Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stand By Me-Neta Jackson

Stand By Me

Neta Jackson

Thomas Nelson, Mar 13 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 9781595548641

University of Arizona pre-Med student Kathryn Davies attends the Midwest Music Festival in Illinois. Following the Resurrection Band concert, Kat has given her heart to Jesus. She knows she must tell her family who will go ballistic as her DNA imprint says medicine; but she enjoys working with kids as she did with ESL students. She plans to transfer to Chicago Crista University to major in Christian Ed.

Three years later, Kat and her school friends attend the SouledOut Community Church, a multi-cultural place of worship where she meets elementary school Principal Avis Douglass. Kat’s mouth gets her in trouble with Avis and others as the student’s tendency to say what she thinks is grating. However, what divides the pair is their path to God as Kat is flamboyant while Avis is reserved. Still they share estrangement from loved ones; Kat from her family in Phoenix and Avis from her MIA youngest daughter.

The first SouledOut Sisters contemporary urban inspirational tale is a great story starring a strong cast especially the lead females who on the surface seem polar opposites but share two essential elements: their love for Jesus who they pray stands with them and the estrangements. Using real social issues like dumpster diving, racism and HIV, Neta Jackson provides her Yada Yada fans with a powerful tale.

Harriet Klausner

Bond Girl-Erin Duffy

Bond Girl

Erin Duffy

Morrow, Jan 24 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780062065896

Alex Garrett always dreamed of taking Manhattan by storm; not song as the latter is Sinatra’s gig whiles hers is Wall St. having just graduated from the University of Virginia in the class of 2006. She feels great about landing a position on the “Street” and getting an apartment in the West Village. Besides no sleep due to the noise of the city that never sleeps, Alex is treated as a female tyro by her office. Instead of trading, she fixes her boss’ spreadsheets, and takes food and drink orders from the males in the office. Although bored, she survives due to a wicked sense of humor. Ultimately Alex begrudgingly earns respect from her colleagues and begins to date a huggable even as the financial tsunami threatens to drown the Street.

This is a fascinating look at Wall St. just prior to and during the Great Recession crisis. The storyline starts breezy and satirical focusing on the pitfalls of a single female newcomer living in the Big Apple and working the Street. When Alex gets her break she spins into Putt’s Law of Failure recommendation to fail big so you can keep your job by learning from your mistakes. However, though timely and entertaining, the trials and tribulations of the newcomer in Manhattan is a typical amusing chick lit with the tsuris level relatively low considering what is going on the Street.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Way-Kristen Wolf

The Way

Kristen Wolf

Crown, Jul 12 2011, $25.00

ISBN: 9780307717696

In 7 A.D. Palestine, the young boys taunt handsome seven year old Anna for looking more like a boy than a girl. Her mother Mari explains that she a boy and a girl. When Mari gives birth to a stillborn boy, Anna’s dad Josef filled with anger and grief stones elderly healer Zahra to death while his daughter watched in horror. Three years later, with her dad still raging and Anna looking even more like a boy than a girl, the child wonders why a dead son is worth more than a living daughter. Josef beats his wife who soon dies and sells Anna as a boy to a visiting shepherd.

In the desert the Sisters secret sect abduct Anna from the shepherds. In their caves, they mentor her in the ancient belief "The Way," which releases dormant power within her. When the Sisters become endangered, the inner Circle sends Anna on a journey to spread the word of the Way among the people. Taking advantage of her male looking physique, she begins her missionary work, which places her at odds with the priests and the Roman overseers. By 33 A.D. in Ancient Palestine, word spreads about a Healer who walks amongst the people helping the downtrodden but refusing any gifts; while betrayal and redemption battle to claim their souls.

This is an intriguing coming of age retelling of the Jesus story starring a flawed heroine who has doubts that she is the one to spread the word of the Way to the masses as she has always been the outsider. The support cast like Judas is shone in different lights than the typical renditions. Fascinating, fans will enjoy the “truth” of Anna’s journey.

Harriet Klausner

Passing Love-Jacqueline E. Luckett

Passing Love

Jacqueline E. Luckett

Grand Central, Jan 25 2012, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446542999

Since she was nine years old and found the bluebook, fifty-six years old Nicole-Marie Handy loves all things French though she has never visited France. Her dying best friend Tamara makes Nicole agree to a death bed pledge of going to Paris. While her married lover Clint asks her to wait; as he swears he will leave his wife Eleanor to marry her and then take her to Paris on their honeymoon.icole ignores Clint and travels to Paris. There she locates a photo of her dad lovingly inscribed by him to RubyMae, a woman she never heard of. She begins to investigate what happened in Paris to her dad after WWII had ended.

