Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs

The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs
Jon Franklin
St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct 12 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312662646

Humans and canines have a special bond that is unique in the animal kingdom. That is the hypothesis of Jon Franklin’s insightful look at how that loving tie formed. Using several sciences to support his theory, Mr. Franklin takes the audience on a wonderful tour of evolution going back twelve millennia as wild wolves were tamed into followers and further tamed into domestic obedience. Exploring human and animal behavior to include ethics, Mr. Franklin concludes evolutionary the dog gave up on a fifth of his or her brain power to allow humans to do the hard lifting thinking; he insists we gave away one tenth of ours too as dogs provide us unrequited loved as our best friend. Finally, the author also brings in anecdotal support to his belief of the symbiotic relationship between man and dog when he discusses his beloved Charlie; these are my favorite entries while my husband says my significant other was Max the dog. This warm, well written nonfiction is filled with scientific information as much as personal tales that showcase the Wolf in the Parlor goes back to the ancient caves as well as the modern day abodes.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Perfect Love Song -Patti Callahan Henry

The Perfect Love Song
Patti Callahan Henry
Vanguard, Oct 12 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781593156169

Jimmy Sullivan writes a beautiful Perfect Love Song for his beloved girlfriend Charlotte Carrington. The lyrics are so well received; he leaves Palmetto Pointe, South Carolina to go on tour with his brother Jack, their band The Unknown Souls and a who’s who of country music. He enjoys the glitter of the bright lights, the fame of people remembering his name, and the side benefits of being with the legends.

However, his family and that girlfriend who he wrote his original song for are upset with Jimmy. Indifferent to their pleading, he chooses to perform on Christmas Eve at Radio City Music Hall instead of being the best man at his brother’s wedding. Will success spoil Jimmy Sullivan as he wanders alone in Manhattan on Christmas Eve?

The Perfect Love Song is an entertaining character study that modernizes the movie Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Jimmy is an intriguing lead protagonist who chose career over love so we naive romance fans will feel no empathy for him though logically we understand his opportunity choice. Fans who enjoy a warm relationship drama will want to read Patti Callahan Henry’s tender tale.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sloane Hall-Libby Sternberg

Sloane Hall
Libby Sternberg
Five Star, Sep 15 2020, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594149177

In 1929 in Los Angeles, John Doyle becomes a camera operator who works both silent and talkie movies at Canfield Studios. However, a dumb thing he did costs him his job at the studio and a fight his room. . His camera mentor Leo Barkenstein gets him a job as a live-in chauffeur to silent film star Miss Sloane. John heads to SLOANE H LL.

An alcoholic with a mercurial personality, Pauline Sloane is attracted to John. He reciprocates as she finds her vulnerability touching. However, he never loses sight that he is a servant and any future with Miss Sloane nonexistent beyond being her driver. Besides John wants back behind the camera while Julia the chef and Marta the housekeeper want to influence their relationship; her agent Robbie prefers torpedoing their affection..

John, filled with anger and loneliness, makes for an entertaining historical tale as he reacts rather than thinks. The rest of the cast are stereotypes of an age of transition in Hollywood to include a fading star, her loyal staff, her acrimonious agent and John’s mentor. Fans will enjoy this strong look at Hollywood circa 1929.

Harriet Klausner

The Lost Art of Gratitude-Alexander McCall Smith

The Lost Art of Gratitude
Alexander McCall Smith
Anchor (Random House), Sep 21 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307387080

Feeling a bit paranoid investment banker Minty Auchterlonie fears someone detests her so much that they are trying to harm her. First government tax agents are investigating her though she has no idea why suddenly they are doing it unless someone tipped them off. Second she received a funeral wreath from an unknown sender.

At a child’s birthday party, Minty tells her friend Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhouse, whose not quite two year old son Charlie is at the bash, that she believes someone is after her. Isabel investigates using skills honed by being the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She questions the most likely suspect Jock Dundas, who believes he sired Minty’s son during an affair they had; he wants time with his alleged offspring or he will expose her to her spouse Gordon McCaig. Meanwhile her enemy accuses Isabel of failing to prevent plagiarism at the Review and her lover Jamie asks her to marry him so they and their son Charlie can be a family.

If you seek a bit more action turn to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tales. However as with Precious’s detecting, Isabel is a great focus who holds the intelligent slice of life plot together (see The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday). Character driven, readers will enjoy this sage saga as evil comes in many shapes, but never a Dove as Isabel learns first hand The Lost Art Of Gratitude as no one seems to appreciate her efforts.

Harriet Klausner

The Mischief of the Mistletoe-Lauren Willig

The Mischief of the Mistletoe
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Oct 28 2010, $19.95
ISBN: 9780525951872

In 1803, Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh visits his sister Sally at the Climson Select Seminary for Young Ladies, a boarding school she attends in Bath. He meets and his attracted to the school’s new mistress Arabella Dempsey who accepted a position there over the objection of her best friend Jane.

Mistaking Turnip for the Pink Carnation, Arabella persuades the Fitzhugh siblings to help her with a bit of espionage at Farley Castle though he is unaware of why she invited him to join her there. As the trio works their mission, Arabella introduces blundering Turnip to her BFF Miss Austen. Feeling as if he fell off a wagon, Turnip works hard to prove he is worthy of Arabella.

