Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pretty-Jillian Lauren

Jillian Lauren
Plume, Aug 30 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780452297340

Beth "Bebe" Baker worked at Rudy’s in Toledo when Aaron the horn player on tour with jazz star Billy Coyote enters the dive. He had three things going for him and one negative. The positives are the horn like Bebe’s pop, his being very tall like she is, and his kiss. However, he also seems tentative as if he cannot play the final note. Bebe hops on the tour bus as it leaves Toledo.

In Los Angeles the band becomes marooned. Bebe becomes a stripper while Aaron's drug use increasingly gets out of control until he dies in a car crash that leaves her physically scarred and emotionally damaged. Over the next year Bebe goes to rehab vocational facility while attending beauty school. As she tries to reinvent herself by staying clean and grieve her hero, Bebe also sees schizophrenic Jake.

This is an intriguing character study of a woman who makes bad choices on her life as she seems to repeat her errors. Bebe is a fascinating protagonist who though she goes to school and sees another man, has not moved passed her loss of Aaron. Besides some sympathy over his death, readers will not empathize with Bebe as every time she takes a big leap forward, she follows up with gigantic leaps backward. Readers will appreciate Jillian Lauren’s look at a complicated individual who believes graduation will prove her savior.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Repeat It Today With Tears-Anne Peile

Repeat It Today With Tears
Anne Peile
Serpent’s Tail, Aug 16 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846687471

In 1972 London, Susanna is a disaffected teen who cares about nothing. Her pathetic mother and acrimonious older sister ridicule Susanna while her friends are not true BFFs. School is no escape for her as it is boring though she is intelligent having taken the Oxford exam early. Her only attachment is her obsession over her absent Welsh dad John ap Rhys Owen of whom she never met.

Susanna finds out that her dad fiftyish Jack the artist lives in Chelsea. She visits him and kisses him on the lips while failing to inform the immediately besotted Jack who she is. They begin an affair not worrying about what will happen if the truth of their filial connection becomes known to anyone including Jack.

This is a stunning character driven incestuous drama in which the first part of what Susanna does will shock the reader who knows what Jack does not. However, the second half seems even darker as the outside world begins to penetrate the incest world of father and daughter. Not an easy read as the subject is taboo; fans will appreciate the well written Repeat It Today With Tears.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories-Megan Kelly Hall (editor) and Carrie Jones (editor)

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Megan Kelly Hall (editor) and Carrie Jones (editor)
Harper, Sep 6 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780062060976

As the subtitle states, seventy authors provided their story of either being bullied or bullying someone. There is a common theme that it will get better once you are an adult so hang in there, but also admit that is not easy for a middle school student to wait a decade to be free. Other themes include finding an adult who will listen and act though once again that is not easy to achieve. The target audience of teenagers will struggle to read more than a few entries as most are too short and never quite drill down deep. The exceptions to prose are the comic strips; Cecil Castellucci and Mo Willems provide insightful looks at bullying that the younger teens especially will appreciate. Few of the contributions provide insight into the motives of why they were bullies though some of the victims offer their opinions. Bottom line is this anthology is a terrific tool for the counselor who can customize the entries to the needs of the victimized student.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heiress-Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren
Summerside, Aug 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781609362188

In 1896 New York City, Esme Price wants to be a reporter like her idol Nellie Bly who has shocked high society with her behavior. Esme’s wealthy father August owns a newspaper, but expects his oldest daughter to marry an acceptable member of their upper class.

Esme’s younger sister Jinx envies her as she wants to be the anointed one rather than waiting for her sibling to marry. Upsetting Jinx further is when Esme and the catch of the season Foster Worth become engaged, but her sister seems at best indifferent.

Esme confesses to her dad that she is Anonymous Writer sending in opinions to his New York Chronicle as A.W. He reacts by telling her to go home and slaps her. With her best friend the family butler’s son Oliver’s help, Esme flees to Montana to begin her own newspaper while Jinx makes a play for Foster.

