Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Kingmaker's Daughter- Philippa Gregory

The Kingmaker's Daughter

Philippa Gregory

Touchstone, Aug 16 2012, $26.99

ISBN: 9781451626070

The Kingmaker Richard Neville, as the Earl of Warwick plans to see one of his daughters (Anne or Isabel) sits on the throne as wife to King Edward IV while the loser in his marital sweepstake would wed either royal brother George or Richard. However, independent Edward destroys Warwick’s scheme when he marries his choice ofs a wife while ignoring the demands of the Kingmaker.

An irate Neville arranges a marriage between George and Isabel while supporting his son-in-law’s revolt to take the throne from Edward. Meanwhile Anne becomes a widow at fourteen with no protection until the other royal sibling Richard marries her. Proving a chip off her sire’s block, she thrives on regal intrigue that places her, her husband and their children in peril as the War of the Roses continues unabated.

The latest Cousins’ War of the Roses historical thriller (see The Lady of the Rivers, The Red Queen and The White Queen) is an exciting tale filled with political intrigue as no one is safe from betrayal. Fast-paced, readers will relish observing the behind the scenes actions of a strong woman who like all females in the fifteenth century hides what she does in a male only world.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yankee Doodle Dixie-Lisa Patton

Yankee Doodle Dixie

Lisa Patton

Dunne, Aug 7 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781250007476

With her marriage over as he chose boobs over her and their daughters, Leelee Satterfield decides to leave Vermont and the Dixie B&B and restaurant she made successful with the help of Peter the Chef to go home to Memphis though she rationalizes her reason for leaving is that the inn was her ex’s dream. Before she heads south, Peter stuns her with a kiss (see Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter).

In Memphis, she makes a home for her two young children with help from her late parents' housekeeper Kissie. Her BFFs welcome her back to the real world. Leelee obtains work at a radio station and is attracted to a rock star Liam White who takes her with him on his tour until she realizes he has the cloned personality of her former husband in which the world owes them. She just wishes Peter would become southern fried.

The storyline lacks the southern invasion of rural Vermont theme of the first tale, but still readers will enjoy the further complications in the life of Leelee due the eccentric cast who bring to life Memphis. Although her return as a single mom seems too easy; as she gets by with a little help from her friends (paraphrasing the Beatles) and Kissie, and obtains the radio station position though her résumé lacks any reference to air waves, fans will enjoy the return of the prodigal daughter.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sneaky Pie For President-Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Sneaky Pie For President

Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Bantam, Aug 7 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345530462

The title says it all as Sneaky Pie Brown adopted by Rita Mae Brown is tired of the humans destroying earth and harming the non Homo sapiens population with their chemicals. Like any caring politician, Sneaky Poe listens to his constituency (consisting of the creatures on land, in water and in the air) for their concerns. The woodpecker dines on bugs, but the sprays kill their food. Others agree that pesticides must be banned. Fish state that the humans must end their polluting of the waters and land animals decry the hunter stalking mentality to claim a trophy. Sneaky Pie even gains the support of the rodent population as the non-humans rally behind their feline candidate.

Her friends (Pewter the gray cat, Tee Tucker the Corgi, and Tally the Jack Russell) support her bid because they believe that if Sneaky is president she can end the human destruction and make the world a better place. With a nod to Furry Vengeance and Animal Farm, fans will enjoy Sneaky Pie for President as she and her buddies make her case in this cautionary anthropomorphic tail.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 23, 2012

The King’s Damsel-Kate Emerson

The King’s Damsel

Kate Emerson

Gallery, Aug 7 2012, $16.00

ISBN 9781451661491

In 1525 Glastonbury, thirteen years old heiress Thomasine Lodge mourns the losses of her father Sir Arthur from a fever and her brother Stephen in a hunting accident. A letter arrives from a stranger, Sir Lionel Daggett who claims he is her legal guardian. A stunned Thomasine and her gentle stepmother Blanche meet with him as he explains he purchased her guardianship from King Henry VIII.

Sir Lionel assigns his ward as a Lady-In-Waiting to Princess Mary as a means to get inside the court where he orders her to become the monarch’s mistress. She disobeys his command as she has no desire to help the ambitious amoral Sir Lionel gain insider advantages though she ends up in the Anne Boleyn’s circle where she learns of the personal advantages of becoming the King’s Damsel.