Satirizing the Pink Carnation series (see The Secret History of the Pink Carnation), Laura Willig provides a fresh entry due to Turnip who is a sort of Regency Inspector Clouseau. Although the espionage subplot is secondary as is the delightful Ms. Austen “correspondence” with Arabella and her unfinished novel as anchors rather than leads, fans will want to spend the twelve days of Christmas with Turnip and Arabella at Dovetail estate.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Secrets Sisters Keep-Abby Drake

The Secrets Sisters Keep
Abby Drake
Avon, Oct 12 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061878329

In Kamp Kasteel, New York, Broadway producer Edward Dalton vanishes just prior to the arrival of his four nieces allegedly coming to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday. The quartet believes Uncle Edward and his significant other Harry have gone to Connecticut to marry. Each fears he will next cut them out of his will.

Historian Ellie Dalton, Park Avenue socialite Amanda Dalton Delaney, and movie star Naomi "Babe" Dalton consult with each other re their missing uncle. The fourth sister, family loser and estranged sibling, Carleen is not welcome by the others, who have long memories of all the tragedies she caused; starting with accidentally killing their parents when she burned their home to the ground. However, the older trio relents and lets her join the search for Uncle Edward.

Although somewhat like a soap opera especially each sister’s relationship with non-siblings and their family history, fans will enjoy the search for the missing septuagenarian as the quest leads each of the Dalton females to relook what matters in their respective lives. They need money but they also realize they miss the empathy as only a sister can provide. The Secrets Sisters Keep is a strong family drama.

Harriet Klausner

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas-Robert Dalby

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas
Robert Dalby
Putnam, Nov 14 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780399156779

In Second Creek, Mississippi Laurie Lepanto is concerned with what the new MegaMart by the nearby highway exit is doing to the local small businesses. She initially talks with some of her fellow Nitwitts about her concern before approaching the returning honeymooners, Mayor "Choppy" Hale Dunbar and his new wife Gaylie Girl. The three of them and the other Nitwitts ladies’ club plan a Christmas gala to revitalize the town square in order to bring back the local shoppers and tourists.

However, an electrical fire damages the square, leaving the holiday celebration in jeopardy. Meanwhile Gaylie's son Petey falls in love (again) this time with Meta, the daughter of formidable Nitwitt Renza Belford. Even though tension and depression rise to stratospheric levels, the Nitwitts never ever give up. They need a Yuletide miracle, but if any group could make it happen it is these determined females.

This is a fun regional small town tale that focuses on a major economic-social issue as the corporations replace mom and pop small businesses with big stores. Although series fans know how this will end unless they are a halfwit, readers will enjoy the antics of the Nitwitts and other eccentric residents of Second (to none) Creek.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Still Dream About You-Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About You
Fannie Flagg
Random House, Nov 9 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781400065936

Still beautiful, former Miss Alabama Maggie Fortenberry works for Red Mountain Realty in Birmingham. She is very successful at her job and considers her co-workers as friends. Yet with all she knows she has going for herself, Maggie has problems getting out of bed each day as she wonders what she has worth living. Maggie has made elaborate plans to commit suicide without any of her friends knowing she killed herself.

On the day she decides it is time to deploy her exit strategy, she gets the contract to sell Crestview on Red Mountain. She has dreamed of owning that house all her life and wants to make sure the right people, appreciative of this lovely abode, will buy it. She postpones her departure until she finds two people she likes and trusts to do right by Crestview buy the place. Her time selling the house has given Maggie the will to live.

This is a heartwarming story about a woman who rejected love in pursuit of a dream of becoming Miss America and living on Red Mountain that never materialized. Instead she became a realtor instead, but fails to understand how rich she truly is with friends like Brenda and Ethel, and can eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts without weight gain Like Brenda I just look at one and gain 5 pounds). Miracles can come in many ways as Fannie Flagg merges humor with somberness to tell the passionate tender tale that we are all rich in our own ways if we take the time to learn how.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 24, 2010

Keeping Time-Stacey McGlynn

Keeping Time
Stacey McGlynn
Crown, Oct 5 2010, $24.00
ISBN: 9780307464408

In Liverpool, septuagenarian Widow Daisy Phillips knows she has had elderly moments, she wishes her concerned son Dennis would stop pushing her into leaving the family home for a retirement assisted living community. At the same time Daisy is undergoing offspring pressure, her BFF is going away for a few months and the new town librarian informs her and other elderly volunteers that their services are no longer needed. When she finds a long lost watch in her home given to her during WWII by a Brooklyn GI, Daisy decides to cross the pond to the States to find him.

In the United States, Daisy's American relatives have issues too. Her second cousin Elisabeth loathes her job and fears her dart playing spouse the attorney is the notorious "Dart Man," who rides a bike while shooting women in their backsides with darts. Parents of five children; their teenage son Michael overwhelms her with his raging hormonal torment and failing grades. Daisy’s arrival at their Long Island home seems to calm down Michael and gives Elisabeth an escape as she teams up with her English relative in search of the solider.

