Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Journal of a UFO Investigator -David Halperin

Journal of a UFO Investigator
David Halperin
Viking, Feb 3 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9780670022458

In 1966 in Philadelphia sixteen years old Jewish Danny Shapiro worries about his dying mom but finds solace in UFOs as he cannot turn to his hostile father for solace. Over three years earlier, he saw his first UFO, which was not a shocker to him as he had been a UFO investigator for two weeks. His fascination leads to a split from his long time school buddies who find the study of UFOs inane, weird and extremely tedious. Danny is indifferent to being ostracized as he meets new friends who share his interest.

Danny and his cronies investigate UFO phenomena. He soon finds himself in unbelievable adventures as the three Men in Black interrogate him; he disappears in middle earth and soars to the moon. Before he can come home to see how mom is doing he finds himself as an out-patient in an alien operating room and falling in love with an ET thief. Stunned by all he encounters, Danny becomes guardian to a hybrid ET-earthling, who is the golden child expected to simply save the planet.

This is a strange yet profound coming of age tale starring a teen isolated from his friends due to his obsession that makes him different in an environ that demands fit to standardization; as variance need not apply. Danny is a sympathetic protagonist who seems lost with no hope to the reader as he creates a world where he is a superhero unlike his Philadelphia neighborhood where he is a scorned pariah. David Halperin provides a discerning psychological tale that uses science fiction elements to tell the story of a lost soul who dreams of great things in his fantasies to escape his realities.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Mercy Trees-Heather Newton

Under the Mercy Trees
Heather Newton
Harper, Jan 18 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780062001344

In 1986 in Willoby County, North Carolina, Leon Owenby disappears without a trace. His younger brother wannabe writer Martin leaves New York City to come home to help in the search for Leon. Martin leaves behind in Manhattan his former lover Dennis and their dying friends as the AIDS epidemic has devastated the New York gay community like a modern day Black Plague.

In North Carolina, Martin resents being back in the closet as he has always hid his sexual preference from family and friends. He even had a girlfriend in high school, who still loves him. Months pass with no progress in finding the missing Leon, but so many family secrets have been revealed; yet perhaps because of his previous self-protective training growing up as a closet gay, no one knows about Martin’s New York lifestyle or at least no one will openly raise it.

Told mostly by Martin although there are other perspectives with each containing their own personality, fans will enjoy this interesting “historical” family drama in which the Reagan era feels like ancient history with its pre Information/Communication age. The premise for the family gathering in Willoby is strong, but their remaining in the county over several months turns the storyline somewhat weak. Still readers will appreciate this enticing tale of secrets revealed by an ensemble cast with diverse emotional needs wearing family masks to conceal those personal issues assumed would lead to excommunication of that person.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life in Miniature-Linda Schlossberg

Life in Miniature
Linda Schlossberg
Kensington, Dec 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758238436

In the 1980s in California, twelve years old Adie and her fifteen years old sister Miriam live with their single mother Mindy. When mom suffers a nervous breakdown, she spends time in a mental ward while a neighbor watches the two kids. As soon as she comes home, Mindy moves with her two daughters to their latest strong of apartments; as whenever she feels it is time the family moves.

Miriam, who has been Adie’s anchor, runs away with her boyfriend. Mindy reacts by moving with her youngest daughter to a hotel. This starts a new string of moves but from hotel to hotel as Mindy runs from beasts that Adie knows do not exist except in her mom’s schizoid mind though she pretends otherwise. Each move means meeting new people and making friends temporarily as Adie is good at doing, but also changing one’s name as the tweener understands she cannot connect with anyone beyond the shallowness of the next paranoid move.

