Monday, February 27, 2012

Worlds Collide-Karen Wiesner

Worlds Collide

Karen Wiesner

Whiskey Creek, Mar 2012, $17.95

ISBN: 9781611600193

For twelve years Dr. Marcus Samuels has worked as a pediatrician at Nagasaki’s Children’s Christian Hospital, but feels as he turns forty it is time to go home to Chicago. He has missed family events like the death of his sister-in-law and his widower brother finding love again (see Foolish Games) and the rape of his sister and her finding happiness (see Glass Angels). He prays his return will end his severe anxiety attacks that only kept in check by his belief he does God’s work and his close friend Dr. Keiko Oichi.

When he learns his mom suffered a heart attack, Marcus has one more compelling reason to go home though he knows he will miss Keiko and her older brother Haruki who as foreign exchange students in the States converted to Christianity. However, he is shocked when Keiko informs him she is accompanying him back to the States as she is engaged since she was seven to older Ryu a porno manga superstar. She is attracted to Marcus who held back because of her engagement. As they recognize their love, her family patriarch demands she honors her commitments in marriage and faith.

The latest Family Heirlooms Christian family drama (see Shards of Ashley) is a fabulous tale as two cultures collide with the focus on Keiko. Readers will relish this fine entry as traditional Japanese collides with modern day American while Marcus fears he is casing a rift between his beloved and her family; failing to understand he is not the cause as she chooses.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Rural Affair-Catherine Alliott

A Rural Affair

Catherine Alliott

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402260117

A recent widow, Poppy Shilling concludes she erred when she married Phil who died when blue ice hit him as he biked. Poppy came to her belief upon learning of Phil’s clandestine other life. Poppy calls her neighbor Jennie who along with Angie and Peggy arrives quickly. Besides feeling guilt over wanting Phil dead, she worries how their two young children (Clemmie and Archie) will cope. Poppy hopes to have fun dating men but not committing.

Jennie struggles with the behavior of her spouse the Toad; while Angie has separated from her husband; and Peggy smokes to hide her loneliness. While her friends commiserate with her loss, Poppy is attracted to a man who has a glamorous woman in his life that a mother of two cannot compete with, but also has a secret admirer.

This is an amusing British character study that sets the tone with the discussion on dreaming of dead husbands between Poppy and Jennie. The breezy storyline is fast-paced though the dark humor supersedes plausibility starting with the sixth death in decades from the friendly skies. Readers will enjoy the mother of two seeking A Rural Affair, but relearning how convoluted relationships are.

Harriet Klausner

The Needle In The Blood-Sarah Bower

The Needle In The Blood

Sarah Bower

Sourcebooks, Mar 6 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402265914

A few weeks after his half-brother William of Normandy conquered England, Bishop Odo of Bayeux Odo decides to celebrate the victory over Harold with an embroidery like none before. He assigns his sister Agatha, known as Sister Jean-Baptiste of the Convent of Saint Justina The Virgin, to oversee the project. She employs several Saxon women to embroider the glory of the Battle of Hastings including Gytha, a lady-in-waiting to Harold’s Queen Eidth, but now a whore as like her Highness, William’s conquest ended her position at court.

She accepts Sister Jean-Baptiste invitation to work the commemoration, but plans to use this to kill Bishop Odo who schemes to become the Archbishop of Canterbury for what he and his odious Normans did to her Saxons especially Eidth. Instead she cannot plunge the knife into her avowed adversary. They fall in love, but his many enemies see his mistress as his Achilles heel that they can use against him.

This is an engaging biographical fiction that sub-genre fans will enjoy based on real persona and the theory that the Bayou Tapestry was commissioned by Odo for his new cathedral. The engaging storyline contains a passionate love subplot as Sarah Bowers reflects the essence of the brutal transition of power starting just after the Conquest and for the few years.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grace-T. Greenwood


T. Greenwood

Kensington, Mar 27 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758250926

In Two Rivers, Vermont, the father points his rifle at his son. Not long before this confrontation, thirteen year old Trevor Kennedy finds comfort from his dysfunctional family with photography. His father Kurt struggles with a failing business. His mother Elsbeth is a serial ship lifter who only cares about her five year old daughter Gracy. Trevor’s grandfather has become an obsessed hoarder.