This entertaining timely Gilded Age family drama is driven by the opulent Price sisters who go after what each believes is their manifest destiny, but one day in the future look back to assess whether they were blessed or cursed as to whether the cost was worth it. Although the story line starts a bit slow as time, place and people are established, readers will appreciate this strong entertaining character driven historical that will remind readers all that glitters on Wall St. is not gold for everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Recessionistas-Alexandra Lebenthal

The Recessionistas
Alexandra Lebenthal
Grand Central, Aug 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446563680

As the recession has gotten worse, cutthroat competition amidst the Wall St. sharks and their spouses has turned even uglier. Flying Point Capital hedge fund owner John Cutter diligently keeping his profit margin high with aggressive investment in the subprime mortgage market while beginning to conceal his money from his estranged Greenwich wife Mimi the art collector.

Blake Somerset watches his fortune shrink by over $50 million while the banker’s Fashionista wife Grigsby refuses to lose her position as the top dog setting elitist of the Upper East Side. He holds on by assisting his Harvard classmate John hide funds that his “client’s brilliant assistant Renee Parker would not be able to trace let alone his “client’s” Connecticut art collecting trophy wife.

Although the key characters are stereotypes, the insightful lucid descriptions of the confusing financial vernacular is superb and helps make the business of Wall St. the prime protagonist of this ironic tale. Many readers will cheer the climax but recent events affirm the opposite with few falling like Madoff. Still overall the Recessionistas is a wonderful satire from an insider who cleverly lampoons her roots.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tony and Susan-Austin Wright

Tony and Susan
Austin Wright
Grand Central, Aug 11 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446582902

English teacher Susan Morrow has been married to Arthur a surgeon. He and her second husband have been together for years raising kids in suburbia. It has been over two decades since Susan has communicated with her first spouse Edward Sheffield, but he has sent her a manuscript Nocturnal Animals asking her to read it and tell him what she thinks.

Not interested until she learns her ex is coming to visit her to see what she thinks; Susan begins reading the story of math professor Tony Hastings, his wife Laura and their child Helen. At first she hates the family in terror plot as she expects an unhappy ending, but soon cannot put the novel down as she flashes from the book to her life with Edward and Arthur.

Using the story inside a story mechanism, Austin Wright provides an insightful profound look at two “families” and the writer who connects them. The story line focuses on accountability as people reject any responsibility for their actions even blatant abuse. Both “novels” are entertainingly discerning as the veneer of civilization conceals the reality of irresponsible, unethical and often violent behavior.

Harriet Klausner

The Ballad of Tom Dooley-Sharyn McCrumb

The Ballad of Tom Dooley
Sharyn McCrumb
Dunne, Aug 30 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312558178

Just after the Civil War ended in Wilkes County, North Carolina, former Confederate soldier Tom Dula was arrested for the murder of his fiancée Lucy Foster. He and his former lover married Ann Melton were accused of killing Lucy. Former North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance is released from the Capitol Prison to defend Dula. However, Pauline Foster the servant girl is a powerful witness for the prosecution. From the day he was jailed until he was finally hung, Dula insisted he was innocent though at the end he protected his beloved Ann who was acquitted. Vance wonders whether an innocent man, Lucy’s killer or a love sick accomplice abetting his beloved hung on that fatal day.

This is an incredible one sitting historical thriller that will stun readers with the revelations as Sharyn McCrumb, known for her Elizabeth McPherson Appalachia mysteries, tells the legendary Ballad of Tom Dooley. With the help of scholars and other locals, the author pieced together what really happened in 1866 and presents it in this great novelization. Ms. McCrumb may have written the Americana historical thriller of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Brahms Deception-Louise Marley

The Brahms Deception
Louise Marley
Kensington, Aug 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780758265678

The competition to go back in time to 1861 Tuscany to observe Johannes Brahms is fierce. Thus Frederica Bannister, who badly wanted to go so much s she had her father arrange her selection, is euphoric when she is picked over her rival Kristian North. The musicologist is excited over seeing the legend perform and to solve the mystery of his relationship with older concert pianist Clara Schumann.

However, once in 1861 Frederica ignores the rules for time traveling. She is besotted with her hero and envious of his secret lover. Unable to move on, Frederica makes a decision that has potential repercussions in her future time as well as in Brahms’ era. Raging over not being selected, Kristian is sent to find out what happened to Frederica as the eight hours allotted of study time in the past passed.

