Friday, September 30, 2011

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman Patricia Bosworth-

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman

Patricia Bosworth

Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt, Aug 30 2011, $30.00

ISBN: 9780547152578

This is a deep biography that uses all types of reference material including Jane Fonda’s FBI file, her suicide mother’s psychiatric records, her relationship with her demanding dad the icon actor Henry and interviews to get inside the changing public images to the soul of Ms. Fonda. The book is divided into a prologue, five distinct eras, and an epilogue. Ms. Bosworth openly admits she and her subject have been friends since they met as students at New York Actors Studio in the early 1960s, but this does not prevent the biographer from writing about the good, the bad and the ugly. Perhaps the most fascinating theme is a need to find a father figure who cared about her. Ms. Fonda’s transition as reflected in the five periods of her life starts with being Henry’s “Daughter” (Tall Story) seeking his approval. In her early twenties having given up on achieving her dad’s okay, Ms. Fonda turns to becoming the consummate “Actress” (Cat Ballou). In the 1960s, Ms. Fonda is recognized as a “Movie Star/Sex Symbol” married to director Roger Vadim (Barbarella). Over the next two decades she becomes a “Political Activist” (Coming Home) speaking out against the Viet Nam War and ridiculed as Hanoi Jane. while married to Tom Hayden. Finally in the 1990s she becomes the “Workout Guru/Tycoon Wife” married to Ted Turner and running a multimillion dollar workout video company. Ms. Bosworth enables readers to get inside “The Private Life of a Public Woman” in a wonderful biography.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Skin-Vicki Lane

Under the Skin

Vicki Lane

Bantam, Oct 18 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345533654

In the Great Smoky Mountains, Elizabeth and Phillip are planning their marriage. However, her high maintenance sister Gloria calls from Florida informing Elizabeth she is coming to rusticate and hide on her sibling’s Full Circle Farm. An exacerbated Elizabeth believes Glory is delusional; nothing new in her mind, when she claims her third spouse Jerry is trying to kill her.

Her sister’s arrival has Elizabeth unhappy as she wants to plan her upcoming wedding to Phillip instead of serving her affluent sibling. However, a side effect of the arrival of “Princess” Glory is Elizabeth begins to question what she knows about her fiancé. As the two siblings turn to one another for the first time in years, each wonders who the man is tentatively in their respective lives.

Although the climax seems off kilter, Under the Skin is a fascinating tale of two sisters, opposites in every way, finally bonding after all these years. Character driven, including by the rural Appalachia setting, readers will enjoy Vicki Lane’s entertaining thriller as the Goodweather siblings need to find one another to survive an ordeal that tests their sisterhood.

Harriet Klausner

The Cat's Table-Michael Ondaatje

The Cat's Table

Michael Ondaatje

Kopf, Oct 7 2011, $26.00

OSBN: 9780307700117

Eleven year old Michael is leaving his home in Ceylon for the first time to join his divorced mother living in England. Michael is traveling alone though a first class passenger promised his uncles and aunts to keep an eye on him. The lad is taken aback when he sees the multistoried castle he will sail on lying majestically large in Colombo Harbor. His bunk on the Oronsay is under the waves so he has no porthole.

He is assigned Table 76 for his meals. There are nine people at 76 including two boys (extroverted Cassius who he knows from school and pensive Ramadhin) his age. Another table 76 occupant Miss Laqueri explains they eat at the Cat’s Table, which is to keep the dregs the furthest from the exclusive Captain’s Table. The lads run amuck getting into one stormy escapade after another while traveling the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea while being fascinated by the mystery of the chained prisoner. Meanwhile Michael is attracted to his older vivacious cousin Emily as she is kind to him, places deaf Asuntha under her protective wing and gallivants with a performer.

Award winning author Michael Ondaatje provides a strong coming of age thriller that contains a metaphysical undercurrent for those who know the background of the writer. Michael’s journey is filled with youthful adventures but also metaphorically symbolizes the journey of life as the adult is the child without the innocence. The Cat's Table is an excellent character driven drama, which, unlike Paradise Lost can become Paradise Regained, though innocence lost is gone forever.

Harriet Klausner

The English Patient-Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje

Everyman’s Library, Oct 4 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780307700872

Hana the Canadian nurse has cared for the English Patient for four months. She knows his body as well as a lover would, but knows very little about who he really is. The Bedouin found him in the Sahara when he ejected from his crashing blazing airplane. They put out the fire engulfing his body, wrapped him carefully and brought him to the Italian villa where the allies set up a hospital amidst undetonated Nazi bombs. Now the others have left except for the maniacal nurse and her English Patient.

Hana is not concerned with who her English Patient is and what he might have done or even if he is married; as he has given her a reason to live. Still grieving the death of her father, Hana feels that the unknown burn victim is her family. However, her idyllic parasite is invaded by thieving spy Caravaggio who was tortured and maimed by the enemy, and Kip the Sikh from India working as a sapper mine detonation expert for the British army in North Africa. The newcomers feel as displaced by the war as do the Canadian and her patient.

This is reprint of one of the most haunting classic war stories ever written. The story line focuses on displacement of four people who had diverse roles in WWII. Each character is fully developed coming from different cultures though all are part of the sun setting on the British Empire as the war closes. All’s quiet on the African front, but the aftermath of war remains as volatile as the unexploded ordinance; symbolized by these protagonists who come together over the mystery of whom is the English Patient.

Harriet Klausner

Nanjing Requiem-Ha Jin

Nanjing Requiem

Ha Jin

Pantheon, Oct 18 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307379764

In 1937, the Japanese occupation force takes control of Nanjing with a brutal violence to insure the suppressed population could not rebel. American missionary dean of Jinling Women's College Minnie Vautrin is horrified with what she witnesses and what she hears as the Japanese army terrorizes civilians with mass slaughter and rape. She and her assistant Anling Gao open the college as a shelter to the homeless. While the Japanese threaten to destroy her school and her, Minnie continues to act as the "Goddess of Mercy" to over ten thousand battle fatigued women and children.

Anling bears her own demon in secret. Her daughter in law is Japanese so though she desperately wants to welcome her son’s wife and worse her grandchild as her kin, she cannot acknowledge them if she does not want to become a pariah in her community and ineffective in assisting Minnie. She takes solace with her work helping the Goddess of Mercy perform miracles by risking their lives. Still both women feel tormented by those they could not save from the horrific murdering and raping of Nanking.