When the enjoyable story line uses third person grammar it is distracting, however the fully developed cast especially the two female amateur sleuths provide insightful gripping first person dialogue more often. Fans will enjoy harried Elisabeth who feels her world imploding die to her belief her husband has been firing darts are female butts and her son’s anguish while also wondering what her other fearsome foursome is up to. However, this is mostly Daisy’s American adventure even with a coincident over the top of the BQE.

Harriet Klausner

The Next Queen of Heaven-Gregory Maguire

The Next Queen of Heaven
Gregory Maguire
Harper, Oct 5 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061997792

In 1999 in Upstate New York, seventeen year old Tabitha Scales becomes the caretaker to her ultra religious mom Leontina after the latter takes a nasty blow to the head from a statue of the Virgin Mary. A highly pious Protestant who religiously attended the Cliffs of Zion Radiant Radical Pentecostal Fellowship, the three-time divorcee undergoes a radical personality change from someone who thought profanity was a sin to cursing out loud. She is a stranger in many ways to her frustrated daughter and her sons.

Catholic Church music director Jeremy Carr hopes his show in New York City will enable him to flee from Thebes and finally leave behind his beloved Willem Handelaers, who is married with children. Although gay, Jeremy Carr becomes friends with the nuns of Our Lady of the Sorrowful Mysteries monastery. At about the same time, Tabitha falls in love but the object of her affection loves another woman who sings in Carr’s Catholic Church choir.

As the millennium countdown occurs in this small town, religious fever is at a frenzied hight level that most people never see in their lifetime. Thus faith is bandied often with jocular pseudo babbling philosophy that makes St, Anselm’s proof of God seem more deductive valid than most of the cast, who rationalize their belief system to cover their behavior. Readers who relish something different will appreciate a visit to Thebes, New York at the end of days of the last millennium.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday Mornings At Nine-Marilyn Brant

Friday Mornings At Nine
Marilyn Brant
Kensington, Oct 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758234629

In the Chicago suburb of Glendale Grove, every Friday morning at nine the forty-something trio (Jennifer, Bridge and Tamara) meets at the Indigo Moon Café. Over coffee, each laments about their boring unsatisfied lives while knowing their friends are always there for them. On one particular coffee session, Jennifer tells her startled two BFFs that she wonders if she married the wrong man.

Each considers that revelation and wonders about the one who got away. Should they find that particular hunk and cheat on their spouses? As the threesome considers affairs, they begin to wonder if that is the only way out from the suburban rut because each knows they are being unfair and selfish towards their family.

This is an engaging look at suburban moms although their response to nuking their way out of the rut is not quite what Palin had in mind with her hockey turned grizzly mommas. Each of the lead trio is different but represents a slice of suburbia. Character driven, readers will enjoy the coffee mommas as they travel similar yet different roads seeking seemingly elusive happiness.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Lane Bridge-Don Reid

One Lane Bridge
Don Reid
David C. Cook, Oct 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434765086

By 2007 in Hanson, North Carolina, John David and Karlie Wickman have been married for over two decades. Overall they are in harmony except when it comes to disciplining their daughter Angela as Karlie wants rules enforced and J.D. chooses leniency, and spending.

J.D. feels overwhelmed. A waitress is stealing from one of their two Dining Club restaurants. His daughter wants to leave school as she is frightened from an attack on a coed at the library. A nurse at Maple Manor calls to ask him to visit his mother a day earlier than his usual weekly trek.

Finally Karlie tells him to take one of his clear the head rides into the countryside. J.D. does, but has car trouble after crossing a One Lane Bridge so heads to an old farmhouse near the road. There he meets Paul Clem, his ailing bed-ridden wife Ada and their daughter Lizzie. Although obviously very poor, they are friendly. The next day, J.D. and Karlie drive to the Clem farm with groceries, but he cannot find the bridge or their homestead. While, Karlie fears her spouse lost his mind, J.D. keeps searching for answers.

This is an intriguing inspirational thriller that focuses on the miracles the “Architect of Time” God performs. The key cast members are fully developed especially the Wickman and Clem family members. Although there are a few subplots that feel more like cul de sacs that never branch back to the prime exhilarating story line, readers will enjoy the adventures of J.D. as he struggles to understand what is going on; wondering whether his wife is right that he is going crazy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Irish Country Courtship-Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Courtship
Patrick Taylor
Forge, Sep 28 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765321749

In the mid 1960s in Ballybucklebo, Northern Ireland, Dr. Fingal Flaherty O'Reilly has taken care of the villagers’ health needs for years without much regard for his personal desires. Now he and his beloved Kitty O'Halloran are starting over. However, that blissful reunion leaves O’Reilly’s housekeeper Kinky Kincaid fearing she will be unemployed soon.

At the same the older general practitioner is re-finding love, his junior partner Dr. Barry Laverty is reconsidering becoming a full partner in a few months after a relationship fell apart; in fact he thinks he should just move on and start elsewhere. At the same time that Laverty struggles with what to do, town councilor Bertie Bishop cheats his irate employees.