The second time travel musical history thriller (see Mozart's Blood) is an entertaining look at the relationship between Brahms and his “muse” Schumann. The story line provides the reader a glimpse at the legend inside of an exciting story line. Although understanding Frederica is difficult as she is obsessive compulsive; harping at being ugly and infatuating over Brahms who is dead over a century before she was born. Still even with the researchers having no contingency plan if something goes wrong in the visited past except to send the runner-up student, fans will enjoy the trip back to the classical musical romantic period.

Harriet Klausner

Holy Warrior: A Novel of Robin Hood-Angus Donald

Holy Warrior: A Novel of Robin Hood
Angus Donald
St. Martin’s Griffin, Aug 2 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312678371

In 1190 newly crowned King Richard II of England announces plans to liberate Jerusalem from the Saracens. Amongst those marching in the Third Crusades is the most feared warrior in the land, the Outlaw of Nottingham, the Earl of Locksley. Robin Hood’s loyal men are on the trek too as the Templars gave him and them little choice in the matter.

The trek is dangerous without having an assassin try killing you. Robin and his personal troubadour teen age Alan Dale try to uncover the identity of the stalker but so far fail. At the same tome Robin shows no mercy as he and his band of mercenary murderers kill anyone in their path. However, the real test will be in combat with Saladin and his Saracen horde.

The second tale of Angus Donald’s rendition of Robin Hood (see Outlaw) continues to portray the epic heroic Holy Warrior in a negative light (that is looking back from twenty-first century sensitivities even with recent holocausts). Robin is abusive and mean spirited while he leads a merry band of raping, murdering marauders. They fit their times as teenage Alan Dale relates what they have seen and done during the Crusades to include ethnic cleansing of Jews in England, the slaughter of Muslim prisoners of war at Acre, and the massacre of other ethnic groups. This all occurs even before the bloody battle against Saladin and enhanced by deadly disease. Dark, gory and bloody but grimly realistic as medieval life especially on the front means take no prisoners except in the case of rape.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Genteel Spirits-Alice Duncan

Genteel Spirits
Alice Duncan
Five Star, Aug 10 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9781432825003

In 1922, the affluent residents of Pasadena, California consider Daisy Gumm Majesty a highly regarded spiritualist as Desdemona. Hollywood especially enjoys seeing those who communicate with the beyond and as such are frequent patrons of Daisy. She knows her spiritualist work keeps her family fed as her spouse Billy returned from the war with failing health due to a German bullet and the Kaiser’s mustard gas that keep him wheelchair bound.

Daisy worries about her husband but practices her trade. Due to Daisy’s friend Harold Kinkaid, Desdemona hosts a séance attended by silent screen star Lola de la Monica. The impressed actress hires Desdemona as the spiritualist on her latest movie. Making matters difficult for Daisy is Billy’s best friend police detective Sam Rotondo‚ who she is attracted to, works on the same set. When threatening letters frighten Lola, Daisy and Harold investigate.

Genteel Spirits is a warm Daisy Gumm Majesty historical tale (see Hungry Spirits) that brings to Southern California in the aftermath of the war to end all wars. The cast including Spike the obedience school expelled canine makes the story line humorous and optimistic but is counterbalanced by Billy’s health. The mystery serves as a subordinate subplot to the sense of time and place of people trying to move on with their lives following the war. Alice Duncan provides a delightful spotlight on Pasadena and Hollywood circa 1922.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy-Laurie Notaro

It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy
Laurie Notaro
Villard, Jul 26 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345510990

This amusing collection lives up to its subtitle as Laurie Notaro explores how far she will go to fit in to avoid “shame and infamy.” In "Let It Bleed” she analyzes the mental trauma of “modeling clothes in a store’s dressing room while knowing workers and other customers are scoring her. "She's a Pill" focuses on "Ambien Laurie," who arises when the author takes the pill that never quite allows a sleeping dog to just sleep at least in her case. Parental relations are explored in "It's a Bomb" as she flies from Eugene, Oregon to visit her Republican parents in Phoenix, Arizona and in the “FWD” apocalyptic emails from her mother. Finally there are the spousal relationships in their rendition of “Jingle Bells” and in “Woofs”. This is the usual amusing self-deprecating shtick from one of the best humorists around (see Autobiography of a Fat Bride and We Thought You Would Be Prettier).