With a nod to Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanjing, Ha Jin provides a powerful cautionary historical thriller with a focus on the real life missionary who the author makes a strong case deserves international legendary status for what she did at a sacrifice to herself. Reading somewhat like a biographical fiction, Anling tells the tale of her boss’ efforts and sacrifice to rescue the beleaguered unprotected civilians from a reign of terror.

Harriet Klausner

The Wedding Quilt-Jennifer Chiaverini

The Wedding Quilt

Jennifer Chiaverini

Dutton, Nov 1 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9780525952428

In 2028 Sarah McClure owns Elm Creek Manor where her daughter Caroline is getting married. Attending the wedding on the bride’s side besides her friends and family is the Elm Creek Quilters.

Sarah looks back to when Caroline and her twin James were born to her and Matt. Inheriting the manor, Sarah saved the Elm Creek Quilt Camp from insolvency. She recalls the Quilters being there for her during her pregnancy but Matt was away much of the time helping his father with his business. Musing about some of her cherished Quilters and their quilts, Sarah is caught by surprise when her bookworm daughter decides to create a special wedding quilt since Caroline never was passionate about quilting like her mom is. Sarah wants to help her daughter’s dream come true as she never made a wedding quilt, but is unaware that her historian loving son is secretly seeing Gina.

The latest Elm Creek Quilts drama is for die hard fans only as the story line consists of a series of flashback vignettes from previous novels. The cast is as always is solid and references to the “Founding Mother” Sylvia add to the tale. However, there is little conflict amongst the party; as The Wedding Quilt mostly summarizes much of the major episodic events from previous novels.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reality Jane-Shannon Nering

Reality Jane

Shannon Nering

Bancroft, Oct 31 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781610880282

The self help reality guru of media Ricky Dean hires Canadian journalist Jane Kaufman as a television producer. She travels to Hollywood where she is almost famous while on call 24/7. She became a caffeine addict with her daily coffee seemingly matching her age of twenty-eight; and learning the ropes of reality TV means throwing the innocent lambs like the obese seven child to the wolves dressed as fans.

After growing up in a loyal caring Canadian prairie family, Jane struggles with backstabbers and dealing with maniacal guests and their rapacious retinue. Her fill in when she can have a personal life limited to no sleep has faithful Grant as her boyfriend, but sexy Alex owns her fantasy libido. However, it is that seven year old fat girl whose hysteria is a wake up call to Reality Jane as she ponders how future generations looking back at her accomplishments would react.

Reality Jane is an entertaining satire on the survival of the nastiest in Hollywood’s reality shows written by an insider. Jane is terrific as she realizes who has her back and who is stabbing her back. With an is that all there is theme, Shannon Nering provides an intriguing portrait of a woman who enjoys the reality media concept, but loathes the belief that the attendees want blood from the participants; who are unwitting volunteer Christians facing lions inside the Roman Coliseum.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Queens of All the Earth-Hannah Sternberg

Queens of All the Earth

Hannah Sternberg

Bancroft, Oct 1 2011, $13.95

ISBN: 9781610880329

In Williamsburg, Virginia, a van has been packed with stuff for Olivia Somerset to begin as a freshman at Cornell. However, Olivia abruptly shuts down. Her older sister Miranda the accountant in a state of panic calls 911. The EMTs check out Olivia who physically is normal but emotionally has shut down. They cannot do anything for the catatonic Olivia, but their College of William and Mary professor mom who is giving a presentation tells her oldest daughter to call Dr. Simons. He explains to Miranda she is buried inside her brain and should not be left alone.

Months later, Olivia remains in Virginia struggling to be what she was before she broke down. She also knows she must cope with her father's death that she thinks triggered her collapse. Miranda suggests they travel to Barcelona where they stay at a coed dormitory style hostel. There they meet other quirky people with both sisters finding a romantic interest.

With a nod to E. E. Cummings' "Orientale," Queens of All the Earth is an intriguing character study that looks deeply at a young woman trying to get up from the rug (with her family’s help) where she metamorphic lies since her massive mental meltdown. Although the support cast is not very deep in spite of being important to the story line, readers will enjoy two sisters seeking their respective grooves in the Mediterranean.

Harriet Klausner

If I Tell-Janet Gurtler

If I Tell

Janet Gurtler

Sourcebooks, Oct 1 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9781402261039

Westwind High-school senior seventeen years old Jaz believes she is a pariah because she is biracial; thus neither the black nor while students at school welcome her. However, she is also her own worst enemy with an angry temper that comes across like a terrible two tantrum. Her friend Ashley the lesbian insists her only problem is a lack of self esteem that leads to Jaz wearing a sign that says victim available for kicking down. She has other buddies like BFF Lacey who is always there for her even though she is unappreciated. Finally there is grandma who raised her.

Currently she is angry at her single mom for seeing Simon who Jaz saw kissing Lacey. Complicating matters is her mom is carrying Jaz’s future half-sibling. The teen wants to tell someone, but is unsure who. At a party, Jaz and new transfer student Jackson meet. They like each other and the kiss they share is heavenly. However, Jaz trusts no one so she keeps the former juvy drug dealing Jackson at a distance. Likewise, using temper tantrums, she does the same with her BFF, Simon, mom and her new baby brother. Only those who love her refuse to back away from Jaz.

This character driven teen drama is a terrific tale due to a strong cast. Besides Jaz on her self destructive path, her support group has fully developed characters who constantly remind the hurting teenager that they are there for her as they patiently encourage her to realize that the grass is green on her side of the fence due to her caring friends and family.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Ballantine, Oct 11 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345524966

The key to the twenty-two short stories collection is how the various contributors pay homage to Jane Austen in diverse ways; the authors stayed true to their prime genre but did it while honoring the great writer. A woman spends “A Night at Northanger” (by Lauren Willig) where she meets a famous ghost. Sara receives a gift of a locket with Austen’s hair inside as her boyfriend ends their relationship; when she wakes up she finds Austen;s spirit at her side to guide her as "The Ghostwriter" (by Elizabeth Ashton). In 2010 Austen sends her “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” (by Adriana Trigiani) to her engaged niece while Jo Beverly brings humor in "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" and Janet Mullany’s “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” shows one degree of separation between Jane and the Beatles. With hooks to the novels like Jane Odiwe’s “Waiting” for Persuasion" and Laurie Viera Rigler’s law suits against Pride and Prejudice rip-offs (see “Intolerable Stupidity”), this is a fun anthology; sub title aside.