The latest Ballybucklebo historical tale (see An Irish County Girl) is an engaging look at a rural Northern Ireland village circa 1965. Although the two doctors and their personal relationships are the lead, the fun in this tale is to compare how far women have come in four and a half decades. Leisurely paced, fans of the Irish County saga will enjoy a trip back in time to Northern Ireland.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Up from the Blue-Susan Henderson

Up from the Blue
Susan Henderson
Harper, Sep 21 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061984037

In 1991 in DC, while her husband Simon Williams is away, Tillie goes into labor. Scared she calls her father General Harris, whom she has not talked to in a few years and is unaware she is married let alone pregnant. He meets her at G.W. ER though she asked him not to.

His arrival takes her back to when she was eight years old and they lived in New Mexico. One day her mother Mara refused to leave her bed; frightening Tillie and her older brother Phil while their military father the colonel is away. When he returns, he finds his household in disarray and his wife in bed where he learns she has stayed for the days he was TDY. Each morning he lifted his spouse off the bed and dumped her on the floor where she stayed hysterically weeping. When he takes a position as a weapons system expert at the Pentagon, he and the two kids move to DC, but Mara is gone and the Colonel refuses to admit she existed.

This is an intriguing family drama as Tillie gives birth; all the fears she hid about her mom surface especially when her dad arrives. Character driven, readers will want to know, jut like Tillie does, what happened to Mara. Susan Henderson provides a terrific taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Pursuit of Happiness-Douglas Kennedy

The Pursuit of Happiness
Douglas Kennedy
Atria, Oct 19 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439199121

In 1945, wannabe writer Sara Smythe decides to join her playwright brother Eric in New York. Her parents are horrified that their single daughter will live the bohemian lifestyle in the notorious Greenwich Village. However, heeding Eric’s advice that their hometown of Hartford is known for Twain losing money and Stevens selling insurance between writing edgy poetry, she leaves home.

Surprisingly she obtains a prestigious position at Life magazine. At one of her sibling’s frequent bashes attended by Communists, artists and probably FBI agents, Sara and Stars and Stripes reporter Jack Malone meet. They share a night of passion. However, the McCarthy inquisition is just beginning tearing families and lovers apart. Years later at the funeral of Jack’s wife, Sara meets his daughter divorced single mom Kate.

This is a timely exhilarating post WWII epic drama in which the tragedy of McCarthyism is what it did to split families. None of the cast is fully developed as the insightful story line focuses on what happened and what might have happened if the optimism coming out just after war ended was allowed to blossom and not be killed by unchallenged phony patriotic pedagogues. Douglas Kennedy provides a powerful profound tale with applications to subsequent eras.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Best of Friends-Susan Mallery

The Best of Friends
Susan Mallery
Pocket, Sep 28 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9781416567189

In high school in Southern California, Jayne Scott was an introverted student who spilled coffee on herself even while walking through life cautiously. Rebecca Worden was a beautiful extrovert who ran through life as if running the 100 yard dash, but never spilled a drop on herself. They became the best of friends and remained BFFs though Rebecca fled the country for the past dozen years.

While Rebecca was overseas, her mother Elizabeth and to a lesser degree her dad Blaine “adopted” Jayne as her offspring when the latter’s mom died. Now Rebecca has come home to cause her mother havoc. However, the return of the prodigal natural daughter may impact her pal big time, but not as much as the return of Elizabeth’s prodigal son David, who the introverted Jayne has loved since first meeting him back in her high school days.

This is an entertaining extended family drama that fans will enjoy as the cast, for the most part, seems genuine. In spite of Elizabeth being over the top of the Sierras with her all consuming control of anyone inside her sphere, she makes the tale entertaining as she manipulates those who try to care about her. Readers will enjoy the Best of Friends as the audience will want to know what happens to Jayne.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 17, 2010

Winter Bloom-Tara Heavey

Winter Bloom
Tara Heavey
Gallery (Pocket), Oct 12 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439177938

In Dublin, widow Eva Madigan barely copes with raising her four years old son Liam by herself. When she finds a garden overrun by weeds, she believes it is symbolic of her own emotional state. She asks garden owner elderly Myrtle Prendergast if she can work on the garden though she is ignorant when it comes to gardening.

Having received surprising approval from Myrtle, who allegedly killed and buried her spouse in her garden three decades ago, Eva seeks help. She meets Holocaust survivor Uri, his divorced son Seth, and too serene Emily. As the garden recovers its beauty, the quartet and Myrtle mentally heal. That is until Mrs. Prendergast's adult son insists on selling the property; devastating the gardeners.

Although Winter Bloom does not add anything new to the mental healing by gardening (for instance, the classic The Secret Garden and Sue Minter’s nonfiction Healing Garden series), this is an entertaining tale of five people finding solace with the urban garden they cultivate. Each of the prime quintet comes across as real people with emotional issues crippling them in different ways. As the garden blooms so do they in Tara Heavey’s enjoyable contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Safe from the Sea-Peter Geye

Safe from the Sea
Peter Geye
Unbridled, Sep 28 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781609530082

Thirty-five years ago, a tragedy on Lake Superior changed their lives forever, estranging father and son. Now Noah, encouraged by his wife Natalie, is returning to Misquah, Minnesota to see his dad for the first time in what seems like forever.