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

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 27, 2012

By The King's Design-Christine Trent

By The King's Design

Christine Trent

Kensington, Feb 1 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758265906

In 1812 Leeds, Annabelle Stirling runs her successful cloth making dress shop. Her wastrel brother Wesley and her fiancé Clive Pryce join the Luddites who destroy her new gig machine as immoral. Angry at the double betrayal and believing the Luddites worked for her rivals, Belle demands the authorities do something; they ignore her rants.

Fuming, she heads to London to make her case with the leadership, but the Prince Regent who she meets acts no differently than what she met in Leeds. Architect John Nash takes her under his wings as his mentee while she and cabinet maker Putnam Boyce are attracted to one another. Meanwhile Wesley gets involved with a high level assassin abduction plan.

The latest Christine Trent historical (see A Royal Likeness and The Queen’s Dollmaker) is an engaging Regency story starring a likable protagonist who enjoys her shop vocation; which makes the twin betrayals that much more hurtful. The storyline is driven by undeterred Belle’s need for retribution as she makes a wonderful lead holding the plot together. While the Luddite movement anchors time and place, other historical facts slow down what is overall a strong early nineteenth century tale.

Harriet Klausner

Leaving Lancaster-Kate Lloyd

Leaving Lancaster

Kate Lloyd

David C. Cooke, Mar 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780781405089

In Seattle, Esther informs her thirty something daughter Holly that she received a letter from her grandma begging for her to come home as she needs her. Holly, whose dad died in Vietnam, is a bit taken aback with the news as Grandma Anna is dead. She is even more stunned when her mom sadly says she will hate her. Esther tells Holly, who she knew desperately wanted relatives for years that she lied to her all her life; her mother and her brothers still live in the Lancaster area.

Her BFF Dori agrees to manage Esther’s Amish Shoppe while mother and daughter are away as reluctantly Esther decides to go home to Lancaster County. Holly accompanies her as she wants to meet her grandma, her five uncles and aunts and cousins. They stop at the home of Mennonite Beth Fleming before finally meeting the family. Ass Holly enjoys her time with her kin; she meets and falls in love with Beth’s son Zach.

This is a wonderful refreshing Amish tale that focuses on the complications of second chances. Esther makes the tale work with her trepidation of seeing her mom and brothers (who are all heading to Big Sky Country) after abandoning her family, her community, her religion and her lifestyle decades ago. She prays for forgiveness from her kin especially her Mommy Anna and her daughter. Readers will relish the prodigal child’s return accompanied by her adult offspring.

Harriet Klausner

The Woman Who Loved Jesse James-Cindi Myers

The Woman Who Loved Jesse James

Cindi Myers

Bell Bridge, Jan 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781466473461

In 1864 Missouri, a fire and brimstone Methodist Minister’s daughter Zeralda Mimms and her cousin Quantrill’s Raider Jesse James meet at the wedding of her older sister Lucy to Bowling Browder. Each is attracted to one another and he boldly kisses her. Jesse returns to the fighting. When the war ends, wounded Jesse goes to Zee’s home to heal. As she nurses him back to health, they fall in love. They become engaged and she learns her future husband is a robber and rumored to be a cold blooded killer. She prays that their marriage and their children will straighten out her beloved husband, but that hope is not answered.

The Woman Who Loved Jesse James is a fascinating biographical fiction that looks at the famous outlaw through the eyes of mostly his adulating beloved wife in a world still suffering from the ravages of the war and the consequential agony of defeat. Because of Zee’s loving filter, Jesse comes across as heroic rather than a cold blooded killer. She needs to believe in the goodness rather than the wickedness of her mate who she knows is tender with his family. Well written, readers will enjoy Cindi Myers fine nineteenth century look at Jesse James through his spouse’s loving perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heart Echoes-Sally John

Heart Echoes

Sally John

Tyndale, Mar 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9781414327877

Teal Morgan-Adams knows to the second when her world ended as NPR announced the time over the radio while she crawled on one of the Los Angeles parking lots known as a freeway. The ground began to shake while the announcer warns people to get out of traffic; Teal wonders how even as the overpass crumbled.

