eleanor wants to move on.

This is an exciting biographical fiction work of the often told story of kingmaker Eleanor whose ambition to be a royal equal to the kings she married and to those she sired make her a fascinating subject who Alison Weir brings to life in five chorological parts. Whereas her first husband was to busy being pious (in ways she could not conceive) for the sexually active queen while her second spouse thought no man or woman even those he married or sired were his equal. Even her children like The Young King Henry and John never saw their mom as their equal; perhaps only Richard of those who sat on the throne came closest. Readers will appreciate the complex Lioness who roared (but not quite as loud as could have been if told by her) for equality willing to break the rules like an annulment, marrying a much younger man, and being the face of rebellion. This is a winning historical fiction tale using facts to tell the story of the Captive Queen who refused to bow down to anyone.

Harriet Klausner

Winter Harvest-Coralie Hughes Jensen

Winter Harvest
Coralie Hughes Jensen
Five Stars, Jul 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148897

In 1838 Marcus Hammond informs his five children while his wife silently watches that they must move to Western Ohio to start over. He will leave behind his youngest daughter eight year old Lucy with the United Society of Believers in their Shaker community at Hancock and hopes to place temporarily his two other daughters. He promises to reunite the family as soon as he can.

Over the next five years Lucy diligently tries to fit in with the religious order. However, everything changes when thirteen years old heiress Sarah Bishop is indentured to the order when her father died. Sister Sarah is a free spirit who brings out the rebellious nature of Sister Lucy as the newcomer says she has her inheritance waiting for her and not the Shakers. Over, the next few years as Sister Lucy shows gardening and math skills, Sister Sarah teaches her how naive she has been with the holiness of those who claim adherence to the scripture of Mother Ann.

Although there is a late mystery and romance that add suspense and enables closure of a sort, Winter Harvest is more a historical fiction novel that looks deep into the culture and community world of the Shakers two decades before the Civil War. The fascinating story line focuses predominately on the teen girls who through them the reader sees how the adults at Hancock behaved (and not) and somewhat on the boys; especially those the girls are interested in like Brother Seth. Coralie Hughes Jensen provides a wonderful early nineteenth century Americana.

Harriet Klausner

Deceptions-Marilyn J. Clay

Marilyn J. Clay
Five Stars, Jul 15 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148781

When Catherine Fielding was twelve, her mom died; she was sent to London to live with her guardians, Lord and Lady Montcrief as her dad was in the New World. Six years later, having failed to ever please her guardians, Catherine dreams of joining her father, brother and Noah in the New World wilderness. However, her need to escape from the Montcrief household becomes critical when her guardian “sells” her in marriage to Mr. Windmere who is older than her father in order to pay off his debts and insure the best dowry for their sixteen years old daughter Lucinda. Catherine manages to escape to The White Swann Inn where Princess Pocahontas, her spouse John Rolfe, and her retinue are staying to take her to the New World. Pocahontas offers her a home if her male relatives are not there, but Catherine soon learns her new friend is dead.

She sails on the Inverness to the Virginia Colony of Jamestown where her brother Adam and his wife welcome them. However, she is stunned to learn her beloved Noah has married someone else. Sadly, Catherine begins to make a life for herself, but when she has a second chance with Noah, he tells her he cannot marry her if he is to remain working on the Benson Plantation

Although there is a romantic subplot, Deceptions is a strong historical tale that brings to life the Virginia Colony mostly through the eyes of the intrepid obstinate heroine. The story line contains some action, but the prime focus is how the first English colonists struggle to survive in Jamestown. Readers will relish this in depth look at Jamestown circa 1617-1619.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Red Queen-Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen
Philippa Gregory
Touchstone, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9781416563723

As a child, Margaret Beaufort felt she was destiny’s darling and planed to remain pious while pushing the cause of the red Rose of Lancaster. However, her mother rudely awakens her by informing her she is a worthless chip off the old block of England’s military commander in France; and therefore will be sent to Wales to marry some lord older than her parents. She is quickly widowed at thirteen and forced to marry again. This time she has a son, whom she names Henry after the king. To keep him safe she sends him away but pledges him to the daughter of the White Rose rival York family. Widowed and married this time to Lord Thomas and knowing her son is ready to take the throne from the usurper, Margaret executes a coup.

This is a terrific historical biographical fiction as queen of the sub-genre Philippa Gregory provides her fans with another strong female royal (see The White Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl). Filled with intrigue, murder and betrayal while occurring for the most part in the second half of the fifteenth century, Ms. Gregory focuses this time on a female dynasty maker as Margaret Beaufort proves to be the matriarch of the Tudor line.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beneath The Sands Of Egypt-Donald P. Ryan, PH.D

Beneath The Sands Of Egypt
Donald P. Ryan, PH.D
Morrow, Jun 29 2010, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061732829

