Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Girl's Still Got It-Liz Curtis Higgs

The Girl's Still Got It

Liz Curtis Higgs

WaterBrook, Jul 10 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781578564484

In circa 1200 BC (give or take a century or two) in Moab, three women stand by graves grieving the deaths of two brothers. The widow mother of the deceased Naomi has decided to travel to Bethlehem. One daughter-in-law hysterical Orphan selects to remain in Moab; the other Ruth chooses to accompany her mother-in-law on her journey. Impoverished, the two women meet Boaz who takes both of them into his home and soon weds Ruth. Their great-grandchild becomes the King of Israel.

This is an excellent retelling of the biblical tale of Ruth using contemporary idioms and metaphor to tell the backstory while also extracting line by line the Old Testament entry; for instance Liz Curtis Higgs explains how Naomi the Jew ended up in Moab not explained in the bible. The three prime stars are fully developed as readers will understand their motives and their beliefs especially in the Lord. Though some fundamentalist might take exception as heresy this entertaining breezy treatment of the story of Ruth, I found the tale refreshing, insightful and lighthearted yet reverent to the Lord. Ms. Higgs takes her audience back over three millennia ago (without a DeLorean) as she provides a unique way to tell the Lord’s message.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pride and Pyramids-Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb

Pride and Pyramids

Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb

Sourcebooks, Jul 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781402265341

In their thirties, Elizabeth and Darcy have been happily married for fifteen years. They are raising six children ranging from fourteen years old bookworm Beth to six years old Margaret (William, John, Laurence and Jane in between). Darcy's cousin Edward Fitzwilliam unexpectedly visits saying he needs a place to stay for a week before he leaves for Egypt. The kids adore their favorite cousin while Meg ends up with a wooden doll of Aahotep that Edward possessed. All of the children state they would love to join him on his travels under the tutelage of British Museum Egyptologist Sir Matthew Rosen.

By the end of the week, Elizabeth and Darcy decide to join enthusiastic Edward accompanied by their brood when he heads to Egypt. Also coming with them are jilted Sophie Lucus to watch the children and artist Paul Inkworthy to draw their memories.

Putting aside how easily and quickly Darcy puts together their adventure, the sequel to Dear Mr. Darcy is a fun Egyptian Regency. There is some suspense and hints of the paranormal, but for the most part the storyline is a lighthearted extended family drama as each offspring has their own unique personality and a triangle between Sophie, Edward and Paul. Fans will enjoy this entertaining historical as Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb takes Jane Austen to the pyramids.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Madame Serpent: A Catherine de' Medici Novel-Jean Plaidy

Madame Serpent: A Catherine de' Medici Novel

Jean Plaidy

Touchstone, Jul 3 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9781451686203

In Florence, her father Pope Clement VII arranges for his fourteen years old daughter Caterina de’ Medici to marry the second son of the King of France Prince Henry of Orléans; as she leaves behind her beloved Ippolito. However, when she meets her fiancé, Caterina quickly realizes Henry has no interest in her as he loves his mistress Diane de Poitiers.

Prince Henry ignores his wife for his mistress even after they have children. When his older brother the Dauphin and then his father die, Henry becomes the king. Diane’s influence is even stronger as visiting dignitaries pay her homage by kissing her hand rather than the Italian wife. However, bitter Caterina accepts the affronts as she stoically plans to insure her offspring one day will sits on the throne while also patiently waiting for the right moment to remind the manipulative Diane just who the queen of France is.

This reprint of the first Jean Plaidy Catherine de Medici tale (released in 1951) is an engaging historical that brings to life the French court during the middle of the sixteenth century. The key triangle is fully developed as fans will understand what motivates the lead to act as each does. However, the action feels tame compared to contemporary written historical biographic fiction. Still readers will know why the late Ms. Plaidy is highly revered by the sub-genre as the author enables her audience to get deep into the heads of the three protagonists especially the maligned queen.

