Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christmas in Cornwall-Marcia Willet

Christmas in Cornwall

Marcia Willet

Dunne, Oct 30 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9781250003706

With the sudden unexpected death of his wife, Clem has no time to mourn his loss; as their five year old son Jakey struggles with the loss of his mom. Deciding he cannot be a single dad with no help, Clem, accompanied by Jakey, moves to his hometown of Cornwall so they can be near his loving mom Dossie.

Successful caterer Dossie showers her son and grandson with plenty of love. As Clem and Jakey acclimate to life without their respective wife-mom in Cornwall, each finds solace with the kindhearted Sisters and Father Pascal. Jenna tales care of the crazy nuns she considers beloved family who act like eccentric aunts needing protection from the unscrupulous. She falls in love with the grieving father and son, but fears for the Sisters as a Grinch arrives for Christmas in Cornwell with development plans for the convent.

This is a warm, humorous holiday romance starring an engaging ensemble cast. With a touch of whimsy and an a sort of fairy tale quality, fans will enjoy this fun Christmas tale as a family is not defined by DNA but by being there for others while knowing they will be there for you.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Collateral-Ellen Hopkins


Ellen Hopkins

Atria, Nov 6 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9781451626377

San Diego State University graduate student Ashley Patterson and Marine Cole Gleason meet at a bar as do their respective best friends Darian and Spencer. They share in common their love of poetry and attracted to one another begin a relationship over the next five years in spite of his four overseas deployments.

At the same time Ashley and Cole struggle with long periods of dangerous absence, Darian and Spencer becomes a couple. However, unlike Ashley who has met temptation at college, Darian seeks lovers when her mate is deployed.

Collateral is a fascinating look at the impact on loving relationships by the constant long periods of out of bed deployments and by what Cole mentally faces in a war zone. The storyline is leisurely paced with poetry written by both an intricate part of their partnering. At times overdramatic, readers will appreciate this deep look at the cost of endless war on a couple of marines and the women who love them.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII-Robert Hutchinson

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII

Robert Hutchinson

Dunne, Oct 30 2012, $27.99

ISBN: 9781250012616

This is an interesting biography of King Henry VIII that uses household accounts to provide insight into the monarch up until the birth of Princess Elizabeth in 1533. In his latest Tudor nonfiction (see Elizabeth’s Spy Master and House of Treason: The Rise & Fall of a Tudor Dynasty), Robert Hutchinson makes a case that the ruler was not the debaucher that fiction depicts him to be though he was very hedonistic. Instead he makes argument that as a pampered second son, Henry understood enjoying life to the fullest cost be damned; as the shakiness of ruling England could end your rule and your head. Thus Lord Chancellor Wolsey ran the kingdom while Henry hunted, played and gambled like he did before taking the throne. Nothing changed in his lifestyle except Henry also knew he needed to eliminate all rivals, and produce the heir and the spare as that was more important to longevity than governance. Well written with some jocularity that enhances the fascinating portrayal, Tudor fans still are left wondering how such an influential historical figure seemed to do little more than self-indulgence.

Harriet Klausner

The Winters-Betty J Cotter

The Winters

Betty J Cotter

Swamp Yankee Publishing, Jul 26, 2012, $14.97

475 Woodruff Ave, Wakefield, RI 02879

ISBN: 9781938517082

In 1978, Jim Winter, his wife Helen and their two children (Joyce and Don) live in a dilapidated farmhouse with a fabulous view of the Atlantic. On a wintry morning, Jim commits suicide stunning his family who were unprepared for their beloved patriarch taking his life. Feeling pressure as a failure Jim knew his family would grieve, but concluded they were better off with him dead than alive as his life insurance will pay bills he could not.

Heartbroken Helen knows their beachfront property owned by the Swamp Yankee family for over three hundred years needs to be sold as the land is valuable to affluent gentrification developers, but hesitates with ending the tradition though there is pressure on her to sell. Ludlow her cousin the realtor hires Helen but also pressures her to sell. Fran her new neighbor wants her antiques. Loretta her sister-in-law wants to donate the land to the Audubon Society. Her daughter cannot cope with her dad’s suicide or what appears to be the imminent loss of her heritage. Finally, her best friend Camille is on a quest to learn about her Narragansett Native American roots.

This profound family drama focuses on the impact of a changing world on a long time tradition. Character driven by a fully developed cast, readers will relish the trials and tribulations of each individual while they cope with an affluent invasion superseding the Swamp Yankee subculture; money talks, heritage walks.