American archaeologist Dr. Ryan provides a deep memoir focusing mostly on field work as he hopes to inspire future archeologists and others to learn more about humanity’s heritage. Dr. Ryan discusses his efforts in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings as he pays homage to Howard Carter and praises associates. He provides some insight to his student days, but it is his vivid description of field work that makes the biography worth reading as the armchair archeologist will feel they are welcomed by villagers, diligently cleaning a brick, or doing need grunt labor at an excavation site. Readers will be fascinated by a tomb “rediscovered” in 1989 with a small mummy later determined by when Egyptian archeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass to be the female pharaoh. B&W pictures enhance the tour, but what makes Beneath the Sands of Egypt compelling is the author’s enthusiasm for his subject as Dr. Ryan candidly provides why he cherishes his work whether he studies at the British museum or in the sands of the Valley of the Kings.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives-Lola Shoneyin

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
Lola Shoneyin
Morrow, Jun 29 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780061946370

In Nigeria in 1984, Ishola “Baba Segi” Alao married his first wife Iya Segi and had two children with her. Five years after that he wedded number two Iya Tope and sired three kids with her. In 1994 Iya Femi became spouse number three and two more offspring. Finally as is his marital trend he married Bolanle in 1999, but no progeny has come from that union.

The patriarch’s superego is affirmed by having the four wives including his last possessing a university degree and seven children from his unions. Baba is concerned that Bolanle has provided him with no offspring. Segi will do anything to maintain her positions as first wife as that means more money, her personal god. Tope is fearful of doing anything that would alienate the household. Femi has deep passion for life and a thirst for vengeance; both of which novitiate her. Finally Baba’s only chosen one Bolanle joined the household to hide, but having a diploma amidst a sea of people who cannot read makes her stand out. The other wives are angrily jealous of her standing as the proud patriarch pays attention to her in the hope he will sire his next childon her.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is an intelligent profound look at polygamy through mostly the wives and somewhat Baba who is a monarch with eleven subjects. Rotating viewpoint, the women loathe each other and react different towards one another. Segi is nastily superior; Tope is a reticent abuse victim; Femi is deceitful; and Bolanle is stoically detached. Readers will understand why each woman agreed to marry Baba and why the patriarch believes multiple wives and children symbolize his wealth. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is an insightful family drama.

Harriet Klausner

And One Last Thing-Molly Harper

And One Last Thing
Molly Harper
Gallery (Pocket), Jul 27 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439168776

Intoxicated Singletree Florist Cheryl Glick delivers the flowers from accountant Mike Terwilliger to his wife Lacey only there is no occasion, which is the only time he sends anything, and the card says to “My Bumblebee signed “The Stinger. Lacey realizes BeeBee secretary to her spouse was supposed to receive the floral arrangement. Fuming she goes to the email only to find Mike changed the password; but she enters BeeBee and finds the lewd emails including non facial pictures. Raging, she sends the emails to their clients as the monthly newsletter.

A hurt Mike files for divorce; while he and BeeBee sue for defamation of character. Her lawyer Sam “the Shark” tells her to stay out of trouble as her email has gone viral and the media is rabid. Lacey leaves for her remote cabin Lighthouse Cove. Her only neighbor is grumpy novelist Lefty “Wolverine” Monroe. He has a phobia about divorcees and she about men. With a nude swim and rescue, a door to the nose, her mom’s food, and writing with beer, they becomes friends and more while a fellow victim of male deceit Maya wants Lacey to partner with her on a Season’s Grating card business.

This is an amusing contemporary chick lit tale that satirizes the viral social networks in which one thing leads to another until there is no And One Last Thing. With a nod to Miss Manners who cautions people about placing relationships out there for the world to see, fans will enjoy the jocularity of a woman cuckold and then scorned finding solace in words and Wolverine who as her gay brother says looks him in the eye rather than everywhere else as Mike did.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Commuters-Emily Gray Tedrowe

Emily Gray Tedrowe
Harper, Jun 29 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061859472

Septuagenarians Winnie McClelland and Jerry Trevis fall in love. Their respective families are not happy with this development, but his goes viral when he leaves his affluent Chicago home to move in with his love in Hartfield in Upstate New York.

His daughter Annette fears Winnie and her crew will inherit her father’s fortune so she sues to take control of his vast assets. Her daughter Rachel pleads with her new wealthy stepfather to pay off the enormous loan she took out to cover her ailing spouse’s health-care costs that threaten to bankrupt them. His grandson Chef Avery, a recovering drug addict, asks his grandfather to fund a new restaurant he wants to open. Meanwhile in their grandiose mansion, the newlyweds anger the townsfolk when Winnie considers removing a historical tree to make way for a swimming pool; money will not buy temporary loyalty this time.

This is excellent family drama as the younger generations see the geriatric pair as money and not a human couple. Ironically, Winnie and Jerry add to that belief by their approach to the locals in which money has always bought Trevis loyalty. The various members of the McClelland and Trevis families rotate narration so that the audience understands what each perceives are threats when the elderly duet marry; changing what has been the status quo dynamics for quite awhile. Except for the sex scenes between the newlyweds that fail to flow freely but instead come across as a forced attempt to make a point, readers will enjoy the discerning Commuters.

