Monday, June 3, 2013

Benedict Hall-Cate Campbell

Benedict Hall

Cate Campbell

Kensington, May 28 21013, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758287595

WWI changed society as etiquette rules seem inane when soldiers dealt with mustard gas and suffragettes demand their rights including the vote and Prohibition.

In 1920 Seattle, the wealthy and their servants also feel the winds of change. Affluent Preston Benedict invites his comrade in arms former Wyoming rancher Frank Parrish to dinner at his family’s mansion. Frank lost an arm in combat but obtained a job with Boeing in Seattle. Preston’s sister Margot and Frank become friends and begin to fall in love as he encourages her to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. Before the war Preston was sadistic though servants risked his wrath to protect his kind caring sister, but now he adds a rage and a need at all costs to return to a seemingly dead past when the Benedicts were one of Seattle’s blueblood ruling families.

Benedict Hall is at its best when the focus is on the major societal impacts brought forth by WWI; the storyline adds excitement but somewhat disengages when Preston’s over the top psychopathic behavior takes center stage as he acts beyond frustrated and opposed to the changes. Still fans will enjoy Cate Campbell’s overall entertaining look at the Pacific Northwest just after the “war to end all wars” ended.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dare You To-Katie McGarry

Dare You To

Katie McGarry

Harlequin Teen, May 28 2013, $17.99

ISBN: 9780373210633

Bullit County students Chris, Ryan and other friends drive the thirty minutes to Louisville competing in a game of dare to get the most girls’ phone numbers. At a Taco Bell, Chris dares Ryan to get the number of a kick butt Skater Girl Beth with torn jeans. She tells Ryan to open her car door if he wants her number; waiting for her are two mean looking males Noah and Isaiah. Ryan loses the game.

The bartender calls Beth to get her drunken mom out of the bar before he calls the cops. Her mom blames Beth for men leaving before using a baseball bat on her latest live in boyfriend Trent’s car. When the cops arrive, Beth says she did it. Her mom’s sister Aunt Shirley fears her niece will do time so calls Beth’s paternal Uncle Scott who forced her mom to sign over legal guardianship to him. Uncle Scoot tells Beth either move to Groveton or visit her mom in prison. In Groveton, she meets the Taco Bell jock as Ryan is the local high school star pitcher. As the teens fall in love, Beth feels she is not worthy of him.

Rotating perspective, Katie McGarry provides an engaging character-driven tale of an at-risk teen with plenty of family tsuris in the big city and the burbs where she feels like a fish out of water. Although the transitions do not always flow smoothly, teenage readers will appreciate this deep hardcore is thriller as Katie McGarry once again is Pushing The Limits.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Sassy Belles-Beth Albright

The Sassy Belles

Beth Albright

Mira, May 28 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778315285

In Tuscaloosa, near hysterical Vivi Ann McFadden calls her BFF attorney, Blake O’Hara Heart as she desperately needs to speak with her. Instead she gets Blake’s husband and partner Harry who waits for his wife to join him at the Tutwiler to celebrate their tenth anniversary. She tells him she thinks she silenced the voice of Crimson Tide football, Harry’s younger brother Lewis Heart, who she insists lies dead in a room at the Fountain Mist. The police go to room 106 but there is no body only “Deputy Dick”.

As the married lawyers help Vivi, Blake feels her relationship with Harry is in trouble since he became distant while fostering his plans for a Senate run. When Blake’s high school boyfriend Sonny Bartholomew works the investigation, she finds herself dreaming of what if.

The Sassy Belles is an enjoyable Alabama tale starring Steel Magnolias and the men who appreciate their strengths and ignore their weaknesses if they want to remain with them. Although the behavior of the two attorneys after learning that Vivi failed to call the cops or 911 seems over the top of Bear Bryant Stadium, readers (except Auburn fans) will enjoy this fast-paced amusing Crimson Tide tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'll Be Seeing You-Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

I'll Be Seeing You

Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Mira, May 28 2013, $14.94

ISBN: 9780778314950

In 1943 fortyish Iowa City, Iowa mom Marguerite “Rita” Vincenzo and Rockport, Massachusetts mom Gloria Whitehall have nothing in common except a fear for their beloved husbands (and Rita’s teen son soon to deploy) fighting overseas. They begin a pen pal correspondence though Glory is a youthful free spirit and Rita is a professor's gardening witch wife. Each finds some solace in the letters as they face issues at the home front and fears their spouse will not come home alive.

Using letters as a means to look deeply at the effect of their loved ones in harm’s way on two diverse females from two different regions of the country, readers obtain a powerful tale of life at home during a war. With two powerful protagonists anchoring the WWII impact on them, their families and communities, this timely tale reminds readers that someone must pay the piper in blood and money in any war; whether it is on a credit card or not.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Questions of Travel-Michelle de Kretser

Questions of Travel

Michelle de Kretser

Little, Brown, May 14 2013, $26.00

ISBN: 9780316219228

In 1966 in Sydney, Australia, her older twin brothers tried to kill two year old Laura Fraser after her mom died as they blamed this female “alien” for her death. In the 1980s her brother Cameron dies, but she has no grief as he clearly hated her. When the only person who cares about her Aunt Hester died, Laura inherits a lot of money. She begins a travel odyssey around the world seeking someone who would love her.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Ravi Mendis dreamed of seeing the world though he has no hope to escape his Sri Lankan village except perhaps to live in nearby Colombo. He marries and has a daughter, but the brutal civil war forces Ravi to flee his homeland. In 2000s he and Laura meet in Australia.