Harriet Klausner

The Girl in the Blue Beret-Bobbie Ann Mason

The Girl in the Blue Beret

Bobbie Ann Mason

Random House, Jul 10 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780812978872

In 1944 over France, the Germans hit an allied B-17 bomber heading to Frankfort. Co-pilot Marshall Stone lands the crippled plane in Belgium saving much of the Dirty Lily crew. The resistance enables him and others to get back to England safely.

In 1978 his wife Loretta suddenly died and soon afterward he is forced into retirement as being too old to fly planes. Two years since his Loretta passed, feeling alone, sexagenarian Marshall compulsively decides to fly to France and Belgium to thank those who saved his life as he scurried from one house to another like a rat. He hopes the Vallons who kept him safe in Paris, Robert the planner of his great escape from France through Spain, and Annette the teenage school Girl in the Blue Beret who lived in one of the safe houses still live as he prays he can find them.

Rotating between the war and 1980, this is a moving historical as the memories and the realties do not often gel. Like Marshall, readers will want to know what happened to those who risked their lives for the pilot. Although a 1980 subplot involving Marshall and Annette feels unnecessary; fans will enjoy trekking from Paris across the Pyrenees as he retraces his trail.

Harriet Klausner

Bond Girl-Erin Duffy

Bond Girl

Erin Duffy

Morrow, Jul 17 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062065902

In 2006 hoping to prove a chip off the financial block of her dad, Alex Garrett feels euphoric when the Street’s brokerage firm Cromwell Pierce hires her after she graduates from college. However, the fulfillment of her dreams starts off nightmarish when she arrives at her job on the trading floor to finds she has no desk or office chair; instead she has a folding chair and a boss Ed "Chick" Ciccone who calls her "Girlie" as her tasks are obtaining coffee and lunch while learning.

When she arrives late, Chick punishes her by sending her to the Bronx to buy heroes and a fifty pound parmesan wheel; she is left with the hefty bill. However, she survives her first year and is pleased with receiving an $110,000 bonus. Alex and colleague Will Patrick begin a clandestine tryst though he vanishes every weekend. Hedge-fund manager Rick Kieriakis stalks her, but Alex knows she cannot win in a confrontation with this powerful psychopath. In 2008 the market collapses leaving Alex a chance to regain her soul or continue with the devil’s money

This is an engaging chick lit look at macho Wall Street right before and during the financial collapse. The vivid descriptions of the Street’s office politics is nauseating with an only the strong survive the devouring of the rookies but seems genuine; while the insight into the finance world reads more like a quantum physics primer. Still fans will enjoy the Bond Girl escorting readers around the Street.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Sleeping Night-Barbara Samuel

The Sleeping Night

Barbara Samuel

Bell Bridge Books, Jun 21 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781611941272

In 1926 in Gideon, Texas, white Parker, who suffered injuries in the war, believes God demands that he act with kindness to the poor colored folks. He and his family become friends with colored Jordan and his family. However, “they” kill Jordan. Parker refuses to turn his back on his friend’s widow and son as his daughter Angel and Jordan’s offspring Isaiah play together while growing up.

During WWII, Isaiah serves in the military in the European theater. He and Angel exchange letters that include recipes and vows of taboo love. He earns the Medal of Honor, an award not given to colored people. Yet his love for Angel places both of them in peril from the townsfolk who refuse to accept him as a war hero. Isaiah and Angel flee to France where they marry. In 2005, they are coming home to Gideon for a different reception than the one that exiled them six decades ago

Most of the action occurs during WWII, but with small bookend segments in 1926 and 2005 and a reference to 1972. Thus readers obtain a strong historical that showcases how far race relationships have come in eight decades; especially since the end of WWII as the Greatest generation vets knew that blood flows red in combat. Character driven by the interracial courageous lead couple, fans will agree we’ve come a long way baby, but have a long way to go.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Absolutist-John Boyne

The Absolutist

John Boyne

Other Press, Jul 10 2012, $16.95

ISBN: 9781590515525

In 1919 twenty-one years old former soldier Tristan Sadler travels to Norwich, England to deliver letters written by his late comrade in arms and lover Will Bancroft, to his friend’s sister Marian. On an errand of mercy, Sadler suffers from battle fatigue as he was one of two survivors from his unit of mostly teenagers who fought on the Western Front.

