Friday, August 31, 2012

The Other Half of Me-Morgan McCarthy

The Other Half of Me

Morgan McCarthy

Free Press, Sep 4 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451668230

In 1988 the Anthony siblings (seven year old Jonathan and his six years old sister Theo) are best friends as they live in Evendon Manor in Wales. Both know their mom Alicia and their nanny Miss Black dislike and for the most part ignore them. Still they have each other as they explore the estate especially the secret garden with its mysterious pool.

Brother and sister know their family has many secrets, but this pair cares about one in particular; what happened to their father. When their alcoholic mom collapses, their maternal grandmother Eve arrives. Eve insists their father died years ago, but Theo thinks she lies to them. Over the years Jonathan worries about his sibling. Theo seems to behave increasingly mentally ephemeral as slowly she is losing her grip on reality.

The Other Half of Me is a dark character driven family drama as the past haunts the present in vivid rustic Wales. Effortlessly rotating between 1988 and 2008, the storyline grips the reader who needs to know what happened to each member of the extended Anthony family.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Space Between Us-Megan Hart

The Space Between Us

Megan Hart

Mira, Sep 4 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313083

Tesla Martin enjoys serving lattes to her loyal regulars at Morningstar Mocha. Though she likes all her customers, her favorite is charismatic Meredith. The woman can charm a story from anyone; for instance Carlos the writer admitted to jerking off to old people porn.

Meredith turns her magnetism on Tesla. Like all the caffeine addicts at Morningstar Mocha, Tesla relates her wild child history, who along with her brother Cap, is the offspring of commune living swingers. Magical Meredith and Tesla begin seeing the town together. Eventually Meredith persuades Tesla to sleep with her husband Charlie while she watches as a Peeping Thomasine. Tesla is attracted to both of the married couple; while Charlie wants both women; and bored Meredith remains a thrill seeking watcher who lives precariously through the lovers.

The Space Between Us is a deep but strange character study that looks closely at the wants and desires of each person in a threesome. Childhood flashbacks enable readers to understand Tesla’s imprint while Charlie’s need for two women is also understandable. However, it is the enigmatic charismatic Meredith who makes the contemporary fresh through her obsessive need for an emotional high from the stories of others. “There are eight million stories in the Naked City…” (Naked City) and Meredith needs to hear every one of them even as she leaves her narrators emotionally nuked.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Haven-Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Haven

Suzanne Woods Fisher

Revell, Aug 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780800719883

Lancaster County Game Warden intern Will Stolz arrives at Stoney Ridge to protect two endangered Peregrine falcons and their eggs. Will stays at the farm of widower Amos Lapp whose daughter Sadie has just come home accompanied by a baby after visiting her older married sister Julia and her sibling's husband Roman in Ohio. Amos’ youngest daughter Mary Kate and their housekeeper Fern Graber also reside on the family farm.

Sadie expects her reputation torn asunder due to the infant given to her at a bus station. Meanwhile, Twin Creeks' teacher Gideon Smucker loves Sadie, but has been shy about courting her. When he learns of her baby, he fears he waited too long while Will makes it clear that he is attracted to her.

The second Stoney Ridge Seasons Amish family drama (See The Keeper) is an exciting tale starring a strong cast as readers will enjoy the interactions between the caring heroine, whining Will, gossipy M.K., helpless Gid, wise father and the common sense housekeeper. Although the ending feels rushed, readers will enjoy Sadie’s saga.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three and a Half Virgins-John Blumenthal

Three and a Half Virgins

John Blumenthal

Farmer Street Press, Dec 22 2011, $8.99

ISBN: 9780967944418

As her husband turns forty with the middle age bulge beginning to show, Deirdre wishes her spouse Jimmy Hendricks (“No relation”) a happy birthday by informing him she is divorcing him. Stunned as if he is trapped in a Purple Haze and feeling almost as alone as he felt when he and Deirdre were allegedly happy over the last few years, Jimmy recognizes that he is a recovering idiot. He muses about what could have been if he was not an idiot when he attended high school and college and dreams of a reunion with any or all of his ex-girlfriends.