Harriet Klausner

I Gave My Heart to Know This-Ellen Baker

I Gave My Heart to Know This
Ellen Baker
Random House, Aug 2 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9781400066360

During WW II as the need for manufacturing support to the war effort grows, the male labor pool shrinks. As such women took over the jobs that historically were male only. By January 1944, Grace Anderson and mother and daughter Violet and Lena Maki work as welders in a Wisconsin shipyard.

The ladies also know that part of their job on the home front is writing upbeat letters to the boys at the front. Grace agrees to Lena’s request by sending encouraging letters to her twin brother Derrick. However, she has an understanding with her high school sweetheart Alex the marine and is attracted to railroad worker Joe, sent home with rheumatic fever.

In Wisconsin, Lena's granddaughter Julia lives on her family farm while grieving a death. She reads letters and looks at photos from WW II while wanting desperately to end the estrangement with her sibling Danny as she probes the tragedy decades ago that destroyed her family.

This is a super historical thriller that focuses on women who took over male jobs while the men fought. These females proved a woman can do a man’s job in the workplace and they became mentors for the reform movements of the 1960s. The ensemble cast is solid especially the WWII crew as Ellen Baker provides a deep look at the great leap that led to “you’ve come a long way baby” with her not so quiet on the Lake Superior front.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dancing on Glass-Pamela Ewen

Dancing on Glass
Pamela Ewen
B&H Publishing, Aug 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780805464306

In 1974 New Orleans, Amalise Catoir is a new lawyer caught in the rain. She ran into a gallery to stay dry. Inside she notices strange portraits of women when she meets the artist Phillip Sharp. He charms her and wants to paint her in the nude. She refuses to pose naked but they fall in love and marry.

Once married his charm vanishes. Instead of nurturing and loving her, Phillips turns accusatory insisting she is cheating and becomes physically and mentally abusive. Her family appears to desert her and her faith in the Lord is shattered as she fears for her life because Amalise knows if she fails obey her severe husband, he turns into an out of control dangerous raging and dangerous maniac.

This is a great but sobering relationship drama as Philip is a keen manipulator who has Amalise faulting herself for his personality change once they are married. Insightful as Pamela Ewen looks deep into the souls of the abuser and the abused, fans will better understand why she failed to leave as she believes strongly she is at fault since her family apparently deserted her; they saw the charmer. This is a super character driven historical.

Harriet Klausner

The One Who Waits For Me-Lori Copeland

The One Who Waits For Me
Lori Copeland
Harvest House, Aug 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780736`930185

In 1865 the Civil War is over but for many especially in the Confederate states the pain will continue as a way of life appears to be ending. In North Carolina many people suffer from the horrors of the war and now its aftermath.

With their parents’ dead, sisters Beth and Joanie flee from their cruel Uncle Walt and his chip off the old abusive block son Bear. Walt demands the deed to the land she and her sister should own as payment for allowing them to live on his farm though they worked hard in the fields. Because she is pregnant, Trella a slave leaves with the sisters; she dreams of her baby being born free. Cherokee scout Gray Eagle meets the three females and offers them protection while guiding them to a safe place. Black union soldier Samuel seeks to become a preacher just like his father as he hopes to bring comfort to the many sufferers. Captain Pierce thanks the Lord for letting him survive the horrors of combat as he just wants to forget the atrocities though the dead and maimed will haunt him until his death; he plans diligently to work the land in order to dull the horrible memories. These six find a sanctuary of sorts together.

This is a wonderful inspirational story as amidst the death and destruction a flicker of hope has arisen. The key to the story line is the fluttering of light in a vividly described dark world as many wonder if god abandoned them. Although Uncle Walt has no redeeming qualities, readers will appreciate Lori Copeland’s North Carolina second chance at life.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The First Gardener-Denise Hildreth Jones

The First Gardener
Denise Hildreth Jones
Tyndale, Aug 1 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414335582

Tennessee Governor Gray London and his wife Mackenzie waited years for a child so they feel blessed when their now five year old daughter Maddie was born. The couple would like another child, but so far they have not had any luck. However, tragedy strikes the family when Maddie dies in a car accident partly because she failed to click it.

Both Gray and Mack are devastated and unable to move passed their grief though he has budget issues to occupy his mind while she has the guilt of driving with her daughter unbelted. The statehouse First Gardener Jeremiah Williams feels for the governor and his wife. He grows special flowers as a tribute and prays to god to help this couple mend though Mack initially rejects his flowery offer.