Meanwhile her husband River worries about his wife “Xena the warrior” even as his teenage stepdaughter Maiya, who he loves in spite of her obsession to know who her biological dad is (mom refuses to tell her), would laugh about any tremor. However, the worst earthquake he has ever seen in his forty-two years pins him under bins in his garage with his cell phone out of reach. Teal barely survives the road collapse but saw the horror of so many apparently dying. However, tragedy in her hometown of Cedar Pointe, Oregon forces everything to a head.

The latest Side Roads (see Desert Gift) family drama is delightful tale starring engaging protagonists and a strong support cast. The storyline loses some of its zing as the entertaining earthquake subplot becomes overwhelmed by the aftershock in Oregon. Still, fans will enjoy Teal’s homecoming as her daughter and husband put enormous pressure on her.

Harriet Klausner

Beneath a Meth Moon-Jacqueline Woodson

Beneath a Meth Moon

Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, Feb 2 2012, $16.99

ISBN: 9780399252501

Fifteen year old Laurel is filled with remorse as she feels she failed her loved one especially when she turned to meth to numb the pain of death. Having kicked the habit, encouraged by her BFF Kaylee who she let down, she writes an elegy to cleanse her soul and hopefully regain her life. Her downward spiral began when Hurricane Katrina killed her mother and grandmother who remained in the family house when the storm swamped New Orleans.

Her father, her younger brother Jesse Jr. and Laurel obtain temporary shelter in Jackson, Mississippi before moving to Galilee, Iowa in order to start over. Laurel seems to adapt well as she becomes BFF with Kaylee, becomes a cheerleader and dates basketball team captain T-Boom. Still the teen grieves her matriarchal losses; so T-Boom introduces her to “the moon,” which numbs the depression. However, she soon needs more and more moon until she becomes an addict begging people for loose change on the city streets.

This is a great tweener-teen cautionary tale that makes a powerful case that Beneath A Meth Moon the addicting drug takes over your mind and body as you only live for more meth. Laurel’s observations of going to hell and back (she is writing the elegy so she obviously has survived her self-inflicted ordeal) are brilliant as her recollections are dark, choppy and filled with memory gaps. Jacqueline Woodson provides a powerful warning to her tween-teen audience that meth may allow you a moon walk or two but will incarcerate you with a desperate need for more.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories-Nathan Englander

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories

Nathan Englander

Knopf, Feb 7 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307958709

This insightful anthology focuses on living Jewish in a modern fast food world; yet the themes of conflict (modernization and assimilation vs. tradition, anti-Semitism, and grief, etc.) are universal. These excellent eight entries were published previously over the past five or so years but not in one place.

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” stars two married intoxicated women discussing the Holocaust as the secular Jew says the Nazis are the culprit while the orthodox Jew says it is now with assimilation leading to mixed marriages.

“Sister Hills” focuses on a settlement in Samaria over four decades ago in which the heroic Jews build their city, but their rigidity in a changing world leaves everyone in peril.

The students decided an eye for an eye when they confront an anti-Semitic bully in “How We Avenged the Blums,” but now feel haunted with what they did.

He indulged in “Peep Show” porn in Times Square, which gave him pleasure until everyone even the strippers became rabbis lecturing him.

"Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother's Side" has a different tone; that of a cherished memoir.

“Camp Sundown” in the Berkshires hosts seniors who believe one of them is a concentration camp guard who deserves swift justice.

The Author would do book tours to lines out into the street; now no one shows up except one elderly “Reader” who demands he read.

“Free Fruit for Young Widows” who pass down from generation to generation tales of surviving the Holocaust, but the survivor is not the same soul that she was when she entered the death camps.

Harriet Klausner

History of a Pleasure Seeker-Richard Mason

History of a Pleasure Seeker

Richard Mason

Knopf, Feb 7 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307599476

Piet Barol leaned in his recent adolescence that he is a pleasure magnet to most women and many men. He knows his charm comes from his late mom as his dad is a grim university administrator. Thus Piet uses his looks and gracefulness to obtain whatever he desires.

In 1907 in Amsterdam, Piet becomes a tutor to preadolescent mentally ill piano protégé Egbert Vermeulen-Sickerts. Heeding the advice of a footman, Piet avoids the daughters of his sexual abstemious employer but the wife is fair game. However, while almost everyone in the household adores Piet, he has one key adversary, Daughter Louisa, who strips away his charming veneer with a look of scorn. However, he begins to understand his student’s issues as the martinet father brings the wrath of rigid strictness to his son.

