Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting Married and Other Mistakes-Barbara Slate

Getting Married and Other Mistakes

Barbara Slate

Other Press, Jun 12 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781590515358

It has been seven years of marriage when John tells Jo he feels guilty but needs space. Jo a wedding photographer looks back at her bride photo and wonders if even then she thought she was making a mistake when she married John on the advice of her mom. However, the shocking finality comes from a stranger Candy who says she and John need to raise Little John as a happy family. She ignores her mom who coached her into marital defeat while her friends (Andrea, Timothy and Georgia) suggest a good lay, and therapist Dr. Rubenstein insists Jo has low self-esteem. Jo wonders if she is a serial follower who never sees anything but someone else’s butt until she begins to look at the photos she took of the sad brides who tell her to heed her own advice; easier said than done.

Using insightful jocular graphics, Getting Married and Other Mistakes is a fabulous amusing yet serious look at a woman who has ignored self-actualization by adhering to mom’s spousal mantra of perfection. Filled with pathos and humor (the boyfriends and are terrific segues), readers will root for the heroine to find her inner self besides being a devoted daughter to a control freak mom who believes a woman’s only roles are first and foremost being a wife and second a mother.

Harriet Klausner

Seating Arrangements-Maggie Shipstead

Seating Arrangements

Maggie Shipstead

Knopf, Jun 12 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307599469

The two extended families gather together for the marriage of seven months pregnant Daphne Van Meter and Greyson Duff at the former’s exclusive Waskeke Island summer home. Daphne’s Boston Brahmin banker father Winn hits on Agatha the bridesmaid while his wife Biddy runs the wedding events like a General with her mantra to insure no scandals occur though she would prefer her daughter marry for love unlike what she did. Their other daughter Livia remains heartbroken over Teddy Fenn dumping her, but considers a weekend tryst with one of Greyson's brothers while rejecting another of the groom's siblings who openly shows interest in her. In between imbibing Daphne’s maternal Aunt Celeste looks over the male attendees like a shark seeking her next “marital” meal.

This lampooning of the American family is a jocular look at two clans merging into one during a marriage ceremony. The ensemble cast comes across as fragile with each trying to hide their flaws with varying forms of bravado. Mindful of Meredith Goldstein’s The Singles, although over the three day weekend very little happens beyond satirizing the sanctity of family, fans will enjoy this “Meet the” Van Meters and Duffs.

Harriet Klausner

Gold-Chris Cleave


Chris Cleave

Simon & Schuster, Jul 3 2012, $27.00

ISBN 9781451672725

At the Manchester Velodrome, nineteen year old Zoe Castle and Kate Meadows meet when each tries out for a spot on the Elite Prospects Programme for British Cycling. Coach Tom Voss selects who he wants to train. Both teens are attracted to racer Jack Argall, but though Zoe hooks him first, Kate wins that competition as she marries him.

Thirteen years later, Zoe and Kate have remained friends but now compete for the sole British female cycling slot at the 2012 London Olympic Games and with their age it should be their last ride. Kate, who gave up two previous games over the health of her eight years old daughter Sophie, ailing with leukemia; while Zoe is known as a serial sex fiend who plays hard in everything she does. The thirtyish rivals will soon compete in a winner goes to the Games and the loser stays home.

This is an exciting look at the highest level of competitive cycling between two women tied together from the moment they met. Their personalities are different as Kate is a dedicated mom while Zoe has the track only. Jack is a cross between the two ladies as he is driven to win almost to the degree of Zoe but also knows his only important gold medal is his family. Although Kate is too forgiving especially of Zoe who has relationship issues, this is an engaging read that takes readers behind the scenes and around the oval.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spring Fever-Mary Kay Andrews

Spring Fever

Mary Kay Andrews

St. Martin's, Jun 5 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312642716

In Passcoe, North Carolina, even as a teen Annajane Hudgens loved Mason Bayless, the brother of her BFF Pokey. The Bayless family owns the Quixie Beverage Company where Annajane works. Annajane and Mason eventually wed but their marriage fizzles out though several years after their divorce she continues to work in marketing for his family firm.

Mason’s brother Davis hires consultant Celia Wakefield. Celia becomes engaged to Mason. Before she leaves for Atlanta to start over, as a gesture to her stepdaughter Sophie, Annajane attends the wedding of her ex to the ‘phony” as Pokey calls Celia. However, as Sophie walks down the aisle, she suddenly falls and shouts to her daddy it hurts. While Davis takes Celia and his mama to the country club, Mason, Poppy and Annajane accompany Sophie to the hospital. As Annajane delays leaving town because of her love of Sophie, the child and her Aunt Pokey plot to bring the divorcees back together while the other brother and the fiancé have a scheme going too.

Spring Fever is an entertaining North Carolina family drama that uses a mom and pop operation as the backdrop to an engaging regional intrigue. The storyline rotates between the present “crisis” and the married past of the protagonists as surprising secrets are revealed. Although there is a good, bad and ugly classification to the cast, fans will enjoy drinking cherry pop in Passcoe, North Carolina.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow-Juliet Grey

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow

Juliet Grey

Ballantine, May 15 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345523884

In 1774 when King Louis XV dies, his grandson becomes King Louis XVI. The new Majesty’s Austrian wife eighteen year old Marie Antoinette vows to be different from her late pious predecessor who was overshadowed by the royal mistresses like Madame du Barry. Over the next few years in Versailles, behind a façade of silk, Marie fears for her personal safety and the Bourbon dynasty as she senses trouble coming especially with what happened in American colonies. She is surrounded by those who want the foreigner off the throne even if she is the mother of the heir who becomes part of the gossip as many insist his father is Swedish military officer Axel von Fersen who Marie had an affair with that left her feeling guilty. Marie’s reputation is destroyed by the Affair of the Diamond Necklace in which she rejected the present that the former king commissioned for his last mistress, but a diabolical pair persuades Cardinal de Rohan that Her Majesty loves him. The people blame Marie Antoinette for the Affair as the common belief fostered by xenophobes in the court is that the Queen blamed the Cardinal for her avarice. The sharks emboldened by public opinion grow bolder.