Principled Will declared himself The Abolitionist. He refused to fight anymore and will do nothing in support of the war machine, as he watched in horror as teens like himself whom he knew die due to the stupid disregard of those in charge back in London and Paris to gain inches of ground from an enemy who fought the same type of trench warfare led from Berlin. Tristan knows the horrible truth how his lover died, but fears telling anyone the truth except Marian who rejects what he tells her.

This is a profound look at war from the perspective of those young expendables at the front lines sent to die by those still living in luxury. The storyline uses the muses of the lead trio and other soldiers to provide a complete picture of all dying on the western front; yet a homosexual love is condemned as perverted. Readers will appreciate this gloomy yet timely condemnation of those always ready to send someone else’s child to die for some allegedly patriotic cause yet those same flag raisers declare homosexuality as evil.

Harriet Klausner

The Red Chamber-Pauline A. Chen

The Red Chamber

Pauline A. Chen

Knopf, Jul 10 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307701572

When Jia Min dies in poverty, her wealthy brother Jia Zheng the Under-Secretary of the Ministry arranges for his orphaned niece Daiyu to come to Beijing to live. She moves into the young unmarried women wing of the extended family’s humongous Rongguo mansion. Almost upon arrival Daiyu realizes her maternal grandma Lady Jia loathes her as the offspring of an unacceptable father and knows with simple looks how removed she has been from her affluent relatives as her wardrobe is not good enough for the lowest servant.

Xue Baochai is plain looking but chosen to wed Jia Baoyu. However, he prefers his cousin the pretty newcomer over his fiancée. Jia Lian’s wife Wang Xifeng has been unable to provide the heir. He and his mom agree he needs a concubine; and selects Xifeng's loyal servant P'inger. When the emperor is poisoned the new ruler incarcerates those who supported the disposed leader to include the Jia males. Now the women have no men to protect them so they must learn to fend for themselves.

Though the extended duo family trees are needed to keep the names straight, this rewriting of the classic eighteenth century Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xuequin is an entertaining Chinese historical. The storyline enables readers to obtain a fascinating glimpse into the lives of aristocratic females who when they are child bearing age are a marital political and social commodity. The storyline starts slow as Pauline A. Chen introduces her ensemble cast by rotating the focus. Once done the plot accelerates into a powerful Chinese family drama as fans will want to know how the various triangles will play out especially after the male angles are removed.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Playing with Matches-Carolyn Wall

Playing with Matches

Carolyn Wall

Bantam, July 10 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345525697

In False River, Mississippi, white tweener Clea Shine is raised by her black “Aunt” Jerusha Lovemore though her biological mom lives nearby. While she loves Jerusha and the rest of her “family”, Clea wishes her mother would spend time with her and stop sleeping with the townsfolk and the guards at the prison. At school, Clea proves academically superior to the other students, but learns the hard way that she is an outcast due to her being white and her mom’s behavior. Finally realizing her mother not only abandoned her but will never love her; a heartbroken and traumatized Clea commits an irreversible act by lighting a fire to her mother’s house. The subsequent tragedy has the twelve years old child running away.

Two decades later Clea is the mother of two children and a memoir author. A storm destroys her home at a time when she learns her husband is cheating on her. Once again distraught and feeling unanchored belonging nowhere; she comes home to the welcome of her beloved Aunt Jerusha and a chance to finally confront the ghosts that haunt her as they have when she first lived in False River.

This is a powerful character driven Southern drama starring a sad person who suffers from a belief that she does not belong anywhere as no one except her “Aunt” accepts her (think of Maslow’s Hierarchy’s third step Love/Belonging. The first part of the insightful storyline is one of the best internal musings of the year; while the second half is also well written, but not quite as dramatic. Although the ending seems abrupt, fans will appreciate this strong character study as the adult is still the child.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cottage By The Sea-Robin Jones Gunn

Cottage By The Sea

Robin Jones Gunn

Howard, Jul 3 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781416583455

In Southern California, BFFs Erin and Sharlene open up The Happiest Day wedding planning firm. Their first event is planning the wedding for Erin’s son Jordan and his fiancée, Sierra. However, their euphoria ends when Dolores, the second wife of Erin’s father, calls to tell that her septuagenarian dad Jack is hospitalized at a clinic after suffering a stroke.