This is an intriguing morality tale starring a fascinating protagonist who is not so much a pleasure seeker but a pleasure giver who wants to do right by his student and help others with their tsuris. The key cast members are fully developed as they anchor time and place, and enable the reader to better understand the title protagonist. Although the ending serves only the purpose of setting up the further adventures of the pleasure seeker in South Africa, fans will enjoy his Dutch escapes as The Netherlands in the Queen Wilhelmina Era come to light.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saving Hope-Margaret Daley

Saving Hope

Margaret Daley

Abingdon, Mar 1 2012, $14.99


In Dallas, teenager Rose knows that Kate Winslow, manager of the Beacon of Hope School, will be disappointed in her for borrowing the van. However, she feels she has no choice as her BFF Lily frantically called her from the “Nowhere” Motel where both have had to turn tricks for pimps. Rose believes once she returns with Lily, Kate will forgive her though she will admonish her.

Kate is despondent with worry when Rose fails to return to the school. Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan is assigned to find the girl, but what he learns upsets him as Rose seems to have vanished inside what increasingly looks like human trafficking ring. Matters turn even uglier when someone abducts Kate and his daughter Maddie is threatened to make the Ranger back off.

The key to this terrific contemporary romantic suspense is that the romance takes a back seat to the investigation. The storyline is fast-paced while placing a deep spotlight in child trafficking that at times overwhelms the plot. A touch of inspirational and a stunning late metaphoric twist enhance the exciting Men of the Texas Rangers investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Finding Our Way Home-Charlene Ann Baumbich

Finding Our Way Home

Charlene Ann Baumbich

WaterBrook, Mar 13 2012, $13.99

ISBN 9780307444738

Sasha Davis left Wanonishaw, Minnesota on a scholarship to Juilliard when she was seventeen years old. Twenty years later after starting on the road to becoming an international star as the principal dancer at the Boston-based Mid Central Festival Ballet, Sasha’s career ends in a horrible accident. Depressed, she returns home to allow herself to have a self-pity party as she cannot lift her legs without immense pain; her career is over and perhaps her marriage to her dance partner Donald Major too as she refuses to see him and he refuses to visit her.

Sasha finds encouragement from her optimistic caretaker big boned nineteen years old Evelyn Burt, who has family issues of her own, but refuses to let them get her down though she knows she will have to choose between loved ones. However, the former prima ballerina’s comfort comes from the snow globe of a dancer that her mother gave her when she started the odyssey.

Readers will enjoy this contemporary character study in which Charlene Ann Baumbich enables the audience to understand what each key player, especially the disabled dancer, thinks. Although the audience learns rather late the cause of the estrangement and why the teen feels trapped, patient fans will enjoy the latest wonderful Snowglobe Connections saga (see Divine Appointments) as two female opposites forge a sisterly bond that helps both of them.

Harriet Klausner

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl-Stephanie McAfee

Diary of a Mad Fat Girl

Stephanie McAfee

NAL, Feb 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451236494

In Bugtussle, Mississippi, schoolteacher Graciela (Ace) Jones looks forward to the annual Spring break trip to Panama City with her BFF teacher Lilly Lane. However, nine hours before the drive begins, Lilly cancels. Angry Ace knows it is because of the mysterious Gentleman her friend is seeing. Ace is further mad at Mason McKenzie who is the love of her life though their relationship died three years ago. Thank goodness the size-sixteen teacher has the love of her loyal companion Buster Loo the canine.

While Ace rages, Lilly is accused of having an affair with a student. Their other buddy Chloe Barksdale (Ace hates her friend’s married name) is married to womanizing, abusive Richard Stacks IV, who is a paragon of the community. Ace and Lilly stalk nasty Richard to prove the rat cheats on pathetic Chloe; while Mason is back in town wanting a second chance with the love of his life.

This entertaining small-town Southern sisterhood tale is a fun frolic over the top of Woodall Mountain as readers will wonder how the teachers, who enter boob bars, point guns at male anatomy, try to take down their boss Catherine “bitchy Hilliard, and get arrested, keep their jobs as role models. The title character tells the tale of the tape as she and her comrades take down the skunks of The Magnolia State.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Life of Bright Ideas-Sandra Kring

A Life of Bright Ideas

Sandra Kring

Bantam, Feb 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780553386820

In 1961 in Dauber, Wisconsin BFFs Evelyn “Button” Peters and Winnalee Malone wrote their observations on life in their Book of Bright Ideas in order to avoid the mistakes they noticed others constantly do. The drifted apart with different lifestyles through the tumultuous sixties.