He decides to visit them to ask them to forgive his stupid troglodyte behavior though he also hopes for a heated tryst or three too. His best friend Morris the Orthodox Jew accompanies Jimmy on his redemption tour. Jimmy starts with the minister’s daughter Laura Beasley of Rimbaldi High School. Next up is Samantha Jane Conrad at Fryman College. Third at bat is Molly Martinez also at Fryman College. Then there was Christine while Molly was away at a family funeral.

With a nod to Denis Leary’s Bad Boy movie, Three and a Half Virgins is an amusing character study of a man looking back at his transgressions towards women. Each female owns a chapter so that the audience knows how they felt about Jimmy during and after. Although the storyline is thin, readers will enjoy Jimmy Hendricks’ forty years old idiot gig.

Harriet Klausner

Hemingway's Girl-Erika Robuck

Hemingway's Girl

Erika Robuck

NAL, Sep 4 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780451237880

In 1935 Florida, the Bennet family American patriarch dies leaving behind a Cuban widow, three young daughters and no money. The oldest child nineteen years old Mariella Bennet bets on a boxing match in which Ernest Hemingway referees. She loses but meets the famous writer, who, accompanied by his second wife Pauline and their two sons, recently moved to Key West.

Hemingway hires Mariella as a housemaid. He takes the teen to a fight where she meets pugilist WWI veteran Gavin Murray who is working on the Overseas Highway. He is attracted to the spunky young lady as is Hemingway. As the thirtyish males vie for the attention of the much younger maid, she likes both of them but Papa is married as a Labor Day Hurricane batters the Keys.

The key to this engaging historical drama is Hemingway seems real as he transitions into “Papa” while the rest of the key players come across as genuine too. Although the enjoyable storyline starts slow while the characters, relationships (including unneeded ones) and the setting are introduced, the plot accelerates once the two overlapping triangles form. Fans will enjoy Depression Era Papa Hemingway’s Girl.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower-Alison Weir

A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower

Alison Weir

Ballantine, Oct 2 2012, $27.00

ISBN: 9780345511898

Katherine Plantagenet believes her father Protector Richard Plantagenet is a great man though she is illegitimate. She detests the rumors she hears about him at his court while her stepmother fears what Richard will do to his nephews. When Katherine falls in love, though she is a bastard, her beloved is unacceptable to her father; and when the princes vanish inside the Tower with her father named monarch in 1483 she loses faith in her sire King Richard III.

Her family pushed her older sister Lady Jane Grey on the thrown after King Henry VIII died. Lady Jane lasted less than a fortnight as Queen. Her younger sister Katherine Grey is somewhat persona non grata due to her family’s machinations though she is heir to the throne of Queen Elizabeth I. When she marries without her Majesty’s permission she becomes pregnant and Elizabeth incarcerates her in the Tower to insure no male threatens her still uncertain rule.

Rotating the tales, Alison Weir provides a fascinating historical as each shares in common being too close to the throne for the respective royals to ignore. Separately the plots are well written with plenty of the Ms. Weir trademark sense of readers being there. However, the move back and forth between the lead females, who lived several decades apart, requires constant adaptation to whose tale is being told; I would have preferred the first half being Katherine and the end of the Plantagenet reign, and the latter part focused on Katherine Grey and the rise of Elizabeth. Still Ms. Weir provides a strong look at the fate of two women with one deadly degree of separation from the throne.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 20, 2012

Westward Hearts-Melody Carlson

Westward Hearts

Melody Carlson

Harvest House, Sep 1 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736948715

By 1856 widower Elizabeth Martin and her two children (Jamie and Ruth) visit her parents for Christmas. Her younger brother Matthew Dawson arrives late filled with rage. His fiancée eloped with his BFF. Soon the four adults agree to head west, a dream Elizabeth shared with her late husband James.

The extended family travels in three wagons modified into prairie schooners as they leave Kentucky for Kansas City. There they join a wagon train. Elizabeth and guide Eli Kincade are attracted to one another, but she has doubts as his past is shrouded in mystery while she fears the impact on her children and feels she betrays her beloved Jamie. Eli has issues too

The first Homeward on the Oregon Trail is an enjoyable western romance that brings to life the dangerous trek across Pre Civil War America. The cast is fully developed especially the Dawson-Martin brood, who each possess different personalities; while Eli brings enigma to the mix. Filled with action, readers will enjoy traversing the Oregon Trail with Melody Carson as our wagon master.