At school, bullies taunt Trevor, but he is starting to push back. At home he feels increasing isolation except with his younger sister. Only teenager Crystal, who gave up her baby for adoption, understands the haunting suffered by Trevor through the photos he brings to be developed at the store where she works. As the schism widens, Kurt points his rifle at his son.

Grace is a powerful character driven tale of a family in trouble. The viewpoint rotates between the members of the Kennedy clan and Crystal as each deals poorly with demons eating away their innards. Fans will appreciate this deep look at despondent disturbed individuals while wondering whether the dad will kill his son and how it got to that moment.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 24, 2012

When the Night-Christina Comencini; Marina Harss (translator)

When the Night

Christina Comencini; Marina Harss (translator)

Other Press, Apr 24 2012, $15.95

ISBN 9781590515112

Feeling like she cannot breath or do anything right, Marina struggles with her husband’s obsessive probing. Needing to escape the glare, Marina, accompanied by her two year old son Marco, goes on a month-long vacation in the Dolomites. Her landlord Manfred, whose wife just left him, prefers a local renter of his upstairs apartment, but in July he settles for the only interested party, the mother and toddler.

Following an accident, Manfred rescues the pair. He intervenes when her son refuses to eat or behave as the misogynist, who detests all women, thinks she is a lousy mother. Yet the two adults have a n attraction to one another in spite of his harsh treatment of her. Fifteen years later, she returns still obsessed over what she dreams should have been.

When The Night is a deep psychological tale that looks into the souls of two mentally wounded warriors who fear relationships because they have failed at them. That profound scrutiny into the minds of the adults is two edged as it brings a powerful focus on motives especially phobic, but also lingers too long keeping the storyline’s pace rather slow. Still fans who enjoy a pensive glimpse into the hearts and souls of the protagonists will want to read Christina Comencini engaging drama while wondering if the memory matches the second time encounter.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dark River Road-Virginia Brown

Dark River Road

Virginia Brown

Bell Bridge, Nov 15 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9781611940558

In 1987 in Cane Creek, Mississippi, fourteen year old Chantry Callahan lives with his mom, his stepfather, his younger brother Mikey and two older stepbrothers. He believes his biological father died in Viet Nam. His stepfather Rainey hated the two reminders that his spouse was married once before; especially Mike who needs heart surgery and walks with braces. Chantry turned to the family’s black neighbor Dempsey Rivers the gardener as a father figure while he played with the daughter Tansey whose mother was white.

The Quinton family owns the town as they have for generations. Bert is the patriarch who rules as a despot while his spoiled grandson Chris enjoys his status as a future heir by picking on other though he has one chick in his royal armor; his attraction to unacceptable Tansy. Chantry and Bert’s granddaughter Cinda begin dating until her mother ends their relationship and the town patriarch takes it out on the lad’s loved ones. Chantry leaves town, but vows to return to learn the truth. Fifteen years later he is back seeking justice.

This is an entertaining regional drama told in two distinct periods with both eras coming vividly to life as the Mississippi Delta having radically changed in many ways in the fifteen year gap; yet in key ways remain the same as Bert still owns the town. Character driven with several mysteries then and now, fans will enjoy Chantry’s return home that shakes decades of status quo.

Harriet Klausner

The Singles-Meredith Goldstein

The Singles

Meredith Goldstein

Plume, Apr 24 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452298057

In Annapolis, bride to be Beth Eleanor “Bee” Evans works on placing the singles at a tables who are attending her wedding to Matt Fee. She considers where to seat Vicki, Hannah, Rob, Joe and Nancy.

