Friday, December 30, 2011

A Seductive Kiss-Francis Ray

A Seductive Kiss

Francis Ray

St. Martin’s, Jan 31 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312536473

Famous model Dianne Harrington is the “Face” of her family’s House of Harrington fashion firm. Renowned for her beautiful face, lonely Dianne has low self-esteem fostered by her belief that her parents do not love her; they only used her to accomplish their ambitious goals.

Attorney Alex Stewart has always been there for Dianne since they were children. He loves her, but is cautious about pursuing her as he fears she will flee and end their friendship. Dianne has always been attracted to her brother’s best friend, but fears making a move would drive away one of her few buddies. When Dianne is fired, she must take charge of herself, especially where she wants to go with her life. Alex vows to be there to help his beloved.

The latest Grayson Family Friends tale is a warm coming of age contemporary romance between Dr. Catherine Stewart-Grayson’s (see Until There Was You) brother and his childhood buddy. Alex is a typical Francis Ray hunk, who cares about others as he has always been there for his Dianne. While the heroine brings freshness to the strong storyline with her deep rooted belief that if was not for her face she would be worthless. Readers will relish this entry as Dianne’s self-assessment has kept her champion in her life with gentle hugs, but also kept them apart.

Harriet Klausner

Home Front-Kristin Hannah

Home Front

Kristin Hannah

St. Martin’s, Jan 31 2012, $27.99

ISBN: 9780312577209

Michael and Joleen Zarkades have been married for a dozen years. They have two small children who round what seems to be a perfect family. However, the two adults are discontented with their relationship and considering a divorce.

Jo jointed the National Guard before she married Michael. Her unit is activated and depleted to Iraq. Their separation widens the fractures of their marriage. As Michael worries about his side’s safety while he remains on the Home Front caring for their kids, Jo looks back at her crumbling marriage trying to understand why as she knows she still lives her civilian spouse.

This is an excellent profound look at the impact of deployments on a marriage and a family. Michael and Jo have drifted apart and her mobilization provides a duality of reactions as her going overseas to the Iraqi theater of operation further widens their relational gap at the same worrying about her safety and the effect on the kids. Home front is a compassionate poignant character driven tale that reminds readers who truly sacrificed for the nation.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker-Rudy Rucker

Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker

Rudy Rucker

Tor, Dec 6 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9780765327529

The opening chapter of this fascinating memoir sets the tone as Rudolf von Bitter Rucker entered “Death’s Door in 2008 when a vein burst in his brain; this cerebral hemorrhage had the author-mathematician on the verge of the big dramatic exit but “no spiral tunnel, no white light, no welcome from the departed one. Maybe it’s just that everything goes black.” Mr. Rucker obviously recovered to write an intriguing interesting autobiography motivated by his near death experience of nothingness. The author discusses his life as a mathematician, science fiction author, punk rocker, and hacker. He grew up in Louisville. In the same year another Louisville native son was winning a boxing gold medal in Rome, fourteen years old Rudy was injured in a swing accident. He told his dad he hurt his spleen, which proved correct as his prolific reading came in handy. With Hegel genes, it is not surprising that he read Philip K. Dick's science fiction and the writings of the On The Road beatniks; adapting the latters’ use of alcohol as a stimulator. This set the table for his life as a mathematician and a science fiction writer, but hindered his imagination rather than expanding it. Fans of one of the new light “cyberpunk” authors of the 1980s will want to read Nested Scrolls, but so will fans of nonfiction as The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker is a well written engaging memoir.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 26, 2011

Out Of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel-Hadara Lazar

Out Of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel

Hadara Lazar

Atlas, Dec 29 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9781935633280

In 1923 the League of Nations placed Palestine, no longer part of the defeated Ottoman Empire, as a Mandate under British control. The Southern part would become a “national home for the Jewish People” while the Arabs were expected to live side by side with their Jewish neighbors in peace. Both groups were euphoric with the Mandate. In 1948, Palestine was divided into two adversarial nations. Over the next six plus decades, there have been several wars and throughout the ultimate Cold War.

For the past twenty-five years Israeli journalist Hadara Lazar has conducted a series of interviews of those involved when The British Mandate ended in 1948. Fuad Shehadeh is an Arab whose family moved from Jerusalem to Ramallah in 1949. His description of Jerusalem in the last years of the Mandate sets the tone of a stunning series of memoirs as he recalls an upbeat community until the 1948 War that displaced many Arabs. James Livingstone of the British Consul remembers how much changed in 1946 from his previous assignments in Jerusalem as social life was limited to the British community. Meir Dreszner grew up in mixed Haifa while his wife Miriam in mixed Jerusalem. Under the Mandate Meir felt like a foreigner in an Arab restaurant; while Miriam says Jerusalem was a city of separate neighborhoods.

There are many more interesting anecdotal memoirs that provide readers the foundation of what has become entrenched enemies. Readers will appreciate the fascinating look back as Hadara Lazar interviews and obtains the thoughts and memories of numerous Jewish, Arab, and British people who lived in Palestine just after WWII as the Mandate was ending and the Jewish state formed.

Harriet Klausner

The Wings of Morning-Murray Pura

The Wings of Morning

Murray Pura

Harvest House, Feb 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736948777

In 1917 Jude Whetstone and Lyyndaya Kurtz are attracted to each other, but her Lapp Amish parents oppose a courtship between them. His stunt of flying a plane from Philadelphia to her Papa’s field where the hay was just cut is not well received by her parents though Lyyndy and her siblings enjoy the spectacle.

However Jude and other Amish lads are able to fight but refuse as war objectors are taken away from their community. They are placed in an abusive camp to break these war objectors. Lyyndy fears for her beloved who accepts a devil’s deal in order to keep his Amish brethren out of the draft. His self-sacrifice leaves him shunned by those he protected including her family. When Lyyndy learns he was shot down in France, she defies her family to work with Spanish flu victims in Philadelphia until beloved becomes her patient. However, the shunning remains in effect.

This excellent fresh WWI era Amish thriller provides wonderful unique perspective of the community at a time when aeroplanes and electricity are so new they have not been banned yet; even Bishop Zook demands a flight. The seemingly star-crossed romance between the shunned hero and the woman he cherishes enhances a great period piece that will have readers wanting more historical tales like this winner from Murray Pura.

Harriet Klausner

A Ranger’s Trail-Darlene Franklin

A Ranger’s Trail

Darlene Franklin

Moody, Feb 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780802405876

In 1874 Mason County, Texas, German cattlemen accuse Anglo ranchers M.B. Thomas and Allen Roberts of stealing their herd. The court trial led to six cowhands being fined while Derrick Denning was freed due to insufficient evidence. The Anglo ranchers are outraged that they have to pay any remittance while their German counterparts, still irate over the secession thirteen years ago, feel an injustice occurred.

However, the Denning celebration ends when someone assassinates him. The Germans say good riddance to a thief and other dead alleged rustlers while the Anglos led by former Ranger Scott Cooley counterstrike against their adversaries. The Texas Rangers including Buck Morgan arrives in Mason County to end the viscous range war and find out who made Leta Derrick a widowed single mom. Buck sets up a trap but Leta’s teenage brother Andy springs it. Shots leave Buck’s cousin dead and Andy as the prime suspect. Buck prays for a miracle for the extended Denning family and to end the frontier justice range war that is devastating his home town.

The fourth Morgan Family saga book (see Lone Star Trail by Darlene Franklin; The Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis; and Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough) is a great entry that uses the real deadly Mason County “Hoo Doo” range war to tell a vivid Texas Trail tale. Buck is a great protagonist who prays for a peaceful solution but knows none is coming as each side remains resolution their Godly righteousness. Using real Mason County range war persona, while fast-paced with the romance deftly kept in the background, fans will relish Darlene Franklin’s second excellent entry in a powerful nineteenth century epic.

Harriet Klausner

The Legacy Of Eden-Nelle Davy

The Legacy Of Eden

Nelle Davy

Mira, Jan 24 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9780778329558

Lavinia Hathaway’s dream was to make her family the royalty of Iowa at any cost to relatives, friends and the peasants. She destroyed so many people so that her three thousand-acre estate Aurelia was the Taj Mahal farm of the Hawkeye State. Generations after Lavinia’s seemingly success, decades later later prove her outcome an abysmal failure. The last Hathaway, forty-five years old Caledon, still lives at the once glorious but now in debt estate dies form cirrhosis of the liver (a male family trait) alone; none of the extended family wants anything to do with Lavinia’s curse.

In New York City, Meredith Pincetti receives a letter pleading with her to come home after seventeen years of blissful self-imposed exile using her mother’s maiden name. Her gut says to ignore it, but her DNA tells her to go home. Her sister Ava tells her she told the lawyers no. However, Meredith and her other sibling Claudia return to Aurelia, the site of some much anguish as Lavinia’s dream was everyone else’s nightmare.

This is a fascinating epic of the impact of a ruthless matriarch has on her descendants; for instance the three mostly estranged sisters have limited if any contact with one another and the males turn to alcohol to ease their torment. Although the story line is straighter than the Bonneville Flats lacking any twists, fans will enjoy this entertaining family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Austentatious-Alyssa Goodnight


Alyssa Goodnight

Kensington, Jan 31 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758267436

In Austin engineer Nicola James loves anything Austen. While browsing in a quirky shop, Nic finds a blank antique journal amidst the Austen collection. She spills tea on the journal so under the you break it you bought it rule, she pays for the damaged item.