Harriet Klausner

Two Destinies-Elizabeth Musser

Two Destinies

Elizabeth Musser

David C. Cook, Sep 1 2012. $14.99

ISBN: 9780781405010

In 1994 French citizens Risléne Namani and Eric Hoffmann meet and fall in love. However, her Algerian family is Muslim while his American family is Christian. To see one another, she has to sneak away which makes her feel guilty. Risléne fears her father’s growing fanaticism even with him unaware of his daughter’s conversion to Christianity. Neither has told anyone about their love and desire to marry though Eric believes his sister will be supportive.

When father announces Risléne will wed a selected Muslim in the home country, Eric seeks a way to save his beloved especially fearing her father or her intended will kill her if she remains committed to Christianity as that is a transgression punishable by death in the eyes of her family. As civil war explodes in Algeria and social unrest explodes in France, Eric and Risléne have their faith in the Lord and in their love to keep them optimistic that their seemingly Two Destinies will merge into one.

Three decades after the first two Secrets of the Cross Christian thrillers (see Two Crosses and Two Testaments) and starring different protagonists with a new war in Algeria and strife in France, Two Destinies is an enjoyable tale of love and belief. The storyline is at its best when it compares the similarities and differences between the religious and cultural aspects of Islam and Christianity through a strong fully developed cast. Although there is a tendency to preach, readers will enjoy Elizabeth Musser’s return to the French Algerian connection.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Life Drawing For Beginners-Roisin Meaney

Life Drawing For Beginners

Roisin Meaney

5 Spot, Aug 14 2012, $13.99

ISBN: 9781455504084

In Carrickbawn, Ireland secondary school teacher Audrey decides to host an adult night-school class Life Drawing For Beginners to make a little money and have something to do on a Tuesday night to break up her rut. Audrey hires single mom Jackie as a model for her six week class. Two sexagenarians protest the nudity before class begins.

Five students sign up for her six week class. Polish immigrant Zarek becomes a student to break the monotony of his boring cafe job and have one night away from his loud roommate. Meg, Irene and Fiona have never attended an adult art class before. Single dad James has moved to town with his daughter, but plans to stay aloof as he thought he was enrolled in a French class except he is attracted to Jackie. Meanwhile Audrey asks the grumpy pet store owner “How much is that doggy in the window?” as she has fallen in love with the puppy. None of the seven participants are quite like the image they try to portray to the other attendees.

This is a warm Irish character study starring seven engaging people with diverse personalities but sharing in common struggles with their respective lives. The myriad of subplots blend nicely together into a panorama drama though reads more like short stories connected by the life-drawing class than a novel.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Speechless-Hannah Harrington


Hannah Harrington

Harlequin Teen, Aug 28 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780373210527

Sixteen years old Chelsea takes pride over being a gossip who cannot keep a secret and her status as number one BFF to the high school’s queen Kristen. At a New Year’s Eve party, an intoxicated Chelsea sees Noah making out with a boy she does not recognize. Nauseated she announces what she saw. Joey and Warren say they will talk to Noah. Soon afterward, Noah ends up in the hospital unconscious after a horrific beating in a parking lot.

Kristen warns Chelsea to remain silent or else they all will be in trouble not just Joey and Warren who the BFFs assume assaulted Noah. Feeling guilty she tells her dad. At school, Chelsea becomes persona non grata as a RAT. Vowing to never again gossip, an ostracized Chelsea feels her fall from grace but begins to make new friends.

This is an intriguing teen character study starring a strong cast as seen through Chelsea’s firsthand account. Although Chelsea’s change of attitude even with fallbacks seems mentally too easy (even a trauma leaves habits hard to break) and abrupt, young teen readers will appreciate this deep look at the wide impact of hate crimes in which silence supports the violence.