Harriet Klausner

An Amish Gift-Cynthia Keller

An Amish Gift

Cynthia Keller

Ballantine, Oct 30 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780345538130

When Shep Davis lost his job, he, his wife Jennie, their two teenage children (Tim and Willa) and Scout the dog move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where the family patriarch inherited a home and a bicycle shop. The Davis brood looks at the relocation as a fresh beginning as they reside among the Amish.

However, in spite of starting over tensions remain stratospheric between the parents. Jennie becomes friends with her Amish neighbor Mattie Fisher as they share brisk walks. Mattie’s optimism even when life seems most dire lifts Jennie’s spirits while a Tim comment inspires his mom to start a candy business. Instead of abating the tension, her success and his struggles lead to more intense arguments as Christmas arrives along with a special visitor who brings hope.

This is an engaging family drama that looks deep into how people deal differently with adversity especially when their loving relationships fracture. Character driven, fans will enjoy this entertaining holiday fable as Jennie and Shep receive a wonderful Amish Gift of friendship.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Merry Ex-Mas-Sheila Roberts

Merry Ex-Mas

Sheila Roberts

Mira, Oct 23 2012, $15.95

ISBN: 9780778313922

In Icicle Falls, Washington Gingerbread Haus Bakery owner Cass Wilkes wonders how one of the most beautiful events in her life could turn ugly. Cass has looked forward with joy to her daughter Dani’s wedding until she learns her ex-husband will walk their child down the aisle. To make matters even crueler, Dani would like Daddy and his second wife to stay at Cass’ house.

Recently divorced couple Jake and Ella O’Brien share the same residence with plans to go their separate way once they sell their house. However, at times they act like a married couple leaving both confused.

Charlene Albach is stunned when her former husband Richard the deserter is back in town. Richard knows he made the error of his life when he ran off with the hostess from Charley’s restaurant Zelda's. He wants his ex-wife back.

The second Life in Icicle Falls' family drama (see Better Than Chocolate) is an engaging humorous tale of three sets of ex-couples coming together over the holidays. The ensemble cast makes for a fun frothy frolic as the ghosts of Christmas past reunite in a Merry Ex-Mas story.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Shortest Way Home-Juliette Fay

The Shortest Way Home

Juliette Fay

Penguin, Oct 30 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780143121916

When their mother died from Huntington’s, their father dumped his three kids on their Auntie Vivvy in Pelham, Massachusetts. The oldest Sean became a nurse providing medical care in the worst areas of the world. Now in his forties he comes home from the democratic Republic of Congo after learning that his younger brother Hugh died. Sean is shocked how old his thirtyish sister Deidre the actress turned surrogate mother to their nephew Kevin looks. She informs him their aunt is beginning to show signs of senility.

He tries to help Deidre with Kevin, but parenting is something he never dealt with before. Sean feels attracted to his childhood friend Becky, who reciprocates. However, though he suffers from PTSD, Sean feels unable to stay home.

Though there is some similarity to the relationships in Shelter Me (also in Pelham), The Shortest Way Home is an engaging family drama as the aunt, siblings and nephew each have personal issues. Character-driven, love may not be enough to heal this dysfunctional quartet as Juliette Fay provides readers with an engaging warm contemporary.

Harriet Klausner

The Elephant Keepers' Children-Peter Hoeg

The Elephant Keepers' Children

Peter Hoeg

Other, Oct 23 2012, $28.95

ISBN: 9781590514900

Pastor Konstantin preaches to his flock on Fino Island. With him on the tiny Danish isle is his wife Clara the organist and computer guru, and their children (Hans, Tilte and Peter). When Konstantin and Clara disappear, their three kids think nothing of it as their parents have vanished before after a spiritual con. The trio knows their parents are Elephant Keepers of the faith.

However, the teens become concerned when they conclude that Konstantin and Clara plan to steal artifacts at the Grand Synod of faiths in which the major religious leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen. They begin an intervention odyssey before the world comes after their con artist parents.

This is a satirical amusing thriller which makes a strong case that adult moral leadership is lacking as substance does not matter in an instant media information age. Peter tells the tale in an all over the place manner as one would expect from a fourteen year old adolescent on his first sojourn. With odd names and strange scenarios that border on teenage Monty Python quirkily escapades, The Elephant Keepers' Children is for those who appreciate “And Now for Something Completely Different.”