New York based casting director Hannah is upset as she hoped her first lover Rob would help her through the weekend of seeing her second lover Tom for the first time since he dumped her. Instead she turns to Vicki as Rob is staying in Austin with his epileptic dog Liz. Bee’s divorced with child Uncle Joe knows his sister-in-law Donna does not want him at the wedding; when he sees Rochester based grocery store interior decorator Vicki, he thinks she is the woman he had sex with in Reno; while she carries a guitar case containing her social affective disorder lamp. Widow Nancy sends her son Camden Yards security chief Phil to attend the marriage. The dynamics of the Singles will shake the wedding weekend.

The escapades of the Singles at the wedding reception are fun to follow with an engaging rotating viewpoint. However, the prime ensemble cast is underdeveloped so some of their aberrant behavior like taking a pill from a stranger or jumping the bones of someone you just met is hard to gauge in full context of who they are and prevents readers from caring for the characters. Still the evolution of the Singles over that weekend is an enjoyable character driven tale as each of the quintet begins to move on with their lives.

Harriet Klausner

Enchantments-Kathryn Harrison


Kathryn Harrison

Random House, Mar 6 2012, $27.00

ISBN: 9781400063475

In 1917 hemophiliac Rasputin is found dead in the Neva River. Tsarina Alexandra worries about the health of her son Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov as the late Mad Monk was his healer in the lad’s on-going battle with hemophilia at a time when pressure mounts for her husband Tsar Nikoly to abdicate. Rasputin names the Tsar as guardian to his two teenage daughters. However, the Tsarina has a different reason to send for Rasputin’s oldest child, eighteen years old Masha, as she hopes the child inherited her father’s power so she can tend to her offspring.

Masha and her sister Varya take the train from St. Petersburg to Tsarskie Selo as they journey to The Alexander palace where the former Russian royal family resides. Masha lacks the legendary skills of her infamous sire, but she and Alyosha as she calls Alex become friends. Two months after the sisters arrive, the Tsar and his family is placed under house arrest. The pair shares tales to pass time, alleviate their fears, and not dwell on what is lost.

This is an interesting work of historical fiction that focuses on the last months of the Romanovs through the eyes of Rasputin’s daughter. The tidbits of Tsarist life in the early twentieth century is vivid and insightful as the audience get to know a lot about the family of the last Russian ruler and Rasputin. However, neither Masha nor Alyosha seem fully developed beyond their stories and friendship. Still this is an engaging look at the final days of the Romanov dynasty.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 20, 2012

City of Slaughter-Cynthia Drew

City of Slaughter

Cynthia Drew

Fithian Press/Daniel & Daniel Publishers, Mar 10 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9781564745149

In 5661 (1899 in the Julian calendar) in the Jewish village Lucava, Reuven Akselrod the printer provides seditious documents for those Russians outlawed as traitors. The Cossacks burn Lucava to the ground killing Reuven and his wife Yona. Their daughters (thirteen years old Carsie and nine years old Lilia escape in a wagon driven away by disgraced Cossack Mikheladze. They make it to Trushkeny, but Lilia suffers from typhus. Max Siegel takes the three into his tavern where Mikheladze tends to the child. Lilia recovers but the kind Cossack catches the fever and dies. Months later Max proposes to Carsie who reluctantly accepts. However, sneaky felonious postman Zirl Bakhton needs the siblings to leave as they can read so he arranges for the sisters to travel in the caravan to the west sponsored by affluent Rothschild, but not before stealing most of the money.

The two sisters arrive in New York where they live with relatives in the overcrowded Lower East Side. Each obtains work in the sweatshops and by 1911 both are employed at the Triangle Waist Company while Carsie still dreams of becoming a milliner owner of her own shop.