Harriet Klausner

The Glass Butterfly-Louise Marley

The Glass Butterfly

Louise Marley

Kensington, Aug 28 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758265685

Knowing her Fey gift failed her and stunned by what she learns about one of her patients therapist Victoria Lake believes the threat this psychopath says will happen to her estranged twenty-year old son Jack will be the next victim if the shrink tells anyone. To protect Jack, Tory fakes her death and leaves the area without telling the only person she loves in the world.

Though he ridiculed his mom over her claims of psychic abilities, Jack reconsiders his scorn as he feels his mom is not dead in spite of a police inquiry and his attending her funeral. He needs to see her to insure she is safe so he begins a search. At the same time Tory changes coasts relocating in Cannon Beach, Oregon as Paulette Chambers. As she makes friends with Hank, Iris and Johnson, she misses Jack and Giacomo Puccini, but knows she did the right thing until she realizes her dreams of nineteenth century Tuscany warns her that it is not over.

This is a terrific suspense that blends a touch of the Fey with the life of Puccini inside of a taut contemporary thriller. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate the son and the villain searching for the therapist as all roads converge on Cannon Beach.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Raven Blood Eye-Giles Kristian

Raven Blood Eye

Giles Kristian

Bantam, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780345535078

In 802 England, Osric the orphan knows nothing about himself before he joined the villagers two years ago. The villagers of Abbotsend in the Kingdom of Wessex distrust him partially because his past is unknown and mostly because of his blood red eye. He works for mute Eahlstan the carpenter cutting and shaping timber as well as performing menial tasks.

Jarl Sigurd the Lucky arrives with his Norsemen after crossing the Njord Sea to Abbotsend insisting they are traders. They notice Osric’s red eye and believe Odin the God of War has given him the blood clot. Wulfweard the Christ priest calls them Satan spawns, but calmer heads hope to send them peacefully on their way. However, Wulfweard puts hemlock in their mead; speaking Sigurd’s tongue Osric warns him. They slaughter the townsfolk warriors and burn down the village but take Osric and thanks to the lad Eahlstan with them renaming the teen Raven though some of his new friends, like the villagers, distrust him. The lad’s adventures are just beginning as he seeks the Holy Gospels of St Jerome allegedly guarded by King Coenwulf of Mercia and meets Cynethryth.

The first Raven Dark Ages epic is an exciting look at the early ninth century when Norsemen raided the English coast. The storyline starts slow as Giles Kristian introduces his large cast, but accelerates once the Norsemen leave Abbotsend aflame. The well written action-packed storyline is filled with drink and blood as fans of Beowulf era historical epic adventures will want to follow the escapades of Raven marked by Odin.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lionel Asbo: State of England-Martin Amis

Lionel Asbo: State of England

Martin Amis

Knopf, Aug 21 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307958082

Lionel’s mom Grace had seven children by her ninetieth birthday. The oldest and only female offspring Cilla and the youngest Lionel had the same father. The others (John, Paul, George, Ringo and Stu) came from five different dads. When Lionel was a couple days passed his third birthday, he set the State of England record for youngest felon when he tossed bricks at passing cars. His behavior over the next two decades proved constantly his Anti-Social Behaviour Orders affirmed by Lionel when he adopted the last name of Asbo as being representative of his sociopathic actions terrorizing London by his malt liquor imbibing pit bulls as much as himself.

When Cilla dies, Lionel’s fifteen years old college bound nephew Desmond Pepperdine, who is having a tryst with Grace, needs a parent. Grace and the Beatles refuse so it leaves it up to Lionel who is left to hold the bag to mentor his nephew into being a miscreant chip off the uncle’s block. At about the same time Lionel wins the wins £140 million national lottery so he turns into an affluent numb-nut Lottery Lout who bores with boring females.

This is an odd but scathing satire that rips the veneer off of a so called caring society in which the real golden rule is to hate everyone as everyone hates you. The biting storyline focuses on the uncle and nephew as the former’s hyperbolic activities bring humor while his disappointing book-reading relative adds profundity. Although the over the top of Big Ben mockery is too long losing some of its sharpness, fans of sharp edged lampooning will appreciate the state of Asbo.