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Amish Holiday-Cynthia Keller

An Amish Holiday

Cynthia Keller

Ballantine, Oct 30 2012, $14.00

ISBN: 9780345528766

“An Amish Christmas.” James Hobart makes a lot of money so that he, his stay at home wife Meg and their three kids (teenagers Lizzie and Will and tweener Sam) live in luxury beyond what he brings in. When he makes several bad investment decisions after being fired, the family's finances collapses. Swinging between self-debasing and denial James faces irate Meg who blames him for their tsuris, argumentative spoiled teens, fearful Sam and scornful relatives. Adding to their woes is an accident in Pennsylvania as the five were moving to upstate New York. Stranded the Lutz family welcomes them into their Amish home. This is an engaging reprint of a holiday tale that compares internal relationships between a selfish materialistic family to that of a nurturing caring family.

“A Plain and Fancy Christmas.” Gil and pregnant Nina Lawrence were traveling through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania when she went into labor. She gave birth to her daughter Ellie before the trio continued on to New York. Also in the hospital giving birth is Amish Leah King who with her husband Isaac name their child Rachel. Nurse Violet Thompson realized her husband the physician mixed up the babies. Over three decades later, a dying Violet tells the families of the error. Both are hesitant about meeting their biological parents. Although switched at birth is not a new premise, Cynthia Keller provides an interesting spin to the nurturing vs. naturing debate with the cultural differences between the two families in this reprint.

Harriet Klausner

Peaches for Father Francis-Joanne Harris

Peaches for Father Francis

Joanne Harris

Viking, Oct 2 2012, $26.99

ISBN: 9780670026364

Several years have passed since Vianne Rocher brought her magical sweetness to Lansquenet, France (see Chocolat). She now happily lives on a houseboat in Paris with her husband Roux and her daughters (Anouk and Rosette) with no plans to return to the village where the clergy condemned her and her confectionary delights.

However, her Lansquenet ally, Armande sends her a letter stating the villagers desperately need her magical sugary intervention. Now deceased, Armande offers no further explanation as she knew her friend would come. Vianne, accompanied by her children, arrives in Lansquenet where she learns her most fervent adversary Father Francis Reynaud needs her help as the Bishop has replaced him with a Microsoft priest. After publically arguing with the Imam of Les Marauds, Reynaud was accused of setting fire to a Muslim fundamentalist girls’ school established by Inès Bencharki, sister to the Imam’s son-in-law; ironically in Vianne's candy shop. Reynaud saved the Imam's granddaughter Alyssa from drowning and Vianne takes her into her temporary home. As the priest and the confectioner team up, people begin to die leading to deeper trouble between the two religions.

The latest Rocher tale (see The Girl with No Shadow) focuses on the fractured relationship between the long-time Christian residents and the new Muslim community. For the most part, the storyline lacks action as the plot centers on the conflict between the two religions until an incredible climax. Still fans will enjoy the Chocolat mage using her magic to foster more than just tolerance of others; she wants everyone to embrace each other as Vianne believes both cultures bring positives to a melting pot in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Harriet Klausner

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas-Jennifer AlLee

A Wild Goose Chase Christmas

Jennifer AlLee

Abingdon, Nov 1 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9781426752490

Six months ago Gran moved into assisted living after fracturing her hip. Her granddaughter Izzy Fontaine moved into Gran’s house to take care of Bogie the dog. She always assumed Gran would come home, but two days ago Gran died.

Virgil arrives claiming to be a friend of Gran and bearing a gift from Izzy’s late relative. He gives her the Wild Goose Chase quilt that he kept safe for Gran from people who believe the pattern is a treasure map. Her family learns of the quilt and they decide to find the treasure. Museum curator Max Logan claims Grandma Isabella promised to give him the quilt so he demands Izzy honors her late relative’s vow. Wondering what is going on, Izzy starts her own wild goose chase on a quest that will lead her not to Gran’s treasure, but her own.

The second Quilts of Love (see Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane) is a warm whimsical contemporary tale starring a likeable heroine. The eccentric dysfunctional support cast adds humor and depth as they turn the holidays into a mad world with their Wild Goose Chase Christmas escapades. Fans will relish this wonderful entry as Gran knew what the treasure her beloved granddaughter needed to find.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas-Anita Higman

A Merry Little Christmas

Anita Higman

Summerside, Oct 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9781609366889

By 1961, thirty-three year old Franny Martin expects to die lonely on her family Oklahoma farm that she tried unsuccessfully to sell for a dozen years following the tragic deaths of her parents during a storm. Charlie Martin arrives only to frighten Franny who starts to fall in the muck; he rescues her radio instead of her to her joy as she loves to sing along with Sinatra and others. Charlie offers to purchase the dilapidated spread, which she accepts but not before explaining how run down the farm is. Still he wants to prove worthy of his affluent father Alfred though he knows nothing about farming.