City Of Slaughter is an excellent historical fiction novel that focuses on a Jew’s life under Pogrom Russia and in teeming New York. Character driven by courageous Carsie who watches loved ones die due to mankind’s inhumanity, but she refuses to quit on her life’s aspiration. Fans will relish this strong look at the plight, dreams, setbacks and triumph of a Jew who is far from an American princess as she brings a spotlight on the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sweet Talk-Stephanie Vaughn

Sweet Talk

Stephanie Vaughn

Other Press, Feb 28 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781590515167

This is a reprint of an excellent ten story collection first published as an anthology in 1990. Many of the entries deal with childhood, family and dogs who are key family members even after they go onto “Dog Heaven” (“Kid MacArthur” and the classic “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog”). Others focus on young women dealing with issues like infidelity as an upset woman realizes her spouse impregnated her BFF in ``The Architecture of California'' and cheating is the norm for “Other Women.” In “Snow Angel,” a snowstorm traps a mother with no escape from her two children and in wintry weather a driver crashes into a police car musing “We're on TV in the Universe.” This is a strong collection throughout summed up nicely by an extended family identity in "My Mother Breathing Light."

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In-Flight Entertainment: Stories-Helen Simpson

In-Flight Entertainment: Stories

Helen Simpson

Knopf, Feb 24 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9780307595584

On the micro level, this thirteen short story collection focuses on all types of relationships as people realize death is the outcome; on the macro level the contributions provide a cautionary theme of humanity’s suicidal destruction of the planet. All the entries are excellent as Helen Simpson smoothly blends her big and little pictures into a cohesive anthology. The opening title story In-Flight Entertainment has an indifferent flyer upgraded to first class only to find his row mate passionately blaming mankind for an inconvenient truth caused by the dangerous carbon footprint ironically including air travel. The academic ridicules his lover over her environmental fears as “ecospeak”, but that scorn proves to be The Tipping Point" ending their relationship. The romantic "Geography Boy" cannot win his beloved’s heart fully as she fears the death of the planet nears, but each tries as they have each other when the end comes. The business guru once again proves "Ahead of the Pack" of lemmings with a plan to make money on the global warming fears. "Diary of an Interesting Year" sums up the compilation as by the year 2040 avarice fuels mankinds destruction. With the tome differing from humorous to stark essayist, this is a great collection summed up by Pogo” We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Harriet Klausner

Friday, February 17, 2012

O’Briens-Peter Behrens


Peter Behrens

Pantheon, Mar 6 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307379931

On St. Patrick’s Day 1900 in Montreal, Michael O’Brien joins a cavalry unit to fight in the Boer War. Michael leaves behind five children (oldest is thirteen years old Joe, Grattan, Tom, Hope and Kate) and a wife (Ellenora). Joe took over the role of patriarch making sure everyone was fed. The new priest Father Lillis thinks stoic silent Joe is the loneliest person in the world. What Joe thought was temporary becomes permanent when Ellenora learns Michel died at Geluck’s Farm. Six months later, Ellenora married wastrel Mick Heaney who brings nothing but an appetite for drink to the table. Two years later Ellenora is dead.

With the mentoring of Father Lillis, fifteen years old Joe begins a successful lumber company. When Mick molests Hope and Kate, Joe and his brothers retaliate. Over the years Joe becomes a railroad builder while his siblings move on with their lives. Business takes him to California where he gets together with Grattan and meets Iseult Wilkins. His sister Elise gives her a camera, but soon afterward Iseult and Joe marry and have three children; with Joe obsessed with his construction company, and Iseult with their kids, charity and photography.

This is an epic family drama that focuses on the child being the adult. The storyline brings to life construction during the early twentieth century as Joe is the prime player though his extended family plays major roles. Although some sections seem overly descriptive slowing down an insightful family drama; fans will enjoy the biographical fictional account of the O’Briens.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bring Me One of Everything-Leslie Hall Pinder

Bring Me One of Everything

Leslie Hall Pinder

Grey Swan Press; Feb 6 2012, $16.95

ISBN: 9780983490012

In British Columbia, fortyish Alicia Purcell has been hired to write the libretto for an opera based on the late anthropologist and Haida expert scholar Austin Hart. Alicia heads to Vancouver to research the opera’s subject who committed suicide and to visit her estranged mom Sophia suffering from cancer.