Adie tells the insightful family drama with a keen first person viewpoint that also enables the reader to understand her sister and mother as she quotes both of them frequently especially Miriam. The key to this profound tale is that although there is a glimmer of hope for the two daughters raised by a mentally ill single mom, chances are heavy that neither will find adulthood any better than their dysfunctional childhood as the girls will probably run from personal demons like their mother has.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough-Ruth Pennebaker

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Ruth Pennebaker
Berkley, Jan 4 2011. $15.00
ISBN: 978-0425238561

Fifty two year Richard calls his forty-nine ex wife Joanie to inform her that his live in lover twenty-nine years old BJ is pregnant. She calls him an asshole and hangs up while her mom Ivy, who lives with her, hears her. Joanie believes their fifteen year old daughter Caroline who lives with her also hates her. She tells moody Caroline who wishes someone would listen to her and stop assuming how she feels. Joanie is unhappy at home and unhappy at work as 24/7 she believes Sartre is right.

Caroline has one friend Sondra. She likes Henry, but with no breasts she has no chance except helping him with his Spanish homework. Her parents’ drive her crazy as each wants to have her validate they are the better parent.

Ivy misses her favorite child David who lives in New York with his wife and kids; grandchildren she never sees. She asks Caroline if she prays, but her granddaughter ignores her. Ivy walks to a chic store, which treats her poorly so she steals a scarf.

Joanie drives Caroline to Richard’s house. Ivy asks her daughter why she divorced Richard. Joanie says he left. Richard and BJ try to be nice to Caroline, but it is contrived and the teen finally says BJ should consider an abortion. BJ is hurt and Richard angry.

The four prime females are fully developed while the males feel emaciated. Though too long the insightful story line provides a realistic character study of four Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough asking themselves what they did to deserve this life.

Harriet Klausner

The Best Laid Plans-Lynn Schmurnberger

The Best Laid Plans
Lynn Schmurnberger
Ballantine, Jan 11 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345491190

In Manhattans’ affluent Upper East Side, Tru Newman is an “M&M” (Maintenance and Mothering) stay at home to raise her twin fourteen years old daughters and being there to make life easier for her spouse Peter an investment banker. At a charity event Tru hosts she learns the shocking truth that Peter has been unemployed for three months with the family living on credit cards.

Tru’s BFF Sienna Post loses her nightly news anchor position. Both are desperate when they come up with a scheme to make money. They create an escort service with all the female working girls over the age of forty. To their shock, the clientele is under thirty year old yuppies who appreciate an older woman. Meanwhile Peter’s new job has him working with a flirtatious beauty at the same time their twins battle with one another over an acne eighth grade lover. However the worst of all is her mom, a former Miss New York Subway who has a heart attack and moves in with them.

Though too much occurs that impacts the meat in the sandwich caretaker and the ending is too simple for what is going on with the three generations, fans will enjoy this lighthearted Manhattan frolic. The ensemble cast is solid though held in focus by the overworked middle generational matriarch. Fast-paced with plenty of humor, The Best Laid Plans of mice and Tru always go astray.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Strongheart-Don Bendell

Don Bendell
Berkley, Sep 7 2010, $5.99
ISBN: 9780425231081

Joshua Strongheart is a half-breed who has lived in both of the worlds of his biological parents. He feels he fails to fit in either and insists he no longer cares as he is satisfied with being a loner. Yet he also holds close to his heart the only two items he cherishes: his father Claw Mark’s Bowie knife that he gave to his mother to give to Joshua; and his stepfather Flower Valley Marshal Dan Cooper's Colt .45 Peacemaker.

A Pinkerton secret courier, Joshua delivers a letter from the President to General Davis in Oregon to insure Captain Jack and his Modoc tribe receives a fair trial as he does not want the killing renegade already a hero amongst the tribes to become martyred. As he rides the stage, the brothers McMahon, Jeeter and Harlance, rob the coach at Sunset Gulch. They leave Joshua for dead, but failed to finish the job. He is coming for them as they also stole his two valuables and the Presidential document.