Questions of Travel is a fascinating look into journeys (of the mind as much as the body). The underlying premise is that the treasure is not always at the end of the rainbow; instead you may trek from and to sh*t. Character driven by the fully-developed lead pair within rotating subplots, readers who appreciate something different will enjoy this tale of leaving home.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Step of Faith-Richard Paul Evans

A Step of Faith

Richard Paul Evans

Simon & Schuster, May 7 2013, $19.99

ISBN: 9781451628296

Advertising executive Alan Christoffersen left Seattle when his beloved wife died and his partner Kyle Craig destroyed their business leaving the grieving widower with nothing but a need to get as far away as he can from the Pacific Northwest. His goal was to walk to Key West.

Alan awakens in a St, Louis hospital after falling unconscious on a roadside. He finds out that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor; so heads to Los Angeles for treatment. There his father, his loyal former employee Falene, and Nicole who nursed him after a mugging in Spokane are there for him, but he drives them away as Alan reflects on his life while pondering whether he should give up as he feels like a failed Job or continue his trek until he realizes what he lost.

The fourth Walk saga (see The Walk, Miles to Go and The Road to Grace) is an entertaining entry as Alan realizes what he wrought with his caustic behavior towards those who love him. Except for a visit to a cult that slows down the pacing, for the most part this is a strong character driven tale; as each step on the journey requires faith if the protagonist is to refill his spiritual void.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Windy City Neighbors Grounded-Neta Jackson and Dave Jackson

Windy City Neighbors Grounded

Neta Jackson and Dave Jackson

Worthy, May 7 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9781617950001

Grace Meredith enjoys singing contemporary Christian music. Currently the successful singer travels the country encouraging the young to wait until marriage in her New Year, New You tour. However, as she makes her plea, she suffers from a sore throat and a broken heart. Lozenges and tea help the throat a little, but her fiancé Roger, tired of her stay a pure virgin message, ended their engagement.

Grace stops at her home in Chicago only to be grounded by a blizzard. As she thinks about her youthful indiscretions, Grace feels like a con artist peddling her wait theme as she muses over do as I say not as I did. However, as the neighbors she ignored for years like the Bentleys welcome her as a friend not a celebrity and encourage her to live up to her name with the Lord’s help, Grace begins to heal.

The first Windy City Neighbors inspirational is an entertaining tale of God giving believers a second chance to do the right thing. Ironically while the opening on tour scenes are slow; once the protagonist becomes Grounded and truly meets her neighbors, the pace accelerates into a warm second chance at a pure life drama.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Spear of Summer Grass-Deanna Raybourn

A Spear of Summer Grass

Deanna Raybourn

Mira, Apr 30 2013, $15.95

ISBN: 9780778314394

In 1923 Paris, affluent American Delilah Drummond sends divorce papers to her third husband. Upon receiving them he kills himself. The reaction from the Parisian upper crust makes Delilah a pariah. Her advisors demand she leave France until some other scandal replaces hers. Thus, accompanied by her cousin Dora, a chagrined Delilah reluctantly travels to her stepfather’s Fairlight Plantation in Kenya.

She finds a hedonistic expatriate population in which orgies set to jazz is the only matter. The only exception is Ryder White who takes her on an exhilarating tour of Africa beyond the European-American drunks. Delilah also finds a purpose as she provides nursing skills to the Kikuyu. However, when blood flows, Delilah must choose whose side she is on.

With a nod to Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa though without spanning the decades between the world wars, A Spear of Summer Grass is an enjoyable historical that brings to life the 1920s mostly in Africa. Though the romance feels like a forced requirement, the African adventures are superb as the audience obtain a taste of the White Man’s Burden from the licentious perspective of the Génération au Feu.

Harriet Klausner

The Apple Orchard-Susan Wiggs

The Apple Orchard

Susan Wiggs

Mira, Apr 30 2013, $24.95

ISBN: 9780778314936

Hard working Sheffield Auction House provenance specialist Tess Delaney uses her job as an escape from her lonely life. She has no idea who her dad is and rarely sees her wanderlust mother; so she precariously lives through her clients like Annelise Winther who she gave back a WWII precious item or the Krakow Museum in Poland whom she returned Nazi stolen art.

The latter brought her fifteen minutes of fame and a comatose apple orchard owning grandfather Magnus Johansen in Sonoma she never knew existed. Even more shocking to a stunned Tess is when the messenger banker-vintner Dominic Rossi tells her she has been added to Magnus’ will to inherit half his Bella Vista orchard along with s with someone else she never heard of, her half-sister Isabel Johansen. Tess and Isabel investigate what happened to the family going back to their grandfather’s childhood in Denmark during WWII; while the newcomer and Dominic begin to fall in love though his family stands in their way.