The insightful and entertaining second Marie Antoinette biographical fiction (see Becoming Marie Antoinette) focuses on the royal years through the eyes of the Queen. Though the key support cast like the Cardinal, the con artist and her Swedish lover are not as fully fleshed out as one would want, this historical is a deep look at the Queen culminating with to stay or not to stay as the question.

Harriet Klausner

Her Highness, the Traitor-Susan Higginbotham

Her Highness, the Traitor

Susan Higginbotham

Sourcebooks, Jun 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402265587

With the death of King Henry VIII, his only male offspring becomes King Edward VI in 1547. However, since King Edward is only nine years old, a Regency Council (selected by the late ruler before his death) forms led by his maternal uncle Edward Seymour. Meanwhile men from three families (Seymour, Grey and Dudley) greedily compete for power. John Dudley’s son Jack and Edward Seymour’s daughter Anne marry, and another of his sons Guildford weds Henry Grey’s daughter Jane. . Dudley becomes a favorite of King Edward especially after the death of Seymour. When King Edward becomes deathly ill, he selects Jane Grey as his successor instead of either of his half-sisters. However, when Edward dies, Princess Mary, backed by the Regency Council’ makes a bid for the throne; while the Dudley and Grey families know what is at stake so they push Jane Grey.

Using the premise that behind every great man is a woman, this entertaining Tudor historical focuses on the manipulations by the crafty wives of John Dudley, Jane, and Henry Grey, Frances as they team up to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Fans of the era will enjoy this engaging entry filled with plenty of tidbits from the period between the two Tudor ruling giants though neither of the behind the scenes female powerbrokers come across as fully developed.

Harriet Klausner

The Reluctant Matchmaker-Shobhan Bantwal

The Reluctant Matchmaker

Shobhan Bantwal

Kensington, Jun 26 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780758258854

In Princeton Junction, New Jersey, pint-sized marketing and public relations manager Meena Shenoy is excited over her upcoming first meeting with her boss Prajay Nayak, the CEO and president of Rathnaya, Inc. Eighty-five pounds when dripping wet Meena never expected to meet her employer when they collide. She sprains her ankle as her body felt like a truck ran over it. However, it is her mind that is discombobulated as she now understands what her mom means in her native language Konkani when she says nasheeba kheloo (destiny’s game).

Prajay tells Meena that at thirty-nine his family expects him to marry as his siblings are married with kids; they wonder if he might be gay; a thought that Meena had too. Meena commiserates as her family wants her to wed soonest and is upset over who her brother is seeing. He asks Meena to write an ad in the matrimonial columns of a few select India-American newspapers and websites with a key requirement that she be at least six feet tall educated Hindu with a sense of humor. Stunned, as she wants to be the chosen one, Meena works on finding her boss a spouse though she wished he would look down to her.

The Reluctant Matchmaker is a fabulous fun frolic starring two likable protagonists while providing readers with a close look at the Indian-American culture, which mingles tradition from the old country with modern technology and the ways of the new country. The storyline reads like a 1930s madcap comedy in a Bollywood-New Jersey setting as Shobhan Bantwal provides an enjoyable contemporary romance

Harriet Klausner

Last Summer-Holly Chamberlin

Last Summer

Holly Chamberlin

Kensington, Jun 26 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758235084

BFFs Jane Patterson and Frannie Giroux are next door neighbors in Yorktide, Maine. Jane’s husband Mike is very accepting of their friendship while Frannie’s ex-husband is a deadbeat dad. Their teenage daughters Rosie and Meg are also best friends.

However, relationships are shattered when the fourteen years old girls enter Yorktide Memorial High School. The older students bully the freshmen with pretty reticent Rosie a prime target. Fearing she will be abused too, Meg tells the bullies a devastating secret about her buddy. The taunting intensifies until Rosie mentally breaks down. Rejecting their personal blame, the moms argue over culpability as their friendship withers. Rosie undergoes intense therapy over the next few months as she heals and gains a new perspective on her own strengths and the vulnerabilities of her mom, her former BFF and her friend’s mother.

This is a timely tale of the impact of bullying on the victim and her loved ones as each of the two generations of mother and daughter protagonists suffer from guilt, blame and a need to forgive themselves and the others if they are to feel good about themselves. Rosie believes she caused the bullying as she excuses those torturing her and holds herself responsible for the unhappiness of her loved ones. Meg hides , behind an aggressive veneer, her feelings of failing her loved ones. Jane fears her over-protecting her daughter left her unprepared for life in high school. Finally Frannie condemns herself for not being there for her child. Although the long term trauma of bullying is somewhat muted, readers will appreciate this engaging character study as the four females struggle with their deepest fears that divides them at a time when they need each other.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rebel-Linda Windsor


Linda Windsor

David C. Cook, Jun 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781434764768

In the late sixth century AD, Abbess Ninian took his confession and gave him his last rites before announcing the death of Merlin Emrys. His demise comes at an unsettling time for the Cymri as the succession has been left confused with Rome demanding Urien of Rheged instead of High King Arthur’s nephew King Modred of Lothian who Queen Gwenhyfar prefers. Besides the schism between the old religions including that of Christ and that of the new Christianity of Merlin’s successor as advisor to Arthur Archbishop Cassian, the land is further divided between the Brits, Welsh, Scots and Pict.