Harriet Klausner

Lumby On The Air-Gail Fraser

Lumby On The Air
Gail Fraser
NAL, Jul 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451230041

In Lumby, residents Pam and Mark Walker run the Montis Inn. At the same time the town hosts the Chatham County Fair, the couple is celebrating their silver wedding anniversary with a week long gala at the inn with family and friends; highlighting the get together with a vow renewal. Ironically, the person who made up the invitation changes his name from Mark to Fark, an omen of what is about to occur or perhaps a purposeful use of a descriptor “noun”.

Mark's estranged sister Lynn arrives with her companion Coco the cat. He is elated to see her as they split apart when Lynn's ex husband cheated him out of money. However, his canines sniffing a cat meal chase pregnant show champion Coco up on the inn’s roof where she refuses to come down. Pam's mother Kay and her friend arrive, but her companion is not who her daughter expected to see. Next, Mark’s other sibling Nancy and her husband radio talk show host Carter and their son Corey join the festivity; as the radio celebrity continues his show badmouthing small town living and pushing an anti rustic Rockies resort to the ire of the Lumby community.. Finally his brother Patrick and his wife Elaine and their sixteen year old daughter Jessica show up with the teen bringing her all night social networking equipment with her.

This is an amusing Lumby entry with serious undertones providing a strong story line as for instance economic development vs. rustic living and teen internet savvy vs. parental ignorance. Enhanced by wonderful Art Poulin drawings, the tale is fun to follow as Pam and Fark wonder what whether they should have eloped as the horde is driving them crazy (think of the movie Madhouse).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Shadow of the Swords-Kamran Pasha

Shadow of the Swords
Kamran Pasha
Washington Square (Simon and Schuster), Jun 22 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781416579953

Late in the twelfth century, Richard the Lionhearted commands his Christian army on the Third Crusade to take back the Holy Land from the Infidels. His wily adversary is Saladin whose Muslim military tries to repel the European invaders from Palestine.

Richard the Christian and Saladin the Muslim share so many traits as strong skillful military and political leaders but also an attraction of the Jewish niece of Maimonides: the scholar, philosopher and physician. Each wants Miriam, but she has her own agenda to use the sly adversaries’ desires to save her people.

Shadow of the Swords is an excellent fully rounded medieval thriller that provides the audience an astute look at the strategic thinking of the two great leaders and that of the Jews caught in the middle of the latest crusades. Fascinatingly neither Richard nor Saladin expects to outright win, but religious loyalty means they fight in God’s name. Historical fiction fans, having read the Christian perspective many times before, will fully appreciate the fresh observations of Saladin, Maimonides and Miriam as the latest bloody war in the name of God is fought.

Harriet Klausner

Delta Girls-Gayle Brandies

Delta Girls
Gayle Brandies
Ballantine, Jun 22 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345492623

All third grader Quinn can remember is that she and her mom Izzy have always been on the move. Nine years old, her mom works the California farms as a migrant fruit picker. In the Sacramento River Delta, Mr. Viera offers Izzy a chance to stay permanently. Quinn especially wants that as the entire Viera family especially Ben is very kind to mom and daughter. In fact so much so Izzy forgets she is on the run from her past; an incident that haunts her. That is until whales get trapped nearby putting a spotlight on the Delta and those volunteers like Izzy for the world to see.

Karen is a teenage star figure skater. Her latest partner Nathan is a hunk who takes her to new heights. However, her mother Deena is a demanding coach who wants the gold at any price. Apparently as Karen and Nathan are on the brink of achieving this, their passion ignites too.

The Delta Girls is a delightful compelling character study that rotates subplots between Izzy and Karen as the tale looks deeply at mother-daughter relationships. The story line meanders a bit slow as the players are established, but also drills inside the souls of Izzy and Karen and to a degree the support cast. With a great twist that brings the two sagas together, fans who appreciate a discerning look at motherhood will enjoy this thoughtful tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When You Least Expect It-Whitney Gaskell

When You Least Expect It
Whitney Gaskell
Bantam, Jun 22 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553386271

In West Palm beach, Florida, India and Jeremy Halloway love each other. Each believes their life together is perfect except for the inability to have a baby. For two years they have tried fertility treatments that have only left them financially poorer. They have given up on the enhanced natural way and opt for adoption.

Homeless twentyish Lainey Walker is pregnant with no options for herself or the baby she carries as her boyfriend Trav kicked her to the street. She meets the Halloway couple and decides they are perfect to raise her child. They give her a place to stay and pay the medical bills. All is perfect until the chaos of birth.

This is a well written character study that rotates between the three prime players; each comes across genuine and ergo makes for a strong drama. Lainey especially is terrific as she knows she will never fill the hole in her heart, but sees few other options for her unborn to have a wonderful life. Readers will appreciate When You least Expect it as the cast provides a powerful poignant look at real choices people, especially women, have.

Harriet Klausner

Beachcombers-Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer
Ballantine, Jun 22 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345518286

In Nantucket Lily Fox sends urgent emails to her globetrotting older sister Abbie to come home as the family is in crisis. Their widower father is in financial trouble and is seeing a sexy woman Marina Warren whose husband dumped her for her friend. Their middle sister Emma has come home from Boston hysterical having lost her job and fiancé Duncan. Lily insists depressed Emma is emaciated lying in bed all day crying.