Nic begins writing entries starting with a co-worker’s wedding that she will attend without an escort. When she opens her journal to write a new entry, she finds her wedding comment changed to only a few pearls of wisdom. Stunned Nic concludes her journal has magical skills to provide her with “Fairy Jane” relationship advice that implies she needs to throw out as garbage her life plan in order to take a chance on Sean who does not fit the Nic plan but is perfect in accordance with the Fairy Jane plan (and Nic’s heart).

This is an entertaining fresh take on the ever expanding Austen mythos. Nic is a super protagonist who holds the amusing, profound storyline focused. Although the tale starts slow, once Fairy Jane gives Nic her marching orders, Austentatious goes into hyperspeed as Alyssa Goodnight provides an enjoyable contemporary Austen.

Harriet Klausner

Promise Me This-Cathy Gohlke

Promise Me This

Cathy Gohlke

Tyndale, Feb 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9781414353074

Fifteen year old Michael Dunnagan came to the dock to celebrate his abusive Uncle Tom leaving as a stoker on the Titanic. The teenager is awe struck by the great ship, which has completed the trials and is getting ready to begin the maiden voyage. A stevedore hires Michael to help load supplies.

However, instead of leaving, he becomes a stowaway. Passenger Owen Allen heading to join the family firm in New Jersey, finds and befriends the lad. When the impossible occurs, Owen makes Michael give him a death bed promise that he will take care of his younger sister Annie in England. Michael sends Annie many letters from America but she resents his living while her sibling died. However, over time the grieving Annie begins to heal and welcomes Michael’s letters. It is believable that the two pen pals fall in love so he finally accumulates the funds needed to bring his Annie to America. Before she can come, WWI ignites ending their correspondence. He resolutely crossed the ocean once before when he had no money and sets off to do so again to find his beloved.

This is a great historical that brings to life the fatal voyage and its aftermath through the reactions of a terrific support cast; not all on board. The couple is a wonderful pairing, but it is the victims and not just those who died at sea, but the survivors like Michael filled with guilt, grief and respect as well as the mourning loved ones. Readers will relish this powerful rendition of the Titanic.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 24, 2011

To Love And To Cherish-Kelly Irvin

To Love And To Cherish

Kelly Irvin

Harvest House, Feb 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736943710

In Bliss Creek, eighteen year old Catherine Shirack works at her family’s stand when her Mudder waves from the buggy. Farmer Bob Cramer comes around the road as Catherine’s Dad slows down to make a turn. The farmer’s truck plows into the Shirack vehicle. Catherine watches in horror as her parents die.

The oldest son Luke the blacksmith, his wife Leah and their children return to the family farm. His sister twenty four year old Emma is unable to forgive Bob for the deaths of her parents unlike a forgiving Luke. Emma’s former beau Carl Freiling who left her and their Amish community four years ago wants a second chance with her. Also interested in Emma is widower Thomas Brennaman, a single dad with a young child. Emma’s nineteen year old sister Annie has been rejected by her beau Robert and their seventeen years old brother Josiah has a New Order Mennonite girlfriend in Wichita but now suffers with remorse. Catherine is depressed while teenager Mark handles increase responsibility well and the five year old twins (Lillie and Mary) struggle with taking orders from Leah instead of Mudder.

The first Bliss Creek Amish family drama is a terrific tale as each member of the Shirack extended clan comes across fully developed with different issues though Emma is the star. Whereas Luke adapts seemingly effortlessly to his new patriarch role by concealing his fears, Catherine suffers from severe depression and Emma from doubt as “His will be done!” does not answer her question of why good people. readers will appreciate this strong Amish family drama as the eight offspring grieve and cope differently the loss of their parents in a tragic accident.

Harriet Klausner

Passing Love-Jacqueline E. Luckett

Passing Love

Jacqueline E. Luckett

Grand Central, Jan 25 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780446542999

Since she was nine years old and found the bluebook, fifty-six years old Nicole-Marie Handy loves all things French though she has never visited France. Her dying best friend Tamara makes Nicole agree to a death bed pledge of going to Paris. While her married lover Clint asks her to wait; as he swears he will leave his wife Eleanor to marry her and then take her to Paris on their honeymoon.

Nicole ignores Clint and travels to Paris. There she locates a photo of her dad lovingly inscribed by him to RubyMae, a woman she never heard of. She begins to investigate what happened in Paris to her dad after WWII had ended.

Rotating perspective between Nicole’s modern day saga and RubyMae’s 1940s-1950s drama, Passing Love is an interesting tale of two women coping with betrayal and failed love yet finding solace in Paris. Character driven by the lead female protagonists, readers will enjoy their similar stories linked by her father though six decades apart.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 23, 2011

Into The Free-Julie Cantrell

Into The Free

Julie Cantrell

David C. Cook, Feb 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9780781404242

In 1936 in Mississippi, Millie Reynolds wants to escape the shame of her dysfunctional family. Her father is an angry serial abuser and her mother is a pathetic” nothing mama”. She wants to find a home she feels accepted, respected and safe, but believes that God and people abandoned her so she knows her dream is a fantasy for now.

Gypsies tour the region coming to Millie’s town every spring. She turns to them hoping to find solace. The wanderers help Millie locate a box containing generations of shocking family secrets. Stull unable to break her family chains, Millie feels lost until a tragedy coaxes her to take a chance on life, love and God.

Millie makes this superb Depression Era tale work as she struggles to survive a nightmarish family life. She knows to expect no help from heaven or earth so depends on no one. Readers will relish Millie’s sojourn to escape the vicious mad cycle of family abuse though that means taking a risk by jumping Into The Free life of leaving behind her parents. Julie Cantrell provides a deep inspirational historical.

Harriet Klausner

Lost and Found-Ginny L. Yttrup

Lost and Found

Ginny L. Yttrup

B&H Publishing, Feb 15 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781433671715

In San Francisco Brigitte Bouvier lives for wealth; she never has enough though she is one of the richest women on the planet. Her son Gerald always fears his manipulative mother but avoids her wrath by towing the line; and his wife Jenna did too though she remains a failure to her in-law for not birthing the heir. Recently ailing Jenna has been losing things like an heirloom diamond. She expects Brigitte to attack her for the missing jewel. However, she is unprepared when Brigitte accuses her of an affair with Matthew, her spiritual director. Brigitte threatens to destroy both their lives.

Andee Bell has come a long way since her youth as she has earned fame and fortune, but most important for her peace of mind, respect. She believes business is everything and pushes her boyfriend, Jenna’s brother Jason, who insists there is more to life than just business though his dad owns the Azul firm. However, as the Lightseeker blog angers Brigitte, she maneuvers everyone in her circle, but failed to understand she cannot hurt those who walk with the Lord.

This is an entreating character driven inspirational Christian drama. The cast is solid as each has doubts made worse by the serpent queen of mean who plays off other’s fears. Jenna is a fascinating protagonist who seems like a mouse but readers will learn she roars in her subtle way. Fans will enjoy this contemporary as those who embrace grace can survive anything the allegorical she-devil tosses at them.

Harriet Klausner

The Map And The Territory-Michel Houellebecq

The Map And The Territory

Michel Houellebecq

Knopf, Jan 3 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 978-0307701558

Jed Martin started off as a photographer of industrial artifacts. He turned to taking pictures of Michelin Road maps that became successful as his detached from nature mantra is "The map is more interesting than the territory;" this show brings him Olga in Paris.

The photographer switches to portrait painting focusing on a variety of occupations. He paints his elderly father the retired architect, a bar owner, a duality of Gates and Jobs, and a French author Houellebecq. However as Martin gains fame and fortune, his work is well received as an aloof artist focusing on the captains of capitalism. Over the decades Martin grows increasingly isolated from the world he draws.

With a nod to Voltaire’s Candide, this amusing but dark allegorical biographical fiction satirizes the belief that capitalism is a superior culture in which the market insures “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” Timely on several philosophical levels, readers will relish Martin’s sojourn as an artist in a capitalistic culture that encourages the individual to seek unconnected betterment at the cost of other members of society; as Martin’s dad says about capitalist morality, the creator is a hell of a good best-selling author.

Harriet Klausner

Another Woman-Penny Vincenzi

Another Woman

Penny Vincenzi

Overlook, Jan 19 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9781590203576

Near Oxford, England, Cressida Forrest and Dr. Oliver Bergin of New York are marrying tomorrow. Both seem extremely ecstatic while their wedding party families are euphoric over the match. Contented Cressida goes to bed, knowing she will spend the rest of her life as the wife of her beloved gynecologist starting tomorrow.

However, in the morning her parents Maggie and James realize she is not home. As the families panic when a search for the missing bride fails to find her, Cressida’s sister Harriet assumes this is just another ruse by her “perfect” sibling especially when messages from her vanished sibling begin to arrive.

This is a great family drama as the mystery of Cressida grows with each minute she is away while the enigma masks of the rest of the wedding participants begin to crack under the strain. The key to this intelligent complex tale is Penny Vincenzi limits the clock to just two days. Containing numerous subplots starring various members of a strong ensemble cast, readers will enjoy this taut thriller of secrets revealed amidst two tense families wondering why the bride ran away.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Happened to Hannah?-Mary Kay McComas

What Happened to Hannah?-

Mary Kay McComas

Morrow, Feb 7 2012, $14.99

ISBN 9780062084781

Her abusive father Karl caught his seventeen years old Hannah Benson kissing Grady Steadman. He assaulted her, but she fled Clearfield, Virginia into the night, vowing to never return.