This is as much a fabulous richly textured historical thriller as much as an exhilarating western saga as Don Bendell provides an entertaining late nineteenth century tale of vengeance. Armchair readers will feel they accompany Joshua on the trek to deliver the package. The hero is fully developed as the audience obtains glimpses into his past that enhance the understanding of Strongheart. With a fabulous High Noon confrontation containing an unexpected spin, fans will enjoy this engaging Americana; as Mr. Bendell known for his CID tales shows he can writer a wonderful “tale of the old west”.

Harriet Klausner

The Princess of Nowhere-Prince Lorenzo Borghese

The Princess of Nowhere
Prince Lorenzo Borghese
Avon, Dec 7 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061721618

Sister to Napoleon, Paulina Bonaparte knows she is beautiful and though not a blueblood, she can out royal any princess with her demands. Napoleon uses his sibling to strengthen his foreign ties by arranging a marriage to Italian Prince Camillo Borghese. He wants her while she drives him crazy with her coquettish behavior. She teases him over his jealousy while seeking other men especially with him frequently away from their home. They are in love and at war with one another, but neither understands which emotion is more important until their world collapses under the weight of tragedy and regrets; as it is too late to mend.

Told by Pauline's surrogate daughter Sophie who look back over four decades, this is a great biographical fiction story starring two passionate flawed individuals who fight, fuss, and fail. Refreshing as revelations prove too late to act upon, Sophie represents the delightful historical personage as she initially admired her guardian only to loath her ill tempered guardian. Prince Lorenzo Borghese writes a terrific take that grips the audience with a unique insightful look at the Napoleonic era through the raging relationship between his sister and brother-in-law.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tales From the Yoga Studio-Rain Mitchell

Tales From the Yoga Studio
Rain Mitchell
Plume, Dec 28 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780452296916

Lee owns the Edendale Yoga Studio in the Silver lake section of Los Angeles; she also works as an instructor. She likes giving back to her students by helping them achieve their desires though she gave up on one of hers when Alan the artist left her and now has doubts about what to do as a chain wants her studio and is offering her quite an incentive package. Without prying, Lee looks deep into the souls of her long time pupils as their lives converge at her studio.

Lee encourages Stephanie already an overachiever to seek solace in her accomplishments. She believes Graciela the artist is a talent especially when the woman does not fear baring her soul to others. The Yoga guru knows Imani the actress conceals secrets that Lee hopes do not cripple her with shame. Finally there is her BFF loyal Katherine. She will be there for each them especially when they confront the agony of defeat

Tales from the Yoga Studio is an enjoyable contemporary that provides deep insight into yoga and running a studio with friendship. Each of the five women will learn truths about themselves and the others. Character driven, fans will appreciate this warm tale as Rain Mitchell brings more than just yoga and friendship to the wonderful story line; the author will persuade readers yoga is an art form that touches the hearts of those who participate; so get up and join.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clara and Mr. Tiffany-Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Susan Vreeland
Random House, Jan 11 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9781400068166

Louis Comfort Tiffany hires unmarried women as his artists to avoid the strikes that men are prone to conduct. His New York glass studio manager Clara Driscoll is a widow with a series of romantic tragedies besides her husband's death. Clara does her best to insure her talented female crew is taken care of properly.

In 1893 Tiffany presents the stained glass collection at the Chicago World’s Fair. He takes all the accolades failing to mention the genius he left behind in New York. Clara enjoys living amidst the Gilded Age New York artist community, but wishes her contribution as the creator of the stained glass lampshades that have made Tiffany’s famous would also bring her renown. The credit for the innovation goes to Tiffany, but Clara lives with that as her employer encourages her and her girls to create even if it negatively impacts profits. She also wishes for a man who was devoted to her as she has been to Tiffany and others.

This is an engaging historical that bases the storyline on the premise that Driscoll was the artistic genius not Tiffany although history and the then late nineteenth century gave all the kudos to the man. Thus the reader obtains a sense of time and place as society praises Tiffany but ignores his female workshop and its brilliant leader. Readers who enjoy something different will relish the tale of the woman behind the famous man.