Harriet Klausner

Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy: Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor

Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy: Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor

Ozzy Osbourne , Chris Ayres

Grand Central, Oct 11 2011, $26.99

ISBN: 9781455503339

Combing his advice columns in Rolling stone and the Sunday Times enhanced with additional memorable incidents, Ozzie Osbourne provides a humorous survivor’s handbook by a man recognized as the human drug experiment having tried every known elixir and not known potions. That does not include his cognac consumption. Known for biting the head off a bat, but not known for the rabies treatment that followed, Dr. Ozzy is at his irreverent best with this anecdotal collection that will have readers saying he did what. Perhaps the best section is the questions from fans asking Dr. Ozzy for advice, which he provides in spite of Dr. Malory Practice insisting he is un-certifiable to give consultations. Filled with humor and a don’t try this at home attitude, readers will enjoy the best “Advice from Rock's Ultimate Survivor”. To paraphrase former Indians Manager Mike Hargrove when he said "That's just Manny being Manny”; that’s Ozzy just being Ozzy. While his wife Sharon compares his survivor acumen to cockroaches, this amusing advice book proves Ozzy Osbourne is the ultimate Darwin Award winner as he challenges the survivor tenet.

Harriet Klausner

I'm Not Her-Janet Gurtler

I'm Not Her

Janet Gurtler

Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9781402256363

In Washington State, Tess the brain is the younger sister of the most popular girl at Great Heights High School they both attend. Kristina is a beautiful athletic extrovert while Tess is a brilliant introvert. However, Tess’ I’m Not her attitude changes when her sibling’s volleyball career crashes with the diagnosis that she suffers from bone cancer. As the family relationships take on a new dynamic, Kristina receives chemo right way.

Kristina goes from the top of the world to the Grand Canyon of depression. Although she loathes being the center of attention, Tess suddenly becomes in at school as everyone wants news flashes on Kristina; Tess’ BFF Melissa seems to gloat with the fall of the school queen ending a friendship since fifth grade. Their mom exacerbates the situation with parties and shopping sprees as she is in denial refusing to accept her oldest daughter is deathly ill. Their dad avoids his three females hiding at work. However, while Tess works on winning the Oswald Drawing Prize, she finds boys like Nick Evonic interested in her, but receives emotional support from an academic rival Clark Trent who understands what she is going through; while Tess is there for Kristina.

Ironically Tess tells the tale of how her sister’s illness changes relationships in the family and community, Kristina though often off page holds the insightful story line together. The cast is strong as the actions and reactions of various townsfolk towards Kristina reveal their inner strengths and weaknesses. Young adult readers will appreciate this insightful tale as it takes a village to cope with a deadly disease assaulting a teen.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn-Persia Woolley

Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn

Persia Woolley

Sourcebooks, Nov 1 2011, $16.99

ISBN: 9781402246432

Queen Guinevere lies in a cell awaiting her execution looking back to how far she has fallen for trying to do the right thing by her people and her liege. After years of civil war, King Arthur has brought a tenuous peace to his kingdom. Unable to bear a child, his lonely wife raises her stepson Mordred, the offspring of Arthur and his half-sister Morgause. Mordred adulates his father emulating Arthur until he learns his maternal roots. Arthur’s other half sister the Lady of the Lake Morgan le Fey believes she should rule the kingdom so she sets in motion a deadly conflict between father and son.

Over the years she supported Arthur as few had though his Knights of the Round Table and his ambitious family with few exceptions scorned her. She respected Arthur while she loved Lancelot, but kept her distance from the King’s Champion. However, Arthur’s half-brother Agravain who believed he should have been king set in motion the scenario between Guinevere and Lancelot that has her in her death cell.

The third Guinevere trilogy is a terrific finish to the legend of Camelot through the eyes of an alleged betrayer of the king’s heart and soul. The story line is fast-paced partly because of the modern day speech that enables the audience to easily enter post Roman Britannia. The cast is solid as the knights come to life, but like its predecessors (see Child of the Northern Spring and Queen of the Summer Stars); the telling of the legend comes from the unique filter of the pagan Queen (who thinks the hunt for the Holy Grail is a foolish waste of treasure for a shaky cause).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Little Gale Gumbo-Ericka Marks

Little Gale Gumbo

Ericka Marks

NAL, Oct 4 2011, $14.00

ISBN: 9780451234650

In 1977 Camille Bergeron accompanied by her two daughters Dahlia and Josie left New Orleans to escape her abusive husband Charles as she fears he will harm their children. She opens up the Little Gale Gumbo Café on Little Gale Island, Maine. On the barrier island, she rents a room from Ben Haskell. He is instantly attracted to the best praline maker in New England while his teenage son Matthew is gaga for Camille’s daughters. While most of the islanders do not welcome the three Creole females, they cannot resist her food. The three Bergeron females and the two Haskell males become a close knit family.

By 2002 Camille and Ben live together in love and harmony. Josie eagerly learned her mom’s recipes and remains attracted to Matthew who desires Dahlia; while Dahlia has become a loose woman sleeping around and hurting her high school boyfriend Jack Thurlow. Charles the drug dealer visited his girls periodically since his females deserted him. When he returns to Little Gale, Charles assaults Ben; Charles dies while lying next to him Ben is in a coma. The three next generation come back home to be there for the patriarch; while secrets concealed for years surface tearing apart an extended family.

Little Gale Gumbo is an entertaining family drama starring a strong cast as the key sextet are fully developed and the islanders add local color to an intriguing suspense. The story line is well written, but does slow down with vivid descriptions of the island and the café’s food. With a deft late twist, fans will enjoy stopping at the Little Gale Gumbo for good food and to learn the secrets.

Harriet Klausner

Little Gale Gumbo-Ericka Marks

Little Gale Gumbo

Ericka Marks

NAL, Oct 4 2011, $14.00

ISBN: 9780451234650

In 1977 Camille Bergeron accompanied by her two daughters Dahlia and Josie left New Orleans to escape her abusive husband Charles as she fears he will harm their children. She opens up the Little Gale Gumbo Café on Little Gale Island, Maine. On the barrier island, she rents a room from Ben Haskell. He is instantly attracted to the best praline maker in New England while his teenage son Matthew is gaga for Camille’s daughters. While most of the islanders do not welcome the three Creole females, they cannot resist her food. The three Bergeron females and the two Haskell males become a close knit family.