Erin has not seen her dad since he married irritating Dolores eighteen months ago and moved to Hidden Cottage on the Oregon coast. She rushes up to see him before returning home once Jack seems to recover. When he has another stroke a few months later, Erin once again goes to Oregon while worrying she is not holding up her end of the partnership.

This character driven family drama stars a strong lead protagonist who struggles between being there for her widowed father and being there for her business partner. The support cast in Oregon and California enhance the heroine’s dilemma of feeling she needs to be in two places at the same time while failing in both venues.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Holden Age Of Hollywood-Phil Brody

The Holden Age Of Hollywood

Phil Brody

Medallion, August 1 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781605424866

While packing up her father’s house after he died, Sam Bateman comes across a collection of rejection letters for his screenplays. Obsessively angry that producer Jon Foster never read the work he sent to him, Sam moves to Hollywood. There he obtains a position at Foster’s studio as a reader who determines what scripts are forwarded to the producer to consider.

He becomes enamored with the legend of the greatest screenwriter ever Meyer Holden who just abruptly walked away into the sunset. Sam gets Foster to fire him and persuades his girlfriend Share to move in with him. Holden may have vanished, but he wrote many screenplays under aliases that got buried in the slush pile. Bateman, aware of what Holden does, gets Share to convince writers to send their scripts to him; hoping he will find a disguised Holden gem. Share supports Sam’s folly, but begins to wonder if he finds the mother lode would he choose a wannabe actress or the prize that goes with the discovery

Readers will enjoy watching a fascinating Bateman get sucked into the Hollywood drama machine. Filled with a quirky cast working humorous scenes, readers will enjoy this fascinating character study as Bateman goes the extraordinary extra kilometer to find a Holden screenplay. With a solid romance somewhat abating the darkness of this satirical tale, fans will wonder will success spoil Sam Bateman as this is Hollywood.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wedded to War-Jocelyn Green

Wedded to War

Jocelyn Green

River North, Jul 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780802405760

In 1861, The War Between the States surfaces several Union Army inadequacies. One of the most glaring is the understaffed Medical Department that has few combat experienced doctors and is totally not ready for war.

In New York City, several women want to enlist as nurses and other medical staff helpers. One of them is twenty-eight year old Charlotte Waverly from an affluent family. Everyone she knows thinks she is inane to believe she can become a combat nurse as upper class females are too pampered. Her boyfriend strongly objects making it clear it is either him or injured soldiers. However, determined and obstinate as she feels this is God’s calling for her, she volunteers especially after a relative joins the Union Army. As one of the first female nurses, Charlotte finds the male doctors reject women in hospitals and especially in the field even though they are understaffed and not providing enough attention to their patients.

Wedded to the War is a great Civil War thriller that focuses on the role of females nurses breaking through a glass barrier that seems inane today with rules like the doctor is always right even at the cost of the patient’s life or limbs; as we have come a long way (but have a long way to go). Character driven, readers will believe they are working alongside of Charlotte as she helps the injured, assist other women and meets Caleb who supports her efforts as a nurse. Paying homage to Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey, Jocelyn Green provides an insightful look back to a time just before Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Queen’s Pleasure-Brandy Purdy

The Queen’s Pleasure

Brandy Purdy

Kensington, Jun 26 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758265982

In 1553, Princess Elizabeth and her childhood friend, Robert Dudley are imprisoned in the Tower by her late half-sister Queen Mary. He expects to die as his family is in disfavor after the Lady Jane Grey fiasco and she anticipates execution as Bloody Mary seems to believe she plots against her. While waiting death, they forge a strong bond by comforting each other; a feeling his wife Amy failed to achieve in spite of her frequent visits. Surprisingly, Mary frees both of them.