Alicia learns what drove Hart including his leading the cutting down of the Haida totem poles in the 1950s so they could be placed in museums. As she reads his papers and talks to his family and friends, and the Haida tribe on Queen Charlotte Islands, Alicia looks introspective and decides what is important as she begins to reconcile with her mom.

From the opening cutting down of the Weeping Woman Totem Pole until the final aria is sung, the aptly titled Bring Me One of Everything is a thought provoking tale starring a seemingly compulsively obsessed woman with a gut need to know the whys of her subject. The debate over the “safety” of the totem poles is intelligent as readers will ponder between the museum with its easy accessibility and controlled environment or the natural habitat; ironically ownership was irrelevant during the 1950s and earlier as possession by the powerful was ten tenths of the law. With a deep look at Haida art and the subsequent cutting down and removal of the Totems, fans will appreciate Leslie Hall Pinder’s fabulous insightful story.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trail of the Spellmans--Lisa Lutz

Trail of the Spellmans

Lisa Lutz

Simon & Schuster, Feb 28 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9781451608120

San Francisco private investigator Izzy Spellman avoids her live in boyfriend Henry Stone as if he has a contagious disease. His mom Gertrude is visiting him and she fears what he means when he insists they “talk”. Meanwhile three clients hire the family to conduct surveillance. Margaret Slayer wants her spouse observed; Adam Cooper wants his sister followed; and parents want their daughter Vivian Blake, a Berkley freshman, followed.

At the same time, Izzy’s mom becomes the hobby queen with CIA baking and Russian crocheting her way to nirvana. Her brother David tosses out her sister Rae from the basement apartment of his house that she has lived in. While her father speaks in code as if English was a second language, the three surveillances cases morph into one super inquiry while Walter Perkins calls about his stove.

The latest Spellman thriller (see The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans and The Spellmans Strike Again) is a humorous madcap tale as the family that investigates together fights with each other. Fast-paced, Izzy quickly concludes her siblings, parents and boyfriend are crazier than she is; even if her new drinking buddy is Henry’s mom Gertrude as she employs the Avoidance Method.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Tragedy of Arthur-Arthur Phillips

The Tragedy of Arthur

Arthur Phillips

Random House, Feb 21 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780812977929

Twin siblings Arthur and Diana Phillips grew up in Glasgow. They were best friends as children enjoying the antics of their extroverted impish father whose passion was the Bard and not Nancy Drew. They enjoyed their time with him; that is when he was not in prison where he spent much of his life; as dad was also an expert forger. Dana was more a chop off the paternal block as she became an actress and a Shakespearean expert. Arthur became a writer but unlike his dad or sister he thinks the Bard stinks.

Now elderly with his lust for life dimmed after a long time in jail, dad is being released. He asks Arthur for one favor; secure his copy of “The Tragedy of Arthur” written by William Shakespeare. Arthur assumes this is his father’s final scam though his dad insists he stole it from a British estate in between prison time. Meanwhile Arthur looks back at his life, career and relationship including with Dana as a tragedy. Then there is the play.

This is a clever satirical frolic that combines a “memoir” with a “classic” lost play while lampooning both genres and reviewers alike. Told in two parts (an “autobiographic” Introduction and an alleged Shakespearean play “The Tragedy of Arthur”, fans will relish both entries; however, the biggest difficulty is not skipping the super pseudo memoir to read the play. Arthur Phillips proves a fabulous tragedy of two Arthurs.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dance Of The Electric Hummingbird-Patricia Walker

Dance Of The Electric Hummingbird

Patricia Walker

Square One Publishers, Nov15 2011, $17.95

ISBN: 9780984495573

In 2003 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Dee and Pat Walker enter the Cabo Wabo Cantina to hear owner Sammy Hager perform. Ironically she never heard of the famous rock musician former Van Halen fame who has been playing for three decades plus. However, his performance triggers thoughts of dreams long forgotten by Pat as she feels she floated away from her body onto a white light of euphoria. Pat believes she found her lost soul and God. This is the beginning of her enlightenment journey into the enigmatic psychic realm. Pat envisions past lives and meets angels and otherworldly essences while fearing she has lost her mind. Desperate she returns to Sammy Hagar who tries to act as her guide into what neither can explain or understand; only accept that music is a path to the enlightenment of being.