This is a strong inspirational family drama that pulls no punches as the happy First Family of Tennessee suddenly deals with the death of their little sunshine even while Mack is pregnant and Gray is considering whether to run for reelection or not. Though cynical in terms of honesty is not considered the best policy by politicians, The First Gardener is a fabulous look at grieving and healing as the title character shows life goes on even after a precious loved one dies as the deceased would expect no less from them.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 11, 2011

Next to Love-Ellen Feldman

Next to Love
Ellen Feldman
Spiegel & Grau, Jul 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780812992717

In 1941 in South Downs, Massachusetts, Babe, Grace and Millie worry about the men they love as the wars overseas seem heading to the States. Grace and Millie marry Charlie and Pete respectively before they ship out, but say their goodbyes at home. Babe follows her Claude who sends her telegram from his basic training base for her to come and marry him; on the train to North Carolina, she is raped. Ashamed she hides the truth from him and they marry. When babe learns she is pregnant she fears it is not Claude’s child.

The men deploy overseas, but Charlie and Pete die in combat. Claude returns home from the war, but is not the same person he was before combat. Whereas Babe from the wrong side of the tracks finds work at Western Union and vows to remain independent, Grace and Millie pray for men to take care of them. Still the trio has each other as the social reform movement sweeps the country and their kids prepare to leave the nest.

This is an engaging epic drama that focuses on three BFFs as the world radically changes from WWII into the 1960s. The cast is strong while intimate letters especially telegrams bring home life and death. Although the story line can slow down especially in the 1950s with the extended families; rotating viewpoint between the three amigas provides a strong spotlight on changing values as summed up by Claude: imagine a world without war.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Half Life-Roopa Farooki

Half Life
Roopa Farooki
St. Martin’s Jul 19 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9780312577919

In London, Bengali expatriate Dr. Aruna Ahmed Jones married British Dr. Patrick Jones on the rebound from her failed romance with long time friend Ejaz “Jazz” Ahsan. In fact she fled Singapore's Little India to escape her past that included her father’s death, drug addiction, miscarriages and a psychological determination that she is bi-polar. Now less than a year with kind handsome Patrick, she reads Jazz’s father Bengali writer Hari Hassam’s note to a friend during the 1971 East and West Pakistan war: “It’s time to stop fighting, and go home.” Aruna agrees that it is time for her to stop fighting her ghosts and go home to confront them.

While she returns to Singapore, her inspiration lies dying in Kuala Lumpur General Hospital in Malaysia. Aruna knows she must confront Jazz and their past if she is to move forward with him or with Patrick who she expects will not welcome her back.

This terrific character study contains two discerning subplots as readers follow Aruna’s efforts to cleanse her mind from her self-imposed demons that force her into a Half Life and Haris’ death count vigil. Both are well written and nicely converge as the audience obtains insight into the Bengali culture living in Southeast Asia and London through this pair and others. Roopa Farooki provides a strong drama as Aruna learns that though Thomas Wolff is right that “you can’t go home“, Hari is also correct as sometimes you have no choice but to go home.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Angel of Blythe Hall-Darci Hannah

The Angel of Blythe Hall
Darci Hannah
Bantam, Jul 26 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780345520562

In 1481 at Blythe Hall on the Scottish side of the border, Julius saves his sister Isabeau’s life when he kills the Englishman trying to abduct the Laird’s daughter. When they enter the Hall, their father William praises his son and lectures his daughter for not letting go of her cur Rondo; as her action almost killed the siblings. William sees a vision of his late wife Angelique calling to him. The Laird turns insane while Julius is charged with treason and Isabeau sent to live at the king’s court.

Elven years later, Isabeau returns home to claim Blythe Hall; Julius is there to greet her though he acts mad claiming he seeks some otherworldly power. The King follows as he is attracted to Isabeau’s friend Marion Boyd. Sir George Douglas wants Isabeau, but though attracted she has doubts as she dreams of a golden guardian angel. When an enemy army storms the gates of Blythe Hall, Isabeau prays her Gabriel proves real and not just her imagination.

This is an odd fascinating paranormal historical thriller in which the story line never quite decides between fifteenth century intrigue and an intriguing fantasy as the mystical elements tend to disrupt the flow of a well written Scottish border tale. Still fans who enjoy something different will want to read Isabeau seeks her muse.