Abbie comes home to be there for her family during the crisis as they all had been years ago when their mom died. Sibling rivalry remains heated, but each seeks some contentment. The oldest opens a jobs finding service; the middle sister struggles to find equilibrium; while the youngest is a society reporter. Even Marina seeks proof she remains in middle age a worthy female.

The four women take turn narrating the warm family drama. Each of the females brings baggage as they have issues with one another while musing on their pasts. Although there is some redundancy as expected by the sibling narrations, the four feisty females find their respective summer groove as Nantucket Beachcombers.

Harriet Klausner

A Vintage Affair-Isabel Wolff

A Vintage Affair
Isabel Wolff
Bantam, Jun 29 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807837

In 1983 in London preadolescents Emma Kitts and Phoebe Swift meet at primary school in the Blackheath neighborhood. They become best friends. As adults they remained BFFs until Phoebe becomes engaged to the man Emma has fallen in love with. Not paying attention to Emma’s needs, Phoebe is not there for her when her buddy dies. Feeling guilt and remorse, Phoebe ends her engagement and quits her job at Sotheby and goes after her dream.

Phoebe loves vintage clothing so she opens up a boutique in Blackheath. Her shop is a success and she loses herself imagining the history of the garments she sells. Elderly Mrs. Bell commissions Phoebe to sell her entire wardrobe. Fascinated by what the elderly woman tells her about failing her best friend, a Jew, during the Nazi occupation of France, Phoebe begins to heal by forgiving herself for failing Emma. She even has two boyfriends; her first since dumping her fiancé.

A Vintage Affair is an enjoyable British contemporary character study that focuses on history repeating it self at the individual level as Phoebe, Mrs. Bell and readers learn that betrayal, guilt, grief and self forgiveness are recurring human traits. The story line effortlessly moves back and forth in time as the theme is affirmed in each subplot. Although the key males come across as emaciated, readers will appreciate visiting Blackheath as redemption seems just around the corner of the person seeking solace.

Harriet Klausner

Family Ties-Danielle Steel

Family Ties
Danielle Steel
Delacorte, Jun 22 2010, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385343169

Twenty-six year old architect Annie Ferguson looks forward to starting on her new job and living in Manhattan with her boyfriend Seth. As she is euphoric and confident about the changes in her life, she thought nothing about her vow to be the guardian of her two nieces and nephew she made to her sister Jane. That is until Jane and her husband Bill die in a plane crash, so Annie raises the three preadolescent children (Liz, Ted and Katie). Seth cannot deal with the change so ends their relationship.

Sixteen years later, Annie raised her wards with love while running a successful architectural firm. Ted attends law school, Katie is studying design at college; and Liz is a globetrotting Vogue editor. When Annie sprains her ankle, she goes to the emergency room where she meets TV news anchor Tom. Katie drops out of Pratt to work at a tattoo parlor while traveling to Teheran with her Iranian-American boyfriend Paul. Liz's French lover Jean-Louis seems back with his former lover Francoise, the mother of his child. Ted has a tryst with his older law professor, but when he tries to end their sexual relationship, Pattie stabs him in the hand.

This intriguing family drama is an enjoyable contemporary as the aunt of the three orphaned children proves she is A Good Woman when she takes over raising them with the deaths of their parents. The tale contains way too much angst keeping the four subplots from gelling into a cohesive story line, but instead competes for the lead. Still fans will enjoy Danielle Steel’s latest as the strong cast makes the case that family is the ultimate proof of chaos theory.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Scarlet Contessa-Jeanne Kalogridis

The Scarlet Contessa
Jeanne Kalogridis
St. Martin’s, Jul 6 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312369538

Daughter of the Duke of Milan, Caterina Sforza marries the illegitimate son of Pope Sixtus. He is a pathetic paranoid while though she grew up spoiled she proves energetic, ambitious, and intelligent. She befriends the rich and influential while he makes no efforts to improve the family.

Caterina depends only on her loyal lady-in-waiting Dea as her advisor. Dea uses her skill at reading Triumph (Tarot) cards to assist her lady even as her loved ones are murdered. In 1499 Cesare Borgia lays siege to the Fortress of Ravaldino while Caterina struggles to survive his advances even when he abducts and tortures Dea. Caterina wonders if the Mendican preachers are right that the end of the world is just a few weeks away; at least on her orb.

Interestingly the story is told through Dea’s filter, but though she is devoted and brave, the courage of The Scarlet Contessa grips fans of biographical fiction. Jeanne Kalogridis is at her best with this strong historical that brings alive late fifteenth century Italy; as once again the author entertains readers with an insightful look at Renaissance Italy (see The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Red Rain-Bruce Murkoff

Red Rain
Bruce Murkoff
Knopf, Jul 6 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307272072

In 1864 after spending the last decade as part of the cavalry in California fighting against Indians, Dr. William Harp returns home to his Rondout, New York farm depressed over the atrocities he witnessed. Although the Hudson Valley is far from the battlefields, William quickly realizes his neighbors are impacted by the men at war. Dr. Harp is very concerned with the wellbeing of those left behind.