Based on a 1534 letter, this is an engaging Tudor historical fiction that brings to life the insider machinations during the 1520s and 1530s reign of Henry VIII. Thomasine proves to be a strong protagonist who seems real as she more than just survives the intrigue of a court in which innuendoes lead to executions. Although the romantic subplot feels out of place as the heroine learns lessons in manipulating others and surviving the manipulation by the same others. Still fans of Kate Emerson’s Secrets of the Tudor Court will enjoy her latest sixteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Johnny Hiro (Half Asian, All Hero)-Fred Chao

Johnny Hiro (Half Asian, All Hero)

Fred Chao

Tor, Jul 17 2012, $16.99

ISBN: 9780765329370

In Brooklyn, Johnny Hiro lives with his Pollyanna girlfriend Mayumi while he works across the Bay as a busboy in a Lower East Side sushi restaurant owned by Chef Masago; she accepts her role is that of the pretty sidekick GF to the hero. One night while they are sleeping, Gozadilla the monster that destroyed Tokyo crashes through their paper thin apartment wall seeking vengeance against Mayumi’s mom who was a limb of giant Super A-OK Robot that kicked his butt. However, Johnny has experience battling urban blight waiters demanding greater tips for inadequate service or samurai carrying businessmen. Thus Johnny ruining Mayumi’s bunny slippers leaps in a single bound at the humongous lizard hoping his reflexes keep him from an extended hospital stay as he lacks insurance. Thank goodness for Mayor Bloomberg or Johnny would not be there to play catch with a gigantic tuna, battling sushi ninja, arguing the law with Judge Judy in Night Court and dealing with the government failure to bail out that critical too big to fail capitalist industry, high heels; all part of everyday living in New York City.

This graphic version of the award winning Johnny Hiro survivor of New York City comic books showcases the amusing satirical adventures of a young man trying to make it in a city that never sleeps (as Gozadilla proves). The entries are fast-paced short clips with the B&W drawings lampooning the misadventures of the working class couple as nothing is sacred when it comes to life in the boroughs.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pittsburg Landing-Robert Burns Clark

Pittsburg Landing

Robert Burns Clark

Definitive Words Cyber Publishing, Feb 15 2012, $19.95


ISBN: 9780985537500

Fortyish West Point graduate widower Will Moore knows the horror of war having served in the Mexican conflict. He opposes the War Between the States that have Americans fighting Americans. However, he joins the Union army and trains a unit in Indiana. There he meets twentyish surgical assistant "little Sarah" who years ago he taught to jump her horse. They fall in love and marry just before he leads his troops into battle.

Mexican War vet Amos Bingham vowed to never kill again after he killed over thirty soldiers in one horrible night. When the Confederacy called for soldiers to enlist, he refused. His family and neighbors called him a coward and his teenage son Noah, disgusted with him, joined the Southern army. Fearing for his son’s life, Amos pursues Noah vowing to kill anyone who gets in his way.

On April 6, 1862, the two armies collide at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The fighting is brutal with Will and his unit at the front; while Sarah joined a field surgical team also near the fighting. Noah and Amos are on the other side of the combat that by the end of April 7, 1862 left 23000 dead.

The two soldiers and the surgical assistant put faces to the horror of war as the bloody battle at Pittsburg Landing (AKA Battle of Shiloh) proves a key victory for the Union and made the early reputations of Grant and Sherman. Character driven, military historical fiction fans will relish this insightful look at one of the most pivotal bloody Civil War fights as none of the lead characters want to go to war but each feels compelled they must.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You & Me-Padgett Powell

You & Me

Padgett Powell

Ecco, Jul 31 2012, $23.99

ISBN: 9780062126139

Somewhere spiritually near Bakersfield and geographically near Jacksonville, the dudes sit on a porch in a Mayberry of the mind near a liquor bunker in a rundown area debating anything and everything. They argue over who had the worst childhood, the impact of suicide, and visiting the creek to challenge Despair in a staring contest to see who first looks away. However, moseying to the creek or the liquor bunker requires action, but that word is a noun not a verb. No one intercedes as the puissant porch philosophers ponder the nano gnats like the extinction of barber poles and critical giants of the universe like Mansfield’s smothering cup size.