Harriet Klausner

Madame Bovary's Daughter-Linda Urbach

Madame Bovary's Daughter
Linda Urbach
Bantam, Jul 26 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780385343879

In Yonville, France with the suicide of his beloved egomaniacal wife Emma, weak Charles Bovary feels he has no reason to live; as he totally ignores his twelve years old daughter Berthe. When he dies one year after Emma’s death in 1852, Berthe is left impoverished. However, the child learned plenty from her parents as to what to avoid. She vows to have a successful life by never becoming self indulged or destructive like her mother or pathetic destructive like her father.

Berthe moves in with her grandma on the latter’s impoverished farm. She desperately wants her grandmother’s approval as Berthe learns to do chores in the house and on the farm. However, her grandmother dies without giving Berthe what she desired. Berthe works long tedious hours at a Lille textile mill until the owner Monsieur Rappelais orders her to join his staff in Paris. Though she prefers to decline, she becomes a lady's maid to his wife Madame Rappelais who mentors her; while she also rejects any sexual trysts with either Rappelais; as that was the undoing of her mother. Instead she has new hope when she becomes apprentice to fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth and meets Armand.

This is a terrific sequel to the Flaubert classic as Linda Urbach tells the story of Madame Bovary’s orphaned daughter. The title character keeps the story line focuses as she romps through the second half of the nineteenth century in France. Though there is a well written romantic subplot, it is Mademoiselle Bovary’s French adventures that make for a strong historical.

Harriet Klausner

Oliver Pepper's Pickle-John C. Picardi

Oliver Pepper's Pickle
John C. Picardi
Camel Press, Aug 15 2011, $18.95
ISBN: 9781603818575

The past year has been hell for Oliver Pepper. First his wife miscarries. Then she tells him she is leaving him as she has had a cyber affair while he has become a boring drunk. At Manhattan’s prestigious Bolton School for Girls he loses his Art History teaching position he has had for fifteen years for opening the shades and talking to some kid Franco from the loser public school across the street.

His sister and her New Age BF are driving him crazy with their crazy advice. Other family and friends recommend even loonier tips from the insane self-help book: “The Castration of the 20th Century Man: How to Grow a New Set for the 21st Century”. At AA, he meets Rosa the principal and asks her out. She agrees with the stipulation he teach a class at her middle school. There he meets Cody and they become friends over Van Gogh.

Oliver Pepper's Pickle is a poignant coming of age tale of an adult who begins to find his muse when he meets troubled children like Franco and Cody. They, especially Cody, help Oliver come to grips with the death years ago of his father and how to cope during a midlife crises. Though the world does not revolve around how Oliver demands it move on his axis, John C. Picardi provides a winning upbeat character study.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Full Moon Bride-Shobhan Bantwal

The Full Moon Bride
Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Aug 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758258847

Environmental lawyer Soorya Giri feels she is the last thirtyish virgin in New Jersey. She desperately wants to marry and raise a family instead of living with her parents as she currently does. In fact Soorya fearing her biological clock is ending before it begins starts to consider the abomination of an arranged marriage; something that the second generation loathe as too much old country tradition when they have on line and other contemporary means to meet males.

Her first few “bride viewing” events are as bad as she expected. Then Soorya meets Rajesh “Roger” Vadepalli. He is handsome and intelligent, but though she wants him Soorya distrusts his charming confidence as she does not believe he wants to get married. Thus she turns to widowed peer Lou. Suddenly from zero to two men interested in her, Soorya reacts negatively unable to cope with an abundance of males in her life.

The Full Moon bride takes a close look at the Indian-American culture, which mingles tradition from the old country with modern technology and the culture of the new country. Soorya is fabulous as her frustrations hold the plot focused. She gets angry and insolent hiding her fear of failure behind the façade of caustic wit (mindful of the Debbie Reynolds’ character Mary McKellaway in Mary, Mary). Readers will relish Soorya seeks her groove as Shobhan Bantwal noted for her powerful social issues takes a lighter but insightful look at the second generation Indian-American “princess’.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The V.I.P.s-Scott Poulson-Bryant

The V.I.P.s
Scott Poulson-Bryant
Broadway, Jul 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780767929745

In a hot New York, superstar rapper TNT arranges a meeting with Barry Chambers, Leo Bradford, Duke Maynard and Joey Ramirez; he does not tell any of them that he invited the others. Each has been successful since their childhood days when they called themselves the VIPs and had dreams of making it in the Big Apple. Thirty orgasms before turning forty Barry is the CEO of a giant cosmetics company; his ex is a paranoid NBA star, Leo is a magazine mogul and reporter; Duke is a former NFL star who has made it big since leaving professional football on the Internet; and Joey “Ram” Ramirez is "the Latino Calvin Klein" designer.