By 2002 Camille and Ben live together in love and harmony. Josie eagerly learned her mom’s recipes and remains attracted to Matthew who desires Dahlia; while Dahlia has become a loose woman sleeping around and hurting her high school boyfriend Jack Thurlow. Charles the drug dealer visited his girls periodically since his females deserted him. When he returns to Little Gale, Charles assaults Ben; Charles dies while lying next to him Ben is in a coma. The three next generation come back home to be there for the patriarch; while secrets concealed for years surface tearing apart an extended family.

Little Gale Gumbo is an entertaining family drama starring a strong cast as the key sextet are fully developed and the islanders add local color to an intriguing suspense. The story line is well written, but does slow down with vivid descriptions of the island and the café’s food. With a deft late twist, fans will enjoy stopping at the Little Gale Gumbo for good food and to learn the secrets.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife -Carolyn Erickson

The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife

Carolyn Erickson

St. Martin’s, Sep 27 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312596903

Her ambitious family sends young Jane Seymour to the royal court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. She likes the queen as do many at court; and is heartbroken when Catherine’s newborn son died one hour after birth. Loyal to the queen, Jane appallingly observes her insidious peer Anne Boleyn seduce King Henry VIII. When Henry begins a religious reformation starting with canning Catherine and replacing her with Anne, Jane is horrified but tries to remain on the political sidelines. Queen Anne rages at any young female at court including reticent Jane who is to marry her friend Will Dorme though she loves someone else. Just before Henry is to have Anne executed for god’s wrath of birthing no heir he asks Jane to be his third wife. Reluctantly she agrees. She tries to be the Queen to all her countrymen and a mother to Henry’s children. Ironically she expects to follow her predecessors with a short marriage, which proves true as she dies giving birth to the male heir.

The latest Tudor biographical fiction (see The Rival to the Queen, the First Elizabeth and The Last Wife of Henry VIII) by historian Carolyn Erickson is another strong look at a leading player on the Henry VIII stage. Jane comes across as a quiet caring person who soothed the savage beast with her calm demeanor. Though the subject of several historical fictions (see Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner and Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir), The Favored Queen is an engaging tale that fans of all things Tudor will enjoy.

Harriet Klausner

Falling Together-Marisa de los Santos

Falling Together

Marisa de los Santos

Morrow, Oct 4 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061670879

Will, Cat and Pen became friends over Beowulf at college. They remained BFFs throughout their undergraduate years, but their friendship ended when Cat married her long term boyfriend Jason; who Will and Pen loathed. As they graduated, the trio agreed to never contact one another ever again.

Six years later, Cat emails her two former BFFs pleading with them to attend the college reunion so they can see one another. Unable to resist, Pen accompanied by her five years old daughter Augusta and Will go to the reunion to see Cat. Both are stunned with what awaits them at the reunion and beyond.

This is a terrific character study that deftly changes into an engaging mystery. The cast is extremely well developed and not just the lead trio as the support players bring plenty of oomph to the plot. Readers will want to travel with the three protagonists on a journey of awakening even though the walk down the Yellowbrick Road is too long and straightforward; as the trio and fans learn not all that glitters is gold and some that does not glitter is golden.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red-Robed Priestess-Elizabeth Cunningham

Red-Robed Priestess

Elizabeth Cunningham

Monkfish, Nov 15 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9780982324691

She is in the twilight of her year but Mary “Maeve the Celtic” Magdalene has much to accomplish in what is left of her life. In her sixties, she still attracts lovers like the newly appointed Governor of Britain General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus who looks somewhat like Jesus. In Gaul, they make love, but Maeve knows that their relationship can go nowhere because of his official position.

When she crosses the Channel with Jesus’ daughter Sarah, he is right behind her to get to the fort and take control of the soldiers. Heeding Sarah’s blandishment, Maeve seeks out her first born, taken from her by the druid who raped her four decades ago. On her quest, she returns to where she was exiled forty years ago. The druids inform Maeve that her offspring is Boudica, adopted by the Iceni and their Queen. She leads the revolt against theRoman forces. In retaliation to her revolt, Paulinus’ troops rape and batter her children. The Praetor and Maeve make love for the last time as the lines are drawn and Maeve readies herself for the tragedy to come

The final Maeve Chronicles is a superb tale that can stand alone as a magnificent biblical historical fiction story, but is enhanced with the previous entries in the life of Mary Magdalen (see Magdalen Rising: The Beginning, Bright Dark Madonna and The Passion of Mary Magdalen). The story line combines mysticism, biblical references and historical accounts to anchor the strong climax in time and place as Mary returns to her Maeve and her Celtic roots. Readers will relish her end of her mortal days as she is pulled by her attraction to the General, her desire to protect her warrior daughter and her need to spread the word with Sarah at her side, not to mention knowing she will soon be with her beloved Jesus.

Harriet Klausner

The Comforts of Home-Jodi Thomas

The Comforts of Home

Jodi Thomas

Berkley, Nov 1 2011, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425244487

In Harmony, Texas, funeral home director Tyler Wright has loved Major Kate Cummings for years but struggles to tell her how he feels for fear his devotion will drive her away like she has done before. Rodeo performer Noah MacAllen loves his BFF Reagan Truman, but she has another beau in firefighter Brandon Biggs while she also knows her foster father “Uncle” Jeremiah is dying; she also fears Noah will get hurt performing at the rodeo. Maternal abuse victim, reticent Ronelle Logan and crippled raging recluse Martin Winslow help each other crawl out of their respective shells. Denver Sims wants Claire Matheson to commit exclusively to him like he will do to her.

However, a tornado strikes the town. The frightened survivors reassess what matters in their lives.