Filled with word play and no action, You & Me is an intriguing metaphysical tale that raises difficult questions (with open answers) to key life issues that range from the true meaning of "Be neat, be brave, be Buster-Brown Bustamante" to “are we free? and “are we perfect?” Not for everyone, readers who appreciate something radically different and passive will enjoy Padgett Powell’s dialogue of the absurd as the two dudes apply The Interrogative Mood to be or not to be.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 16, 2012

Living In Harmony-Mary Ellis

Living In Harmony

Mary Ellis

Harvest House, Aug 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736938662

In Mount Joy, Pennsylvania John Detweiler takes his fiancée Amy King home to her family farm when they see the inferno. Her Maem and Daed die in the blaze while her three schwestern (Nora, Rachel and Beth) were not home at the time of the fire. John persuades Amy to marry him soon and for them to take Nora with them to Harmony, Maine near where his brothers live and land is cheaper.

John's minister brother Thomas and Sally welcome the two sisters warmly. Thomas also suggests the couple delay their marriage vows as Amy still grieves. While adjusting to Living in Harmony, Amy and Nora learn they have a shunned aunt Prudence nearby who they want to meet. However, the local Amish community is much more rigid on rule enforcement than back in Pennsylvania, which means they must never contact their banished relative. John agrees with the elders.

The first New Beginnings Amish family drama is a strong character driven tale in which the siblings’ faith in God has been challenged by a bad thing happening to good people. They are further tested when they insist on meeting Aunt Prudence. Readers will appreciate this engaging Amish romance as Harmony proves a misnomer for John and Amy while looking forward to the stories of her sisters especially Nora whose path has been set in this engaging storyline.

Harriet Klausner

The Face of Heaven-Murray Pura

The Face of Heaven

Murray Pura

Harvest House, Aug 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN 9780736949491

In 1861 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Lyndel Keim finds two slaves in her barn. One of them Moses Gunnison says he is a man not a slave while his friend Charlie Preston is injured. If caught they will be returned to the Virginia plantation where Charlie will be hanged for his third escape attempt. Moses is valuable as he can read. Sheriff Jackson arrives to take the property back to its rightful owner to the chagrin of Lyndel and others. She, her brother Levi, her beau Nathaniel King, his brother Corinth and Joshua Yoder argue against the Amish “Thou shalt not kill,” pacifism.

The community including three respective families shuns the five rebels. Though non-violence is imprinted in each of their make-ups, they feel a need to serve God by fighting against slavery. Lyndel Keim trains under Clara Barton as a field nurse following her Nathaniel and the Iron Brigade into combat. The three other males also join Union combat units.

The second Snapshots in History (see the WWI thriller The Wings of Morning) is a terrific Civil War epic that follows the emotional trials of mostly Lyndel and Nathaniel at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg. Both sees the horror of war; amplified by their pacifist nurturing. Character driven, fans will enjoy this Amish war tale as the lead couple knows they can never go home, but until he is severely injured at Gettysburg, they felt the cost was worth doing what they believe the Lord would want of them: to free the enslaved peoples.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 9, 2012

Homesick-Roshi Fernando


Roshi Fernando

Knopf, Jul 17 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307958105

In London on December 31 1982, Victor and Nandini host a New Year’s Eve party attended by fellow Sri Lankan immigrants and their offspring as all share in common a feeling of no belonging and a desire to belong in “Homecoming.” Their daughter Preethi starts nursery school while waiting for Archee her Soup Dragon grandma in the “Clangers.” Her brothers especially Gehan blames Preethi for them not going back to Sri Lanka on a visit as they save money to send her to a private school in “Love Me Tender.” Years later seventeen year old Preethi is in love with Ollie like all the girls her age in "Sophocles' Chorus. As her marriage teeters Preethi's husband is downsized in "Meta General." Finally Preethi worries about her Mum “At the Funeral” of her aunt. The stories are entertaining and enlightening as the audience meets Preethi the prime star and others in her circle like her nasty cousin Kumar in “The Fluorescent Jacket.” Fans will appreciate this strong series of interrelated vignettes that provide a deep look at the Sri Lankan culture especially in England though at times in the Homeland too; yet also serves universally for any displaced (volunteer or forced) person who becomes a Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein) after leaving a Homeland.