Harriet Klausner

What My Best Friend Did-Lucy Dawson

What My Best Friend Did
Lucy Dawson
Avon, Nov 30 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061964435

Magazine photographer Alice frantically dials 999 when she finds her best friend impulsive TV personality Gretchen unconscious. Alice fears Gretchen overdosed. On the emergency ride to the hospital, the medic makes small talk to try to keep Alice from going into shock. At the hospital ER, a stunned Alice looks back to her relationship with Gretchen.

Alice was bored as her friends were becoming responsible adults with spouses and kids; she wanted neither. She met Gretchen during an L.A. shoot and they became instant buddies. A bonus occurs when she meets Gretchen’s brother Bailey in New York though she has steadfast Tom back in California. However, over time Alice realizes Gretchen does not live life to the fullest as she once thought, but over indulges with her obsessive needs running over anyone including loved ones with a tank tread.

This is a low-keyed fascinating female buddy tale with a terrific dark twist. The BFFs and the two males are fully developed characters so that the audience will believe they are real and what happened is genuine. Fans will want to know What My Best Friend Did as Lucy Dawson hooks her readers from the opening emergency until the final denouement.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Place of Peace-Amy Clipston -

A Place of Peace
Amy Clipston
Zondervan, Dec 23 2010, $12.99
ISBN: 9780310319955

Several years ago, the accident shattered many lives in the Amish community Pennsylvania. Most families turned to the Lord trying to understand how an innocent died while Miriam Lapp watched the baby. Miriam blamed herself for causing the tragedy; so after her dad shunned her and her boyfriend Timothy betrayed her she left the only home she knew and moved to Indiana where her cousin Abby warmly welcomed her

Her married sister with children Hannah, who forgave her unlike their parents and other siblings, calls Miriam to inform her that their mother died. She races home, but her father refuses to acknowledge her; most of the townsfolk and her family except Hannah follow his lead. Miriam grieves the death of her beloved mom who she was not allowed to see ever since her father threw her out. She also knows she still loves her former fiancé Timothy Kauffman, who is seeing someone else. Miriam knows she will never forgive herself so why should other forgive her. She returns to Indiana only to come back home when her father suffers a stroke. However, still a pariah, Miriam begins to question her faith for the first time.

The third Kauffman Amish Bakery tale (see A Gift of Hope and A Promise of Hope) is an engaging entry as the undesirable tries twice to come home, but remains in exile. Miriam is a wonderful lead character who after several rejections questions her faith. Hannah is courageous as she is there for her sister, which could ostracize her and her family. Although Timothy is a bit irritating when he is not chomping on strudel, fans will enjoy this Amish bakery romance.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Stranger on the Planet--Adam Schwartz

A Stranger on the Planet
Adam Schwartz
Soho, Jan 21 2011, $24.00
ISBN 9781569478691

In 1963, the Shapiro couple divorce. Their dad begins a new family; for the most part leaving his three children to live with their dysfunctional mother. Over the next six years following the split, twelve years old Seth, his twin sister Sarah and their younger brother Seamus struggle with their mother Ruth’s horrific behavior abetted by their maternal grandfather and aunt who believe divorce as the original sin. Ruth or Aunt Rhoda setting her up seems to date a series of losers as boyfriends. In 1969 Ruth’s latest misadventure culminates with her marrying Eddie Lipper sixteen days after they met in the Catskills.

As the years go by teenage Seth is embarrassed by his mom’s outrageous behavior and her emotional needs that feel like a vampire sucking out his soul. As Seth becomes an adult, he keeps distance in his relationships until he marries Molly. However though he loves her, he remains detached from her. Tragedy brings the SSSS brood back together for the first time in years; Seth tries to tell them how he feels but has spent most of his life avoiding the emotional havoc caused when you love someone one.