The third Harmony small-town drama is an engaging tale that focuses on the relationships between several couples and potential parings as a vicious storm hits the Texas community. It behooves fans to have read the previous two tales (Welcome to Harmony and Somewhere Along the Way) to see how far the relations have changed. With a nod to Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove contemporary addresses, fans will enjoy visiting Harmony to see old friends and meet new ones.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Einstein On the Road-Josef Eisinger

Einstein On the Road

Josef Eisinger

Prometheus Books, Sep 20 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9781616144609

Famous for his work on physics and tired of war in Europe, in 1921 Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa visited the United States. In 1922 they traveled to the Far East stopping in Singapore, China and Japan where both are awed by the various cultures they encounter and appalled by the abject poverty they witness. From there the couple went to Palestine and Spain before going to South America in 1925. Finally in the early 1930s the scientist and his spouse came to Pasadena and New York. When Hitler and the Nazis took over Germany, the Einstein pair settled in Princeton and became American citizens. On his global meandering for over a decade, Dr. Einstein kept a travelogue of what fascinated him and what angered him. Einstein On the Road is an intriguing look at the great scientist through his musings on subjects like the locations he visited, the Nazis final solution and other butchering, his conversion from pacifist to Zionist activist, his dealings with royals, heads of state, scientists, and children who he considered his true peers and his love of movies. Readers obtain a memoir that provides a much wider look at the witty brilliant physicist. This is an excellent glimpse at the man whose name denotes brilliance through his observations and conclusions.

Harriet Klausner

The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken-Mari Passananti

The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken

Mari Passananti

Rutland Square Press, Jul 8 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9780615493640

In New York, Zoe muses that no one as a child thinks of becoming a headhunter managing other people’s careers while hers stagnates. However that is what has become since graduating a decade ago from Princeton with an art history degree. For almost ten years Zoe and Brendan have been an entry, but now as they plan their wedding he ends their relationship not with a bang but with a whimper.

Zoe fears diving into the modern day dating scene as she has had Brendan at her side for years. She meets charming wealthy Oscar who seems perfect for her, but she has doubts as she thought Brendan was perfect for her. Instead she seeks the worst in Oscar and alienates her BFFs Angela and Kevin by doing so.

Filled with twists, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken is a warm chick lit tale starring an intelligent woman who feels like a failure in relationships and work. Zoe makes the plot work as she wears her broken heart on her sleeve while seeking a Brendan replacement as she feels all her other tsuris will go away if she finds a man. Mari Passananti provides a wonderful contemporary romance with a touch of suspense as Zoe Clark seeks her groove based on a misguided concept that a man in her life will make everything perfect; rather than she thriving with or without a male mate to make everything perfect.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings-Alison Weir

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

Alison Weir

Ballantine, Oct 4 2011, $28.00

ISBN: 9780345521330

This is a terrific biography of a woman who was the older sister to one of the merry wives of King Henry VIII and mistress to her brother-in-law and his rival across the Channel King Francois I of France. Allison Weir asserts with a logical argument that the romanticized novels and the papal commentary of Mary Boleyn as a whore is false. Instead, she was an intelligent woman who went with the flow realizing her choices were limited. Her first husband William Carey was extremely influential at Henry’s court and would most likely never settle for a whoring spouse. Her second husband commoner William Stafford also from an influential family with ties to the king had no reason to settle on a whoring widow who was older than him and was mother to two small children. Instead Ms. Weir believes Mary had no say in whether she would be The Mistress of Kings. The historian also argues against the belief that her subject’s two children were sired by Henry as at least her son (Henry) was the offspring of William. Finally she debunks the so called heroic redemption of Mary interceding with her lover the king to save her sister’s life as a myth with no substantial support; a survivor Mary would know most likely she would join Anne in the Tower awaiting execution. Born most likely in 1498 and dead forty-five years later, she was a product of the Tudor era. Inductive reasoning shows a lack of supportive documents from those friendly or neutral towards the Boleyn family condemning her. Only enemies of her or her family call her a whore. This is a strong look at a woman surviving the men in her life, but unable to speak out agonist the false portrayal of her as a “great and infamous whore”. Alison Weir champions a more plausible fairer assessment.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner-Meir Shalev and Evan Fallenberg (Translator)

My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner

Meir Shalev and Evan Fallenberg (Translator)

Schocken, Oct 6 2911, $25.00

ISBN: 9780805242874

This is warm hearted often amusing memoir of the author’s grandparents. Aharon and Tonia left Russia in the early 1920s to move to the Holy Land. They planned to become farmers in Palestine. At the same time, Aharon’s brother Yeshayahu relocated in Los Angeles to become a businessman. Whereas Aharon and Tonia lived in poverty while supporting a Zionist state for Jews around the world to come home after centuries of the diaspora, Yeshayahu becomes rich. Tonia obsesses over keeping their house clean from dust, but refuses to use the vacuum svieeperrr sent by her brother-in-law because she feels strongly she must do the job by hand and rag and cannot allow the General Electric machine to become dirty. Aharon loathes the gizmo that represents in his mind his sibling worshipping the god of capitalism instead of helping the Zionists movement. This and much more like Tonia’s Jewish grandmotherly words of wisdom on changing socks and girls make for a wonderful insightful memoir as Meir Shalev pays homage to his grandparents who he visited as a young boy.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saving June-Hannah Harrington

Saving June

Hannah Harrington

Harlequin Teen, Nov 22 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9780373210244

In Michigan, a few days before she is to graduate from high school, June Scott committed suicide. After her funeral, her sixteen years old sister Harper wants to know two things; first why and why can’t family and friends leave her grieve in peace. To escape the well meaning trite, Harper hides in the backyard where she runs into her late sibling’s friend Jake, who apparently created the final musical interlude June listened to as she died.

Harper wonders whether June’s boyfriend Tyler the cheat, her parents divorce, her mom’s refusal to let her go to California for college, or the sisters’ estrangement is the prime cause. With a need to grieve her way while seeking closure with her sister’s death and her parents’ war over urns; Harper, her best friend Laney, and Jake as the driver head to California to spread June’s ashes.

This is a profound look at the impact of teen suicide on surviving loved ones. The cast is solid as readers learn what drove June over the edge, her parents are so not there for her sister, and even the death of their child fails to abate temporarily the divorce war. Although the attraction between Harper and Jake at times intrudes the poignant grief, readers will understand Harper's narration as she mourns her loss and regrets failing to see the signs of weakness in her allegedly stronger older sister.

Harriet Klausner

The Christmas Wedding-James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

The Christmas Wedding

James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Little, Brown, Oct 17 2011, $25.99

ISBN: 9780316097390

Fiftyish widow schoolteacher Gaby Summerhill's husband died three years ago. Since the family patriarch’s death, Gaby’s adult children drifted apart while she ate her way through her grief. The thinner Gaby sends a DVD to her four adult children, inviting them, their spouses and her grandchildren to spend Christmas in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and attend her wedding. She coyly refuses to name the groom as three men her age (childhood friend Tom Hayden, Rabbi Jacob Coleman and brother-in-law Martin Summerhill) want to marry her. The four children want to come to Stockbridge, which will be the first time they will be together since they buried their dad.