Harriet Klausner

A Sweethaven Homecoming-Courtney Walsh

A Sweethaven Homecoming

Courtney Walsh

Guideposts, Aug 1 2012, $13.99


ISBN: 9780824931711

The Sweethaven Circle (Suzanne, Jane, Lila and Meghan) were best friends as children who shared a scrapbook/journal starting in eighth grade for several years back in the late 1980s. Recently Suzanne died while her daughter Campbell learned from the 1987 book what her mom hid from her BFFs when she broke the circle. Campbell contacted the three living members (see A Sweethaven Summer) with the news of Suzanne’s death.

Mourning for the loss of their childhood friend Jane, Lila and Meghan return to Sweethaven, Michigan to complete their personal scrapbooks and move on with their grief. Each has issues to deal with too. Meghan the singer has cleaned up her act and wants her children back with her. Jane tries to forgive Meghan for causing her son’s death. Lila has left her husband. As each struggles with their problems, Meghan’s twins are kidnapped.

This is a warm sweet sequel that focuses on friendship lost and friendship regained if each moves passed their hurts and fears. As with the first tale, scrapbooking remains a key element while redemption is the prime theme even for a buried Suzanne. Although it behooves fans to have read A Sweethaven Summer as this drama builds directly from it, fans will enjoy this engaging contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Little Night-Luanne Rice

Little Night

Luanne Rice

Pamela Dorman, Jun 5, 2012, $26.95

ISBN: 9780670023561

Sisters Clare and Anne Burke were close growing up in Chelsea. When Anne married Danish glass blower Frederik Rasmussen, he isolated her from her family and friends. In 1993 needing to see her beloved sibling, Clare visited Anne at her remote country home where her sibling, her niece Grit and her nephew Gilly welcome her. Seeing bruises on her sister, Clare convinced the trio to leave with her, but Frederik interceded. When he chokes Anne, Clare hammers him with a burnt log. The police arrested Clare who served two years in prison for assault due to Anne’s testimony defending her spouse.

Almost two decades later in Manhattan, Clare, who has become an urban ornithologist, remains hurt by her sister’s betrayal though she prays somehow they reconcile but has no hope as Frederik forbids Anne contact with her family. Twentyish Grit arrives at Clare’s residence seeking to belong, feelings she has not received from her parents who live in Copenhagen. She tells her aunt her father physically and emotionally abuses her mom and her, and her brother died in a bog. As they bond, both hope Anne will one day join them.

This is an exciting family drama that focuses on the extended impact on other loved ones by a codependent relationship between an abuser and his victim. The key cast is solid including the manipulative violent Frederik though Grit’s resiliency and Paul’s dedication feel wrong. The depiction of New York as an urban rainforest with a vast variety of aviary is brilliantly captured as two female relatives bond while hoping to reconcile with the woman who is the one degree that connects them.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Mountain Away-Emilie Richards

One Mountain Away

Emilie Richards

Mira, Jul 31 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313557

In Asheville, successful realtor Charlotte Hale assesses her life and finds it wanting. She has made a fortune, but at the cost of her daughter who she never sees or hears from. Her friends do not care one iota about her except for what she can do for them. Even her lovely home seems cold without loving family to mess it up.

Unhappy, Charlotte feels remorse over the death of animal protector Minnie as she knows she was part of the cause of the woman’s death. At the coffee shop, waitress Harmony Stoddard serves Charlotte who watches a nasty customer treat the young woman with contempt. Recalling her time severing tables years ago, Charlotte intercedes when an unfortunate accident occurs. On an impulse, she takes Harmony home with her. As she begins to reach out to help people without fanfare or from a monetary distance, Charlotte dreams of reconciling with her daughter Taylor who she drove away when her then sixteen years old child told her she was pregnant and keeping the baby. Charlotte needs to hold her granddaughter Maddie whom she never met though she has seen her from a distance when the child is with her grandfather Ethan.

This Goddesses Anonymous family drama is an engaging contemporary due to the strong cast especially Charlotte who uses a journal to help her cope with her depression. Character driven by Charlotte who knows time is running out. However she fears rejection so she doesn’t act on her feelings. With little action but with strong characters and Good Advice (re the movie scene of a mom and her estranged dying son) she finally learns that it is never too late to reach out to loved ones. Fans will appreciate this warm second chance at family.

Harriet Klausner