Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knit One Pearl One-Gil McNeil

Knit One Pearl One

Gil McNeil

Voice/HarperCollins, Dec 27 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9781401341671

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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

The Ata Bita Pie Cafe: Advice is Free

Bonnie Drury

CreateSpace, Oct 16 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9781463517359

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Fall Down-Megan Hart

All Fall Down

Megan Hart

Mira, Dec 27 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313069

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

The House At Tyneford-Natasha Solomons

The House At Tyneford

Natasha Solomons

Plume, Dec 27 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452297647

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

All The Flowers in Shanghai-Duncan Jepson

All The Flowers in Shanghai

Duncan Jepson

Morrow, Dec 20 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9780062081605

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

At the Mercy of the Queen-Anne Clinard Barnhill

At the Mercy of the Queen

Anne Clinard Barnhill

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

ISBN: 9780312662134

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rescuer’s Path-Paula Friedman

The Rescuer’s Path

Paula Friedman

Plain View Press, Jan 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781935514886

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sinners and Saints-Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Sinners and Saints

Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Touchstone, Jan 10 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451608151

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Money Never Sleeps-Tu-Shonda Whitaker

Money Never Sleeps

Tu-Shonda Whitaker

One World/Ballantine, Dec 6 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345525123

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inseparable-Dora Heldt; translated by Jamie Lee Searle


Dora Heldt; translated by Jamie Lee Searle

AmazonCrossing, Dec 6 2011, $13.95

ISBN: 9781611090222

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

RingGoRound-Patda Jim


Patda Jim

Warren Publishing Group, Nov 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781427636119

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saving June-Hannah Harrington

Saving June

Hannah Harrington

Harlequin Teen, Nov 22 2011, $9.99

ISBN: 9780373210244

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Narrows Gate-Jim Fusilli

Narrows Gate

Jim Fusilli

AmazonEncore, Nov 15 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781612181370

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

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Singled Out-Sara Griffiths

Singled Out

Sara Griffiths

Bancroft, Dec 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9781890862954

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Autobiography-Agatha Christie

An Autobiography

Agatha Christie

Harper, Nov 22 2011, $29.99

ISBN: 9780062073594

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

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 6, 2011

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

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Eric Metaxas

Thomas Nelson, Aug 30 2011, $19.99

ISBN: 9781595552464

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

Harriet Klausner

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

Adam and Evelyn

Ingo Schulze; John E. Woods (Translator)

Knopf, Nov 8 2011, $27.95

ISBN: 9780307272812

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Sophie and the Rising Sun-Augusta Trobaugh

Sophie and the Rising Sun

Augusta Trobaugh

Bell Bridge, Oct 14 2011, $12.95

ISBN: 9781611940534

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 5, 2011

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

Shaq Uncut: My Story

Shaquille O’Neal with Jackie MacMullan

Grand Central, Nov 15 2011, $27.99

ISBN: 9781455504411

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

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 4, 2011

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

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

Ian Morgan Cron

Thomas Nelson, Jun 7 2011, $15.99

ISBN: 9780849946103

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

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

Harriet Klausner

The Land of Painted Caves-Jean M. Auel

The Land of Painted Caves

Jean M. Auel

Bantam, Nov 11 2011, $17.00

ISBN: 9780553383201

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Khan: Empire of Silver-Conn Iggulden

Khan: Empire of Silver

Conn Iggulden

Bantam, Nov 22 2011, $16.00

ISBN: 9780385344258

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chosen-Chandra Hoffman


Chandra Hoffman

Harper, Nov 8 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061974311

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

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

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

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Hard Not to Hate You-Valerie Frankel

It's Hard Not to Hate You

Valerie Frankel

St. Martin’s, Sep 13 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312609788

Her doctor informed Valerie Frankel that her family tree was a hanging tree as the DNA made her and her blood relatives susceptible to abdomenal cancer. As such she was told to reduce stress. The author decided the best way to lesson her stress level was to release the causes like air from a balloon. Thus Ms. Frankel has written a jocular series of essays on what has been her pent up in her gut anger about to turn into a raging nuclear meltdown. More a series of anecdotal entries that loosely tie into an amusing but insightful memoir Ms. Frankel takes shots at those who criticized her for being overweight or for writing chick lit. No one escapes including her mom and her once two BFFs who disclaimed her in seventh grade. Taking kvetching to a degree that only a practitioner of Hebonics could deliver; this is a well written entertaining collection of essays. Perhaps the most relevant is “The Subway Sandwich Shop” in which her daughter informs her Dad that “Mom had a tuna meltdown." With a pointed cover and filled with heart felt kvetching that hit home, readers will commiserate with the tsuris, laugh with the exposing of those who deserve hemorrhoids named for them, and kvetch with Ms. Frankel as this is an amusing stress releaser that affirms laugher is a great healer.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Journey to New Canaan-Glenda Allen Reid and Luann Allen Payne

The Journey to New Canaan

Glenda Allen Reid and Luann Allen Payne

CrossBooks Publishing, Sept 16 2011, $19.95

ISBN: 9781462706525

In the late 1850s, Gabriel Lyon heir to the New Canaan planation in Baton Rouge leaves home to attend Amherst College in Maine. His father is bitterly disappointed in his son, but could not grasp Gabriel’s calling and his loathing of slavery since he was five years old. Gabriel considers his family’s slave Liza as his mother instead of the woman who birthed him and knows his dad would die of heart failure if he met his son’s best friend Charles Wood.

In 1860 nearing graduation and chosen by a small congregation as their preacher, Gabriel asks Professor Hall to bless his marrying the latter’s daughter Josephine. However, a letter arrives informing Gabriel his father is dying. He returns home and helps his father save his soul while making a deathbed promise to his dad that he would run New Canaan; his faith in the Lord tells him this is God’s mysterious plan for him. As he tries to save the plantation, be a devoted man of God, and a good husband, Gabriel finds the Civil War encroaching on him, his family, his slaves and his neighbors.

This is an insightful look at the south during the Civil War. A man of God, Gabriel is the glue who holds the well written story line together. However, it is the ensemble support cast that brings to life time and place; summed up by Ben who was a slave all his life and abruptly is declared a free man who has no idea how a free man lives. The Allen sisters provide a well written profound regional historical thriller.

Harriet Klausner