Noah is unsure what type of reception he will receive but expects it will be colder than the winter weather. Instead he is stunned to see how old and sick his father appears. Dying, Olaf who hid what happened on the ore boat three and half decades ago decides it is time to tell his son the truth that has haunted him as one of the few survivors.

Safe From The Sea is an engaging character driven saga in which an estranged father and son bond when Olaf tells Noah what happened on that tragic day. The entertaining story line contains other back-stories including Noah’s look at his marriage as well as Olaf relating other sea adventures. Although a father and son bonding as adults is not new (see the nonfiction The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect with Their Fathers by Davis, Jenkins and Hunt, and the fiction Gilead by Marilynne Robinson), Peter Geye provides an enjoyable brisk tale.

Harriet Klausner

Playing the Game-Barbara Taylor Bradford

Playing the Game
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin’s, Oct 12 2010, $27.99
ISBN: 9780312578084

In London, art dealer and restorer Annette Remmington successfully hosts her first major auction of a lost Rembrandt she recovered, saved and sold. Her much older spouse of two decades, Marius demands she allow a media interview to push her fame beyond fifteen minutes as he believes the right journalist will recognize his wife’s art genius.

Always obeying her mentor who she feels gratitude towards, Annette meets with Marius’ hand-picked reporter Jack Chalmers. While working on her article, Jack and Annette are attracted to one another. She is caught between her desire for the man her own age and the older man who taught her everything she knows. However, the reporter soon uncovers a scandalous dark secret that if revealed could destroy Annette, Marius and even Jack.

Although an older man marrying and mentoring a younger woman with a hunk her age forging a dysfunctional triangle has been done many times (see Control by Kayla Perrin), Barbara Taylor Bradford writes a fresh engaging epic due mostly to the glitzy ultra rich art world. The lead trio is fully developed so the readers understand what drives each of them. Readers know what to expect from Ms. Bradford and with Playing the Game she provides it to her fans.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rival to the Queen-Carolly Erickson

Rival to the Queen
Carolly Erickson
St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312379742

Bloody Queen Mary orders Francis Knolly to kill the family tutor. Having no choice, he does his duty to the horror of his loved ones especially sixteen years old Lettie. However, Francis also understands in spite of his loyalty the Queen and her late father, he and family are condemned because they are related to Mary’s imprisoned half sister Princess Elizabeth.

Several years later, Elizabeth is now the queen and Lettie returns to court to serve her cousin. There she meets the queen’s consort Sir Robert Dudley. She falls in love with him and he persuades her to secretly marry him though he would have preferred to be Elizabeth’s husband; not out of love but to obtain more power. She is his second wife with rumors that Lady Any either was murdered or killed herself. She bears him a son who is royally executed and he also has an offspring out of wedlock with another lady of the court. Each of Dudley’s women feels the wrath of the queen.

The latest Carolly Erickson Tudor historical fiction (see the First Elizabeth and The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots) is an engaging tale that focuses on a rival for the affection of Dudley. Lettie is a courageous individual who knows she risks her life for love; while ironically her beloved comes across as a selfish hedonist. However, it is the portrait of Elizabeth that is difficult to accept as she is treated as a jealous angry beast with no redeeming virtues. Told by Lettie, sub-genre readers will enjoy her tale as The Rival to the Queen for Dudley’s affection.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 9, 2010

‘Til Death-Miasha

‘Til Death
Touchstone (Simon and Schuster), Sep 7 2010, $14.00
ISBN 9781416589884

In 2007, BFFs Celess and Si-Si fled Southern California and a murder charge by flying to Rome. It happened so fast that Celess took no luggage with her. Meeting them at the Rome Airport is Si-Si’s wealthy friend Andrew Coselli, who knows her as Sienna.

He takes them to Genoa where the two Americans open up an escort service for the rich and richer. The pair enjoys the good life as their clients take them shopping and partying around the globe. However, though they buried their California lives, their past arrives in Italy seeking retribution while other wannabes hone in on their successful business and Celess becomes addicted to cocaine. If they are not careful, they will learns the way down is faster than the way up.

The third Celess transsexual street lit saga (see Secret Society and Never Enough) is a delightful fast-paced refreshing thriller. The story line is faster than the mode of travel the lead “ladies” ride to go to places like Rio, India and South Africa as the royal sass sisters rip skin from their affluent patrons to the enjoyment of fans. Although the ending in Dubai seems abrupt yet stunning, readers will enjoy the pact between the two bad girls “Til Death.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 6, 2010

Elizabeth’s Women-Tracy Borman

Elizabeth’s Women
Tracy Borman
Bantam, Sep 28 2010, $28.00
ISBN: 9780553806984

This is a fascinating refreshing biography of Elizabeth I as Tracy Borman concentrates on the women in the monarch’s life and how they directly or indirectly influenced how she ruled and how she lived. Her father decapitated her mother Anne Boleyn and one of her stepmothers Katherine Howard, which led to young Elizabeth to beware of all men. When her older half-sister Mary became queen, Elizabeth observed how her sibling had to bow to her husband, the Spanish monarch; which affirmed her theory no man will rule her life. She learned to be flexible and not an ideologue on the hot button social issues of the times like religion; unlike “Bloody Mary”. Men were beneath her because she distrusted them to allow her to be an equal so she kept them bowing at arm’s length; yet still she preferred male company as women were perceived as her true competitors so those rivals whom she felt were a threat like two female cousins were incarcerated.