In 1970 Winnalee the flowerchild returns home to find Button seemingly trapped in a nowhere family scenario. Button’s Ma died and her dad quit being a father. She along with her Aunt Verdella raises her younger brother Boohoo while working in the family dress shop. Finally she also misses Jesse who is in the army. Winnalee is taken aback when she learns Button’s Ma died as the woman was her reason for coming home. Soon after her arrival, Winnalee’s mom Freeda arrives with her infant granddaughter, whom the hippie hoped she could leave with Button’s Ma. The two BFFs travel to see Winnalee’s Aunt Harriet who raised her as the flowerchild must come to grips with her child.

The sequel to the Book of Bright Ideas is wonderful female buddy tale that follows up on the lives of the now adultery protagonists. Ironically, Winnalee seems care free and liberated while Button seems imprisoned by family responsibility with no freedom; yet the engaging convoluted relationship character driven storyline will challenge readers to never judge a book solely by its cover.

Harriet Klausner

The Sometimes Daughter-Sherri Wood Emmons

The Sometimes Daughter

Sherri Wood Emmons

Kensington, Jan 31 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758253255

In the mud of Woodstock as Crosby, Stills, and Nash are about to perform, Cassie gives birth to a baby Judy. Over the next few years Cassie remains the war protesting flowerchild indulging in sex and drugs. She takes her infant with her on her anti-Vietnam marches and to parties.

On the other hand Judy’s father Kirk has a revelation with the birth of his daughter. He understands parental responsibility so he cleans up his act to be the best dad to his child he can be. Kirk goes to law school, divorces his wife, and wins custody of Judy taking the child home to Indiana from a Kentucky hippy commune. Cassie flies free only occasionally visiting her child. When her mom moves to an ashram in India, a growing up Judy grieves her loss while struggling to hide her abnormal family so as to fit in the acceptable norm. Kirk remarries Treva adding to his offspring’s feelings of being an outsider; at a time when Cassie finally comes home with a demand to include her Sweet Judy in her life.

Told by the perspective of the young Sweet Judy, fans will see the impact of parents failing to parent and eventually abandoning their child. Judy, Kirk and Cassie are fully developed so the reader understands what motivates each thought he parents are filtered by their child. The support cast is solid as they enhance the child’s feelings of not belonging when they try to help her fit in. The ending fails to provide closure, which is disconcerting, yet seems apropos for this intriguing relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and ForgivinRobert Leleuxg-

The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving

Robert Leleux

St. Martin’s, Jan 17 2012, $19.99

ISBN: 9780312621247

The family matriarch JoAnn is a Texas Steel Magnolia, which means a tougher brand of metal than the other southern states. Noted for her sandpaper tongue that rips the hide off the toughest cowboy, JoAnn is ironically a glamorous southern belle. However, for decades she and her daughter Jessica, a chip off the obstinacy block, remain estranged as the younger woman believed her mother seemed not to care when she or her grandchild needed her. Ironically, just when Jessica gave up on her, she would do something incredible like sending Robert a ton of books. When JoAnn’s memory began to fade due to Alzheimer’s, her family found it as a miracle that brought her back into their lives. Much of the two generations’ anger vanished as Jessica reconciled with her mom and Robert spent quality time with a grandma who never condemned his choices.

This wonderful upbeat memoir looks at Alzheimer’s as a reconciliatory bringing together of an estranged family as by forgetting, JoAnn and her family are forgiving. This positive assertion does not hide from the caretaking problems caused by dementia, but prefers to look at the positive that came out of the disease. Mr. Leleux reminds me of my husband’s fondest memory of his beloved mom during her “Living End” Alzheimer’s in which she did not know who her kids were but euphorically sucked the last neutrino of a chocolate shake. Much of this biography focuses on the generational war and peace as Mr. Leleux latest memoir (see The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) affectionately yet realistically portrays his flawed larger than Texas grandma on her final Cotton Bowl gala.

Harriet Klausner

The Flowers of War-Gelling Yan; translated by Nicky Harman

The Flowers of War-

Gelling Yan; translated by Nicky Harman

Other, Jan 31 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781590515563

In 1937 the Japanese Imperial Army invades Nanking. The St. Mary Magdalene Mission is considered a safe neutral zone by the forces of both sides. American expatriate Father Engelmann protects schoolgirls trapped in his sanctuary though he fears sustenance shortages.