Harriet Klausner

Summer Lies-Bernhard Schlink and Carol Janeway (translator)

Summer Lies

Bernhard Schlink and Carol Janeway (translator)

Pantheon, Aug 14 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307907264

"After the Season." On Cape Cod, the flautist and the foundation worker meet and fall in love, but he detests the ultra-wealthy and she is one of them.

“The Night in Baden-Baden.” She angrily accuses her playwright boyfriend of cheating so feeling she gave him a free pass, he has sex with a waitress.

"The House in the Forest." They are novelists raising their daughter in the countryside bur she is a success and he is not.

"Stranger in the Night." On the plane, he is stunned by his row mate’s tale of a woman, a sheik, a death and five million euros, but shocked when the narrator wants his passport.

“The Last Summer.” The retired professor wants one last time with his loved ones before he drinks the toxin that will end the pain of terminal bone cancer, but his wife finds the bottle before he uses it.

“Johan Sebastian Bach on Reugen.” Though he resents his father for not being there for him, they attend a Bach festival together when he realizes who the distant one in their relationship truly is.

“The Journey to the South.” Elderly bitter Nina who hates her family seeks the lover she gave up years ago, but he reminds her she chose.

These seven strong character driven short stories focus on irrational rationalizations justifying decisions and behavior by the various protagonists.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Om Love-George Minot

Om Love

George Minot

Knopf, Aug 14 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9781400042746

Billy Winslow was once in amidst the East Village galleries. However, that seems like a lifetime ago as he has become a has-been. Anyone wondering what happened to Bill Winslow would know he joined the RamAnanda yoga studio on Second Avenue; hoping to find focus rather than his incoherent unfocused lifestyle.

At the studio, Billy is attracted to the youth of Rose, and the élan of Amanda. He and Amanda move in together. Billy heads to California to say his good bye to his dying dad. When, midway through the book, Billy travels to California to be with his ailing father during his final days, Minot finally hits his stride. A genuinely emotional story emerges, and the author takes the reader on a profound journey uninterrupted by random punctuation and yoga terminology. Returning to New York, Billy finds Amanda distant as she conceals a devastating health test results. Grieving for his dual loss of his father and for his relationship, Billy turns to art and yoga for solace.

Om Love is a convoluted fresh relationship drama starring a fascinating lead character. Billy makes the storyline work with his profound but strange syntax. Although several late twists are unnecessary padding, fans who appreciate something oddly different will enjoy yoga with bizarre grammar and weird punctuation.

Harriet Klausner

The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby-H.L. Grandin

The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby

H.L. Grandin

Acorn Book Services Jul 26 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780985726720

Early in the seventeenth century, the Weathersbys settled on land in the New World. The natives were wary of all the Europeans. However in 1622 Tyoga’s grandfather rescued Powhatan Chief Opencanecanough, who makes him and his kin friends for life. The tribe also recognized that this clan, like the natives, lives in harmony with the land.

In 1688, Tyoga’s father recognizes his six years old son’s nature awakening. He warns Tyoga that one day he will fulfill his destiny and be victorious, but how he handles winning will determine whether he is the victor or just a predetermined fated choice. Six years later, Tyoga and his blood brother Res Qua Ra Wa are in the woods when the latter steps on a trap. Tyoga saves his best friend’s life from marauding wolves as a legend begins to form. He falls in love with Cherokee maiden Sunlei, but realizes for her to live, he must ignore his feelings.

This engaging epic historical tale paints a vivid picture of Colonial Virginia but also contains a strong message encoring people “This above all: to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare). The storyline follows the adventures of Tyoga (and his BFF) as he tries to do what he believes is right and honorable, but also questions when he is doing deeds that others including his fate tell define as good rather than his beliefs. Loaded with action, The Legend of Tyoga Weatherbys is a brisk unique psychological thriller that ponders nature, nurture and self-identity.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bella Fortuna-Rosanna Chiofalo

Bella Fortuna

Rosanna Chiofalo

Kensington, Aug 28 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758266538

In Astoria, New York, the DeLuca women design and sew couture-lite gowns for their patrons at the family owned Sposa Rosa boutique. One of the daughters Valentina has become engaged to Michael Carello, her knight in shining armor since he rescued her from an irate villain (local shopkeeper) when she was a tweener.