Kella O’Toole, Queen Gwenhyfar’s scribe, learns her fiancé died in battle and her father Glenarden’s Champion Egan vanished in the hostile land of the Pict. Gwenhyfar orders Kella to keep working on the vellum, Arthur, Prince of Dalraida. Instead defying the royal decree, Kella, accompanied by her foster brother Alyn the third son of O’Byrne Clan of Glenarden who left his priestly studies to attend Merlin’s funeral, search for her dad.

The latest Brides of Alba Arthurian saga (see Healer and Thief) is a great tale that brings to life sixth century British Isles at a time of deep bloody schisms. Action-packed but vividly describing the era, readers will relish this strong romantic adventure starring two disillusioned individuals who have doubts about religion and royalty as each has witnessed manipulations in the name of God by men and women.

Harriet Klausner

A Conspiracy of Friends-Alexander McCall Smith

A Conspiracy of Friends

Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon, Jun 12, 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307907233

In London, from her mew house just behind Corduroy Mansions, noted psychoanalyst Berthea Snark continues writing her hostile exposé biography “My Son Oedipus”; as she hates the “only unpleasant Liberal Democrat” Member of Parliament. She is encouraged by Oedipus’ former lover literary agent Barbara Ragg who loathes him too. At the same time, Berthea’s fiancé Hugh is unhappy with her after they share some dark secrets; and Barbara’s business partner Rupert Porter is irate with her and seeking revenge. Meanwhile Oedipus is named the Undersecretary for some department that he cannot recall its name.

Wine merchant William French panics when his significant other Freddie de la Hay the M16 Terrier (see The Dog Who Came in from the Cold) vanishes. At the same time William’s son Eddie, funded by wealthy girlfriend Merle of the Windward Islands, hires designer Cosmo Bartonette to create a Hemingway-themed restaurant. William’s neighbor Caroline Jarvis muses over a passionate relationship rather than just a friendship with her BFF James. Finally, Berthea's brother Terence Moongrove decides to own a racecar that he plans to drive in competition.

The ensemble cast starring in the latest Corduroy Mansions contemporary tale makes for an entertaining look at desires and needs; not all positive and friendly. The action is limited as much of the storyline focuses on inner turmoil and longings. Readers who enjoy a low keyed philosophical character study will appreciate the cleverly musings of A Conspiracy of Friends.

Harriet Klausner

Gilded Age-Claire McMillan

Gilded Age

Claire McMillan

Simon & Schuster, Jun 12 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9781451640472

Eleanor Hart returns to Cleveland when her Manhattan-based marriage ended in divorce. Rumors abound that the beautiful chic Ellie stopped on her way home for a thirty day stay at Sierra Tucson, a noted rehab center.

Ellie still has her magnetic control of men who are attracted to her like bees buzzing around honey. Her best friend quickly realizes when they meet at the opera for the first time since Ellie cane home that she remains as self-indulged as always. Knowing Ellie has no money, her BFF suggests she marry a rich suitor like wealthy ambulance chasing lawyer Randall Leforte. As Ellie makes the rounds of Cleveland’s in-bred acrimonious affluent, she seems to always return to case Reserve Western University English professor William Selden.

This is a superb modernization of The House of Mirth that makes a case that women may claim they have come a long way since the early twentieth century of the Edith Wharton novel, but realistically have not gotten very far as a woman’s societal standing has not altered that much. Though sexual views seem antiquated yet ironically timely with the Vagina War, Ellie’s unnamed BFF provides a strong sharp condemnation of society that assaults women who choose to break out of their pre-determined by DNA caste.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Revelation-Peggy Payne


Peggy Payne

Amazon Digital Services, Apr 23 2012, $3.99


In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, late thirtyish Presbyterian Pastor Swain Hammond keeps an emotional distance from his wife Julie and his congregation. However, his holier than thou conceit is tested when he hears a voice who he assumes is God speaking to him only. He so shook, Julie fears he is having a stroke. Over a week later he hears the voice again that no one else nearby apparently hears.

He tells the flock that God speaks to him in messages he does not comprehend, but his congregation believes their pastor is losing it. In a weird accident in church land, tweener Jakey Miles is blinded. The lad’s angry despondent father rages at Hammond; who finally punches the man out of frustration. With a vigil at the child’s hospital bed, Hammond begs God to perform a miracle and restore Jakey’s sight.

This digitalization of a wonderful 1990s inspirational tale that holds up nicely even with over a decade since first being published. Hammond is a fabulous protagonist whose flock and wife do not believe God speaks to him as the assumption is he is losing his grip on reality. The Jakey tragedy shakes the pastor from his aloof distancing as he prays the youngster fully heals, but begins to heal himself from hates that have crippled him emotionally. Revelation is an inspiring poignant character study of a man of God beginning to accept the lord works in mysterious ways.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Sumerton Woman-D. L. Bogdan

The Sumerton Woman

D. L. Bogdan

Kensington, Apr 24 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758271372

In 1527 in Lincolnshire, England, eight years old Lady Cecily Burkhart becomes an orphan when her mother dies just a few weeks after her father passed. The Earl of Sumerton Harold Pierce becomes her guardian. He and his wife Lady Grace treat Cecily as one of their children. Cecily and their son Brey become friends while their daughter Mirabella remains aloof with her interests limited to religious beliefs and the family tutor Father Alec Cahill.