In Myrtle Beach, thirty-five year old Claire lives with her pot head abusive slacker husband Hank, their chip off his stoned dad’s marihuana teenage son Gus and their tweener twins (Toby and Gabriele) Thirty-four year old Lizzie lives near her mom, but is struggling with her husband Mike's illness while raising their young daughter Tallulah. Twenty-nine years old Manhattan attorney Emily is burned out from over work while her spouse Bart is a neurology resident. Finally the only male offspring twenty-six years old wannabe author Seth lives in Boston with his girlfriend commercial artist Andie.

The Christmas Wedding is an entertaining family affair as the extended Summerhill clan struggle with a myriad of tsuris. The story line is faster than a sleigh going downhill in the snowy Bronx. However, none of the ensemble cast is fully developed as James Patterson and Richard DiLallo never provide much background to what led the quintet and their retinue to where they are. Still this is a fun holiday tale as Gaby Summerhill invites readers to the wedding of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 12, 2011

One Voice Too Many-Paul Martin Midden

One Voice Too Many

Paul Martin Midden

AuthorHouse, Jul 6 2011, $21.00

ISBN: 9781463413262

Forty-nine year old white male Jeremy Walker was musing about Swedenborg the eighteenth century mystic on his way to work. However, a traffic jam on the interstate ends his ride from Biltmore to the suburbs. The amiable carpenter walks away from his truck, goes to a nearby diner and orders a burger with fries before he starts screaming hysterically. The police take him to a psycho ward and contact his former wife Macy.

When Jeremy and divorcee Macy Caldwell met, they instantly were attracted to one another. They begin seeing one another. After telling her daughter Taylor she met someone she likes, they quickly marry as he wants this one to last forever and she needs this one to work. However, like all his past relationships, this one in spite of their love for one another fails as Jeremy has had only one successful relationship in his disturbed life with the Voice; but perhaps his breakdown will lead to a second chance

One Voice Too Many is not an easy read as Paul Martin Midden digs into the mind of a troubled individual. Character driven by Jeremy, but enhanced by Macy, the Voice and others, readers will appreciate this fascinating profound psychological drama; as Mr. Madden asks can even a loved one know the true essence of someone else when that other person probably does not know themselves.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aleph-Paulo Coelho


Paulo Coelho

Knopf, Sep 27 2011, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307700186

Although an international acclaimed author, Paulo faces a spiritual crisis. He tells his Tradition guide J. that he believes his journeys are over as he can no longer grow. J. suggests he get out on a rejuvenation tour to meet people that will lead him to the Aleph where time is a constant sameness and force him away from dwelling on his previous lives. Reluctantly at first he visits six countries which energize Paulo for the first time in awhile.

Two months into his pilgrimage, Paulo is scheduled to ride the Trans-Siberian railway between Moscow to Vladivostok; making stops on his book tour of Russia. At his hotel in Moscow, Hilel the violinist introduces herself to him before leaving. The next day at his book singing, she is back. Paulo denies knowing who she is but both know he is lying. During the Inquisition in previous lives, they shared the Aleph, but he cowardly betrayed her. He believes his actions towards her are why he cannot grow anymore. As they reconnect, each knows they need to forgive before they can bravely embrace their love and move closer to happiness in and out of the mystical Aleph.

Aleph is not an easy read as the protagonist, the woman he loves in their different lives and his guide tends to use metaphoric transcendentalist talk. The key cast is fully developed in the present arc and so are the glimpses into their past lives especially the inquisition incident. Those readers who appreciate something radically different will enjoy the journeys of Paulo and Hilel to try to cleanse their past if they want a happy future; but in 2006 Russia history seems on the verge of repeating what happened five centuries ago.

Harriet Klausner

Rose in a Storm-Jon Katz

Rose in a Storm

Jon Katz

Random House, Sep 13 2011, $14.00

ISBN: 9780345502667

Sam the Farmer and Rose the herding mixed breed dog have been together for six years at Granville Farm since she introduced herself to the widower when she was eight weeks old. They have become best buddies and kindred souls as both are workaholics.

During the lambing season, a horrific blizzard of the century assaults Granville Farm. Structures collapse under the tons of snow and Sam breaks his leg and more after a tumble from a slippery roof. Already overworked keeping the other animals safe, responsible Rose takes over running the farm while her human partner is flown to a hospital. When a vicious pack of coyotes attack, Rose becomes hurt in the melee but keeps fighting aided by an enigmatic seemingly paranormal wolf and Flash the wild dog.

Rose in a Storm is a fascinating whimsical family drama starring a wonderful canine protagonist, her human partner, and her new dog pal. The poignant story line avoids sweetness but instead focuses on what makes a dog contented, which varies. Through Rose’s observations, readers also learn how lonely Sam has been since his wife Katie died, but he has has a friend and partner on the farm and maybe even a pet. No one gets into the Soul of a Dog deeper than Jon Katz does.

Harriet Klausner

Queen of the Summer Stars-Persia Woolley

Queen of the Summer Stars

Persia Woolley

Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2011, $16.99

ISBN: 9781402246401

Queen Guinevere loves her husband of two years Arthur and supports his efforts to unite the country under his banner as the High King. Her only regret is that she has not birthed the heir to her husband’s throne. Meanwhile Arthur and his loyal Companions deal with the invading Saxons and the unification, which leaves him no time for his wife.

Arthur’s half sister Morgan Le Fey wants the crown so she sets all sorts of plots in motion to harm her brother via her sister-in-law. When Guinevere is accused of murder, Lancelot champions the queen who he had previously been aloof towards. They are attracted to one another, but refuse to do anything that will hurt their beloved Arthur. However, Arthur’s indifference to his wife over the next few years and his rejection of her belief his sister is undermining him force a schism between the king and queen; she turns to Lancelot.