They are to wed shortly in Venice. However, as the time for the nuptials is very near, Michael has second thoughts and ends their engagement. Heartbroken by the man she planned to marry since she was ten years old, Valentina travels to Venice anyway. There Valentina enjoys the magic of the city as she begins to understand how Bella Fortuna she really is.

This engaging Italian-American family drama is an entertaining tale that paints vivid pictures of Venice and a Queens neighborhood in a second chance at La Dolce Vita. Though the storyline flows as anticipated, fans will enjoy Valentina find her vita in Venice.

Harriet Klausner

The Headmaster's Wager-Vincent Lam

The Headmaster's Wager

Vincent Lam

Hogarth/Crown, Aug 14 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9780307986467

In the 1960s in Cholon, Vietnam, Chinese expatriate Chen “Percival” Pie Sou is the headmaster of the most prestigious English language academy in the country. Percival ignores the war between the two Vietnams while fully aware that he is considered a Chinese foreigner after over three decades in the Saigon area and marriage to an upper crust wife Cecilia.

When the government decrees only Vietnamese is to be used at schools, Percival’s beloved son Dai Jai ignores the edict and gets in trouble with authorities. Percival helps Dai flee Saigon for China where he hopes his son marries a Chinese woman. With his son apparently safe in his homeland, Percival begins an affair with Jacqueline, a half-French and half-Vietnamese student. She gives birth to his offspring just as the Tet Offensive occurs. A betrayal by a trusted employee and friend leaves Percival on a Viet Cong hit list

This is a strong look at the Vietnam War from the perspectives of mostly the Chinese expatriate and several locals. Thus Vincent Lam provides insight into survival techniques and divided loyalties in which BFFs for decades betray their friend as the chaos of war engulfs Saigon and the South.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Roots of the Olive Tree-Courtney Miller Santo

The Roots of the Olive Tree

Courtney Miller Santo

Morrow, Aug 21 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780062130518

In 2006 in Sacramento Valley, five generations of firstborn females live together at Hill House. The matriarch is hundred and twelve years old Anna who has been a widow since 1934 and her three sons died over a half of a century ago; she has one daughter Bets who is eighty-nine years old. Bets gave birth to sexagenarian widow Callie (and four other offspring). Callie had fortyish Deb who just was paroled after two decades in prison for murdering her husband; she gave birth to twenty-something pregnant Erin with no spouse.

Four of the quintet welcome geneticist Dr. Amrit Hashmi who has their permission to study why these females live so long. Bet is the lone hold-out as she knows secrets that no one else, including her matriarchal family members are aware of; secrets she wants left concealed.

This is an odd entertaining family drama in which each first born female possesses different personalities while affirming the problems of bickering generations living under the same roof through first person accounts from the rotating quintet and others including media. With a nod to the Old testament “begat”, the seemingly more important segues are not deeply explored (for example, an affair and a first born son); thus keeping the storyline shallow. Still fans who enjoy something different in epic family plots will want to visit Hill House.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Echo Through the Snow-Andrea Thalasinos

An Echo Through the Snow

Andrea Thalasinos

Forge, Aug 21 2012, $23.99

ISBN: 9780765330369

In 1929 Stalin sends his army into Siberia. His troops viciously destroy anyone in their path. The Siberian Chukchi people watch in horror as their homes and their culture are devastated by the invaders. On the day they become engaged, Keeper of the Guardians Jeaantaa's fiancé dies; her Chukchi people hold her culpable.

In 1992 Wisconsin, Rosalie meets Smokey a neglected Siberian husky at a junk yard. Familiar with abuse and phobic shy, she bonds with the dog. Rosalie begins dreaming of a grieving woman standing on ice. Haunted by Jeaantaa, Rosalie obtains Smokey over her raging husband’s spittle. Not long after that rescue, Jan and Dave hire Rosalie as a dog handler for their sled and kennel.

Rotating viewpoints between the lead women who share in common a love of huskies, readers obtain a deep look at two diverse cultures. The destruction of the aboriginal Chukchi is harrowing and timely while readers will admire their resiliency. Rosalie’s subplot is well written but difficult to accept. Why anyone professionally involved in dog sled racing would hire a worker with a poor record and no experience to become their dog handler is beyond me; albeit even accepting mystical channeling from Jeaantaa that turns Rosalie into an overnight superstar.