However, King Henry VIII obsesses over Anne Boleyn, which leads to a bloody religious revolution. His actions impact all of England and beyond. Mirabelle can no longer overly practice her religious beliefs as her convent has been destroyed. Cecily tries to keep her adopted family safe while trying to ignore her attraction to her former tutor who shares her feelings. However, a frustrated Mirabelle vows vengeance against those she blames for her hell: Cecily and Father Alec who works for Archbishop Cranmer's reformation efforts.

This is an enjoyable but grim look at what happened to those not inside of Henry VIII's inner circle when he breaks from the Roman Catholic Church to form the Anglican Church as the upheaval is dramatic and deadly. The Sumerton Women (and men) suffer from the effects of the Reformation that began over a dame. Although Mirabelle’s cruelly towards loved ones can be rationalized by what has happened to her mind when her reason for life, her devout belief, is destroyed; Cecily is too Little Miss Sunshine as she forgives everyone everything. Still, fans of the Tudor dynasty will appreciate this compelling glimpse into the impact on an extended family far from court by the actions of the King.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 21, 2012

The King’s Concubine-Anne O'Brien

The King’s Concubine

Anne O'Brien

NAL, Jun 5 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451236807

In1362, ailing Queen Philippa selects a fifteen years old orphaned virgin at a convent to serve as the Royal Mistress to her beloved husband King Edward III as her deteriorating health will no longer allow her to take care of the needs of her soulmate. The Queen expects Alice Perrers to be loyal to her regal sponsors while also providing sexual release to the monarch. Ambitious beyond her years as she sees an opportunity for a good life, Alice relishes being the King’s Concubine while also honoring her “guardian” by her and Edward keeping their mouths shut about their affair as long as Philippa lived. However, though intelligent and prepared for the end of her financial arrangement with the king, an uncompromising Alice fails to recognize the full scope of what will happen to her after Edward dies even as she observes his decline in health in his later years. Sir William Windsor comes to her aid when others want her exiled or dead; as he and Alice forge a lasting loving relationship.

To the victors go the history books, which treat Alice as a dolt who used her body to gain riches. Instead this superb medieval biographical fiction paints a different complete picture of an ambitious smart young lady who understood the importance of loyalty though envious others at court disdained her. Anne O’Brien brings to life the successful reign of King Edward III and the beginning of the successor rivalry that led to his rule’s outcome, the War of the Roses, as seen by his mistress.

Harriet Klausner

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. -Nichole Bernier

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

Nichole Bernier

Crown, Jun 5 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9780307887801

For five years Kate Spencer and Elizabeth Martin were best friends as card carrying members of the mommy brigade. They shared family picnics and other events especially involving their children although at times they escaped parenting and husbands together. The tragic death of Elizabeth in a plane crash ends their sisterhood.

The late Elizabeth shocks everyone especially her husband Dave and her BFF Kate when she bequests her diaries to the latter and not her spouse. Dave tells Kate that his wife was flying to meet her lover Michael. Stunned by his accusation about his late wife, Kate begins to read what her buddy wrote, but she is overwhelmed to find a different person than the one she knew. Instead of the nurturing mother, wife and friend; there lurked an artist begging to come out of the shadows. However, what shakes Kate the most is Elizabeth’s unmasked opinions of her at a time when her relationship with her husband Chris is shaky.

This is a superb character study that reads like a mystery as Kate begins to learn the full complex Elizabeth and what at times her BFF thought of her. The storyline focuses on how people wear masks to hide desires and hurts; little innocent nothings in one person’s mind can fester into major pain in the other person’s mind as relationships are complex and convoluted. Encouraged to let your inner self flow free and not worry about the opinions of others, readers will appreciate this discerning look at unmasking the real you and me outside of our societal roles.

Harriet Klausner

Wallflower in Bloom-Claire Cook

Wallflower in Bloom

Claire Cook

Touchstone, Jun 5 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9781451672763

Deirdre Griffin is unhappy with her role of personal assistant to her superstar brother Tag. Her self-esteem is lower than Antarctic winter weather as her sole existence is for making life easier for Tag. When her boyfriend informs her he is marrying the mother of his baby, Deirdre is outraged as he always said no children. In Austin, Deirdre and Tag argue until she suddenly quits.

Fueled by her sibling’s expensive vodka, normally introverted Deirdre uses Tag’s humongous online social network to obtain a gig on Dancing with the Stars. Her goal is to regain her self-esteem without the help of her family by getting a life as Deirdre and not just a siblings’ sister or her parents’ daughter.

Wallflower in Bloom is a wonderful contemporary coming of age character study. Filled with pathos and humor, readers will root for Deirdre to win Dancing With The Stars, but more important we fans will want the introverted wallflower to get a life of her own in which others call Tag her brother.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Inside-Alix Ohlin


Alix Ohlin

Knopf, Jun 5 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780307596925

In 1996, Grace Tomlinson, a dedicated therapist, is cross country skiing on Mount Royal when she trips over a man who tried to hang himself. She calls 911 and he is taken to Montreal General. She follows and learns his name is John Tugwell and offers to listen to him. After he tells authorities it was a lover’s prank with his girlfriend Grace that went bad, she takes him home and insists on staying to insure he does not try again.

Her sixteen years old patient Annie Hardwick is a cutter who feels ugly and fears telling her perfect parents she is pregnant. To help her with her woes, Grace tells her to pretend to be an actress in various roles. However, Annie plans to run away to New York where she will become an actress at any cost without any relationships as she knows they always cut.

Meanwhile Grace’s ex-husband Mitch the therapist decides to head to the Arctic to help a native village struggling to survive in the harsh conditions. He leaves behind in Montreal the woman he cherishes.