This is a character driven family drama with most of the insightful story line narrated by an increasingly emotionally distant Seth. His siblings and mom are well drawn support players while his father is rightfully somewhat shadowy as expected for someone who Seth believes deserted his kids when they were very young. Although Seth’s late revelation feels contrived, readers will appreciate the child is the adult as Adam Schwartz provides a profound psychological study of a man who is a stranger in many ways with his family.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49-Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson (editor)

Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49
Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson (editor)
Profile Books, Nov 16 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781846683503

This is a follow-up to the previous two segments (Nella Last in War and Nella Last in Peace; neither read by me) with a third diary entry by Nella Last in Mass Observation (established in 1937 as a sociology look from within Britain at its people). The almost daily keen observations continue the remarkable detailed look at a changing British society; this time from 1950 through 1954. With WWII and peace past as the Cold War begins in earnest but seemingly far away from the isles though she fears nuclear war, Nella looks more at her self and her family than at the larger impacts on British society as she did in her first two volumes. She no longer works full time for the Women’s Volunteer Service though she still socializes with friends from her days at WVS. Her husband Will is depressed as he was forced to retire. She deals with Will alone as their sons left Barrow in Furness then in Lancashire; Arthur moves his family to Northern Ireland and Cliff is a sculptor in Australia. Thus her “You come a long way baby” lifestyle during and just after the war is greatly diminished by her caring for Will in a shipbuilding town with not a lot to do. Still using humor and self deprecating wit, she provides plenty of insight into the family life of empty nesters in early 1950s Britain. The third and apparently final entries of the Nella Last commentaries are a terrific compilation by one of the best twentieth century diarists.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The King’s Daughter-

The King’s Daughter
Christy Dickason
Harper, Nov22 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061976278

Although King James I ignores the danger within his kingdom as dangerous as that on the continent due to a seemingly coming religious war between the Protestants and Catholics. James believes he is the peacemaker even while his own court is divided. His vessels for peace are strategic marriages between his offspring and those of other rulers as grandchildren prevent war.

James’ daughter Elizabeth was born when he was the King of Scotland and estranged from her mother Anne. When the English monarch died, six years old Elizabeth watches her father become the King of England. Three years later, traitors try to kill her father and place the nine year old Elizabeth on the throne, but the Gunpowder Plot fails. However, her sire trusting no one wonders how involved his daughter truly was. Over the years Elizabeth only trusts her black slave Thalia Bristo as they share in common "captivity" and a desire for freedom. When she meets her latest intended as her father has played with her mind by threatening her with suitors, Elizabeth thinks Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate, would make an ideal spouse so she must trick her dad into approving their marriage while not losing her head to either man.

Christy Dickason provides a profound fresh historical biography that moves beyond the Tudor publishing tsunami to the beginning of the Stuart reign. Elizabeth is terrific as she swims the deadly sea of intrigue that inundates her father’s rule. Although a target of the Gunpowder Plot, she becomes a victim even though she escaped the attempted abduction as her father assumes she was a willing participant; already envious of her popularity he never trusts her again. This is a deep look at the King’s Daughter; the other Elizabeth who kept her head too.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 12, 2010

Goodnight Tweetheart-Teresa Medeiros

Goodnight Tweetheart
Teresa Medeiros
Gallery (Pocket), Dec 14 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439188156

Her book was an Oprah pick, a bestseller and a near Pulitzer winner. So Abigail Donovan wonders what she is doing in a Queens’ bookstore competing with Biffy the Bunny and bailing out the owner by wearing Biff’s bunny costume. She should be working her next book, but has writer’s block with her confidence sinking faster than the stock market during a recession.

Her publicist signs her up at Twitter. She soon cyber-meets Twitter user “MarkBaynard", who mentors her as to the rules of writing in a 140 character environ. Twittering back and forth with retweets and much more, she learns he is a professor on sabbatical seeing the world. No longer feeling sorry for herself, she wants to join her tweeter mate in the real world; not yet understanding the masks people wear in cyberspace to conceal the real person and what they are doing in the mundane realm.