Two decades later, Sheriff Grady calls Hannah, who lived up to her vow to never come home to see her mom or sister. He feels guilty for not contacting her a few years ago when her sister Ruth died as her mom Ellen could have used help with raising her granddaughter Anna. With the death of Hannah’s mom, she is guardian to fifteen year old Anna. Reluctantly Hannah returns to Clearfield while her high school sweetheart wants her to tell him the truth as to what happened on the night she left her family.

This is an intriguing look at what abuse does to a family as the three female Benson’s feared the wrath of the odious patriarch who learned his abusive behavior from his father. The fascinating storyline follows the anticipated path with readers easily guessing who do what to whom on that night. Character driven, the audience will appreciate Hannah’s version of You Can’t Go Home Again (Thomas Wolfe) even when the truth can set you free.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Elizabeth in the Garden-Trea Martyn

Elizabeth in the Garden

Trea Martyn

Bluebridge, Jan 1 2012, $22.95

ISBN: 9781933346366

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, two men competed for the favors of her Highness. Lord Treasurer William Cecil and Earl Robert Dudley used elaborate gardens to lure the monarch to spend time at their respective estates as both understood how much Elizabeth loved a garden. Each spent a fortune to create marvelous horticultural masterpieces. In 1575 the years old competition hits a new height when the Queen visits Cecil’s incredible wonder Theobalds and from there to Dudley’s Kenilworth where three years earlier excessive extravagance led to tragedy. Theobalds was amazing one of the wonders of the era, but Kenilworth became the highlight film of the Tudor reign. Having lost the garden combat, Cecil does what all politicians believe is their birthright to run a misinformation campaign to paint his adversary with scandalous behavior especially with Dudley’s tryst with the Countess of Essex enabling the success of the Treasurer as Elizabeth never returned to Kenilworth.

Elizabeth in the Garden is great unbelievably fresh look at the queen through the two main males in her life (besides her late father). Each uses the monarch’s love of gardens (when her sister sat on the throne, she enjoyed walking the Garden of the Tower where she also met Dudley) to their advantage; no one else in the queen’s retinue came close. Readers learn much about Cecil the advisor and Dudley the lover whose competition to win the soul of Elizabeth I played out in a horticultural arena as their rivalry was the English fight of the century.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Winter Palace-Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace

Eva Stachniak

Bantam, Jan 10 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780553808124

Escorted by her mother to Moscow, fourteen years old Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst meets Empress Elizabeth. Sophie wants to be the wife of the next emperor, Elizabeth’s nephew Peter as the first step to her BHAG of becoming the ruler instead of just the spouse of the ruler. Assessing the situation at court, she concludes her mother and the heir are minor participants for achieving her objective; only the Empress matters.

Chancellor Count Bestuzhev trains Empress Elizabeth’s newest retinue teenage Varvara to work as a master spy. She becomes his eyes and ears when ambitious Sophie arrives at court. However the charming Sophie needs an ally so she recruits Varvara as her partner. Following her achieving her marital goal Sophie’s popularity rises; which angers her mother-in-law, while her husband detests her. She and Varvara remain allies even when the latter is forced to leave the Winter Palace to marry. Sophie, baptized as Catherine, completes her plot to replace her husband on the Russian throne when he forges an unpopular alliance with Prussia.

The Tsarist mid eighteenth century intrigue plays a strong backdrop to the historical biography of two women trusting one another; a major commodity in a court where betrayal is the norm as liaisons frequently implode. The storyline focuses on the lives of the women as Varvara has Sophie’s back while Sophie gives back loyalty. However, the historical stage remains in the background so those readers interested in deep biographies should turn to Robert K. Massie’s works on the Russian rulers (see Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs). Fans will enjoy Sophie’s rise to power culminating in a coup that has her on the Russian throne as Empress Catherine II.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 16, 2011

Diamond Life-Aliya S. King

Diamond Life

Aliya S. King

Touchstone, Feb 7 2012, $14.99

ISBN 9781451625547

Entertainment journalist Alex Maxwell feels she’s on top of the world with her marriage to Birdie the rapper and her work as a ghost writer although the latter caused her some tsuris when she did Cleopatra Wright’s point the middle finger at memoir (see Platinum). As the couple leaves Brooklyn for a Mcmansion in Jersey and groupies chase after him, Alex learns when it comes to divas like Cleo it is never over.

Record company mogul Jake grieves the death of his beloved multiplatinum R&B artist singer Kipenzi. He turns to alcohol and secretive Lily the waitress to numb his pain though she rejects his fame.

Rapper Z knows his addiction to drugs and women have hurt his Beth. He tries to go clean to be there for his pregnant wife and their sons especially since his child Zander wants to enter the music world. However, Zander has issues too following a highly reported domestic violence incident with his girlfriend Bunny

Jamaican singer-producer Ras Bennett and his wife fashion designer Josephine love their newly adopted daughter Reina. However, Cleo being Cleo causes them despair.

This engaging sequel follows up on the lives of the key performers who went Platinum. Character driven, readers will believe the ensemble cast are real performers with stardom and trouble as keys in their scandalous lifestyles. Fans will enjoy this entertaining look at the flawed Diamond Life of performers, their families and retinue from A to Z.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Wild Girls Plus-Ursula Le Guin

The Wild Girls Plus

Ursula Le Guin

PM Press, Nov 1 2011, $12.00

ISBN: 9781604864038

“The Wild Girls.” Bidh informs the girls in their Allulu language that they no longer are part of the Crown City. Chergos’ daughter and Dead Ayu’s first daughter are now Dirt Girls who if smart will keep their cherry intact until they marry wealth and begat Gods with their Crown husbands. Renamed Vui and Modh, if they want to survive they must accept who they are now and not what they were at the bottom of the food chain.

"Staying Awake While We Read." Ms. Le Guin’s condemnation essay makes a case that corporate publishing firms care nothing about the golden geese and the readers except as a sham; as all that matters is profit at any cost to the literature.

"Outspoken Author Interview." Terry Blissom interviews Ms. Le Guin who revels at being an octogenarian with a strong defense of being against the avarice power-mongers who destroy environments in someone else’s neighborhood and send other people’s children to fight their profitable wars whether it is 1960s and 1970s Vietnam or Bush 41 and 43 Iraq.

The Conversation of the Modest' is an essay that lives up its title as Ms. Le Guin espouses on what is modesty in a world in which fifteen minutes of fame on social media is sought and revered.

There is more to this interesting compilation. The novella is timely with its fascinating look at the tribes along the East River. While the rest of the strong collection also focuses on Ms. Le Guin’s issues of concern for the past five decades which include the environment, women’s rights in a capitalist cast system and war only good for the moguls.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Moment, One Morning-Sarah Rayner

One Moment, One Morning

Sarah Rayner

St. Martin’s Griffin, Dec 20 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9781250000194

The morning rush hour from Brighton to London has passengers going about their business when a man pukes, clutches his chest, and collapses. The train stops and the man is rushed by ambulance to a hospital but pronounced dead. On that train amongst the commuters is the deceased’s wife Karen, her BFF Anna in a different car, and a witness youth worker Lou who watched the change in the loving couple by the tragedy. Lou and Anna meet when each seeks and shares a taxi.

Karen grieves her shocking unexpected loss but also must be there for her two young children (Molly and Luke) who struggle with the death of their father Simon. Anna takes to heart that a person has only one life so she decides to end her relationship with abusive charming alcoholic Steve while needing to be there for her friend and her godchildren. Lou also is affected as she opens her heart to Sofia and family.

One Moment, One Morning is a discerning well written character study that looks deeply into the impact of a death on three women (and indirectly others in their immediate circle). The storyline focuses on death and rebirth as each feels like quitting on life following the Simon tragedy. However, the trio uses Simon’s death as a springboard to new beginnings once each respectively moves past the original denial. Sarah Rayner provides a poignant tale as women proposes but God disposes so get it right the first (and only) time as there are no makeovers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday Night Miracles-Kris Radish

Tuesday Night Miracles

Kris Radish

Bantam, Jan 3 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780553384765

In Ellington County Psychologist Dr. Olivia Bayer, as she nears retirement, facilitates a court mandated anger management class. Blue Dot Grace Collins the fiftyish single overworked mom of two daughters explodes with rage at the boyfriend of one of her children by driving her car into his. Red Dot fortyish realtor Jane Castoria struggles with the recession until she uses her stiletto on a peer John who let her down on a deal. Green Dot fiftyish Kit Ferranti mourns and rejoices with the death of her mom, but drunken brother Mark accuses her of letting their mother die before shoving her violently until she grabbed a broken piece of glass and attacked back. Leah joins the group after hitting her children and being hospitalized after being abused.

Assisted by Phyllis the cocker spaniel, Dr. Bayer uses unconventional means that would give a heart attack to her superior if her supervisor knew. Painting birdhouses, bowling, shooting as well as individual soirees, the five females go through the stages of group formation as they bond and heal.