Ignoring the internationally agreed upon protocols of war, invaders commit monstrous atrocities against the local population; females are a particular target. Brothel workers sneak into the mission. Unable to send them away though they exacerbate the dwindling food and water supplies, Father Engleman places them in the basement and the students in the attic. Also inside the mission is wounded Major Dai, who, demands the priest, grant sanctuary to two injured Chinese soldiers. Father Engelmann feels like Solomon without the wisdom; as he knows if he grants the request he threatens the females under his protection from the Japanese, who if they find out will deem the Mission is no longer neutral; if he denies the soldiers they will die.

Mindful of Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, The Flowers of War is an intriguing look at the Massacre from the perspective of those hiding inside the mission. The storyline is deep as readers obtain a deep look at the Chinese holocaust. However, ironically none of the cast moves passed typical stereotyping; for instance the American priest shoulders the “white man’s burden”, the usual prostitutes as seen in Ms. Yan's The Lost Daughter of Happiness, and the inane rivalry between students. Well written, fans will enjoy The Flowers of War as readers are reminded never forget, although there is no Minnie Vautrin.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The House on Butterfly Way-Elizabeth Bevarly

The House on Butterfly Way

Elizabeth Bevarly

Berkley, Feb 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425245347

In Louisville, Eugenie Dashner grew up in the Manitou Hills neighborhood. As a child she loved Fleurissant, the beautiful Victorian House on Butterfly Way. Now like the dilapidated mansion she always dreamed of living in, Eugenie’s life is a shambles. She and her husband recently divorced with her obtaining custody of their teenage son Seth who seems eternally angry at her.

Encouraged by her widower brother Julian, she and her sibling buy the fixer-upper though funds are tight. Living with Eugenie and surly Seth are her mother the queen of crankiness Lorraine, Julian and his two young daughters (Chloe and Sophie). Eugenie finds it ironic that she obtains a position as a relationship facilitator at Heartmenders dating service. Meanwhile she begins the arduous task of renovating Fleurissant and her soul.

The House on Butterfly Way is a superb family drama that stars a protagonist whose reflections on her life mirrors her reflections on her house. The family members are unique people with plenty of tsuris. However, this is Eugenie’s tale of middle age renovation of her heart and soul as most emotional destruction even a broken heart can be mended.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, January 9, 2012

The King’s Agent-Donna Russo Morin

The King’s Agent

Donna Russo Morin

Kensington, Feb 28 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780758246820

Battista della Palla understands his role, if he wants to live, is to obtain by any means necessary masterpieces for his patron King François I of France. He and his seven man crew have been so successful that Battista is a favorite of the monarch and residents of Florence enjoy the royal patronage.

King François I and his only viable rival for ruling Western Europe King Charles V of Spain appear on the brink of turning their cultural cold war into heated deadly hostilities. Needing an edge, François sends his top royal art procurer to obtain (Battista knows that connotes steal) an ancient Greek sculpture protected by dangerous guardians as the relic allegedly will lead to the owner reigning victoriously. As he and his unit begin the trek across Italy, Lady Aurelia sneaks away from her overbearing guardian the Marquess of Mantua Federica of Gonzaga. Aurelia manages to join the traveling troupe though she conceals from her benefactor an inconvenient truth.

Using real persona like the hero (an art agent for Francois I) and the Marquess to anchor time and place, Donna Russo Morin provides another wonderful Renaissance thriller (see To Serve a King and The Secret of the Glass). The action-packed historical story line is enhanced by engaging fantasy elements, a bittersweet romance, homage to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the schism between Da Vinci (paintings) and Michelangelo (sculptures). Fast-paced, readers will want to tour sixteenth century Italy with the King’s Agent as their guide.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Lost Daughter-Lucy Ferriss

The Lost Daughter

Lucy Ferriss

Berkley, Feb 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425245569

Fifteen years ago when Brooke O’Connor was seventeen years old, she gave birth to her boyfriend Alex’s daughter. Brooke abandoned her baby for dead at a motel in Windermere, Connecticut. Whereas an upset Alex left for Japan where he married and had a son who died; Brooke gave up college to work at a plant nursery and married Sean while raising their daughter together.

Alex returns from Japan at a time when the O’Connor marriage is shaky as Sean wants another child while an increasingly remorseful Brooke says no without further explanation. Alex and Brooke meet for the first time since she left behind her oldest in Windermere. Their first encounter in fifteen years causes shockwaves.

This is an intriguing character study that looks deeply at the long term impact of difficult decisions made as a teen still haunting the adult over a decade and a half later. Although the over use of happenchance drives while detracting from the anticipated psychological collision, contemporary readers will appreciate this bittersweet extended poignant family drama starring real people with baggage that hinders each of them.

Harriet Klausner