Different, but well-written, Goodnight Tweetheart is a fascinating contemporary relationship drama that mostly uses Tweeter messaging to tell the story. Character driven, fans will root for the pair as Abby finds her muse and groove through her tweetheart MarkBaynard.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The True Memoirs of Little K-Adrienne Sharpe

The True Memoirs of Little K
Adrienne Sharpe
FSG, Nov 2 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780374207304

In 1971 as she nears her hundredth birthday, Mathilde Kschessinka begins to write her autobiography. Her memory remains keen as she knows every man who bowed to her and every dance she took as the prima ballerina assoluta of the Russian Imperial Ballet. When she was seventeen years old, Little K was already a highly regarded ballerina who catches the eye of the heir to the Russian throne Nikolai Romanov. Little K became his mistress, but he ended their tryst reluctantly when he became the czar and marries Alexandra. Not one to miss a step she turned to the grand dukes; but never remaining loyal with any of the royal cousins as her devotion remained with her Niki as he is the power that she desires; he returned to her for a short tryst leading to an offspring. Her ambition surpasses that of Lady Macbeth as Little K played the cousins in an effort to place her child as the heir over the sickly son of Alexandra. The Revolution led to her exile to Paris.

This is an engaging biographical fiction of a Russian diva who gives meaning to the word diva. Filled with the lead protagonist’s ambitious relationships with the Romanov family and with the ballet world, fans who relish either will enjoy the antics of the “prima ballerina assoluta.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Goddess of Fried Okra-Jean Brashear

The Goddess of Fried Okra
Jean Brashear
Bell Bridge Books, Apr 1 2010, $16.95
ISBN: 9780984125890

Years on the road with Mama and Sister running away from bill collectors led to six foot red haired Eudora "Pea" O'Brien swearing she would settle down in one place to root and die. When Mama died, Sister was sixteen and Pea eight. Sister ran off social services do-gooders and used her glaring mojo to send away her no good father Alvin. Instead she raised Pea.

Now over two decades since mama died, Sister is dead too. Pea is filled with remorse with how she treated her Sister who sacrificed so much for her. She wants to tell her she is sorry and appreciative. Like Sister, Pea believes in reincarnation, but to reconnect she must find Sister’s new host body. Pea begins a Texas Odyssey seeking the signs of Sister. Her trek with no money leads to other outsiders joining her quest as they seek to belong too. Soon she finds herself mentored in sword fighting by a reincarnation of Howard’s Red Sonja and in the most critical element of southern living, creating fried okra fit for the Goddesses; while also raising a child as Pea has found the glory of a family.

This is an intriguing character study that focuses on Pea who learns what life is all about with the death of beloved Sister and her Dorothy on the road to Oz trek as she picks up caring misfits in need. None of the support cast is fully developed as their sole purpose is support of Pea. Fans who enjoy a leisurely paced Texas Odyssey will want to accompany Pea and her companions as they journey in real terms just a few miles but metaphorically light-years.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stay with Me-Sandra Rodriguez Barron

Stay with Me
Sandra Rodriguez Barron
Harper, Nov 30 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061650628

In 1979, five toddlers, each with a starfish drawn on their hand, were rescued from a small boat during a hurricane. An anonymous female telephoned the Mayaguez, Puerto Rico authorities tipping them off that the five children were on a boat tied to a dock with no adult supervision. Each was placed in a home, but David, Adrian, Raymond, Taina and Holly kept in touch as the harrowing experience bonded them like siblings.

Almost three decades later, David is diagnosed with brain cancer. His four mates rush to his side to be there for him. He considers them his family; and has two requests of them that only they can perform. He wants to know if their DNA matches and pleads with them to discover the identity of the female who called the cops, thirty years ago. Although they disagreed in the past whether to investigate what happened, the other four will do anything for David who is dying.