This is a strong look into what drives five women; four who have used violence in response to relationships and in two cases received abuse. Thus each woman comes across as incredibly developed as individuals with issues that surface over the course of the quintet going through the group formation stages. The Olivia anger management methodology lacks depth hinting at customizing to the individualized complex negative motivations of each of her four students with a sort of one for all and all for one seems naivety. Still this is a super concept with a strong cast who will keep readers enthralled.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

While Mortals Sleep : Unpublished Short Fiction-Kurt Vonnegut

While Mortals Sleep : Unpublished Short Fiction

Kurt Vonnegut

Dial/Penguin, Jan 3 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780385343749

These sixteen extremely short stories were unpublished works by the late great Kurt Vonnegut written before his renowned novels. Although overall they display a tyro learning his craft, each shows the author’s prime theme of ordinary people struggling to find a place in a cold cynical technological tundra. The title entry focuses on newspaper editor Fred Hackleman, who hates capitalistic Christmas who intrudes on big stories, but he is trapped into judging a holiday lights contest. In Kafkaesque Montezuma Forge and Foundry Company "Girl Pool" stenographer Amy Lou transcribes from her Dictaphone a dying killer’s plea for help. George, the former researcher who is now a lonely traveling salesman at General Household Appliances Company, has converted a refrigerator into "Jenny" the robot with the face of his former wife. Earl the builder liked to have “His hand on the Throttle” of miniature trains until Ella causes a train wreck. Though not quite as polished, graveyard humorous or as dark as Cat’s Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five, these entries are fun timely cynicisms of modern day life in which technology has made things easier (including war – as a POW Dresden was imprinted as an icon in Mr. Vonnegut’s brain) yet devour the individuals who find the price of leisure being loneliness

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Search Committee-Tim Owens

The Search Committee

Tim Owens

Tyndale, Feb 1 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9781414364452

After seven years of preaching to the flock, the reverend accepted the Big Job in Atlanta. Reverend John Haynesworth became their interim minister while The Search Committee is formed to interview the applicants and observe them preaching at other churches.

The magnificent seven represent a vast cross section of the congregation with seemingly nothing except their church ties to connect them. Travis Booth, the youngest, is a supermarket assistant manager married to Jenny with no kids; she wants children while he remains uncommitted. Retired Bill Duncan has a heart condition that has increased his worries over who will care for his weak minded wife when he is gone. Retired septuagenarian Frankie Fulford just wants everyone to get along with one another. Thirtyish low esteem Matt Fischer is an unemployed PH.D who lives with his dad and is attracted to Julia the waitress. Fiftyish Dot Spivey is an opinioned gossip who frightens the younger men with her sharp tongue. Sexagenarian widow Joyce Lambertson relocated from Rochester, New York, but feels like an outsider. Finally there is pretty thirty-something divorcee Susie Mayfield, who as a single mom raises a troubled teen. This diverse group must come together to select the next minister.

Though not for everyone as the pace is what one would expect driving on the back roads of the Southeast, fans who appreciate a deep engaging character study will want to ride in the late 1970s Econoline. The seven act distinctly different from one another as each goes through the teaming phases (Tuckman model – forming, storming, norming, and performing). The secondary cast enhances the understanding of the septet. Readers will enjoy The Search Committee as a church group eventually comes together to find the next minister.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets: Would You Share Yours?-Freya North

Secrets: Would You Share Yours?

Freya North

Sourcebooks, Jan 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402260148

Joe loves his life as he has a great job building bridges around the world, lives in a wonderful house in Saltburn by the sea, and has no dangling relationships. However, being away a lot, Joe needs a house sitter to walk Wolf, but she must respect his quiet. He advertises in the Cleveland Gazette. London manicurist Tess applies for the position. She arrives for the interview with her eighteen month old daughter Em. Although he wants no noisy children and does not like the fact she never mentioned Em, Joe gives her the job temporarily mostly because she likes the garden.

Joe and Tess forge a tentative relationship, but he finds it odd that she fears beaches. As they begin to open up to one another, Joe learns Em’s dad is Dick an irresponsible singer while Tess finds out why he relishes bridge building. As their threat of leaving abates, an attraction grows between them, but though he reaches out into the darkness with a need to be a Friend and Lover to her and a father to Em, her fears cripple her from crossing the bridge.

Although the reason for Tess’ trauma seems a bit weak, fans will appreciate this contemporary romance starring a reclusive male and a neurotic female. The support cast to include Em and Tess’ BFF Tamison and sister Claire are bridges to the story line as they anchor past and present. Readers will enjoy this engaging tale of a traumatized single mom finding love but contentment is much harder to achieve.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Probability of Miracles-Wendy Wunder

The Probability of Miracles

Wendy Wunder

Razorbill, Dec 8 2011, $17.99

ISBN: 9781595143686

Sixteen years old Cam Cooper knows she is dying from terminal cancer. She wants to enjoy her final countdown in Florida with her Flamingo List of things to do before dying rather than spend more time in hospitals as she has for the last seven years. However, her widow mom Alicia refuses to give up the battle while Cam begins her final checklist robbing a plastic flamingo.

When Cam’s doctor tells her mom she needs to pray for a miracle, Alicia pursues the miracle rather than wait for heavenly intervention. She takes Cam and her tweener other child Perry to Promise, Maine; a place that can only be found through a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. Cynical about the relocation to find a miracle, Cam is happy to see her cancer peer and BFF Lily though both know the second F in their friendship will be short. She meets and is attracted to enigmatic Asher, who gives the teenager preparing to die hope that perhaps Promise will provide the elusive miracle.

The powerful cast makes for a superb profound character study. Cam is terrific as she loathes but accepts the inevitable. The support characters enhance the deep tale as her mom refuses to surrender her endeavor to save her child and her sister is mature and stoic. Other players like her cancer comrade Lily and Asher support Cam’s bid to die normal while helping her find hope. Avoiding melodrama with some jocularity, this is obviously not an easy read, The Probability of Miracles is an insightful teen tale as life may suck but it is our only life.

Harriet Klausner

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic- Monica Carneso

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic

Monica Carneso

Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, Jan 5 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 978039925660

In winter, ice floats on the Vistula River towards the Baltic Sea. Children looking out at the sailing sheets of ice notice a little dog on one small piece. People on shore try to rescue the trapped canine, but fail. Two nights adrift for seventy miles, the dog is sailing the Baltic when the R/V Baltica rescue the canine. The dog becomes part of the crew and the mates name the canine after the final leg of a sea journey across much of Poland.

This is a great true story in which Monica Carnesi targets pre-schoolchildren with wonderful drawings accompanying a charming true life adventure. Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic one day will be considered a children’s classic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Somewhere-Beth Neff

Getting Somewhere

Beth Neff

Viking, Jan 19 2012, $17.99

ISBN 9780670012558

The four juvenile offenders (Sarah, Jenna, Lauren, and Cassie) were given a choice between detention in a prison or working on a farm to learn responsibility and accountability for themselves and others. Each joined the experimental program at an organic farm with no electronic devices allowed run by Grace and assisted by Ellie and Donna.

As the teens work on the farm and attend group and individual therapy sessions, each tells a similar tale of horror of neglect and abuse; none had a childhood beyond survival. Sarah, Jenna, and Cassie begin to heal by letting go of their anger as they become friends. However, Lauren’s rage remains stratospheric and her need to destroy others like others destroyed her remains intense. She schemes to insure the experiment fails and her farmer overseers punished just like she has been.

The magnificent seven make for an insightful look at the psyche of the battered angry teens and the motivations of the adults. Rotating perspective, readers see the inner essence of each of the seven especially the negativity that their respective pasts haunting them; the child is the teen and adult. Although the climax seems melodramatically forced and obvious relatively early on, readers will appreciate this profound look at the souls of the battered who work hard at surviving.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Promise of Safekeeping-Lisa Dale

A Promise of Safekeeping

Lisa Dale

Berkley, Jan 3 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425245149

Almost a decade ago in Albany, New York, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the successful conviction of Arlen Fieldstone on a murder rap. For the next nine years Arlen insisted he was innocent, but no one believed him except perhaps his closest loyal friend Will Farris the antiques collector.

Now Arlen has been exonerated and freed. In Richmond, Will worries about his buddy who is not the same person who was unjustly incarcerated; he fears his friend is now capable of homicide which he felt a decade ago he was not. Additionally, Arlen’s Eula remains in the house they bought together wanting nothing to do with him. Lauren arrives in Richmond to apologize to Arlen and asks him to forgive her for taking away nine years of his life. However, to get to Arlen who lives above Will’s store in the Carytown section, she must get through his protector Farris, who refuses to allow neighbors who believe he is the “Infamous Innocent” killer or the vicious female he saw in court harm his fragile friend.

A Promise of Safekeeping is a well written character driven tale of four troubled people seeking different forms of redemption and each wondering what truth is this concept is relative to the individual’s thought processes. Although the attraction between Will and Lauren adds tension, this subplot feels unnecessary as the effect on the quartet of the nine years behind bars is what makes this an insightful thriller. Filled with angst and body language reading lessons, fans will enjoy this engaging tale of four people requiring diverse needs to close the past and begin to move on.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain-Allan Massie

The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain

Allan Massie

Dunne, Dec 20 2011, $26.99

ISBN: 9780312581756

In the late eleventh century and early twelfth century, Breton descendants of Banquo (of Shakespearean Macbeth assassination fame) begin to rise in power culminating when the grandson becomes the High Steward of Scotland, a hereditary position, and changes the family name to Stewart. The name actually becomes Stuart when Queen Mary makes the modification. In 1371, Robert II becomes the first Stewart to be a monarch. Robert III and James I, II, and III follow but none succeed as monarchs for different reasons. In 1488 James IV becomes king and brings the renaissance to Scotland while his marriage to Margaret, daughter of English King Henry VII, leads to the merging of the two kingdoms and rivalry with the Tudors that culminates with Queen Elizabeth’s execution of Queen Mary in 1587. Ironically though the Tudors appeared to have won, Mary’s son James VI became James I upon Elizabeth’s death. The Stuarts become the rulers of both kingdoms with religious wars costing them the throne which they also regain. Their rule continues with William and Mary II (daughter of James VII and II) and ends with her sister Anne as a failure though James VIII and Charles the Pretender try to reclaim the English throne.