Making a strong case that the women in the early life of Elizabeth I was major influences on how she ruled, historian Tracy Borman refreshes the look at the monarch. Using the females including those at court who feared the Queen, Ms. Borman makes a strong case that the ladies, especially the queens who preceded her, taught Elizabeth lessons in survivability, which is why she allegedly remained an unmarried virgin. Although there is some speculation filling historical vacuums, Elizabeth’s Women is an entertaining glimpse at the famous queen from a unique perspective.

Harriet Klausner

A Chesapeake Shores Christmas-Sherryl Woods

A Chesapeake Shores Christmas
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Sep 28 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780778328520

After a dozen plus years since their divorce, Mick and Megan O’Brien are remarrying in Chesapeake Shores. This will be only the second time since she left Mick to hide in New York that she will be in the place her children grew up. She prays her offspring will accept her back in their lives and that of their daddy, but knows her mistakes of not being there for them could prove too much to overcome.

The adult kids are euphoric that their parents are coming together. That is all except Connor who became a divorce lawyer due to his mother’s abandonment of him and his siblings. He cannot forgive her unlike the rest of the family who bless this union. His rejection amplifies Megan’s doubts as she does no want to hurt her loved ones again. It will take a miracle to bring the O’Brien family together, but it is the season of miracles.

The latest Chesapeake Shores tale (see Harbor Lights and Flowers on Main Street) is an enjoyable second chance at family drama. The parents and their children are fully developed characters, but it is Connor who makes the story line work. Megan recognizes his relationship with heather as a repeat of the mistakes made by and Mick. Readers will enjoy the return to the O’Brien brood in Sherryl Woods’ warm return to Chesapeake Shores.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Too Much Money-Dominick Dunne

Too Much Money
Dominick Dunne
Ballantine, Sep 28 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345464101

Park Avenue magazine gossip columnist Augustus “Gus” Bailey knows better than to open one’s mouth on an unfinished story, but he does on the radio. Gus accuses Congressman Kyle Cramden in the disappearance of his intern. Outraged, Cramden sues Gus for slandering him and demands $11 million.

An octogenarian, Gus fears his big mouth will leave his family with nothing when he dies. He turns to his other occupation, a novelist writing Infamous Lady based on a real homicide. While someone has been convicted of murdering wealthy banker Konstantin Zacharias who suffered from ALS in an arson fire at his Biarritz home, his beautiful widow Perla was never considered a person of interest by the cops. Gus’ inquiry bothers Perla who inherited a fortune so has become too big to fail at annihilating others. Rather than litigation, Perla uses amoral tactics to destroy Gus.

The fascination in this entertaining novel is Dominick Dunn’s lampooning his other vocation as a gossip crime columnist having no real meaning especially when defending your life at the heavenly weighing station (kudos to Albert Brooks). Although the exaggerated portrayals of the key characters are over the top of the Empire State Building and adversely impact the extremely thin plot, fans of the late author’s column will enjoy the hyperbole as Mr. Dunne skewers the rich and famous.

Harriet Klausner

Goodnight, Beautiful-Dorothy Koomson

Goodnight, Beautiful
Dorothy Koomson
Bantam, Sep 28 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780385344265

Eight years ago in England, Mal and Stephanie ask his close friend Nova to serve as a surrogate mother. She agrees, but during the pregnancy, a jealous Stephanie shut down the arrangement. Rather than abort or give up her child for adoption, Nova chooses to raise her son as a single mom.

Nova’s son seven-year-old Leo suffers an aneurysm and needs emergency surgery. He lies in a medically induced coma with a strong chance he will die shortly or never awaken. Though she is still bitter at Mal and Stephanie as her former BFF cut off all ties to her and their offspring, Nova knows their reversal led to her raising her beloved Leo; she wants her child’s father to meet his son.

This is an engaging five tissue box contemporary family drama. The lead triangle and Leo are solid characters so the audience understand the motives of each especially the adults. Although too much time is spent on the events of eight years ago that are table setters for the present, readers will not have a dry eye as Dorothy Koomson provides a modern day weeper.

Harriet Klausner

Legacy-Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel
Delacorte, Sep 28 2010, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385343138

In less than forty-eight hours, Brigitte Nicholson’s life is shattered starting with her archeologist boyfriend Ted abruptly dumping her and finishing with Boston University Admissions Office firing her. Stunned with no place to go, Brigitte agrees to assist her mom who is working on a family tree.

Brigitte goes to Salt Lake City to research her ancestry at Family History Library. There she uncovers a strange mystery about her heritage as an ancestor Dakota Sioux princess Wachiwi who apparently traveled to France just before the French Revolution. While there she married a marquis. Wachiwi as the Marquise de Margerac was buried in Brittany rather than the Great Plains. Following clues takes the researcher to Sioux Falls and Paris. In France, Brigitte and Sorbonne Professor Marc Henri meet and are attached to one another. Their encounter and her family project begin to bring back la vivre de joie sprit that Brigitte had lost to complacency.