This character study focuses on four Canadians connected by Grace over several years and locales including Rwanda. Each of the protagonists is unique with flaws that drive them at times to react excessively. The two therapists feel “reaching out into the darkness” to a friend and lover is why they chose their profession as a boost to their ego; while the two patients feel their self-esteem crumble whenever they accept the reaching out offer of help. Insightful and thought provoking, codependency can prove emotionally dangerous to the transmitter and the receiver.

Harriet Klausner

Old Ladies-Nancy Huddleston Packer

Old Ladies

Nancy Huddleston Packer

Daniel & Daniel Publishers, Jun 1, 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781564745279

"Night Noises.” Widow Louise begins renting out a room to men (Edward and then Leo) and finally a woman (Ingrid) as a means of companionship, but none match Ross.

“Her Men.” Her grandson Jackie hits on Katherine to fund his latest “Big Chance”. She has doubts as she lives off her money, but reflects back years ago to her twentyish son Jay and his then teenage girlfriend pregnant Gail before deciding whether to be the Iron Duchess or the doting grandma.

"Charade.” Planning to sell the house with its bitter reminders of what was, Helen hires Eddie to fix it up while she reflects back to when she and Lamar were together before he left her. However, her flirting has both men upset.

"Two's Company.” Rosa the short muscular immigrant cleaning lady and her employer Virginia the six foot slim with roots going back to colonial times decide to fire one another though each needs the other.

"A Woman and His Dog.” Before going to the hospital where he died, Martin asked Lydia to take care of Ozzie. As they walk each day in different directions, Ozzie introduces Lydia to the neighbors.

"Bridge.” At Ridgeside Retirement Residence, Norman the widower replaces the recently deceased Angela as the fourth at bridge with Millie, Jean and Charlotte though they ridicule him for stinking at the game.

These well-written eleven stories showcase the diversity of Old Ladies as each protagonist differs from one another as do their circumstances. Each of the stars learns you can teach an old dog new tricks when they discover something new about themselves.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Destiny’s Divas-Victoria Christopher Murray

Destiny’s Divas

Victoria Christopher Murray

Touchstone, Jun 5 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451650464

Destiny’s Divas gospel trio consists of Sierra Dixon, Liza Washington and Raine Omari. The threesome sings as if heaven must be missing three angels (paraphrasing Tavares). They also tell their personal trials and tribulations before each found the Lord.

Twentyish Sierra insists she is sexually abstinent, but in actuality she beds every male she can hoping this is the one she will marry. Liza says relationships require honesty but she knows she needs to stop and forgive her husband the pastor before his scandalous behavior destroys their ministry, but cannot as she fears repercussions with the revelation of his dark secret. Raine proclaims to love everyone but she knows she is hypocritical when it comes to her Kenyan mother-in-law. Soon their secrets will become known and each will have even more difficult issues to face hopefully with God having their back.

This is an engaging inspirational tale as three women face differing degrees of crisis. Character driven by Destiny’s Divas, two of the subplots goes the expected way though each contains a solid spin while third entry follows a surprising path. Readers will enjoy following the roads to redemption or perdition for these gospel performers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Differential Equations-Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica

Differential Equations

Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica

Fiction Studio Books. Apr 24 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781936558469

In 2010 Manhattan, businessman Alex Soberano observes Sandbrook Media CEO Tim Waxman before surprisingly saying no to a merger deal. He abruptly takes two weeks off to go to Ashram on the West Coast; a stunner as he never takes time off. His girlfriend Angelica is also shocked.

In 1928 in Anhelo, Legado, Tia Vidante reads the colors of others in order to tell them their destiny. She looks deep into Ana as she does every month but this time instead of the usual brown of loneliness she sees passion and her own death.

In 1920, Khaled Hebron left behind his wife and three small children in Bethlehem to obtain work in Legado. Not long after he arrived in South America, his family back in Palestine is slaughtered.

In 1985, teenager Dro arrives from Anhelo, Legado to attend MIT though he has not applied. Associate admissions director Susan Roemer arranges for him to attend BC before coming to MIT. At a party, he learns to read colors and meets his country’s ambassador to America.

Rotating perspective between the four subplots before merging them on the West Coast with a neat twist, Differential Equations is a fascinating character study that digs deep into individuals in different eras but tied together by the colors emulating from others. Fans will compare the protagonists as Khaled is grieving until he finds a second chance at love; Vidante is caring of others especially those she loves; Dro is a naïve intelligent idealist until he is hurt by love; and Alex lacks the wisdom that comes with love. Readers who relish something different will appreciate this odd but sensitive look at what being human means.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sadness of the Samurai-Victor del Arbol

The Sadness of the Samurai

Victor del Arbol

Henry Holt, May 22 2012, $28.00

ISBN: 9780805094756

In 1981 in Barcelona, thirty-something lawyer María Bengoecha lies dying on a hospital deathbed while under police guard. Her pending death is the only reason Maria is not on trial for numerous homicides including the Mola brothers as part of an anti-fascist movement when she allegedly helped Cesar Alcala escape from custody. Not in the news about the anti-fascist conspiracy is clever homicidal Congressman Publio.

In 1941 in Merida, Spain Isabel Mola tries to escape from her violent husband with her son Andres. She had hoped to leave with her lover but a betrayal thwarts that. While her husband's clever homicidal top aide Publio seeks her out, Isabel is sad over leaving behind her other child Fernando while taking the train to Portugal.