Allan Massie provides a deep look at the Stewart-Stuart dynasty divided into the pre monarchy origins and sixteen kings. Well-written with an exciting look at “A History of the Family That Shaped Britain”, readers including Tudor-philes will appreciate the insightful and engaging story of The Royal Stuarts who historians (and the Bard) have painted as Alydar to the Tudor’s Affirmed.

Harriet Klausner

MWF Seeking BFF-Rachel Bertsche

MWF Seeking BFF

Rachel Bertsche

Ballantine, Dec 20 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345524942

Rachel Bertsche left New York for Chicago to live with her boyfriend. After they marry, Ms. Bertsche felt a void in her life. Back in in New York and other cities she has lived in, she always had a BFF or two. In Chicago she had none to share girl talk with. Thus the twenty-something Bertsche comes up with a plan to expedite meeting a new BFF rather than wait for fate to intervene. She goes on a “date” a week for fifty-two weeks.

This is a warm at times amusing memoir in which Ms. Bertsche showcases how difficult it is to make friends as an adult. The dates are fun, but it is the premise that it is more than okay to have friends especially a trusted BFF while also having a loving relationship with your significant other. Having been a stranger in a strange city several times, I understand the need though was uncomfortable with some of the encounters. Still MWF Seeking BFF is a well written year in the life of a city newcomer trying to “Reach out in the darkness and you may find a friend” (Friend and Lover).

Harriet Klausner

More Than Words Can Say-Robert Barclay

More Than Words Can Say

Robert Barclay

Morrow, Dec 27 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062041197

In 1999 in Syracuse, New York, Chelsea Enright inherits her late beloved grandmother Brooke's remote rustic cottage in the Adirondacks. Chelsea is unsure what she will do with the Lake Evergreen property that has not been occupied since 1942. She wonders why her grandma, who loved the cabin, left it and never returned.

When she arrives at her new property for a brief look around visit, Chelsea is shocked to find the place spotless and modernized. Mystified, Chelsea locates her grandmother's WWII diaries and begins to read shocking secrets of what happened in 1942. Dr. Brandon Yale and Chelsea meet and are attracted to one another. As she spends the summer with her doctor and learning the truth about her grandma that as far as she knows no one else in the family is aware of what happened while Brooke dined on a low income budget in WWII.

More Than Words Can Say is an engaging family drama that predominately occurs in 1999, but uses the journals to tell the tale of 1942. Chelsea holds the entreating storyline together with help from her doctor and her grandma (and someone else). Although the conflict in 1999 is tepid, the one in 1942 is bittersweet as Robert Barclay provides an engaging character driven tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, December 5, 2011

Real Wifeys: Get Money-Meesha Mink

Real Wifeys: Get Money

Meesha Mink

Touchstone, Jan 10 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781451640823

In Newark Harriet “Luscious” Jordan learns her friend and mentor Kaeyla “Goldie” Dennis was sleeping with her man renowned rapper Makes$. Irate at both, she vows vengeance against Goldie and is no longer Make$ loyal wifey. When he goes to prison on a probation violation and abetting the cover-up of the rape of Goldie, his wifey ignores his pleas for help; instead she takes ten million from his safe leaving behind forty million before his mom Miss Peaches and his sisters Heaven and Earth get the money.

As Luscious becomes a successful party promoter, her efforts to get even with Goldie fail. Her lack of success to destroy Goldie just adds gas to her fiery rage, which also drives her two BFFs Michael and Eve from her side. When Luscious finally sets the trap that will devastate Goldie, she learns too late that her plan leaves both females in deadly danger from someone fighting dirtier than either woman to get money.

The second Real Wifeys street lit (see On The Grind) is an engaging morality tale as the protagonist learns perhaps too late that revenge is not just a dish served cold; it is a dish served deadly as Amanda Clarke of Revenge is also is learning. The cast of this urban thriller is solid with diverse personalities, but this is a tale of the former Real Wifey of Make$ who tells in the first person (with plenty of profanities) what is going on.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Summer in Europe-Marilyn Brant

A Summer in Europe

Marilyn Brant

Kensington, Dec 1 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758261519

Her two younger brothers called respectively from Atlanta and Seattle to wish the old lady Gwendolyn Reese a happy thirtieth birthday. She expects at lunch, her boyfriend Richard to propose, but when he does not she is very disappointed. Later that day, she joins her aunt for dinner with Bea’s S&M club. Bea gifts her niece with a month long vacation in Europe with her club to get her relative out of a rut. Gwen is unsure thirty days playing Sudoku and mah-jongg will be fun, but goes on the trip figuring she can delete from her to do list the great sites of London and the mainland.

Gwen meets the Edwards brothers, Thoreau and Emerson. The latter introduces her to the best of the continent, but though attracted to the charismatic sibling, Gwen has Richard back in Iowa overlooking the muddy Mississippi. However, Richard rushes to England with a plan to save his relationship.

The strong cast (including European locations) provides an engaging coming of age contemporary tale. Character driven, readers will feel they are on tour with the S&M club enjoying the sights and the antics of Thoreau and especially Emerson. With homage to Andrew Lloyd Webber, E. M. Forester, and physics; Marilyn Brant writes an engaging tale of a woman who starts off chronologically as thirty, intellectually middle aged and experimentally a young teen.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Shadow of Your Smile-Susan May Warren

The Shadow of Your Smile

Susan May Warren

Tyndale, Jan 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9781414334837

In Deep Haven, Minnesota, forty-six years old Noelle Hueston drives home from Duluth while wintry weather slams the lake Superior area. Her spouse of twenty-five years Eli recently retired from the police force, but each feel their relationship died when their child Kelsey died. She stops for coffee, but two men with guns hold up the place; as Noelle flees she slips on the ice smacking her head and falling into unconsciousness.

When Noelle regains consciousness, she cannot remember anything that happened to her in the last quarter of a century. She does not recognize her sons or her husband and fails to recall Kelsey’s death. Eli realizing what he almost lost prays for her full recovery and a second chance.

The return to Deep Haven (see My Foolish Heart, Perfect Match and Tying the Knot) is a fabulous second chance family drama. The wonderful storyline showcases how talented Susan May Warren is as the theme has been used many times (see Random Harvest by James Hilton and the subsequent Coleman-Garson movie); yet this great author spins a fresh relationship tale. Readers will appreciate how a tragedy and the related grief and guilt can destroy a loving relationship while a second trauma may restore paradise lost.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Four Ms. Bradwells-Meg White Clayton

The Four Ms. Bradwells

Meg White Clayton

Ballantine, Dec 20 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345517098

Three decades ago Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger were roommates at law school. A professor who enjoyed their uplifting camaraderie dubbed the quartet the Four Ms. Bradwells after a famous female pioneer trying to obtain admittance to the bar just after the Civil War. The nickname has stuck as they have remained BFFs over the years even as their status changed.

Mia, Laney and Ginger come to DC in honor of Betts’s nomination to the Supreme Court. However during the Senate confirmation hearings, a long buried dark secret surfaces. As the women flee to the summer home of Ginger’s mother on Chesapeake Bay, the media goes into frenzy red meat mode when questions arise about the death of a man at a party they attended years ago,

This loose sequel to The Wednesday Sisters (Betts is the link) focuses on the lives of The Four Ms. Bradwells much more than what happened at that fatal party decades ago. Ergo the story line though well written loses some impact by mostly scoping the marriages, divorces, and relationships within family over a deeper look at that death. Still this is a fascinating tale of four BFFs managing their professional and personal lives inside a rotating past and present (sometimes disjointedly) entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson-Don Reid

The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson

Don Reid

David C. Cook, Jan 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781434764942

In the 1930s the fifth graders Cal Vaxter and Harlan Stone were BFFs who were losing a fight to sixth graders. Buddy Briggs intervened. They became the Three Musketeers.

By 1959, Cal the Methodist Preacher was separated from his beloved Elle and their children; Harlan, married to Darcy with twin teenagers, ran the family store Stone Jewelers; Buddy the police lieutenant is married to Amanda with their teenage daughter married and pregnant. A masked intruder invades Harlan’s home and shoots the owner in front of Darcy while the twins are away at Boy Scouts Camp. Harlan is rushed to Mt. Jefferson while Buddy investigates the shooting and Cal tries to provide comfort to his severely wounded friend and his wife.

Returning to Mt. Jefferson (see O Little Town), Don Reid provides an insightful look at family and friendship inside of an engaging historical police procedural. The story line is leisurely paced to enable the readers to obtain a deep look at the three BFFs in 1959 small-town Virginia. The Mulligans (as Mr. Vic calls the lead trio) are sort of Venn diagrams with various people inside the mostly overlapping circles. With an intriguing twisting climax, fans will enjoy a glimpse back in time in which Mr. Reid showcases friendship without social media while Buddy works the case and Cal the soul.