This is an entertaining tale mostly because of the exciting look at the life of Wachiwi, which is inserted throughout the enjoyable present day story line of Brigitte’s research. Fast-paced in two centuries, readers will wonder what lessons Brigitte will take from the stirring life of the Sioux princess as Danielle Steel provides a winner for her fans.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Reluctant Prophet-Nancy Rue

The Reluctant Prophet
Nancy Rue
David C. Cook, Oct 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781434764966

Seven years ago Allison Chamberlain found Jesus, but now he had yet to find the forty something woman though she diligently prays (and whines) wishing he would. At the Flagler Community Church while the Reverend Howard eloquently slings arrows, Allison finally receives a divine message telling her to buy a Harley.

Allison fears she lost her mind, but also has learned to follow her impulses even if they seem inane. She purchases the Harley and soon still heeding the mental nudges from she assumes Jesus, Allison begins riding into the darkest communities she previously avoided like these were leper colonies as she brings the Word to the impoverishrd unfaithful while the members of the congregation she faithfully sat with in the pew fear for her mental state.

This is an intriguing well written inspirational tale starring the aptly titled The Reluctant Prophet. Character (and bike) driven, readers will reassess their own faith and church as Allison follows the voice in her head riding her bike to places she avoided out of fear before she bought the Harley. Nancy Rue provides a terrific Christian inspirationa talel.

Harriet Klausner

Sudden Dawn-Goran Powell

Sudden Dawn
Goran Powell
YMAA, Jun 2010, $12.95
ISBN: 9781594391989

In 507 in the capital city of Kanchipuram of the Kingdom of Pallava in India, young military academy trainee Sarili hears the words of Prajnatara the Buddhist master and begins to question whether he wants to follow in his father’s warrior footsteps of seek enlightenment. He chooses the latter and follows the sage to Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

A serious student of Buddha, Sarili becomes Bodhidharma the monk as he treks across India and teaches the Emperor; journeys over the Himalayas in Tibet and brings Ch'an Buddhism to China where he is called Da Mo. However, he is appalled by the enfeebled monks he meets so he creates the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province and places the faithful on a strict regiment including kung fu.

This is an entertaining biographical fiction that enables the reader to understand the life of the founder of the Shaolin movement; in fact the temple Bodhidharma constructed over fifteen centuries ago is still there. Although the romance elements feel forced, the era and the hero come across vividly clear. Readers who appreciate a deep ancient Asian tale will enjoy this super glimpse at a devoted sixth century legendary Buddhist monk.

Harriet Klausner

Penelope's Daughter-Laurel Corona

Penelope's Daughter
Laurel Corona
Berkley, Oct 5 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425236628

On the Island of Ithaca, Penelope gives birth to a daughter Xanthe. Her child’s father Odysseus has not met his offspring as he away on adventures for two decades. While the Cephallenians king is on his mystical journey, Xanthe is protected from the usurpers who want her brother the heir dead and her married to one of them, so they can rule.

Penelope tries to keep her child safe by faking Xanthe's death and dispatching her to Sparta to live with her cousin, Helen of Troy. Under her legendary relative’s protection, Xanthe observes an assassination attempt on her host that she believes was instigated by Helen’s acrimonious daughter Hermione. Xanthe meets a prince she likes, but the gods end their relationship as she must go home to her loom in Ithaca to prepare for the return of her wandering father.

This is an interesting perspective by someone who never met her father when his fame as an adventurer grew. Building off of Greek mythology, in particular Helen of Troy, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Penelope’s daughter is an entertaining ancient Greek thriller that focuses on a ruling dysfunctional family during a period of sedition. Told by Xanthe through her weaves, fans will enjoy her account of about men lusting for power.

Harriet Klausner

Dancing with Mr Darcy: Stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House Library-Sarah Waters (Ed)

Dancing with Mr Darcy: Stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House Library
Sarah Waters (Ed)
Harper, Oct 19 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061999062

The twenty stories that make up this entertaining anthology were part of a competition with defined rules. Simply put, the entry had to be associated with Jane Austen and self contained. All the entries meet the criteria and are well written especially for fans of the great author as the writers pay homage to Jane with ther contributions. In “Snowmelt”by Lane Ashfeldt, a librarian fears the extinction of the bound book is upon us as she visits the Chawton House Library while “Cleverclogs” by Hilary Spiers makes a strong case for holding a book while reading in your own silent world. The winner of the contest is “Jane Austen Over the Styx” by Victoria Owens; Jane is on trial in Hades with a jury of the dead demanding she explains the accusations by six of her female characters. Elsa A. Solender’s “Second Thoughts” has Jane knowing she must tell Mr. Harris Bigg-Wither that though she accepted his proposal yesterday she declines it today. Elinor Dashwood Ferrars (see Sense and Sensibility) is a detective in “The Delaford Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Elizabeth Hopkinson; and Mrs. Grant (see Mansfield Park) stars in “Somewhere” by Kelly Brendel. Finally there are entries like Stephanie Tillotson’s “Second Fruits” that bring Persuasion to a modern day. Obviosuly targeting the Austen faithful, this is a fabulous trbute as all the tales are fun and vary.