Thirteen years old Coley Hinds is becoming a drunkard. Jane Blessing fears for the life of her spouse Frank Quinn, missing in action and presumed dead. Her brother Mickey Blessing retired from shipping, but increasingly turns violent as an enforcer for businessman Harry Grieves; Mickey mentors Coley on how to enforce a business deal. Finally a local woman has been murdered, but no one wants to talk about it as Will begins to find a mastodon’s skeletal remains one bone at a time.

This is a deep historical tale that looks closely on the impact of war on those far from the front, but affected either by loved ones in uniform or the economic shock. The ensemble cast is fully developed to that each brings to life what the Civil War and the Indians War mean and do to them. Readers will relish this terrific saga as all’s not quit on the Hudson Valley front even with no military battles for hundred of miles.

Harriet Klausner

Charlie St. Cloud-Ben Sherwood

Charlie St. Cloud
Ben Sherwood
Bantam, Jun 22 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553386936

In 1991 in Marblehead, Massachusetts fifteen years old Charlie St. Cloud and his twelve years old brother Sam steal a neighbor’s station wagon to go to the Red Sox game. They have a good time at the ball park, but on the way home while crossing the Saugus River, Charlie crashes the vehicle; both die, but the emergency crew revives the teen. Sam is buried in the Marblehead cemetery.

Thirteen years later, Charlie is the caretaker at the Waterside Cemetery where his sibling is buried. Every night the St. Cloud brothers play catch as Sam delays leaving for heaven. When Charlie and Tess Carroll meet at the cemetery they are attracted to one another. She plans to sail around the world solo, but soon after their terrific date, her vessel is lost at sea. Charlie realizes the rescue team has failed to save her as he watches her spirit fade away while wondering what he can do.

This is a reprint of an engaging character study that focuses on relationships after a loved one dies and how much the living is obligated to deceased loved ones; especially since the person left behind loses a bit of themselves, but more so when they are a catalyst in a tragedy. The first half is as terrific and insightful a tale as this reviewer has read this year. However, the plot takes a weird turn with a couple of unnecessary twists that add tension, but destroy Sherwoodian after life physics. Still this is a fabulous tale that focuses on the debt of those alive owe to those who have died as Charlie, Tess and Sam make a fascinating macabre triangle (even if the brothers are Red Sox fans as I am from the Bronx).

Harriet Klausner

The Stepmothers' Support Group-Samantha Baker

The Stepmothers' Support Group
Samantha Baker
Avon, Jun 22 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061840357

In London, Eve Owen and widower Ian Newsome meet over a magazine review she is doing on his book re his late wife. They fall in love, but she is totally unprepared to deal with his kids (twelve years old Hannah, eight years old Sophie and five years old Alfie).

Her best friend school teacher Claire Adams is a single mom of thirteen year old Louisa so she listens to Eve’s woes of becoming a stepmother. Clare helps and soon the two BFFs forge the Stepmothers' Support Group. Clare's younger sister Lily joins them as she is dating a single dad with a toddler. Mandy becomes a member as she struggles to merge two families with teenagers in both into a cohesive unit. Finally Mel’s boyfriend has a tweener.

This is an intriguing look at the not wicked stepmother as the club members want loving relationships with the offspring of their significant other. Clare and Eve are fully developed but the rest of the ensemble pale in comparison as there are too many characters with too many issues to keep score. Still readers who enjoy a well written family drama will appreciate The Stepmothers’ Support Group as the women want to do their best but don’t always succeed.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It All Began in Monte Carlo-Elizabeth Adler

It All Began in Monte Carlo
Elizabeth Adler
St. Martin’s, Jul 6 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312385156

Outraged when IV star and private investigator Mac Reilly delays their wedding for another case, Sunny Alvarez leaves behind her engagement ring. She flies first class from Los Angeles to Paris with Tesoro as her companion. On the plane, Sunny meets “Prince Charming” Aka Eddie and heads to Monte Carlo.

The crew arrives to help Sunny deal with what and who she wants in her life. Movie star Allie Ray, makeover Pru Holster, and Kitty the sociopath are joined by Eddie in offering assistance to Sunny. Mac follows his beloved Sunny to Monte Carlo hoping to save his relationship with the woman he loves.

Although the plot is thin, the return to Europe (see One of Those Malibu Nights and There’s Something About St. Tropez), fans will enjoy the latest relationship spin between Mac of Malibu Mysteries and Sunny. He begs for another chance in between solving a few cases and saving her life. Elizabeth Adler provides her fans with a charming lighthearted frolic as It All Began in Malibu before moving to Monte Caro.

Harriet Klausner

The Way to a Man's Heart-Mary Ellis

The Way to a Man's Heart
Mary Ellis
Harvest House, Jul 1 2010, $13.00
ISBN: 9780736927345

In County, Ohio, the Miller females feel their lives are going in the right direction. April the Mennonite hires eighteen year old Leah Miller to work at her new diner. Leah also has a nice man interested in courting her. She is as excited over Jonah Byler as he with her.