When, Elizabeth becomes queen, Robert remains her favorite. She assigns him influential positions and he spends most of his time at court rather than with his wife who he leaves to rusticate. Many believe he will divorce his wife and wed the Queen. However, in 1560 Amy falls down the stairs to her death. Suspicion falls on Dudley and Elizabeth; as rumors spread their motive for murdering his spouse was to get her out of the way so they could marry. However, if Elizabeth allows her heart to rule by wedding Robert, she could lose her throne.

Tudor fans will relish this excellent early Elizabethan thriller as the storyline uses the suspicious death of Amy as a means to look deep into what motivated the young queen and to a lesser degree Robert. Amy, who historians argue on how she died and little else, enhances the readers’ pleasure as we join in the debate. Brandy Purdy provides another great sixteenth century drama (see The Boleyn Wife).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sea Change-Karen White

Sea Change

Karen White

NAL, Jun 5 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780451236760

Ava Whalen has always felt like a loner who was a fish out of water. In her thirties she accepted she will have no one until she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier. Just a few months later, they are in love and marry.

Matthew takes his new bride to his ancestral home on St. Simons Island, Georgia. However, once the newlyweds relocate Ava’s sense of being alone returns as she learns about the mysterious death of Matthew’s first wife Adrienne whose family holds him culpable and other secrets of him and his family. He is not very open to answering her questions. Therefore, with an obsessive need to know, Ava investigates the Frazier brood only to find an unexpected shocker that could end her hopes for happiness.

Sea Change is an engaging modern day gothic starring a thirtyish woman who has never felt she belonged within her family and now in her marriage. Ava will remind readers of Joan Fontaine’s character in Hitchcock’s Suspicion. Rotating perspective between several cast members, readers learn the strange truth though there are too many improbable spins to the exciting storyline. Still fans will appreciate this well written drama as Karen White provides a delightful twister.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 8, 2012

Triangles-Ellen Hopkins


Ellen Hopkins

Atria, June 26 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451626346

As Holly, Andrea and Marissa are turning forty soon, each deals with a crisis differently. Married to Jace, Holly begins to crash diet while starting and writing about her casual affairs, and being there for her teenage daughter Mikayla who is having her first relationship. Andrea’s offspring Harley seems well adjusted unlike her serial dating mom who is seeing Jace, who is aware that his wife is cheating on him. Heartbroken Marissa watches helplessly as her four year old daughter Shelby is dying, her spouse has emotionally given up, and she also struggles with her gay son’s sexual preferences.

Triangles is an engaging character study told in verse by the three women. Each of the females are fully developed and through their filters so are their family members. Though this contains well written and vivid verse, the constant state of trauma with no respites can feel overwhelming. Still readers who relish something different and poignant will appreciate Ellen Hopkins’s fascinating narrative poetry that enables the audience to learn of the past and understand what motivates each of the lead protagonists in the present.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Girl in the Garden-Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden

Kamala Nair

Grand Central, June 15 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780446572682

Rakhee Singh grew up in Plainfield, Minnesota. Her father Aba was a research cardiologist at the Plainfield Clinic and her mother Amma worked part-time at the Chippewa Mall though she mostly was a housewife. During her first ten years, Rakhee never made a friend as she felt like an outsider. When she was eleven years old, a letter arrived from India that left Amma weeping. Not long afterward, mood-swinging Amma informs Rakhee when school ended for the summer that they would travel to her family’s village Malanad in Kerala while Aba stays in Minnesota.

Her three cousins welcome their American relative while the adults warn her to never enter the nearby jungle as that is dangerous. She assumes they are superstitious or playing adult bogyman games to frighten the children into behaving. Rakhee explores the forbidden zone but finds a dark secret that explains what haunts her mother and others. Years later she leaves behind an engagement ring in Connecticut to return to Malanad, India.