Harriet Kalsuner

Friday, September 3, 2010

Roy & Lillie: A Love Story-Loren D. Estleman

Roy & Lillie: A Love Story
Loren D. Estleman
Forge, Aug 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322289

Roy was Judge Roy Bean the notorious corrupt Justice of the Peace in West Texas who was a killer, womanizer, thief and those were his better attributes. Lillie was “Jersey Lily” Lillie Langtry, a renowned performer and toast of Royalty and the arts whose greatest performance may have been using her health and a besotted doctor to escape marital rusticating. They never met, but exchanged correspondence over two decades as he was her greatest admirer and she was appreciative of her greatest fan. Only death kept them finally from meeting in his Texas.

This is a great blending of historical facts with Loren D. Estleman filling in the gaps with his imagination so that the audience obtains a powerful biographical historical fiction. Both are scoundrels in their own ways with his obviously violent while hers seductive. Yet though there are fabrications and hyperbole in their correspondence, their passion to one day meet to see what happens makes their distant relationship a love story for the ages as only a master writer, could bring what they never achieved in life, them together.

Harriet Klausner

Juliet-Anne Fortier

Anne Fortier
Ballantine, Aug 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345516107

Following the death of her Great Aunt Rose who raised her and her twin sister Janice, the will left twentyish Julie with nothing; all went to her sibling. Heartbroken, a stranger Umberto gives Julie Jacobs a safety deposit box key. Inside allegedly is a treasure her late mom left to Julie. Curious, Julie travels to the bank in Siena, Italy where she opens the box.

What she finds confuses Julie as the contents are a battered copy of Romeo and Juliet and letters. However, as she reads the correspondence, Julie learns she is a direct descendent of a member of one of the feuding families, fourteenth Giulietta Tomei, whose love for Romeo Marescotti inspired the Bard to write Romeo and Juliet. Additionally her mom left her clues to find the treasure of "Juliet's Eyes"; precious gems supposedly implanted in a golden statue. As she investigates, she meets her kin and the descendents of Romeo; still feuding after all these centuries.

Juliet is an engaging modernization of the classic play using terrific historical references from the fourteenth century to anchor the original still going strong blood feud. The story line is fast-paced as Julie, supported by Janice, follows the clues to the real gems of the heart though she distrusts Alessandro who has her falling in love with him. Ironically though Julie is the star, the fourteenth century cast is deeper as the pure blood feud seems more genuine with it difficult to accept the blood has not been watered down after six plus centuries. Still readers will fully relish this historical-contemporary amateur sleuth romance as the Romeo and Juliet curse remains powerful in modern day Siena.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When I Get Where I’m Going-Cheryl Robinson

When I Get Where I’m Going
Cheryl Robinson
NAL, Sep 7 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451229472

Glenn Jetter is in prison for the murder of his wife. His daughter Heaven learns she has an older half-sister living in Southern California. Stunned Heaven calls Alicia Day who has spent over a decade trying to break in to Hollywood, but is ready to give up the impossible dream. She decides to meet kid sister in Detroit.

Heaven’s other sister Hope Teasdale is raging in fury towards her and refuses to talk to her or the newly found sibling. Heaven knows she did single mom of little Havana Hope wrong when she used her sister’s identity to spend $10,000 on credit while her sibling was grieving the death in a boating disappearance of her spouse. However, Heaven also is trapped in an abusive relationship. Though Glenn’s fondest dream is his three daughters become close knit sisters, there appears little chance of that happening.

This is a fascinating family drama starring three siblings who have little reason to forge a bond and in fact have powerful rationale to remain estranged. Character driven, readers will enjoy When I Get Where I’m Going as the threesome struggle with their present lives whole considering can they rely on a sister to be there for them when family history says otherwise. Although the wrap up is too simple, the fully developed cast makes for an enjoyable profound look at dysfunctional siblings from a broken family background.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mini Shopaholic-Sophie Kinsella

Mini Shopaholic
Sophie Kinsella
Dial (Random House), Sep 21 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385342049

Minnie Brandon may only be two years old, but she is chip off the maternal block already. She, like her mom Rebecca, is a major shopper of luxurious items. Price is no problem to the shopaholic addicted toddler.

However, the recession hammers the Brandon family. Luke seeks new business while Rebecca sets a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to use every item hanging in her closet at least three times before hitting the stores again. She knows that will take some time as her closets are filled. However, Minnie brings new meaning to the terrible twos as she refuses to stop spending. Meanwhile Becky plans to throw a surprise birthday bash for her husband, but finds doing it with little money to spend is beyond her skills and experience. Still she goes ahead as an intrepid explorer finding new territory.

Obviously for the Shopaholic crowd (see Shopaholic and Baby), the latest entry is a lighthearted romp as the Brandon females put new meaning into the definition of the terrible twos. While Becky sets goals to reduce spending, Minnie assumes her mom is ill. Fans will enjoy the nurturing vs. naturing karma of Mini Shopaholic as Becky goes cold turkey as a born again savor while Minnie believes more shopping as a spendthrift will solve their family crisis.

Harriet Klausner