Leah’s Aunt Hannah (see A Widow’s Hope) and her sister Emma are smelly wool gathers while her mamm enjoys knitting on her good days that is. Hannah and Emma also recently married. Whereas Hannah’s husband Seth is local Amish, Emma’s is an outsider who gave up his lifestyle out of love for her. Both aunt and niece struggle to become part of the New Order Amish community but not as much as the latter’s husband James.

The third Miller Family saga (see Never Far From Home) is a wonderful warm Amish contemporary tale. The storyline focuses on the Amish culture through the deep look at the Miller extended family as the women and their men, sheep and pies make for an enjoyable relationship drama. Each person is fully developed as they struggle with personal issues that include belonging to the community.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fortunate Harbor-Emile Richards

Fortunate Harbor
Emile Richards
Mira, Jun 29 2010, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327707

When her ex husband CJ went to prison for a white collar scam, thirty-five year old Tracy Deloche could no longer could no longer remain a Bel Air, air head trophy wife. Her only asset is a few rundown seaside cottages off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Still she prevailed due to the help of her tenants.

Her relationship with Marsh Egan is at best on life support as his ex wife Sylvia wants him back so is working her magic on him using their son as a tool. Making life more complex is the return of C.J. who is out on bond awaiting a new trial. He wants to reconcile with her.

The arranged marriage between Janya and Rishi Kapur appears ready to die as she fails to become pregnant. At the same time Wanda Gray loses her job so she opens up a pie shop with the reluctant support of her spouse Ken the cop. Finally who is newcomer Dana Turner, accompanied by her daughter Lizzie, and why does she seem interested in a secret that Pete Knight may be able to help her with.

As with the first Deloche drama ((see Happiness Key), Fortunate Harbor is a warm contemporary BFFs tale in which the cottage crowd comes across as a family supporting one another. The story line digs deep into the ensemble cast to include those above and grandmother-granddaughter Alice Brook and Olivia Symington. Although the profound character driven story line reads at times like a series of interrelated vignettes, readers will enjoy the engaging second look at the residents of seaside cottage community (obviously written before the oil spill).

Harriet Klausner

The Bikini Car Wash-Pamela Morsi

The Bikini Car Wash
Pamela Morsi
Mira, Jul 1 2010, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778327813

After helping with the funeral of her mother, Andrea Wolkowicz leaves her job as a corporate contributions professional at a Fortune 500 firm in Chicago to return home to Plainview in order to help her elderly father Pop care for her mentally disabled sister, Jelly. After failing to find work ( even Guthrie Foods rejected her) to bring in income, Andi reopens her father’s car wash business, but with a twist; the employees are bikini clad women.

In spite of complaints about lewdness, the car wash proves a major success. She also finds her relationship with storeowner Pete Guthrie intensifying. However, even as she considers what she wants with Pete, Andi learns her parents’ perfect marriage was not quite the paragon she believed it was.

The Bikini Car Wash is an intelligent amusing slice of small town life. The townsfolk enhance the close look at living in a small fishbowl once Andi reopens the car wash with her marketing spin as business booms in spite of complaints. Jelly, Pop, and Pete’s mom are strong support characters especially the sister, who is the most complete individual in the tale. Still this warm contemporary belongs to the lead couple as Pete and Andi fall in love to the background of family entrepreneurship.

Harriet Klausner

A Summer in Sonoma-Robyn Carr

A Summer in Sonoma
Robyn Carr
Mira, Jun 29 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778328704

Emergency room nurse Cassie goes on a date with Ken that turns ugly until Walt the mechanic rescues her. They become friends although he would like their relationship to be intimate; she prefers her man to be more than someone who dirties their hands.

Firefighter Billy and his wife Julie are in dire financial straits while she carries their fourth child. Firefighter Joe ignores his wife Marty, who is looking closely at her former boyfriend for attention. Doctor Beth struggles with the return of breast cancer while her oncologist Dr. Jerod wants to be with her during and after she receives treatment as he wants a non-medical relationship with her too.

Though the theme of an ensemble friends struggling with different relationship issues has been done many times before ion TV, movies and novels, the four fully developed BFFs and the hunks in their lives make for a warm engaging contemporary tale. Readers will enjoy spending A Summer in Sonoma with Robyn Carr’s charming cast.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Ideal Wife-Gemma Townley

An Ideal Wife
Gemma Townley
Ballantine, Jun 22 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780345499844

Jessica Wild and husband Max Wainwright diligently work at keeping his ad agency afloat during the hard economic times that have reduced corporate customers and revenue. Max fears his firm will soon file for bankruptcy unless a huge account surfaces. He targets the boyfriend of Jessica’s mom, banker Chester Rydall, as his best chance for a new client. Chester also seeks new customers so making a case that some bankers are ethical, he conducts an ethics audit of his staff; Max hoping to gain favor with Chester does likewise with his firm.

After being caught in an undesirable kiss when drunk, Jess decides to become An Ideal Wife to her Max so if he learns of her indiscretion from the blackguard trying to blackmail her, he will forgive her and stay. She does everything perfectly as the ideal wife, but nothing works in accordance to the plan. Instead Max is hospitalized with a broken leg due to one of her spousal loving efforts and worse he has an ideal nurse for a hunk like him. Sending Jess even wilder is a former opponent plans to use a secret she discovered to steal her Max.