The prime subplots are four decades apart, but connected by family ties and fascism. Readers will appreciate the first English translation of a Victor del Arbol’s novel as the aptly titled The Sadness of the Samurai is a great historical suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Heat Wave-Nancy Thayer

Heat Wave

Nancy Thayer

Ballantine, May 29 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345518323

On Nantucket Island, thirty-two year old Carley Winsted is unprepared to suddenly become the single mom of her daughters (five years old Margaret and twelve years old Cisco), but has no choice when her spouse Gus dies from an undetected heart defect. However, besides having to take care of their devastated children, Carley is shocked to learn what a financial disaster Gus left her in spite of his being a lawyer.

Gus’ parents (Annabel and Russell) push their daughter-in-law to leave the expensive historical home and move in with them. Though she respects them, Carley prefers for her and the kids to remain in their present residence as a move on top of their father’s death would cause more harm than good for the children and she knows for her self-esteem. Over the objection of Annabel who feels she demeans her family home though Carley owns it, she decides to convert the historical house into a bed-and-breakfast with the help of friends like Gus’ partner Wyatt.

This is an entertaining family drama that focuses on moving on after an unexpected death of a loved one. The cast is fully developed including Carley’s close friends Maud and Vanessa, but the well-written character-driven storyline never veers off a cause straighter than the Bonneville Salt Flats even with a further death and a newborn.

Harriet Klausner

Wife 22-Melanie Gideon

Wife 22

Melanie Gideon

Ballantine, May 29 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345527950

Alice Buckle has been married to advertising executive William for almost two decades. They have two children fifteen year old Zoe who struggles with an eating disorder after being dumped by her first boyfriend the son of Alice’s BFF Nedra the divorce lawyer and twelve year old Peter who shows early signs of being gay.

Worried about her kids, Alice also fears her haunting next birthday as forty-five is the age her mother died. She cannot turn to her support group of women without mothers as she knows what they will say or her spouse who has been acting weird lately since his esteem collapsed when he was demoted on the job. Alice receives an email inviting her to participate in an online survey of long-married women. Dubbed Wife 22 She answers the questions while looking closely at her marriage and family and at the play she wrote that bombed. Upset with William’s grumpy aloofness, Wife 22 flirts online with survey Researcher 101 while ignoring the needs of her troubled children.

This is an entertaining middle age chick lit tale for the communication age. The cast is solid especially the protagonist and her family. However, readers will become frustrated with the parents as initially William but rather quickly Alice become egomaniacs looking to take care of their respective needs while failing at parenting at a time when their teen and tweener are in crisis. Still this is an interesting older (bit not wiser) Brigit Jones Diary over the Smart Phone.

Harried Klausner

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Very Picture of You-Isabel Wolfe

The Very Picture of You

Isabel Wolfe

Bantam, May 29 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780553386639

In London, thirty-five years old Gabriella “Ella” Graham is a highly regarded portrait artist who the rich commission to paint them. Her prime demand is that the client poses for hours as she refuses to use photos so that she bring out the true essence of the subject.

Ella’s dad John sends her an e-mail asking to see her. She prefers to ignore him as decades ago he dumped her and her ballerina mom for another woman. At about the same time, Ella’s sister Chloe wins a charity auction bid in which Ella will paint her sibling’s fiancé Nate, an American working in London. Overhearing him talk sweetly to someone over the phone, Ella loathes Nate for cheating on Chloe who is just recovering from a bad relationship. However, as she paints Nate’s portrait, Ella begins to fall in love with her model. She also works on other clients like the Frenchwoman having an affair and the M.P. who probably killed a bicyclist in a hit and run. Finally there is a half-sister she never knew existed.

This is an engaging contemporary drama with a wonderful twist of having a portrait artist capturing the essence of her models on canvas. Ella is wonderful as a watcher of others who enables the audience to learn who her subjects are (and were) though she remains somewhat distant. Although the ending seems off kilter for this otherwise deep character study, fans will appreciate the Very Picture of You; this reviewer suggests Isobel Wolff provides a short story collection of people Ella painted before she met Nate and years after they met.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Colter’s Promise-Maya Banks

Colter’s Promise

Maya Banks

Berkley, Jun 5 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425258620

In Clyde, Colorado, Dr. Burton informs Lily Colter that she is pregnant in spite of her using birth control. She fears losing another child while thinking of her sweet Rose. Lily knows she owes her three husbands (Seth the Sheriff, Dillon the pub owner and Michael the vet) the truth but is paralyzed with the news that she dreads.

Her mother-in-law Holly Colter (see Colter’s Legacy) is euphoric as her extended family is coming for Christmas. Though her cooking skills are legendary as a family joke, she plans to make a holiday dinner for all to enjoy. She turns to Lily to mentor her in the kitchen, but her daughter-in-law has mind-numbing issues with her past and present pregnancies.

This is an entertaining family drama as two generations of polygamous relationships take center stage over the holidays. Targeting fans of the saga as Lily deals with an unwanted pregnancy while knowing her three husbands (the Colter siblings), her mother-in-law and her three father-in-laws would look forward to the next generation.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Book of Summers-Emylia Hall

The Book of Summers

Emylia Hall

Mira, May 29, 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778314110

It has been twelve years since then seventeen years old Beth Lowe left home to attend art school in London; in all that time her father never came to her abodes until now. He arrives carrying a package for Beth. Inside is a letter with news that her estranged mom died and a scrapbook filled with photos of those incredible summers she spent with her mother on Hungary from when she was nine until she was sixteen. That last summer was the most miserable of her life as her mom ended their close relationship leaving a teenage daughter filled with rage and hurt that as she nears thirty still holds its grip on her.