Harriet Klausner

Awkward-Marni Bates


Marni Bates

K Teen/Kensington, Dec 27 2011, $9.95

ISBN: 9780758269379

In Forest Grove, Oregon Mackenzie Wellesley is a freshman attending Smith High School. Mackenzie is intelligent and does well in class; on the other hand socially she is a nonentity with only her tutoring the Notables keeping her from being a total Invisible. Currently she tutors hockey team captain Logan Beckett, which makes her somewhat visible, a preference she hates ever since the ballet incident and dad’s ditching her and the family.

When she knocks out a football player with her backpack, she tries CPR. Her efforts go viral on YouTube and she becomes the joke of the world as John Stewart features her geek in action on the daily Show. However, that video becomes the basis of a monster rock hit in which she joins the band on the stage and she also receives all sorts of designer clothing. Mackenzie goes from invisible to scorn to folk heroine welcomed at all parties. All she wants is to return to her cocoon with Logan joining her.

With a nod to Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter this is an amusing look at the social media fifteen minutes of fame. Mackenzie is a terrific high school student who feels Awkward when she becomes notoriously famous. Although improbable, teenage readers will enjoy Mackenzie’s jocular navigating the fickle high school caste system.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knit One Pearl One-Gil McNeil

Knit One Pearl One

Gil McNeil

Voice/HarperCollins, Dec 27 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9781401341671

In Broadgate, England, Jo Mackenzie is the mother of three children (Archie, Jack, and toddler Pearl); all from different fathers. She runs her Gran’s knitting shop and co-owns a tea café with her friend, Connie. Her Gran and Connie's niece Cinzia help her with the kids.

Since Pearl’s father internal photographer Daniel Fitzgerald is gone from her life, she considers recently divorced woodworker Martin "Dovetail" Trent as she likes him. However Daniel returns to take her and the kids on a vacation. She must make up her mind and choose one and leave the other behind.

The latest Broadgate Beach Street drama (see The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, and Needles and Pearls) is an amusing tale starring a single mom running a business while seeking a social life. Jo remains an engaging supermom and energetic entrepreneur while the support cast enhances the somewhat thin but entertaining story line. Although there is no growth for Jo or anyone else, fans of the series will enjoy sipping tea and knitting one pearl at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Ata Bita Pie Cafe: Advice is Free-Bonnie Drury

The Ata Bita Pie Cafe: Advice is Free

Bonnie Drury

CreateSpace, Oct 16 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9781463517359

After divorcing her controlling cheating spouse Blake the flake, Casey left Seattle and their beloved high school senior son Wyatt to run the Ata Bita Pie Café in her hometown of Hannigan’s Cove near Sacramento. Her internationally famous brother Jake the photographer returns home because he wants a second chance with Widow Nora who he deserted years ago. Nora considers insemination of her kind late husband Ethan’s sperm; but wants nothing to do with Jake who hurt her. Ralph loves his wife Gloria, a waitress at the café; but though she cares for him she misses her wanderlust road days. Zack has loved Casey for years and hopes for a first time around, as he comes home from Alaska to be with his twelve year old daughter Kayla and his very ill former wife Mary. Elderly Miss Birdie the pie lady has a secret she has been warned not to share with anyone while seventeen year old Echo is an abuse victim of her uncle when he gets intoxicated. Advice is free at the café, but anyone who stops learns there is a cost when loving caring relationships form.

This is a warm tender relationship drama starring a strong ensemble cast with the interconnecting hubs being Casey, Nora and to a lesser degree Gloria. The character driven story line engages the readers as the audience follows the highs and lows of each player. Although the next generation (Wyatt, Echo, Kayla and later on Emma) are too precocious, fans will enjoy the lives of the sandwich generation as they form deep second chance at love bonds while caring for one another and the seniors and youngsters they cherish.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Fall Down-Megan Hart

All Fall Down

Megan Hart

Mira, Dec 27 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313069

Sunshine’s Mama sends her nineteen years old daughter and her three grandchildren (Peace, Bliss and Happy) away from the Family of Superior Bliss compound. Mama tells Sunny to go to her real biological father, as the teen learns John Superior is not.

Sunny and her three preschoolers arrive at the home of Christopher Albright. He wants nothing to do with a daughter or his grandchildren who he never knew he had; but his wife Liesel welcomes the foursome into their home. Already in shock with the revelations, Sunny is despondent to learn everyone at the Family of Superior Bliss compound including Mama committed suicide.

This is an engaging look at a cult from the perspective of someone who escaped but quickly realizes she will never fully escape mentally. Character driven, readers will root for this “family” to make it but Sunny’s adjustment issues are overwhelming having spent almost two decades with a truth that proved false. Although a deeper look at the thought processes of Sunny, her oldest four years old child, and her father would have been enlightening, fans will relish this family drama.

Harriet Klausner

The House At Tyneford-Natasha Solomons

The House At Tyneford

Natasha Solomons

Plume, Dec 27 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452297647

In 1938, Nazi encroachment into Austria makes it unsafe to be a Jew even in Vienna. Nineteen year old Elise Landau leaves her family and her privileged lifestyle to accept a position as a maid at The House at Tyneford.

Miserable as she misses her mother the opera star, her father the novelist and her sister, Elise is bitter at what has happened to her. Instead of dancing at galas and being served by servants, she serves drinks. While she struggles with being an outsider due to her previous social status and her religion, Elise fails to free her family. While the war comes to England, Elise and the Tyneford heir Kit fall in love, but he feels obligated to join the Royal Navy.

This is a strong WWII era drama starring a wonderful displaced protagonist who goes from anger at what happened to her and her family to contentment at Tyneford. The cast is solid especially the protagonist who keeps the discerning story line focused. Readers will root for Elise to meet up with her loved ones though chances are slim as the Nazis eradicated centuries of tradition; there is no longer a “Fiddler”, but perhaps a glimmer of hope if a viola survives the Final Solution.

Harriet Klausner

All The Flowers in Shanghai-Duncan Jepson

All The Flowers in Shanghai

Duncan Jepson

Morrow, Dec 20 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9780062081605

In 1932 Shanghai Sister is obligated to marry Xiong Fa. Her parents are pleased with the match as his family is wealthy and of a socially higher status. However, when Sister dies, unprepared Feng must marry Xiong. Feng prefers exploring gardens with her grandfather and her BFF Bi, Bi, the seamstress’s son, but is an obedient daughter so she marries Xiong.

Following seventeen years of freedom to do much of what she wants, Feng is unhappy with her suddenly restricted life amidst the Sang clan of her spouse. They treat her as a vessel for the required male heir. However, she soon figures out the power of her uterus and becomes the bitter tyrannical First Wife and First Mother to her son. The Japanese invade China leading to centuries of social class distinction collapsing. Remorseful Feng realizes what her acrimony has wrought as she must face what she did to her wrong gender first child.

All The Flowers in Shanghai is a deep historical tale that provides a profound look at China during the middle decades of the twentieth century when social upheaval was the norm. The story line is seen predominately though the eyes of Feng, an intriguing individual whose loathing of her lot makes her do ugly things. Although eras and key moments flash by too quickly becoming a distraction, overall readers will relish Duncan Jepson’s engaging glimpse of China circa 1930s-through the late 1960s Cultural Revolution.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

At the Mercy of the Queen-Anne Clinard Barnhill

At the Mercy of the Queen

Anne Clinard Barnhill

St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan 3 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780312662134

In 1533 King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn. The ambitious family of the monarch’s second wife sends her cousin fifteen years old Lady Margaret “Madge” Shelton to serve as a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Anne.

Madge falls in love with Arthur Brandon, the illegitimate son of a duke; they secretly marry as he is beneath her in social status so for them to overtly wed requires a royal decree. Meanwhile fearing her husband’s affection is waning as he has stayed away from her bed since she failed to provide him with a male heir, scheming Anne arranges for Madge to become Henry’s latest mistress before he turns to Jane Seymour.

This is an engaging look at a real historical figure who allegedly in 1535 became Henry’s mistress. Anne Clinard Barnhill paints her as a naive woman whose well-being relies totally At the Mercy of the Queen. Madge is an interesting individual caught between her love for Arthur and her loyalty to her cousin. Anne Boleyn comes across inconsistent; as she is too sympathetic in spite of her manipulation of her relative. Fans of Tudor historical fiction will enjoy her latest portrayal seen through the eyes of her cousin.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rescuer’s Path-Paula Friedman

The Rescuer’s Path

Paula Friedman

Plain View Press, Jan 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781935514886

In 1971 in Washington DC, seventeen years old Jewish Malca Bernovski rides Dragon in an off-trail in Rock Creek Park. The teenager finds Arab-American antiwar protestor Gavin Hareen severely injured from a bullet wound. She uses the first aid kit she has with her to treat his injury and leaves him her jacket. She returns every day to help him recover although the new proclaims Gavin as the prime suspect in a lethal bombing. They fall in love and flee together. However, as she is carrying his baby, the Feds catch up to them and kill him. Grieving Malca gives her baby up for adoption.

In 2001, Malca Bernovski-Cohn is married to kind Jeff; they have two teenage sons (Jason and Mason). However, she never forgot her first love as she believes his ghost is with her any time she enters “Other-where.” One day a woman who lives in Berkley calls her. She introduces herself as Julie and wants to meet her biological mother. Both are excited and frightened as each need to let go of what happened three decades ago to the mother’s lover and the daughter’s father.