Most readers including me will begin with at best skeptical scorn that a rock musician’s performance instead of just getting you to dance to the music is the path to understanding life and beyond. Those of us who open our closed mind will find a fascinating journey whether you believe in the magic of the music or not. Like Patricia Walker, I thought initially she was a lunatic and would stop reading early on; but to her credit she makes a passionate case that music triggered the beginning of her inner quest for harmony. Fans, even some of us who remain doubting Thomasinas, will appreciate Ms. Walker’s engaging and encouraging Dance of the Electric Hummingbird as music is a healer so why not an impetus to the search for one’s inner soul.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 11, 2012

If You Were Here-Jen Lancaster

If You Were Here

Jen Lancaster

NAL, Mar 6 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451236685

In the Chicago burbs, Amish zombie romance young adult writer Mia and her husband Mac seek to buy their first home. They find in the market the house used by John Hughes in Sixteen Candles. Mia believes strongly this is their destiny so they purchase the fixer-upper.

However, neither Mia nor Mac was prepared for how much repair is needed. Their first rude awakening is when the toilets collapse through termite-infested rotted floors, but cannot find a contractor to work on their project. At the homeowners' association meeting the pair finds themselves being ripped asunder by conflicting groups. Their neighbors prove hostile and their former landlord nasty. As the bills mount and the isolation remains unmovable, the relationship between the couple begins to crack under the stress of home repair.

John Hughes seems to be in favor with his movies referred to in Easy A and throughout this jocular contemporary updating of The Money Pit (ironically a Richard Benjamin movie). The lighthearted storyline is amusing as the M&M new rule is Murphy's Law may be “whatever can go wrong will go wrong”, but Schwartz's Law applies to them as “Murphy was an optimist.”

Harriet Klausner

How To Eat A Cupcake-Meg Donohue

How To Eat A Cupcake

Meg Donohue

Harper, Mar 13 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780062069283

In the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, the affluent St. Clair family hires Ecuadorian Lucia Quintana as their nanny-cook; the new employee and her little daughter Annie live on the enormous estate. The same age, Julia St. Clair and Annie became close friends growing up in the mansion. However, as seniors at Devon Prep, Julia betrays Annie just before the latter’s mother dies mysteriously.

Julia goes to New York while Anna becomes a highly regarded pastry chef. Nearing thirty, Julia returns home to marry Wesley Trehorn. Her mother Lolly hires Annie to provide dessert for a charity gala. This leads to Julia and Annie seeing each other for the first time in a decade even as Jake Logan arrives. However, Julia keeps a secret that could ruin her happiness and also persuades her former BFF to open up a cup cake bakery. As each of the two women seeks to forgive and move on, someone wants to destroy them.

This is an entertaining mostly sweet chick lit tale of two women trying to regain what they once shared and lost. The cast is extremely powerful as the rotating perspective enables the readers to understand how Julia and Anna feel while also moving the enjoyable storyline forward. Although the stalking subplot adds tension and the culprit has a powerful justification for the actions, this detracts from a terrific Treat of sisterhood rebounding.

Harriet Klausner

Losing Clementine-Ashley Ream

Losing Clementine

Ashley Ream

Morrow, Mar 6 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062093639

Extremely depressed and off her meds artist Clementine Pritchard decided to commit suicide. She has given herself thirty days to determine her exit strategy. To begin with Clementine fires her shrink as she figures death means she does not need to see any doctor. Then she lets go of her assistant Jenny Pritchard who barely holds back the tears with the news. That done she tosses her tea set out the window nearly braining odious Mrs. Epstein. The countdown has begun in earnest as Clementine knows the only individual who will truly miss her is Chuckles the cat; yet she also refuses to leave a mess behind for whoever has to clean up her death.