Harriet Klausner

An Echo Through the Snow-Andrea Thalasinos

An Echo Through the Snow

Andrea Thalasinos

Forge, Aug 21 2012, $23.99

ISBN: 9780765330369

In 1929 Stalin sends his army into Siberia. His troops viciously destroy anyone in their path. The Siberian Chukchi people watch in horror as their homes and their culture are devastated by the invaders. On the day they become engaged, Keeper of the Guardians Jeaantaa's fiancé dies; her Chukchi people hold her culpable.

In 1992 Wisconsin, Rosalie meets Smokey a neglected Siberian husky at a junk yard. Familiar with abuse and phobic shy, she bonds with the dog. Rosalie begins dreaming of a grieving woman standing on ice. Haunted by Jeaantaa, Rosalie obtains Smokey over her raging husband’s spittle. Not long after that rescue, Jan and Dave hire Rosalie as a dog handler for their sled and kennel.

Rotating viewpoints between the lead women who share in common a love of huskies, readers obtain a deep look at two diverse cultures. The destruction of the aboriginal Chukchi is harrowing and timely while readers will admire their resiliency. Rosalie’s subplot is well written but difficult to accept. Why anyone professionally involved in dog sled racing would hire a worker with a poor record and no experience to become their dog handler is beyond me; albeit even accepting mystical channeling from Jeaantaa that turns Rosalie into an overnight superstar.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Iliad-Stephen Mitchell


Stephen Mitchell

Free Press/Simon and Schuster, Aug 14 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 9781439163382

This taut well written translation is based on the controversial work by esteemed classics scholar Dr. Martin L. West who claimed passages were added after Homer’s original epic poem was first written; Stephen Mitchell omits those alleged additions. The excellent introduction by Mr. Mitchell to his version of the Iliad enhances the understanding of this still resonating narrative poem that glorifies war to make an anti-war case. The essence of the schism amidst the Achaeans (with Godly intervention) and its aftermath as the war with Troy continues with seemingly no end in sight is captured in this rendition of the classic. I have mixed feelings about this edition as I enjoyed reading the Iliad again, but feel some guilt for enjoying Mr. Mitchel’s fine translation; back during the latter years of the Vietnam War, I read Richmond Lattimore’s version while attending Lehman College. Still this is a great way for newcomers to read a classic ancient Greek epic poem still relevant and for those who have read previous interpretations to compare.

Harriet Klausner

When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories-Molly Ringwald

When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories

Molly Ringwald

It Books, Aug 14 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061809460

Greta wonders what went wrong with her marriage to Phillip that led to him playing sweet music with their six years old daughter’s nineteen years old college drop-out music teacher Theresa. Upset as she thought they were a perfect couple, she turns to her mom Ilsa for solace. Insisting to forgive is divine; Ilsa takes in drug-addicted Milo, whose mother ran away from him. Meanwhile Greta turns to Peter while Phillip turns to Marina, mother of Charlotte’s classmate cross dressing Oliver.

The premise of this interactive collection of stories is that relationships are difficult while loving relationships are exponentially more convoluted. The cast is solid as they learn life’s lesson that to betray is human; to forgive impossible. Though the last story seems off kilter after the long and winding road to get there, readers will enjoy Molly Ringald’s insightful look at people navigating the landmines that complicate relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 3, 2012

Close Your Eyes-Amanda Eyre Ward-

Amanda Eyre Ward

Ballantine, Aug 14 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345494498

In 1986, eight year old Lauren and her six year old brother Alex fall asleep in the tree house in which they can see Long island Sound while their parents host a party. However, the police arrive arresting their father Egyptian immigrant Izaan Mahdian for killing their mother Jewish-American Jordan with a blow to her head. Their dad is convicted of first degree murder and os spending life at Attica. Their grandparents take in the kids but send them to boarding schools.

By 2010 neither sibling has obtained closure from the nightmare that destroyed their lives. Lauren believes her father is guilty and refuses any contact with him; Alex disagrees as he thinks their dad would never have killed his wife their mom. She is a realtor who vows to never marry though she loves her Gerry while he currently works in Iraq for Doctors Without Borders when he disappears.