This is an engaging character study that focuses on ethnic identity as The Book of Summers looks back through Beth’s memories triggered by the photos of her life over those seven years. The tweener entries are more in depth than the late teen years (except for the explosive final summer of betrayal, which gives the discerning storyline a sense of imbalance as it is the latter relationships that lead to the implosion. Still with a wonderful look at Hungary, readers will appreciate this tender complicated family drama.

Harriet Klausner

One More Summer-Liz Flaherty

One More Summer

Liz Flaherty

Carina/Harlequin, Jan 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373777549; ASIN: B006BE6HAG

Grace Elliot, unlike her siblings (Steven and Faith), stayed home to care for their mean-spirited widowed father Robert. He constantly abused her mentally and up until Steven warned him physically though he was not nasty towards his other children. With his death she inventories what she can do, but has no employment record or marketable skills. He split his estate equally among his offspring, but Steven and Faith sign their shares to Grace who earned it for putting up with the cantankerous man. Her siblings and Faith’s husband Grant inform her they support whatever she decides to do with her well-earned freedom.

Faith plans to convert the big house into a fixer-upper Elliot Bed & Breakfast. However she ends up with a new family of sorts starting with Rosamunde the cat named for the great author Ms. Pilcher; her best friend Promise who has dated Steven for years but now is fighting cancer; Maxine the soap opera actress suffering from Alzheimer’s who came for the funeral but never left; Jonah the handyman attracted to Maxie; and her brother's best friend author Dillon Campbell. Grace never forgave Dillon for failing to take her to the senior prom, but he has dragons to slay too.

One More Summer is a deep drama starring a strong cast of flawed people who forge a family. Grace holds the storyline together while she lives up to her name with her need to nurture the well-being of others. The support characters are fully developed and their interrelationships complicated by their personal tsuris, sadness and grief. Fans will enjoy this engaging entry of Grace’s band of misfits bonding into a loving family assisting each other.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Road to Grace-Richard Paul Evans

The Road to Grace

Richard Paul Evans

Simon & Schuster, May 8 2012, $19.99

ISBN: 9781451628180

Still grieving the death of his wife McKale from a fall off a horse, widower Alan Christoffersen realized he had nothing left in Seattle. Adding to his sense of no connection was his business partner Kyle Craig stole all their clients and his home and cars were repossessed. Alan decided to walk across America to the farthest point from Washington State: Key West (see The Walk).

He has made it to Custer, South Dakota (see Miles to Go) where the one person besides his former partner that he never wants to see pleads with him to talk to her. That person is McKale’s mom, who he met once before at his wife’s funeral. Alan refuses as he considers her name on a par with Hitler for abandoning her daughter. Filled with remorse, Pamela refuses to give up on her need for forgiveness from Alan. Filled with regrets and guilt, he cannot grant to her what she covets for only her late daughter can do that and she is no longer here. However, Pamela explains she understands that but just having him forgive her would be a small step towards her redemption

The entertaining third Alan Christoffersen diaries continue the protagonist’s travels as he heads from South Dakota through Iowa to St. Louis. The people he meets (especially those overwhelmed by abject loneliness) and the places he visits brings to life these three states although at times the plot can be overly melodramatic. Still this tender tale focuses on “To err is human, to forgive divine”; but Alan is a grieving human so The Road to Grace may be one he refuses to travel.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Aerogrammes: and Other Stories- Tania James

Aerogrammes: and Other Stories

Tania James

Knopf, May 15 2012, $24.00

ISBN: 9780307268914

“Lion and Panther in London.” In 1910 Gama the Great India wrestling champ comes to London but no one challenges him until the John Bull Tournament is arranged to crown the world champ.

"What To Do with Henry?" Retired Ohio teacher Pearl travels to Sierra Leone to bring to Canton the daughter Neneh her husband sired during one of his research trips. Henry the chimpanzee joins them.

“The Gulf.” In India she was four when her father left to work in Dubai; she is eight when a stranger insists he is her dad.

“The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor.” Scriptological Review editor Vijay studies his father’s handwriting trying to understand his death.

“Aerogrammes.” Newcomer Hari hates Renaissance Gardens where his family dumped him but he has no options while waiting for a son who never seems to visit him until he meets demented May.

"Ethnic Ken." Ammu the tweener visits her grandfather but detests his behavior as being old fashion even as she needs her Barbie to have a Ken.

“Light & Luminous,” In India Minal the dance instructor desperately wants to win the contest, but upsets her students as she acts the diva instead of the mentoring teacher.

"Escape Key." Neet teaches creative writing near Boston. When his brother fell off a roof, he returned home to India while realizing his fiction is terrible.

"Girl Marries Ghost." Lonely Gina meets once married Hank the ghost who looks forward to marrying her so he can return to the physical world;

These are nine excellent shorts that probe the diversity of loneliness when one feels like a stranger in a strange land whether a person is home or living in a foreign land.

Harriet Klausner

The Chemistry of Tears-Peter Carey

The Chemistry of Tears

Peter Carey

Knopf, May 15 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780307592712

In 2010 London, Swinburne Museum Horologist Catherine Gehrig finds out her married lover of thirteen years, Head Curator of Metals, Matthew Tindall died from a heart attack. Catherine knows she must hide her grief so that her late beloved’s name is not smeared for the sake of his two sons. Her sympathetic boss Head Curator of Horology Eric “Crafty” Crofty says he will arrange the deletion of personal email using the office account and assigns to work at the Annexe so that no one in the Museum proper will notice her anguish.

He assigns her to revive an avian automaton. Catherine begins to fix the precise clockwork machine while also discovering eleven notebooks written in 1854 by the first owner, Henry Brandling; who had it built by Germans as a distraction for his son Percy suffering from consumption. Catherine finds solace in Brandling’s journals and with the automaton he had made for his child.