The quintet makes the tale seem plausible as each has a unique personality, but it is David’s illness which anchors the realism and provides a tear jerker element. Character driven, fans will enjoy the saga of the five who came from the sea as babies illegally (good thing it was Puerto Rico) who always even in death remain bonded to one another.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Dropped a Blonde on Me-Dakota Cassidy

You Dropped a Blonde on Me
Dakota Cassidy
Berkley, Dec 7 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425236994

Maxine Cambridge cannot believe how far her economic situation has collapsed. She was a trophy wife and mom until she caught her spouse Finley “The Talleywhacker” cheating on her. His reaction was to begin divorce proceedings and cut off all of Maxine’s funding. Desperate Maxine and her teenage son Connor, who chose his mom over his dad and Lacey, move in with her mom Mona Henderson in her retirement village.

Maxine cannot find employment as she has no marketable skills even at the Cluck Cluck Palace fast food place, which eight months ago she, make that Finley, could have owned it. Instead of designer gowns, she wears her mom’s bargains. Humiliated enough, she feels it is time to bury her when she meets her high school class of ’87 chemistry partner Campbell Barker. He has always liked smart, sassy Max and still does as he appreciates her self-deprecating sense of humor. Now he has to make her believe he is serious when it comes to her.

Using humor to lighten the tense family drama, You Dropped a Blonde on Me looks at the aftermath of a horrid divorce mostly from the perspective of mad Max. Although the finish is as expected, mindful of the First Wives Club, fans will enjoy the saga of New Jersey’s biggest loser; as she sucks it up seeking her groove while failing numerous times, but always gets up to try again, as Mona says she is a not a quitter.

Harriet Klausner

Love Letters from Ladybug Farm-Donna Ball

Love Letters from Ladybug Farm
Donna Ball
Berkeley, Oct 5 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425237175

Three years ago, the BFFs widows Cici Burke, Lindsay Wright, and Bridget Tyndale lived middle class suburban lifestyles, but each felt their lives unfilled with their kids moved out and their husbands gone; they purchased a run down Farm (see A Year on Ladybug Farm). Since their epic risk began, they feel At Home on Ladybug Farm, but also struggle to stay afloat with their financially draining renovation of the historic mansion although their small art studio, winery and jams and jellies store have had some success.

Friends suggest they open up the estate to major social galas. The trio has doubts but the sum of money they will receive from a society wedding overcomes their qualms especially when their first customers appear in need of a new location for a soon to be wedding. However, their guts prove right as they deal with lunatic combative mother-in-laws, bridezilla and goats as well as a romantic first for one of the widows.

Obviously for fans of the series, the latest adventures on the farm in the Shenandoah Valley is a lighthearted amusing tale as the three women deal continues to swing the bat regardless of what life tosses at them. Each of the ladies keep their essence yet change as they begin to recognize the truth that they are struggling farmers who no longer can be labeled suburban dwellers; unlike several years ago when they would have silently put up with the bull of guests even nasty undesirable ones.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Wolves of Andover-Kathleen Kent

The Wolves of Andover
Kathleen Kent
Little, Brown, Nov 8 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780316068628

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, while both worked on her cousin’s farm, twenty-three years old Martha Allen falls in love with hired hand Thomas Carrier. However, she also hears the rumor that circulates about Thomas fleeing England after playing a major role in the beheading of King Charles I.

Thomas saves Martha’s life when wolves who stalk the farm attack her. He also learns that kidnappers have crossed the pond preferably to capture and take back to London for public trial or execute the man who killed the former monarch. These outsiders hear the rumors about Thomas living on the coast north of Boston.

Although those who have read The Heretic’s Daughter knows what will happen to Martha, Kathleen Kent demonstrates her skill as a great author by engaging the full attention throughout of her fans (and newcomers) in the superb prequel. The story line is action packed as the conflict between people entrenched in the Restoration come across as the status quo and those adapting to a new world order carved in a wilderness makes for a strong historical that looks deep at the darker roots of Colonial America.

Harriet Klausner