With another humorous yet earnest nod to Oscar Wilde (see The Importance of Being Married), the third Wild Affair is another zany jocular tale that is fun to read. A madcap comedic series of misunderstandings lead Jess to go over the top of Big Ben in order to keep Max with her. Although the plot is thin and ideal is not what one would describe Jess as, fans will enjoy her latest wildly insane exploits.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happiness-Denis Robert

Denis Robert
Serpents Tail, Jul 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781852429591

He is a thirty nine years old writer with a wife and three children. She is a reader of his work with a much older husband and his adult son. They meet and are instantly attracted to one another. Since he writes in hotel rooms because they are quiet and her spouse is totally preoccupied with his work, they easily begin a tryst. Both somewhat conceal their real everyday lives from one another while enjoying their fantasy trysts that enable them to escape reality though sexual encounters.

Using the odd numbered pages to tell his side and even numbered pages to tell her side, Happiness is a strange he said, she said look at an affair as each of the leads tell their side on events. None of their trysts last more than a page and a few are left blank. Thus the audience knows almost nothing about the “real” lives of the fantasy lovers. This lack of knowledge reduces the impact as the pair lacks depth beyond their hedonistic encounters. Still different and gimmicky, fans who enjoy an intimate passionate relationship that ironically never truly becomes intimate and compassionate beyond sex will want to read the intriguing look at Happiness.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Claim- Lisa T. Bergen

Lisa T. Bergen
David C. Cook, Jun 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434767066

Several years ago, his father left Dominc St. Clair to watch over his sisters as they traveled from Philadelphia to Colorado Springs while also setting up the family publishing business in the growing city. His beautiful sister Moira was sent west to get her away from her myriad of suitors while his other sibling Odessa came to stay at a sanatorium for consumption victims. Odessa married rancher Bryce (see Breathe) and Moira began a professional stage career (see Sing) so Nic left to see the world as he always dreamed of doing.

Though several years have passed and feeling guilty, Nic returns to Colorado to see how his sisters are doing. Moira left Paris after suffering a burn to her neck, ear and scalp and being burned by the men in her life. She never forgot Daniel whom she met in Colorado Springs before she left to sing to the world; now she knows who she wants to sing to for the rest of her life if he will take her back. Nic arrives in nearby Gunnison where he meets Peter and the miner’s son. They work a mine together that begins to help him heal with the world that broke his dreams. However, he meets and falls in love with Sabine the schoolteacher who makes him feel life is worth living.

The third Homeward Bound tale is an excellent end to the super historical saga that blends romance history, and inspiration into a powerful trilogy. Each of the three St. Clair sibling learn that life is filled with remorseful qualms yet lost opportunities must never prevent a person from living to the fullest; the fullest defined as sharing your soul with loves ones. Lisa T. Bergren is three for three with one of the best historical trilogies in recent years.

Harriet Klausner

The Lovers-Vendela Vida

The Lovers
Vendela Vida
Ecco, Jun 22 2010, $23.99
ISBN: 9780060828394

Well over two decades ago Yvonne and Peter married and honeymooned in Datca, Turkey. They lived in Burlington, Vermont and had twins, Matthew and Aurelia.

With Peter recently buried, Yvonne decides to fly to Turkey to see if she can recapture the happiness she once shared with her late spouse before their alcoholic offspring Aurelia destroyed their relationship. As she returns to the peninsula where East meets West, she finds nothing the same. Even the clothing she wore to not stick out leaves her sticking out as the women wear jeans and t-shorts while she wears a long blouse and skirt. Still as Yvonne begins to enjoy the role of an American widow, some locals including her landlord Mr. Celik wonder why the single female tourist travels by herself. Lonely, she meets and befriends a Turkish boy about ten years old selling seashells. However, the natives do not appreciate an American adult acting friendly to a native child.

Although the emotional poignancy and epitomes overwhelm the story line at times as there is a constant barrage, readers who appreciate a profound look at a person seeking to regain paradise lost by returning to a memory of an Eden will relish Vendela Vida’s deep character study. The story line is purposely slow as the audience gets inside the head of the grieving widow who is filled with remorse, regret and guilt. Turkey serves as a terrific locale for the lead character as like the country is divided between to EU or not to EU; just like Yvonne is split between going home to lonely New England or remain on the peninsular seeking something she lost over the years.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bad Marie-Marcy Dermansky

Bad Marie
Marcy Dermansky
Harper, Jun 22 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061914713

Marie spent six years in a medium security prison for abetting her boyfriend; she was convicted on the charges of accessory to murder and bank robbery. Upon release from the pen, Marie’s high school friend turned enemy (over a boy, naturally) Ellen the Manhattan executive hires her to be the live-in nanny of her two year old daughter Caitlin; the only job an ex con with no skills can obtain.

Ellen’s husband French author, Benoit Doniel is very attracted to the tall thin Marie and her to him having read his book while doing time. Starting with a bathtub, they begin a heated steamy affair that culminates with the pair fleeing to Paris accompanied by Caitlin. However, even before they reach France, Benoit proves to be a rat leaving a distraught frightened Marie in the city with the toddler; knowing full well she can never go home.