The key to this dark often graveyard amusing character study is the profound complex look at depression but does so without using the mental illness as an alibi to justify Clementine’s erratic behavior. Ironically as she plans to kill herself, she does so in an orderly manner; mindful of a leaper taking off their watch so it does not break. Readers will wonder throughout whether Clementine will take the poison she bought in Tijuana or become saved like in It’s A Wonderful Life. With a nod to Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why I Killed Myself, Ashley Ream provides a powerful tale as Chuckles becomes the barometer of Clementine’s “To be or not to be” life altering decision.

Harriet Klausner

Being Lara-Lola Jaye

Being Lara

Lola Jaye

Morrow, Mar 13 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062069344

In fifth grade in Essex, England, jealous Connie Jones, who wants her Mum to be a pop star like the Little Girl’s Mum was, nastily informs the Little Girl she was an alien. Another classmate Ryan insists the Little Girl’s parents found her in the streets. The Little Girl Lara Reid believes them as she was dark skinned with kinky curls while her parents were much lighter skinned. Only eight years old, she learned the true meaning of adopted is Lara as her Mum kindly says they are a unique family.

Over two decades later, just before her next birthday, Tyler the American tells Lara he loves her, but she cuts him off before he says anything else as she feels a mental urge to run away from him. Feeling happy but incomplete, Lara celebrates her thirtieth birthday with her family and friends. As she blows out the candles, Lara notices a stranger, who should not be there, among those attending her party. Yomi Komolafe from Nigeria has come with a purpose to England to meet Lara.

This is a fascinating look at identity as Lara has wondered since she was the Little Girl who she is. Her sense of incompleteness makes her feel guilty because her parents love and adore her, but something feels missing; that element keeps her running from loving relationships. Although the skipping around between various years is difficult to follow, fans will appreciate this in depth character study of an adult still inside the alien Little Girl.

Harriet Klausner

Love Finds You In Nazareth, Pennsylvania-Melanie Dobson

Love Finds You In Nazareth, Pennsylvania

Melanie Dobson

Summerside, Oct 1 2011, $12.99

ISBN: 9781609361945

In 1754 in Germany, the Unity of the Brethren Moravian congregation wants to spread the Word of the savior to the Indians in the New World. The Moravians choose by lot who will go as married couples. Christian and Susanna Boehler do not know each other when they marry before heading to the Americas. Also traveling with them is Catharine and Elias Schmidt

Susanna knows her spouse loves someone else, but prays he will one day love her as she does him in spite of his aloofness; he knows he is wrong but cannot stop himself from loving his best friend’s wife Catharine. Meanwhile Susanna also struggles with the change in her lifestyle from affluence to the ruggedness of the Pennsylvania Colony towns like Nazareth. As she is left behind while her spouse and the other couple trek into the wilderness, he betrays her, his friend and his God.

Melanie Dobson, author of the fabulous Amana LFY historical romances (see Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa), provides a strong entry due to a deep cast and a sensational sense of time, place and purpose. The storyline is vivid (often harsh) and fast-paced as danger mounts to the soul as much as to the body. Fans will relish this engaging Christian colonel era thriller while wondering whether redemption and forgiveness is there for a missionary who knows he violates his Ten Commandments credo.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom-Sara Benincasa

Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom

Sara Benincasa

Morrow, Feb 14 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780062024411

Sara Benincasa says her first recognized panic attack occurred when she was eleven. As a teen, she became the centerfold for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drug usage. Still she matriculates at Emerson College until she cannot journey from her bedroom to the bathroom to pee. Her parents welcome her back to their New Jersey nest. She sees a psychiatrist and obtains new drugs. Sara slowly readapts to the world with stops in Asheville, Texas and finally New York; a place in which the majority of the population are crazier than she is.