The Girl in the Garden is an engaging family drama as secrets are revealed, which torment her mom and frighten Rakhee as she learns the truth does not necessarily set one free until one accepts the truth. Character driven, readers will appreciate this Indian tale while wondering what happened to make Amma unhappy in the States and go home to live as a reclusive ascetic.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Long Way From You-Gwendolyn Heasley

A Long Way From You

Gwendolyn Heasley

HarperTeen, June 5 2012, $8.99

ISBN: 9780061978852

The parents of teenager Corrine Corcoran are paying for her best friend Kitsy Kidd to spend the summer in New York to include attending art classes at Parsons. The resident of Broken Spoke, Texas has dreamed of coming to Manhattan ever since she and her younger brother Kiki saw Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street. Kiki needs the respite as she has become the adult in her family since her dad left and her mom tuned to alcohol.

Being friendly and guileless, Kitsy meets people rather easily. While Corrine leaves to work at a camp, Kitsy from her friend’s West Village apartment visits the Guggenheim and MOMA where she meets the Art Boy. A band member he takes Kitsy around Manhattan and Brooklyn. At Parsons she does well at photography and meets the next It Girl, who has close ties with Tad. Kitsy has learned one thing from her time in the Big Apple is to face your tsuris squarely in an attempt to make them less problematic, which means returning to Broken Spoke.

Kitsy is a fabulous teenager who holds the warm young adult tale together as she finds the best in the city that never sleeps but knows the worst is what she left behind in the Lone Star State. Character driven, fans will enjoy her tour of the Big Apple while she begins to realize you can’t run away from home as whatever drove you to leave still remains as a major icon in your brain. A Long Way from Home is a winning young adult character study.

Harriet Klausner

Island Apart-Steven Raichlen

Island Apart

Steven Raichlen

Forge, June 5 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765332387

No one knows his name. He came to Chappaquiddick years ago and became known as the Hermit. This recluse rarely visits the “urbanized” areas on the island unless he has no choice and never crosses over to Martha’s Vineyard.

Book editor Claire Doheney has suffered two major setbacks as she has breast cancer surgery and her marriage ended. Her friend allows Claire to use her home on Chappaquiddick to heal and to edit a biography on controversial therapist Wilhelm Reich. Not a soul would have guessed that the Hermit will save the editor when he finds her unconscious and takes her to the ferry captain. She leaves him cranberry nut bread as a thank you and soon they exchange food gifts and ultimately dinners as they fall in love but his traumatic past still lingers in the way.

This is an engaging island drama starring two people with no chance at love succeeding as the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. The Reich entries are fascinating with insight into the controversial twentieth century therapist, but also detract from the prime storyline of the editor and the hermit forging a relationship as Claire quotes John Donne that “No man is an island.”

Harriet Klausner

Glamorous Illusions-Lisa T. Bergren

Glamorous Illusions

Lisa T. Bergren

David C. Cook, June 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781434764300

In 1913 Montana, Cora Diehl returns home to Dunnigan, Montana after attending the first year at the Normal School training to become a teacher. However, her parents fail to meet her at the train station so an elderly neighbor Mr. Miller gives her a ride to her family’s farm. In the barn is her Papa with his eyes vacant and his head on her Mama’s lap. Her forty-eight years old papa suffered a stroke. Even with help from the neighbors, the family farm is in jeopardy of being foreclosed so Cora tries to sell her necklace.

Not long afterward the affluent Copper King Wallace Kensington arrives to inform Cora that he not her Papa was her biological dad. Stunned Cora learns she has three half-siblings (Felix, Lillian and Vivian) around her age. Cora realizes her necklace led to Wallace coming to see her. He arranges for Papa to get the best care in Minneapolis and for Cora to join her biological family at the lake and on a Grand Tour of Europe with her siblings led by Sir Stuart McCabe and his nephew, William McCabe.