The second Guinevere Trilogy tale (see Child of the Northern Spring) is a great entry that follows the lives of the Camelot key players (the quartet above as well as Gawain and Ragnell; Merlin and Nimue; and Tristan and Isolde, etc.) during the first decade of marriage between Arthur and Guinevere. The tales of the other players insure the story line is more than just a middle transition book though that is a key element. Readers will relish Queen of the Summer Stars as the players are full blooded with flaws while setting in motion for the final tragic consequences caused by Camelot consisting of humans not legends.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Lost Book of Mala R.-Rose MacDowell

The Lost Book of Mala R.

Rose MacDowell

Bantam, Sep 27 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780385338585

In present-day Southern California, former New Yorker Linda worries about her tweener stepdaughter Paige when the news of a nearby homicide is broadcast especially when the child disappears and her frantic father Peter stalks the neighbors in search of his daughter. Her BFF Christine is pregnant after years of futile failure, but her spouse Tim is accused of murdering twentyish Jennifer. Their friend Audrey takes no risks as her family seems to live under a dark cloud of bad luck that is until now when she takes a chance on romance.

As the three struggles with their family issues, they share the journal written by Mala R. in 1948. The Gypsy woman’s entries include spells, recipes and prediction of the future that Nostradamus would have been proud to proclaim. Each turns to the wisdom of Mala R scribed six decades ago while they cope with modern day personal calamities and try to understand the enigma of the Gypsy authoress.

Although the 1948 mystery is obvious, The Lost Book of mala R. is a delightful whimsical thriller that compares the good, the bad and the tsuris between the two eras. The females in both periods are outstanding while the men are drawn enough to matter though not always in a positive light. Readers who appreciate something radically different with enjoy this entertaining character driven tale

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 9, 2011

Child of the Northern Spring: Book One of the Guinevere Trilogy-Persia Woolley

Child of the Northern Spring: Book One of the Guinevere Trilogy

Persia Woolley

Sourcebooks, Nov 1 2010, $16.99

ISBN: 9781402245220

Celtic widower King Leodegrance arranged for his only child Guinevere to marry the High King Arthur in a marriage of political convenience. The betrothed meet to finalize the deal and although she finds him fascinating she has doubts that an uncouth princess from the north, who never left her home or took over her mother’s duties, is the right person to serve as queen.

When the time comes for the chosen one to go top her fiancé to marry him and be his queen, the eighteen year old Guinevere does not want to leave her beloved home, but does her duty. On her trek from the north of Britain, she learns of her future husband’s war prowess as Arthur attempts to unite a divided nation. As the Saxon threat goes unabated and the spread of Christianity appears ready to supersede the mystical Druids, priestesses like Morgan le Fey the Lady of the Lake distrusts the new queen’s ability to rule at Arthur’s side.

The opening of Guinevere trilogy is a terrific coming of age ancient historical thriller. The teenage Child of the Northern Spring lacks confidence when she marries Arthur, but grows into the job as she realizes she has the tenacity and courage to do what is needed for her country. Camelot fans will relish Persia Woolley’s tale as the unsure of her worthiness child starts to transform into a confident blossoming queen.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

Robert L. O'Connell

Random House, Sep 13 2011, $17.00

ISBN: 9780812978674

In 218 BCE, Hannibal led the Carthage army using elephants to invade the Roman Empire by climbing over the Alps. Two years later in Cannae, Italy the two enemies fought again using different tactics. The Romans had superior forces and a short supply line. Yet deploying a pincer movement, Hannibal and his army nearly ended the Roman Empire.

This is a superb look at the participants of the second Punic War mostly from the military sides of both combatants and the Roman civilian actions and reactions; there is much less on how the people of Carthage felt. Fascinating with a super comparative analysis of Rome the conqueror and Carthage the traders as well as a discerning analysis of the strategies of Hannibal including his “panzer pachyderms” taking the fight to Italy, and the two Roman leader rivals Scipio Africanus who confronts the foe with swamping the battlefield and no regard to collateral damage and Fabius Maximus who wanted to delay the fight to attrite the enemy. Well written, the disgraced Roman survivors of the Cannae massacre were hidden from public view exiled to Sicily until Africanus realized they had a motive to insure victory at Zama in Africa. Mr. O’Connell makes references to modern warfare that can trace its roots to Cannae and how the victors write the history books with little regard to the facts as he debunks the revisionists who wrote over the next few centuries following the salting ethnic cleansing) of Carthage.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marriage for Meghan-Mary Ellis

Marriage for Meghan

Mary Ellis

Harvest House, Oct 1 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736930109

In Shreve, Ohio, Mrs. Joanna Kauffman will soon have to leaver her position as the teacher at the Old Order District Amish School due to her pregnancy. Nineteen year old intelligent but immature Meghan Yost wants the job. However, the Elders including her father the bishop has doubts that flighty Meghan can control a class when she cannot control her own impulses. They decide to give her a chance when her older sister Catherine agrees to come home to serve as the head teacher with Meghan as her assistant while waiting for her betrothed Isaiah to complete school in Kentucky.

As the siblings learn on the job, Meghan alienates her best friend Jacob Schultz who wants to court her. Additionally someone vandalizes Amish property and the school is trashed, which leads Wayne County Englisher Sheriff Strickland and FBI Agent Mast to investigate the hate crimes.

The second Wayne County tale (see Abigail’s New Hope) is a wonderful look at the Amish culture as for instance the Bishop upsets his peers when he calls in the outsider to investigate the attacks and Meghan’s brothers turn the other cheek against an assault. The story line is character driven by Meghan but ably supported by her family, her former beau, the students and several Englisher. Although the villain’s motives are left passive, fans will enjoy the return visit to the Yost family.

Harriet Klausner

There You’ll Find Me-Jenny B. Jones

There You’ll Find Me

Jenny B. Jones

Thomas Nelson, Oct 4 2011, $12.99

ISBN: 9781595545404

Al Qaeda terrorist Hassan Al Farran led the bombing of Afghan schoolchildren that also killed CNN correspondent Will Sinclair. His eighteen year old sister Finley loved her big brother and cannot move past his death. A talented musician and daughter of an affluent hotel magnate, Finley decides to honor her brother as an exchange student visiting Ireland where her brother found happiness; she also prays she finds God who abandoned her two years ago when he allowed good people like her sibling and the kids to die

On the flight over the pond, she meets nineteen year old film star Beckett Rush. In Shannon, her host family the O’Callaghan quartet picks her up. While Beckett and Finley begin seeing each other while working on a movie, a mentor begins to help her heal by letting God in and the anger and grief out.