The rescuer’s path is a wonderful epic extended family drama. The key to the tale is the cast especially Malca who is the link between the various years (including some after 2001 and between 1971 and 2001). Although the skipping back and forth in time can be a bit confusing, readers who relish complicated relationships will appreciate this profound epic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sinners and Saints-Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Sinners and Saints

Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Touchstone, Jan 10 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451608151

It has been two years since the kidnapped little girl was returned to her parents, Jasmine and Hosea Bush. Since that trauma and joyful reunion, Jasmine has been the perfect preacher’s wife. However, she will have to be even more perfect when the president of the American Baptist Coalition job becomes vacant as she wants Hosea occupying the position, which comes with enormous prestige and power; two items Jasmine covets. Ergo she plans to use every dirty trick in her arsenal when they attend the convention.

Jasmine’s equal in all ways of good and bad is Rachel Jackson Adams who believes her spouse Lester is the perfect preacher to head the American Baptist Coalition. She covets the enormous prestige and power that comes with being the First Lady. Ergo Rachel plans to use every dirty trick in her arsenal when they attend the convention.

When the two contenders meet at the convention, each recognizes their prime rival and automatically loathes the other. Each applies their bag of ruses to discredit their competitor as the educated elitist and the street smart survivalist go toe to toe in fifteen rounds of dirty in-fighting. Ironically they also team up to eliminate the other opponent, the wife of the current president.

These two sinners married to saints make for a fascinating tale as the protagonists of the long running respective series by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley battle with claws and fangs hidden by sweetness. The entertaining story line captures the essences of the lead couples in an amusing over the top of a church steeple romp.

Harriet Klausner

Money Never Sleeps-Tu-Shonda Whitaker

Money Never Sleeps

Tu-Shonda Whitaker

One World/Ballantine, Dec 6 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345525123

BFFs Milan, Jaise, and Chaunci star in the hit reality show Millionaire Wives Club. However, fame has put a strain on their friendships leading to catfights that as a second order effect has given the show high ratings.

Milan and former NFL player Kendu are engaged after seeing each other for what she thinks has been forever. However, while he struggles because he is no longer playing, football player Samir wants Milan.

Jaise has never been able to teach her teenage son Jabril responsibility as he has fathered two children with different women. Her new mate Bilal tries to discipline Jabril, but his efforts may only end his marriage.

Chaunci learns that her man Idris married someone else. As a consequence of his betrayal, she distrusts the three legged hunks until she meets Emory.

New cast member Vera thinks her marriage is perfect. However, watching her diva mates has her look closer until she finds cracks in perfection.

The return to the scandalous Millionaire Wives Club is a lighthearted romp in which the entertaining story line never takes itself seriously by using hyperbolic melodrama, plenty of sex and female fights. None of the cast is likable yet the antics of these catty felines are fun to follow.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inseparable-Dora Heldt; translated by Jamie Lee Searle


Dora Heldt; translated by Jamie Lee Searle

AmazonCrossing, Dec 6 2011, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611090222

In Hamburg, Germany as she nears her forty-fourth birthday, Christine has moved passed in many ways the betrayals by her ex husband of ten years Bernd with her former life long BFF (see Life After Forty), but as a second order effect she no longer trusts people. While her career in publishing is successful and has a tepid relationship with Richard, Christine especially has doubts about friendships, in particular with females.

Her friend Dorothea wants to prove to Christine she is wrong to denounce friendship. With the help of her friend’s sister in Cologne, Dorothea lines up twenty people from various stages in Christine’s life who care about her to join in a surprise birthday bash. The objective to show friends care.

The second Christine tale is an engaging look at friendship as the heroine is in a funk when it comes to sisterhood. Much of the plot is gathering the faithful and learning of their tale, which in turn stretches the overall entertaining story line with too many repetitions. Still fans will enjoy Dora Heldt’s heartfelt salute to friendship.

Harriet Klausner

RingGoRound-Patda Jim


Patda Jim

Warren Publishing Group, Nov 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781427636119

In 1894 London, frightened fifteen year old Englishwoman Marlene marries Dutchman Paul van der Mehr. They met a month ago at a ball and now her parents arranged her marriage to him. As Paul’s wife she accompanies him to his home in the Netherlands. However, Marlene quickly learns her old money aristocratic new spouse is abusive. When his brutality turns on their children, Marlene has no recourse but to flee with the kids to the sanctuary of the countryside as their respective families will not intrude on the rights of a husband-father. There she meets and falls in love with kind Baron Carlotti.

In 1999, after ending a comfortable relationship, Marieke travels from the United States to Amsterdam where she feels at home. At an antique jewelry store, Marieke sees a fascinating diamond ring on display and purchases it. She and the store manager Clemens Van der Mehr are attracted to one another and he invites her to his family home where she feels she belongs even as they fall in love. However, her real connection through the ring is to Marlene.

Rotating perspective between the two women, RingGoRound is a terrific family drama filled with fascinating twists. The lead females and their support cast are fully developed to complement one another in the interconnected (through the ring) over a century gap subplots. Readers will enjoy Patda Jim’s haunting romantic tale as Marieke learns the truth about Marlene and herself.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saving June-Hannah Harrington

Saving June

Hannah Harrington

Harlequin Teen, Nov 22 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9780373210244

In Michigan June Scott seemed perfect, but just before graduating from high school she commits suicide. Her sixteen year old sister Harper is grieving and in shock as she cannot believe June took her life. She seeks clues in the musical mix June listened to when she died but remains confused. Unable to deal with the sympathy from those paying respects at the Scott home, Harper hides in the back yard with her BFF Laney. The younger sibling loathes her divorced parents dividing the ashes between them. Instead she wants to spread her sister’s ashes in California where June wanted to go, but lacks transportation to do the deed.

At the funeral she meets Jake, who offers to drive the two girls to California. Harper and Laney accept the offer and begin an odyssey to spread the ashes in the Pacific. Jake and Harper are attracted to each other, but their relationship will end if she learns about his relationship with June and his involvement in her suicide.

This is an insightful look at the impact of a teen suicide on those in her sphere who love and care about her. The musical debates on the road distract Harper from her struggles to accept she will never see her sister again, but those refrains are temporary as the kid sister goes though the emotional stages of grief. Not an easy read even with the music playing a major role, teen readers and their parents will appreciate the profound Saving June.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Narrows Gate-Jim Fusilli

Narrows Gate

Jim Fusilli

AmazonEncore, Nov 15 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781612181370

In 1931 in the Narrows Gate section of Manhattan, the Benno family owns a small grocery store. Their patrons are predominately Sicilians including mobsters. However, there biggest problem is with Maguire the prejudicial Irish cop who walks the beat. He systematically roughs up Vito in front of the man’s family and demands the grocer give him his shakedown honey. Eight year old Sal wanted to kill the abusive cop.

Polish Jew Leo Bell’s father Abramo insists his family is from Ypres, Italy. Leo is brilliant yet a dope as he does not comprehend there is Italy and there is Sicily no matter how many times his best friend Sal tried to educate him. They remain close buddies even as adults but Leo conceals his heritage from Sal for years,

William Rosiglino is a misanthrope picked on by his peers. He has no friends though he awkwardly tries with Leo and Sal. His martinet mom Hennie knows his voice is her road to affluence and out of the neighborhood. She pushes him until he becomes a famous crooner as Bill "Bebe" Marsala, but psychologically he remains a cripple.

Through these three characters, readers obtain a taste of life in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the 1930s and 1940s. Using real life persona like senators, singers, and mobsters, James Fusilli provides a terrific timely epic that deeply looks into the first and second generation immigrant experience only in America.

Harriet Klausner

Singled Out-Sara Griffiths

Singled Out

Sara Griffiths

Bancroft, Dec 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781890862954

As a junior, Taylor Dresden was a superstar pitcher in the New Jersey high school league (see Thrown a Curve). However, due to cutbacks, competitive baseball is longer being played. Depressed with no baseball options, she loved playing hardball with the boys; consequently, Taylor’s grades fall.

Shockingly the Hazelton School for Boys offers Taylor an athletic scholarship. She meets the two scholarship coeds, six foot two basketball star Gabby Foster and petit Tara Kwan the brain. However, the three amigas are unwelcome by the arrogant wealthy male students. The Statesmen gang of bullies led by Sam Barrett wants to kick out the female trio so begin a campaign of terror; at a time when Taylor struggles to keep up in the classroom.