The first Grand Tour tale stars a strong Christian believer who finds her entire belief system shattered when she learns Papa is not her papa. Cora is terrific as she acts like a lottery winner while struggling with adjusting to her new family who has problems accepting the illegitimate farmer’s daughter as their equal, and wealth that places her in luxury. Fans will enjoy touring Europe with Lisa T. Bergren as our guide while wondering whether affluence will spoil Cora Diehl.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar-Angela Hunt

Five Miles South of Peculiar

Angela Hunt

Howard, Jun 5 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781439182048

On Jul 3, 1968 Charles Caldwell dies at his estate Sycamores near Peculiar, Florida. Avaricious Jackson County officials know that on Jul 3 2018, Sycamores will become county property.

Charles had three grandchildren. Carlene left their home town to become a Broadway star; her career ended when she lost her singing voice due to medical negligence so she has come home. Her twin sister, Darlene, remained behind to manage Sycamores and raise a family there while being jealous of her sibling who she does not want to come home. Their younger sister Magnolia raises her dogs Lucy and Ricky, and works her fabulous garden on a plot on Sycamores.

Though there is too much happenchance moving the tender family drama forward, readers will enjoy this warm southern tale. The viewpoint rotates the third person lead amidst the siblings so that the audience knows how each feels about life, alleged wrongs (MLB should adopt the scoring system), family and Sycamores. As the older sisters turn fifty, fans will wonder whether Charles granddaughters will forgive one another and themselves over supposed transgressions or will grudges keep them apart.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 1, 2012

Albert of Adelaide-Howard Anderson

Albert of Adelaide

Howard Anderson

Hachette/Twelve, Jul 10 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9781455509621

Bored of captivity, Albert the duck-billed platypus escapes from Adelaide Zoo. His objective is to find the Old Australia in the Outback. However, Albert begins to miss his ennui incarceration as he arrives severely sunburned in the place where he believes modernization has not occurred.

However, the human towns are no longer filled with people, but instead a crew of animals who behave differently from those he knew in Adelaide. He meets Jack the elderly arsonist wombat in the gates of Hell. Albert also encounters gay alcoholic bandicoots. To his surprise he adjusts to the nightmarish land that is nothing like his utopian fantasy by committing roadside robberies. When he is arrested and convicted to hang, Albert meets the legendary Tasmanian devil Muldoon.

This is a terrific parable in which the protagonist learns the Thomas Wolfe mantra You Can’t Go Home Again as it does not exist outside your memories or in Albert’s case his mythological dreams. The storyline starts leisurely introducing readers to Albert in Adelaide, but once the hero goes on the road and encounters life in the wild, the plot accelerates into a coming of age anthropomorphic action thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Adventures of the Almighty One-Joe Dieckman

Adventures of the Almighty One

Joe Dieckman

V-Wind Publishing, Jul 21 2012, $11.50

PO Box 1031; Elgin, Il 60121-1031

ISBN: 9780982877326

“Adventures of the Almighty One.” Basher leaves his motorcycle mom to hit the road on a too small moped. At a secluded diner, Basher meets an overweight woman who he calls his lady love. They leave together only to run into violent bikers before Handlebar Hank joins their odyssey.

“The Message.” Tridoan the Messenger claims “God is Love” and without the “spirit of love”, man does cruel things whether it is Nazi Germany or the early Christian Church, or loses sight of love like prideful Nebuchadnezzar. Tridoan follows this up with a plea to the scribe’s home America where slavery in many forms still exist instead of “love thy neighbor”.

“Handyman: A Day With The Hot Fox.” The widower raises his six year old child alone working as a handyman. A frantic woman demands he make repairs before her daughter’s fifth birthday bash. His customer is a hyperactive lunatic who treats him with disdain, keeps adding chores to be done and changes her clothing into increasingly provocative outfits. Finally he flees without the money he earned. Oddly, not long afterward he and his son are invited to attend her daughter’s bash.

This is an odd but well written intriguing short story collection about love. “Adventures of the Almighty One” and “Handyman” star fascinating protagonists in weird somewhat comedic yet also grave situations; both are engaging shots that readers who appreciate something entertainingly different will appreciate. “The Message” is an inspirational poem imploring people to love one another. Though well written that feels out of place with the other two entries.

Harriet Klausner