This is an insightful look at teen grief starring a young woman struggling to understand why bad things happen to good people. Finley is a strong protagonist who keeps the story line focused with her customized grief although a key by-product eating disorder is somewhat diminished by a late acknowledgment that she has a problem. Still young adult readers will want to join Finley and Beckett as they fly kites to be closer to Will and other cherished loved ones who have died.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 5, 2011

Song of the Nile-Stephanie Dray

Song of the Nile
Stephanie Dray
Berkley, Oct 4 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425243046

In 25 B.C. in Rome, Cleopatra Selene prepares for her arranged marriage to the Berber King Juba of Mauretania and Numidia. Se muses that her late parents Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Marcus Antony would want her to have married a king in Rome, but not because their enemy Emperor Augustus decreed it. However, she survived by pledging her loyalty to the man who defeated her parents. Since Augustus took Selene, her twin brother Alexander Helios and their youngest offspring Ptolemy Philadelphus into his household as kids aand, the Emperor always thought of her as his Cleopatra. Thus he rationalizes she belongs to him when he rapes her just before she becomes a client queen of his.

Although a stranger in a strange land, Queen Selene thrives in the North African kingdom. Unafraid of Rome or of royal backstabbing, Selene bravely defies the empire when she brings out into the open the worship of the Goddess Isis even with treachery from those who claim to be her friends. In Rome where much began is where much will end.

The second Cleopatra Selene ancient historical fiction (see Lily of the Nile) is a delightful tale that focuses on a real person who Stephanie Dray points out historians have mostly ignored in spite of her being the last Ptolemaic queen instead of her mom and the most powerful of Augustus’ client queens. No longer the child Augustus brought (with her siblings) to Rome, Selene is a courageous individual who seeks religious freedom and acceptance from people in her kingdom and the Empire; yet many proclaim her to be a sorceress. Readers will enjoy the vivid look at the early married years of the Queen of Mauretania and Numidia.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Yankee Doodle Dixie-Lisa Patton

Yankee Doodle Dixie
Lisa Patton
Dunne, Sep 13 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312556938

Leelee “Fiery” Satterfield married her high school sweetheart and left their Memphis home to build a successful Dixie B&B in Vermont. When her spouse left her and their two daughters for bigger boobs, Leelee decides Vermont was his dream. She sells the B&B and with her kids returns to Memphis. Her only New England regret is leaving behind Peter the chef.

Back in Memphis, Leelee’s late parents' former housekeeper Kissie helps her take care of the house and the kids. Leelee obtains a job at Classic Hits FM 99 and reunites with her best friends. At the station she becomes victim to DJ Johnny’s pranks and the assaults including olfactory of Stan the jock. Rock star Liam White meets and likes Leelee so he invites her to attend his New York show, which breaks the station’s rule of no extracurricular activity with the “guests”.

The second Leelee comedic escapades are an entertaining southern family drama but lose the edgy cultural war of a Tennessee rebel in Vermont that made the first tale refreshingly unique (Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter). Still this is a fun tale starring a thirtyish woman whose family (including Kissie), friends and professional relationships make for an entertaining migration back to Dixie.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse-Eric Carle

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
Eric Carle
Philomel/Penguin, Oct 4 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399257131

The child is an artist painting a blue horse followed by a red crocodile and then a yellow cow. The kid continues to paint other animals using colors like orange for the elephant and polka-dots for donkey drawn from pictures in the mind’s eye.

Although the targeted audience is pre-school with a strong message of use your imagination to take you where you want to be, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse is much more. Eric Carle pays homage to Franz Marc who painted The Blue Horse in 1911; he died during WWI and a few years later the Nazis banned his work. Readers of all ages will appreciate Mr. Carle’s original way to encourage the young artist in everyone to draw your imagination and to showcase the work of a great painter from a century ago while also showcasing his on skills. With a green lion, a black polar bear and a purple fox oh my, this is a terrific creative inspirational.

Harriet Klausner

Last Man In The Tower-Aravind Adiga

Last Man In The Tower
Aravind Adiga
Knopf, Sep 20 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307594099

In Mumbai, India real estate developer Dharmen Shah wants to tear down the dilapidated Vishram Society Tower A building and construct a luxurious high-rise condo in its place. Many of the current residents have resided in harmony there for years in what is a melting pot mini community with Hindu, Muslim and Christians living there. Regardless of religious beliefs, everyone even Communists accept the exorbitant money offered by Shah though all knows this will end their community as none will be able to afford the new edifice.

That is everyone accepts the loot except retired widower schoolteacher Mr. Masterji. He refuses to sell his ethics to the developer. Once a welcome part of the middle class residents of Tower A, the teacher is now a pariah pressured to join the avaricious mob.

Last man in the Tower is a powerful character study that looks at the plight of a hold-out who adheres to his principles though he does not quote understand why. With nods to the movies Twelve Angry Men and Batteries Not Included, Aravind Adiga makes a strong case that an apartment building is a harmonious hamlet until the capitalists arrive with plenty of money. Readers will appreciate this deep look at what makes a community and how easily the facade can be nuked.

Harriet Klausner

There But For The-Ali Smith

There But For The
Ali Smith
Pantheon, Sep 6 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780375424090

In Greenwich, England, charming Miles Garth, a guest at a dinner party hosted by Gen and Eric Lee, rises from the table in between the main course and dessert. He goes upstairs and locks himself in a spare bedroom. In spite of coaxing from the bewildered hosts and other confused guests, Miles refuses to leave the room and only responds by notes he delivers under the door.

Rather quickly a crowd surrounds the house curious in a macabre way to observe what Milo, as the watchers have named him, does next. Fortyish Anna Hardie knew Miles when they met as teens in 1980 during a European Grand Tour. Homosexual sexagenarian Mark Palmer, whose late mom speaks to him in verse, met Miles at a Shakespearean event and invited him to this gala. Octogenarian dementia sufferer May Young, who Miles helped with her grieving of her late daughter, tries to return his kindness. Finally tweener Brooke the attention deficit student disliked by her peers does not know him at all as they just met at dinner. As weeks pass, these five and others forge a family of sorts.

There But For The is a fascinating parable that takes a close look at time, which never stops. The four players intermingling with the legendary squatter represent different eras in the lives of people as does the location. Filled with metaphors and quirky characters, Ali Smith provides a profound tale of mortality as the Steve Miller band said: “Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' Into the future.”

Harriet Klausner