Although over the top of the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower with several unnecessary coincidental spins, Bad Marie is an engaging look at an ex convict. Marie finds prison life with no decisions to make easier on the mind but being a fugitive single mom in a foreign country easier on the soul. Readers will enjoy Bad Marie while wondering whether the anti-heroine will prove heroic when it comes to the wellbeing of the toddler.

Harriet Klausner

The More You Ignore Me-Jo Brand

The More You Ignore Me
Jo Brand
Harper, Jun 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061973581

In Herfordshire, England, Alice wonders what a normal family is. Her maternal grandparents prefer intoxication rather than sobering sobriety. Her mother Gina is either in a pharmaceutical induced stupor or a schizophrenic miasma. Her dad Keith tries to maintain a modicum of normalcy, but living in a cottage with two drunks and a lunatic who prefers to run the streets naked is asking a lot of any person; so the lass created five personas like an actress and not like split personalities as she knows her roles she uses to deal with her family and the neighbors.

When Gina is taken away to the psychiatric hospital for posing nude on the roof after the meteorologist declined her kind offer of a tryst, Keith tries to help his daughter. Gina has fears that she is a chip off the maternal block as her grandparents are considered drunken terrorists by the neighbors and her mom when not confined runs nude in the streets of Herfordshire. Adding to her concerns re her own mental state is her obsession with the singer Morrissey of Smith and Mark while her father struggles with caring for his two females and his attraction to Marie Henty.

Rotating perspective over a couple of decades, this is an intriguing family drama as readers see deeply how Keith and Alice cope with Gina and the grandparents. The story line is summed up with a strong climatic revelatory Dunk that will open the readers’ eyes as it does the morose “This Charming Man” Keith. Although the troubles caused by the grandparents detract from an otherwise profound family drama by adding too much tsuris to the mix. Still readers will relish The More You Ignore Me (The Closer I Get) as “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” regardless of what happens to loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

The Lace Makers of Glenmara-Heather Barbieri

The Lace Makers of Glenmara
Heather Barbieri
Harper, Jun 22 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061772467

Twenty-six year old Kate Robinson lived in Seattle her entire life until it recently shattered. Her forever man Ethan chose her best friend Ella over her. Adding to the betrayal is that Ella modeled Kate’s failed designs. Finally her mom succumbed to cancer just before mother and daughter were to tour Ireland together. Kate decides to visit the land of her ancestors on her own starting in Dublin to begin a new thread and end old useless patterns. Heartbroken Kate ends up in Glenmara.

The village lace makers welcome the American. Still grieving for her recently deceased spouse Bernie feels a special bond with the mourning Kate. Other female survivors like Aileen separated from her husband and daughter and known for ripping skin from even loved ones; her daughter Moira involved with an abuser; Oona a breast cancer survivor with scars mental and physical; and Colleen whose husband is lost at sea also adopt the American. When she persuades her new friends to add lace to their undergarments, Father Byrne warns them they will wear their lingerie in hell.

This is an upbeat inspirational tale that focuses on the belief of Pangloss (from Candide) that this is the most perfect of worlds with the caveat that one takes the time to find the magic. Ironically the traumas and tragedies that each of the key women and Kate’s male interest Sullivan (Ella is right that there us always a Sullivan in a Gaelic tale) that make each of the stars seem genuine although none of their tsuris are deeply elucidated. Still fans will enjoy the overall charm of The Lace Makers of Glenmara.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Secret (of Happiness) -Demosthenes Armeniades

The Secret (of Happiness)
Demosthenes Armeniades
Tinseltown, Jul 2010, $18.00
ISBN: 9780984343102

Halycon recruiter Mr. Singh offers Harvard Law School grad David Finnegan five times what he will make at the Wall St. firm he was going to start working at. His fiancée Dot Peabody is ready to relocate from Oregon to Manhattan. However, encouraged by his family, David agrees to meet with halcyon billionaire Max Simon on the man’s personal island.

Soon David works for Max and travels the globe making multibillion dollar deals. He climbs the Himalayas and flies into space. David has everything except he loses Dot.

Max offers David a new deal; switches places. While David runs Halcyon sans Dot, Max seeks the Secret of happiness. He thinks he may have found it at a Wal-Mart when he meets Marcie Rogers who wants nothing to do with the ultra wealthy Max except as a customer for fear of losing her cashier’s position. Soon David realizes the Secret of happiness for him is Dot.

With a Prince and the not really Pauper switching places, readers obtain an interesting character driven novel. The key players are fully developed and the agreed to switch works as an exhilarating personal quest tale. Max seeks The Secret (of Happiness) by going into the field instead of relying on his top gun researchers back on the island. David on the other hand knows what the Secret (of Happiness) is since he lost it and become unhappy. Fans who enjoy a different type of tale will relish Demosthenes Armeniades’ profound story that builds its premise from Maslow’s Hierarchy in which once the basic needs are met, money cannot buy happiness though the lack of can lead to unhappiness.

Harriet Klausner