This is profound yet jocular memoir that pulls no punches when Ms. Benincasa provides her avoidance techniques to never leave a safe bedroom such as pissing into a breakfast bowl. With help from her family and friends, she found some healing knowing they cared for her and tried the myriad of self-help guru books that never quite got her off the ledge. However, she found her muse in stand-up comedy in which she uses her agoraphobia incidents as a humorous healer. Mindful of “Make 'em Laugh” from Singin’ In The rain, her credo is "that if you can laugh at the shittiest moments in your life, you can transcend them" and do almost anything. This includes using a bathroom and walking on a stage to get the audience to “laugh at your awful shit …, you can officially call yourself a comedian” and a super self-help author.

Harriet Klausner

Abby Finds Her Calling-Naomi King

Abby Finds Her Calling

Naomi King

NAL, Feb 28 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780451235732

In Cedar Creek, Missouri James Graber becomes engaged to Zanna Lambright. Zanna’s older sister, Abby is heartbroken as she loves James. Vowing to never marry, she focuses on her sewing shop and her family.

On the day of their wedding with guests arriving from as far away as Pennsylvania, Abby tells James that Zanna ran away. Stunned he feels as if his heart has been ripped asunder while the runaway bride’s family is shamed by her actions. James vows to never marry especially after learning why his beloved left. Abby feels for him as she knows no way to mend a broken heart while trying to help her beloved, her family and her Amish community who must deal with the unthinkable trauma.

The first Home at Cedar Creek Amish family drama is an entertaining tale with two surprising wonderful twists from the usual sub-genre stories. Abby is terrific as she displays her fortitude by being there for her sister when pressure is on her to ignore her sibling. Her inner strength of supporting others makes Naomi King’s opening Lambright saga is an enjoyable read.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All That Is Bitter And Sweet-Ashley Judd with Maryanne Vallers

All That Is Bitter And Sweet

Ashley Judd with Maryanne Vallers

Ballantine, Feb 21 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780345523624

Overall All That Is Bitter And Sweet is a fascinating memoir as actress Ashley Judd describes her childhood and her philanthropist activity around the globe. Ms. Judd describes growing up childhood amongst a family of performers as abusive though some of the anecdotal assertions don’t come across as very heavy at least to this reader but more like a family interacting such as teasing her when she sings. Her work as a dedicated activist for several causes especially her efforts for Population Services International is intriguing as Ms. Judd with a Harvard Master’s degree proves she is no pampered Hollywood star (living remote on a Tennessee farm and in Scotland). Not for everyone as there is little about her movie life or her marriage to Indy winner Dario Francitti; the focuses are on her bitter childhood and her sweet overseas advocacy.

Harriet Klausner

Gossip-Beth Gutcheon


Beth Gutcheon

Morrow, Mar 20 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061931420

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Loviah "Lovie" French operates a high-end dress shop known for its exquisite taste and its proprietor’s discretion; Lovie overhears all sorts of gossip from a virtual who’s who of New York. Lovie’s two best friends Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf, who she met at boarding school, despise each other over some long ago and minor (in Lovie’s mind) incident. Dinah has become a gossip columnist covering New York's upper class while Avis has become an art guru.

Fate has a way of treating people with fickleness. Dinah’s son Nick and Avis’ daughter Grace fall in love and marry. They seem like the perfect couple, but beneath the pubic veneer lay resentment and anger as misinformation threatens their relationship. Lovie guards everyone’s secrets that she knows, but her loyalty may prove misplaced as a tragic tsunami floods the lives of people she cherishes. Filled with regret, Lovie ponders if keeping confidences was a mistake.

With the misinformation and disinformation in the Republican primary impacting the results, Beth Gutcheon provides a timely family drama that focuses on the impact of unchallenged false information built from seemingly creditable data on people. Character driven by a strong ensemble cast, readers will appreciate Lovie’s loyalty though it proves misplaced.

Harriet Klausner