This is an exciting high school thriller that looks deeply into bullying, but not just against the three girls as some of the boys are victims too. Though the pressure on Taylor is stratospheric from the classroom to trying out for the team to the bullying, she refuses to quit. Fans will enjoy Taylor’s senior year as Sara Griffiths pitches a near perfect game.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Autobiography-Agatha Christie

An Autobiography

Agatha Christie

Harper, Nov 22 2011, $29.99

ISBN: 9780062073594

This is a reprint of Agatha Christie’s autobiography over a period between 1950 and 1965. Out of print for over three decades, this new edition includes a CD in which Agatha Christie talks about being a writer. Note that the famous eleven-day disappearance in 1926 (see the movie Agatha for speculation) is not explained which in turn is disappointing yet adds an aura of mystery to Ms. Christie. Born in 1890, her late Victorian childhood in Ashfield comes across as idyllic (but somewhat boring) except for her vivid description of her caring indolent dad and the Agatha’s Husband game played with her sister. The action picks up in the second act with her first marriage to Archibald Christie, their child Rosalind and her first novel. Her second marriage to younger Max Mallowan during the Depression also provides insight into what made Ms. Christie tick while her characters like Poirot and Marple almost seem real. Ironically readers know of her novels, but few have seen her plays (like Witness for the Prosecution) on the stage. At times in her works, Ms. Christie sympathizes with murderers as their cause was just (see Murder on the Orient Express) which is intriguing. Filled with pathos and humor; and enhanced by photos and the CD, An Autobiography by Agatha Christie is a wonderful look at the life of the Grand Dame of mystery

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy-Eric Metaxas

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Eric Metaxas

Thomas Nelson, Aug 30 2011, $19.99

ISBN: 9781595552464

This is a great biography of Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who while in his thirties confronted Hitler’s Nazi takeover of the Churches within Germany when hardly anyone even from outside the Their Reich would do so. His faith in the Lord guided him as he joined the failed assassination plot and was executed at the Flossenberg. Besides the insight into Bonhoeffer’s heroic martyred stand as a believer that the Church must speak for those without a voice. He had a strong faith in God he was an espionage agent. Eric Metaxas provides a powerful look at Germany from the defeat at the peace conference ending WWI to the ethnic cleansing atrocities of WWII. Well written with a profound look at Pastor Bonhoeffer and his Germany, but downplaying the detractors who give credence to his resistance and acceptance of death, but also take exception to the martyr’s theological positions that are not espoused with the same levels of zeal and clarity.

Harriet Klausner

Adam and Evelyn-Ingo Schulze; John E. Woods (Translator)

Adam and Evelyn

Ingo Schulze; John E. Woods (Translator)

Knopf, Nov 8 2011, $27.95

ISBN: 9780307272812

In 1989 in East Germany, Adam the highly regarded tailor loves his girlfriend Evelyn the waitress. However, though they reside together, womanizing Adam enjoys trysts with his customers. Evi quits her job and comes home early only to find her mate unfaithful with a client. She calmly leaves him and East Germany for Hungary with cousins Simone and Michael.

Adam pursues his beloved while helping Katja sneak into Hungary. He is attracted to his companion while Evi likewise is to Michael. Once free of East Germany, Adam suffers from displacement until the quartet reunites in West Germany; at a time when the Wall comes tumbling down.

This is a great translation of a thought provoking timely odyssey. The story line has readers thinking in terms of Genesis and Milton; the complex impact of era making global events on the lives of everyday people; and the plight of the “forced” refugees. Each of the prime foursome is fully developed, more so the title characters; leading to the readers understanding individual and group relationships, motives and fears in a world no longer like the “Garden” that they were accustomed to for much of their lives.

Harriet Klausner

Sophie and the Rising Sun-Augusta Trobaugh

Sophie and the Rising Sun

Augusta Trobaugh

Bell Bridge, Oct 14 2011, $12.95

ISBN: 9781611940534

Miss Anne recalls what happened to Miss Sophie Willis over two decades ago back in 1939 in Salty Creek, Georgia although she admits she does not know how it ended only how it got to that point. Allegedly Miss Sophie’s true love died during WWI combat. After some supposed grief, Sophie apparently accepted her life as being a dry loneliness taking care of her mom and two aunts.

However, Miss Sophie and Miss Anne's fiftyish Japanese-American gardener Mr. Grover Cleveland Oto become friends as they enjoy spending Sunday morning painting in silence. As the pair falls in love, Pearl Harbor places the California born Mr. Oto in peril from local retaliation. Miss Anne and Miss Sophie hide Mr. Oto from the terror of the angry Salty Creek vigilantes.

This is an engaging historical thriller that focuses on the impact of war on people and relationships even thousands of miles from the front. The story line is character driven by the three above, Miss Sophie’s deceased family, and several other key players like Big Sally, Miss Ruth and Eulalie as they bring a sense of time and place to the strong WWII drama told by Miss Anne in the early 1960s.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shaq Uncut: My Story-Shaquille O’Neal with Jackie MacMullan

Shaq Uncut: My Story

Shaquille O’Neal with Jackie MacMullan

Grand Central, Nov 15 2011, $27.99

ISBN: 9781455504411

Shaq Uncut is simply Shaq being Shaq even with the zillion nicknames and the humping into other arenas besides basketball like movies and rapping. Gregarious, Mr. O'Neal grew up impoverish, but had steady role models who he credits for keeping him straight without breaking his spirit. Although literally the big man on campus his time at LSU was short and ended in defeat in the NCAA tournament. In the NBA, he started in Orlando; won championships in Los Angeles and Miami, and finishing in Cleveland and Boston. However, the fascination with the NBA travels is how Shaq paints his departures and his intriguing relationships with other superstar teammates and coaches such as Wade, Bryant, Jackson, James and the Celtic trilogy (plus Rondo). Still proving in retirement he remains Mr. Charisma with a Shaq Attack wink, this is a fun autobiography as the Big Aristotle understood he wore the bulls-eye when a loss occurred like the Magic losing in the finals and shared the triumphs with Kobe and Dwayne.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir ... of Sorts-Ian Morgan Cron

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir ... of Sorts

Ian Morgan Cron

Thomas Nelson, Jun 7 2011, $15.99

ISBN: 9780849946103

The youngest child of four siblings, Ian Morgan Cron grew up afraid of his abusive drunk of a father. As a teen, he learned his alcoholic sire, who worked in the film industry, also was employed by the CIA. Decades later, Ian, an alcoholic like his dad, knew he needs to battle and slay his demons. However, to do so, he felt impelled to return to the origins of what haunted him; issues that he preferred not to face, but must if he believes is to liberate himself from the chains that bind him. To survive emotionally and be a good dad to his three children emulating Jesus and not his biological father, Mr. Cron turned to the Lord who the mortal writer believes asked him to forgive him, as he turned to music, writing and at one time alcohol.

Mr. Cron’s insightful memoir affirms the belief that the child is the adult as he lived in fear in the affluent household (with a nanny as mom worked) of a verbally mean drunk. Filled with pathos, a strong belief in Jesus, and some self deprecating humor, readers will appreciate this well written autobiography but also wonder why his siblings make infrequent appearances.

Harriet Klausner

The Land of Painted Caves-Jean M. Auel

The Land of Painted Caves

Jean M. Auel

Bantam, Nov 11 2011, $17.00

ISBN: 9780553383201

Ayla and Jondalar live with their baby daughter Jonayla amidst his people in the clan of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonaii. A healer, she is in training to become a Zelandonaii, which keeps Ayla apart from her mate and their infant. However, not all are pleased with her being chosen as a shaman in training. Balderan the hunter wants Ayla dead and Marona wants her removed any which way including death from the cave.

Over time her training proves difficult but she finds solace in the cave paintings she sees as the First escorts the acolytes on a tour. Ayla also misses Jondalar and vows to have no other man while she hopes she can persuade her beloved to do likewise.

The final return to the prehistoric world of Earth’s Children (see The Shelters of Stone) is an engaging societal tale that dramatically could have been reduced by a few less tours of cave paintings. Ayla is a fascinating protagonist who comes across as the Da Vinci of the cave dwellers with her inventing a horde of ideas. Although the action is somewhat limited with the profound look at the prehistoric society being the prime venue, fans of the saga will want to read the last visit to the world of Ayla.

Harriet Klausner

Khan: Empire of Silver-Conn Iggulden

Khan: Empire of Silver

Conn Iggulden

Bantam, Nov 22 2011, $16.00

ISBN: 9780385344258

After forging an incredible empire that spread across Mongol Europe the Great Khan is dead. His oldest son Ogedai is his replacement as Khan, but delays the coronation ceremony to finish the building of Karakorum while the horde battle the Chin whose use of gunpowder has been a shocker to the invincible Mongols. In Europe, General Tsubodai easily defeats the Russians and the Poles.

However, betrayal back home betrayal begins when Ogedai’s brother Chagatai challenges his rule while their other sibling Tolui finds himself pulled by both of his kin. Others like the Great late Khan’s brothers (Khasar and Kachiun) plot; his grandchildren (Batu, Baidur and Mongke) show the family conquering skills. Finally there is the youngest grandchild Kublai observing and absorbing the intrigue.

The fourth Khan historical thriller moves passed the late Genghis to his heir in what is a great twisting entry. Filled with treachery and jealousy, the story line is character driven by a horde of rivals to replace the legend. With a deep historical base, powerfully vivid battle scenes and political machinations that make contemporary politicians look extremely soft (no chicken hawks in this late thirteenth century crowd), fans will enjoy beyond the golden age of Genghis with his heirs battling to rule the Empire of Silver.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chosen-Chandra Hoffman


Chandra Hoffman

Harper, Nov 8 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061974311

In Portland, Oregon, Chloe Pinter loves her work as the director of the domestic adoption program at Chosen Child. Although the demands of two sets of parents can be overwhelming, she takes pleasure when she successfully brings together the biological and adopting parents.

Her current clients are wealthy Francie and John as the adopting parents and poor Penny and Jason as the biological parents. When Chloe visits eight months pregnant Penny, she notices the basinet in their dumpy pad. Chloe realizes the birthing couple may be having late thoughts though they cannot afford the cost of a child. She warns Francie and John that the adoption may not occur.

This is an intriguing story line that looks deeply at the impact of adoption on various adults. However, Chloe is the only developed character as her childhood trauma of losing her family comes across as a powerful motivator for her work. The rest of the key players lack sympathy as the extended family of Penny is dangerously dysfunctional and Francie and John never move past their affluence. Still fans will appreciate Chandra Hoffman’s look at second and third order effects of adoption.

Harriet Klausner