Frantic over her brother, Lauren decides to look at the night that changed everything. Meanwhile pregnant Sylvia Hall leaves Colorado for New York to search for her best friend Victoria, who is struggling with drug addiction. They will soon meet and decide whether the truth will set them free.

This is an exciting family drama as the protagonist remains frozen in what she perceives her dad did to ruin everything. The storyline starts off as a fast-paced psychological thriller when the plot abruptly detours from Lauren’s investigation to Sylvia and Victoria as if a new tale began (though the two subplots eventually merge). Still this second chance at redemption is a solid novel as Lauren affirms Alexander Pope's “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

Harriet Klausner

The Inn At Rose Harbor-Debbie Macomber

The Inn At Rose Harbor

Debbie Macomber

Ballantine, Aug 14 2012, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345528926

Still grieving the death of her spouse Paul in Afghanistan, Jo Marie Rose moves to Cedar Cove, Washington as the owner of The Rose Harbor Inn. The distraught widow prays the B&B overlooking Puget Sound helps her find solace by her reaching out to those staying at her inn.

Her first guest is former town resident Joshua Weaver, who has come home to help his family deal with his estranged dying stepfather. To attend her brother’s wedding also back home to where her worst nightmare occurred is survivor guilt wracked Abby Kincaid who was driving when her teenage BFF died in a when her best friend was killed in a black ice crash.

The Inn At Rose Harbor starts a tender Cedar Cove spin-off drama that fans of the parent series will relish (not just because Jo Maria does meet some of the regulars). The three protagonists rotate lead as each struggle with traumas of unexpected death, grief, and inability to move on that connects the trio. Character driven with muted action, readers will appreciate this engaging tale of people coping poorly with the loss of a loved one.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cool, Calm & Contentious-Merrill Markoe

Cool, Calm & Contentious

Merrill Markoe

Villard, Aug 7 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345518927

This intelligent collection of twenty essays overall displays Merrill Markoe’s mirthful muses though it also contains some serious topics. The anthology starts off with the witty “The Place, The Food, Everything Awful: The Diaries of Ronny Markoe” the journal observations of her mom when she traveled the world; followed by an ode “In Praise Of Crazy Mommies.” I second Ms. Markoe’s emotions when she explains sharing her home with canine chaos in “Why I Love My Dogs” and “Jimmy Explains His Wake-Up Technique;” as my spouse insists my late marvelous Max was my significant other. In “When I Was Jack Kerouac” and “Virginity Entrepreneurs” readers obtain insight into the author’s high school and college days in Miami and the San Francisco Bay area are overshadowed by being raped at Berkley. Readers will relish this strong compilation as all the entries engage the audience who will enjoy spending “Saturday Night with Hieronymus Bosch” and learning the Markoe mantra “On How To Spot An Asshole” boyfriend type.

Harriet Klausner

Three Strong Women- Marie NDiaye and John Fletcher

Three Strong Women

Marie NDiaye and John Fletcher

Knopf, Aug 7 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307594693

Her estranged father demands Norah who practices law in France, to come home to Senegal. Reluctantly Norah returns to her homeland and her abusive dad to find her brother in prison on a murder charge, her father is looking old, but with another offspring.

Senegalese expatriate Fanta lives a happy life as a teacher in Dakar. However, her spouse Rudy demands she come to France with him where he insists his wealth is; instead she learns the hard way that Rudy is delusional.

Her late husband’s family kicks out impoverished Khady with nothing but bread though they mention a cousin Fanta residing in France. With no options in Senegal, the frightened widow heads to France hoping Fanta will help her, but makes a judgment error when a man offers her assistance.

This is a powerful but not an easy read that focuses on the plight of three Senegalese women trying to make it without a man in a sea of male sharks. Each of the title characters are fully developed so that the audience can empathizes with their increasing feelings of hopelessness while their inner fortitude strengthens in contrast. Readers will appreciate Marie NDiaye’s insightful look at immigrants from the viewpoints of Three Strong Women (and the men in their lives).

Harriet Klausner