Franny plans to move to Oklahoma City, but agrees to stay on for three weeks to mentor Charlie, who knows nada about farming while he hires an experienced hand. As the city slicker and the country bumpkin fall in love, his father, threatening to commit his other son Willie to an asylum arrives to end Charlie’s inanity.

This is a wonderful historical tale starring an unsinkable woman who bravely defends the oppressed like welcoming Willie and also defends other races. The romance between Charlie and Franny is entertaining as both have obstacles including their backgrounds to overcome but are united in love. Although the ending seems unlikely and rushed, fans will enjoy Sinatra singing A Merry Little Christmas as “two lonely people, we were strangers in the night up to the moment when we said our first hello little did we know love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away.”

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Things Remembered-Georgia Bockoven

Things Remembered

Georgia Bockoven

Morrow, Oct 16 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062195166

When their parents died, their maternal grandmother Anna raised the three sisters. The youngest Grace is a wannabe actress living in Southern California. The middle sibling pregnant Heather seems contented raising her two and a half children. The oldest Karla owns a coffee shop in Northern California.

When she learns Grandmother Anna is dying, Karla leaves for Rocklin to insure the affairs of the woman who raised her and sisters are in order. She does not want to see her relative as their relationship was combative. Both are obstinate ready to fight at the slightest nothings though the dying elderly woman prays for reconciliation with the granddaughter who is most like her. They find common ground since Karla needs to know Anna's memories of her mother and Anna needs to know Karla's memories of her daughter. As they begin to respect and cherish each other, Karla meets and is attracted to single dad Mark Taylor, a divorced veterinarian, but fears her feelings.

This reprint of an engaging family drama remains fresh as readers will enjoy the dysfunctional yet loving relationships between the three siblings and with their grandmother. Obviously the prime focus is on Karla whose life gets further complicated with her feelings for father and daughter. Although the reasons for the discord between Anna and Karla are never fully explained, fans will enjoy the pair sharing Things Remembered about the loved one who binds them.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sad Desk Salad-Jessica Grose

Sad Desk Salad

Jessica Grose

Morrow, Oct 2 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062188342

Alex Lyons avoids the commute as she works from her home as a blogger for Chick Habit the women’s on-line gossip fanzine. She knows hits equal employment as her job requires a million per month so she constantly searches the net for the latest celeb scandal as ten minutes away from the cyber means missing out on a celeb death. Her frustrated boyfriend Peter not only has to remind her to shower, eat and go to the bathroom, he has to beg her as well.

The writer saves her best nastiness for the Sad Desk Salad crowd who eat physically healthy but mentally depressing lunches at their desk. A tip points her to a great scandal as Becky, the MIT daughter of parenting guru Darleen West, is caught snorting. Alex knows this feeding frenzy will end the young woman’s future before it begins so she has doubts about its release. However, her British tabloid trained boss sends it out anyway. As a BTCH (Break the Chick Habit) attacks Alex and her colleagues, feeling guilty she obsesses over finding the missing Becky, ask an angry Peter for forgiveness and regain her self-respect lost since she graduated from Wesleyan.

This is a jocular intelligent look at the instant internet destructiveness of uncaring blogs and competitive media as freedom of information supersedes personal privacy with a click of a cell phone. Fast-paced, readers will relish this exposé as nothing is sacred in the reality of the virtual world.

Harriet Klausner

What Happens At Christmas-Victoria Alexander

What Happens At Christmas

Victoria Alexander

Kensington, Oct 16 2012, $16.95

ISBN: 9780758255686

1886 Lady Beryl questions the wisdom of her twin sister widowed Lady Camille as her sibling’s plan seems harebrained to her but brilliant to its creator. Lady Camille plans to marry Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky, but believes she needs to invite him to a traditional English Christmas. The problem is the rest of the family are scattered around the globe so a resourceful Camille hires a troupe.

A second issue surfaces when her former best friend Grayson Elliott arrives after a decade plus absence. Elven years ago, he told her he loved her just before she married someone else. He vows this time to win her heart. Compounding her already collapsing scheme is her family including her deceased dad arrives for Christmas.

This is an amusing late Victorian Christmas as the heroine validates that Robert Burns was right (with a slight modification) as the best laid plans of mice and Lady Camille go awry. The charming storyline is a fun comedy of errors compounded by more comedic blunders. What Happens At Christmas is a zany historical tale that fans will enjoy year-round.

Harriet Klausner