This is a powerful story of love and grief as a century and a half apart; two people connected by a mechanical swan mourn their losses. Rotating between Catherine’s saga and Henry’s notebooks, readers will appreciate this terrific character driven poignant tale as grieving individuals seek objects to personify their loss who they will always love.

Harriet Klausner

The Undertow-Jo Baker

The Undertow

Jo Baker

Knopf, May 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307957092

In 1914 London, recently married William and Amelia Hastings are excited over her pregnancy though he leaves to fight in the war. William sends home postcards to his wife and baby Billy. In Malta, William has sex with a local just before dying in combat at sea. His shipmate George Sully visits Amelia with William’s last postcard. Billy distrusts Sully so he protects his mom from a man he thinks is a lowlife.

When WW II breaks out, stand out cyclist Billy goes off to fight riding a bike during the D-Day invasion. He returns from combat to marry Jewish Ruby, who has had issues with George that she hid from her spouse. Their first child Will suffers from Perthes disease and his father is unable to love him unconditionally.

Will becomes a professor, but he keeps everyone at an emotional distance includong his first wife and their daughter Billie even though he wants desperately to get close to his offspring. Instead his father has the relationship Will wants with his daughter. Though Will remarries and has a son who fights in the Afghanistan War, he struggles with showing his daughter how much he loves her and wants to be part of her life.

This is a great British family drama with a strong cast starring in each of the featured decades. The storyline focuses on the impacts of war even years after the combat is over on people at the front and at home. Fans of epic sagas will want to read the mostly twentieth century tale of the four generations of “Wills”.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wallflower in Bloom-Claire Cook

Wallflower in Bloom

Claire Cook

Touchstone, Jun 5 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9781451672763

Deirdre Griffin feels like a ghost when compared to her siblings. This she feel is especially true as she is at best a wilted wallflower in comparison to her charismatic brother Tag, considered the “next big thing.” As his personal assistant and house sitter Deirdre puts up with a lot, but in Austin, she abruptly quits when she feels he abuses her support of him.

When her on and off boyfriend tells her he is marrying the woman carrying his baby, Deirdre explodes as he had told her no children. Intoxicated by drinking Tag’s vodka, Deirdre uses her sibling’s humongous massive online fan base to arrange for her inclusion on Dancing with the Stars as she decides it is past time for a wallflower to bloom.

This amusing lighthearted contemporary story is a strong coming of age tale as the wallflower struggles to overcome her doubts and insecurities. The storyline is fast-paced with readers rooting for the heroine to succeed at Dancing with the Stars and in Austin with Steve the garden guru. With a nod to America’s Sweethearts, fans will enjoy the comedic yet deep look at a Wallflower in Bloom.

Harriet Klausner

The Grim-Raynetta J. Stocks

The Grim

Raynetta J. Stocks

Dog Ear Publishing, Mar 30 2012, $19.99

ISBN: 9781457509971

Jaycee Baynes misses her son Noah, but knows she is going nowhere as she is a resident of the Grim psychiatric facility. She does not remember killing her lover Tony who haunts her, but cannot recall shooting him numerous times. Jay worries about her delicate best friend Maddy at the institution and wonders whether Aaron who says he loves her will still want her as a notorious murderous lunatic.

Though he believes Jaycee does not want to mentally heal as she never cooperates, facility director Dr. Stewart assigns Dr. Tina Roarke to try to get through to her. With Tina’s help, psychotic Jaycee struggles with a need to know what happened that led to her killing Tony, but ironically she believes only Tony can help set her free.

Aptly titled, this deep character study of a mentally ill individual is an insightful tale as the reader gets inside the head of Jaycee and a close up of a psychiatric facility symbolized by the lights out bureaucratic operating procedure that metamorphic denotes lights out on hope. The action is limited, as the storyline focuses on the protagonist’s struggles to regain her mind by recovering her repressed memory of what happened on that fatal day. Readers will root for Jaycee (and Maddy) while hissing at night nurse Evelyn as life inside the Grim is grim for patients and caregivers.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Porch Lights-Dorothea Benton Frank

Porch Lights

Dorothea Benton Frank

Morrow, Jun 12 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061961298

With the death of her firefighter husband Jimmy in a blaze, army nurse Jackie McMullen returns home to Brooklyn from Afghanistan for the funeral and being there for their ten year old son Charlie. Her father Buster did not attend the funeral because her mother “Glan” who did is estranged from him. Buster visits his daughter and grandson and realizes they are in trouble. Charlie tells his mom the house is creepy without his dad. Jackie drives them to her mom’s home on Sullivan Island in South Carolina.

Glan welcomes them as she is elated to have them staying with her. When Charlie cries as he listens to his dad talk on voice mail, knowing they hurt, Glan plans to keep them occupied. She introduces her family to her new neighbor widower Dr. Steven Ploffer and his two dogs. Jackie notices her mom is attracted to the younger man who seems interested in her instead though the widow has no plans of reciprocating his feelings. Steven hires Charlie to walk his dogs. Glan offers Jackie rooms at her house, but her daughter plans to accept a job at the VA hospital in Brooklyn. Buster arrives and is great with Charlie who insists he wants to stay here. As a storm hits, Charlie runs away.

This is a warm tale of healing as the solid ensemble cast each grieves in their own way. The rotating perspective between the grandmother and her daughter deftly enhances the relationship family drama. Although there is no action until late and we never learn why Buster left his wife years ago, fans will enjoy returning to Dorothea Benton Frank’s Lowcountry (see Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island).

Harriet Klausner