At the suite he took at the Hotel Gansevoort, TNT asks the quartet who amongst the four of them is his SOB father? Each is shocked by the question and begins to look back at their past transgressions.

The V.I.P.s is an engaging character study of four childhood friends whose mortality as they face forty is lucidly in their face by the rapper challenging them. The key cast is fully developed and each seems genuine with the exception of the vile villain. Although some of the relationships and decision making starting in 1983 between the parents generation of the V.I.P.s seem unlikely, this is a well written insightful tale as readers, the quartet and the rapper ask who his daddy is.

Harriet Klausner

The Oriental Wife-Evelyn Toynton

The Oriental Wife
Evelyn Toynton
Other Press, Jul 19 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781590514412

In the 1930s her Jewish parents send teenager Louisa to a school in Lausanne, Switzerland. There she meets and falls in love with a classmate’s brother Julian. Meanwhile her father sees the deadly winds of war coming so he sends to Louisa her grandmother’s jewelry.

Louisa’s cousin Otto and her childhood friend from Nuremberg Rolf flee Germany for New York where they obtain jobs. Meanwhile Louisa reaches England where she learns foreigners even experienced professionals can only hold domestic servant positions. Louisa gets a governess job. She eventually reaches New York with the help of her lover Phillip who becomes an angry drunk. She and Rolf marry while their parents are tortured in Germany and many Jews ate sent to Dachau. Rolf gets his mother and Louisa's parents to America but they lost everything to the Nazis. When the war breaks out, the German Jews find Americans loathe them as much as the Nazis did.

The Oriental Wife is a terrific timely historical thriller that grips the audience with the bleakness of Europe and America during the Nazi era. Hope is gone for the Jews left behind in Germany while those fortunate to cross the Atlantic find America hostile to the immigrants. Character driven, dreams of assimilation by the first generation of German Jewish refugees in the 1930s fail to occur as nightmarish suspicions and culpability are the prime welcome. The impact on the second generation is powerful as “Never Forget” denotes the past and the potential future.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Betrayal-Diane Noble

The Betrayal
Diane Noble
Avon, Jul 26 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9780061980947

In 1842 Nauvoo, Illinois, Mormon prophet Joseph Smith proclaims God says polygamy is acceptable. He directs married shipbuilder Gabriel MacKay to take a second wife, recently widowed Bronwyn and adopt the Latter’s daughter. Though the widow has some doubts as she loves her future husband’s first spouse Mary Rose like a sister while also attracted to Gabe, she marries him with the stipulation of no physical contact (see The Sister Wife).

However, increasingly Bronwyn falls in love with her husband who promised to protect her. The second wife struggles with her vow to her beloved Sister Wife who miscarries after a fall. Gabe kisses Bronwyn who feels divided emotionally as she wants more but cannot betray her beloved Mary Rose though she feels her treacherous heart has done so. When Enid announces to Bronwyn she will soon wed Gabe, the second wife has issues with the practice of polygamy as the number of wives per husband grows, the age of the brides drop considerably. On the journey to the Promised Land surrounding the Great Salt Lake that the Prophet saw in a vision, Gabe’s first two wives want to escape the marital imprisonment, but Brigham Young has spies everywhere.

The second Brides of Gabriel is an intriguing historical tale that once again looks at polygamy as did The Sister Wife. In the first tale, the relationships in the multiple marriage families displayed an economic underpinning to care for widows and children. The Betrayal provides a fascinating story line that digs deep into the actual practice as brides were increasingly “enslaved” young teens and no one was allowed to speak out against the Word. Americana readers will appreciate this profound tale as The Lord’s Prayer inspires us to forgive the trespasses of others, but as the Brides of Gabriel know that is difficult to do.

Harriet Klausner