The Apple Orchard is an insightful family drama with a powerful undying moral message of the value of family and memories should supersede material items. Tess now knows to seek true loved ones and make new memories with them. Readers will appreciate learning alongside Tess her ancestry.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Cherry Cola Book Club-Ashton Lee

The Cherry Cola Book Club

Ashton Lee

Kensington, Mar 26 2013, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758273413

For six years, Maura Beth Mayhew has been the librarian in Chericho, Mississippi. She has asked for nearby parking and internet access, but the council says no. Now head councilman Durden Sparks tells Maura she has five months to increase usage or the library will be closed and replaced by an industrial park.

Maura visits her friend Twinkles Diner owner Periwinkle who tells Maura to be tough. New resident Connie McShay mentions she and her husband Douglas were in the Music City Page Turners. They form the Chericho Page Turners Book Club. Maura’s friend Voncelle Nettles joins the book club. Cooking show radio host Becca Broccoli also joins, but cannot persuade her Stout Fella to sign up too. At the first meeting, they discuss the rules while Durden attends too. They change the name to the Cherry Cola Book Club and meet in a month to discuss Gone With The Wind. Library assistant Renette tells Maura she and her friends discussed whether they were a Melanie or a Scarlett. The club does likewise except Locke says he is a Rhett. Maura begins a concerted effort with the other book club members to save the library and meets Douglas’ nephew Memphis English teacher Jeremy.

Small-town politics comes across powerfully influential with little things like no parking or net access to make in this case a library visit unpleasant; yet at the same time the importance of libraries is emphasized also at a time when cuts reduce their effectiveness. Although the dispute between the council and the librarian never comes across as very threatening and people volunteer too easily, readers will enjoy The Cherry Cola Book Club’s book discussions and their fight to save the library.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Threads of Hope-Christa Allen

Threads of Hope

Christa Allen

Abington, Mar 1 2013. $12.99

ISBN: 9781426752667

In Houston, Trend’s magazine reporter Nina O’Malley is angry and disappointed when the Senior Editor position in New York that she thought she earned went to Janie Bettencourt. To add to the insult, Nina’s boyfriend photographer Brady Lambert is going with Janie. Finally she receives the biggest blow when she is assigned reporting a charity marshmallow, a benefit for the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

However, though her ego took a beating, Nina decides to prove she deserved Manhattan by covering the charity gala by reporting on real people. This leads her to widower veterinarian Greg Hernandez, who attended high school and treated her with disdain as he was an upper elite jock and she was a lower class geek. Greg introduces her to his adoptive HIV-positive Ethiopian daughter Jazarah. As Nina interviews the Quilters, she realizes each has faith in the Lord as does Greg; a belief she lacks.

The latest Quilts of Love drama (see Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas by Jennifer AlLee and Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane) starts off like the Hallmark movie Naughty or Nice but quickly turns to an inspirational tale. The support cast is strong as readers obtain a firsthand look at the devastation of AIDs on families. However, the relationship between the protagonists never quite gels. Still fans of the series will appreciate Nina following Threads of Hope as she journeys from self-indulged egomaniac to loving believer.

Harriet Klausner

Forbidden Sister-V.C. Andrews

Forbidden Sister

V.C. Andrews

Gallery, Feb 26 2013, $16.50

ISBN: 9781439155059

In New York City, when compliant Emmie Wilcox was six years old, her martinet Papa threw out her rebellious older sister fifteen year old Roxy for breaking his rigid rules. Over the next few years, Papa cleansed any evidence that he had an older daughter and raged whenever her French Mama mentioned the forbidden name of Roxy. Emmie even concluded she goes to a strict private school as a reaction to Roxy’s rebellion.

With her parents’ unaware and accompanied by her best friend Chastity Morgan, Emmie begins to follow the mystical Roxy who the BFFs see escorting various men. When Papa and Mama die, Roxy becomes Emmie’s guardian. As both struggle with their loss and coming together for the first time in a decade, Roxy’s escort service causes issues for the student; and M’s arrival at the escort’s business leads to danger. However both venues begin bringing two sisters coming together trying to do what is right for each other.

Forbidden Sister is a deep family drama in which both siblings are fully developed and through their respective filters so are their parents. Character driven, readers will enjoy this discerning relationship tale filled with plausible surprises.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Garden of Stones-Sophie Littlefield

The Garden of Stones

Sophie Littlefield

Mira, Feb 26 2013, $14.95

ISBN 9780778313526

In 1978 San Francisco, someone murders fifty-nine year old Reginald Forrest in his office near his gym in the basement of the De Soto Hotel. SFPD Inspector Torre visits Forrest’s acquaintance Lucy Takeda as a witness placed someone who looks like her with her pink scarred face at the gym when the murder occurred. Lucy admits knowing the victim over three decades ago.

Lucy tells her upset daughter Patty about what happened to her when she was fourteen and to her mom Miyako. Her father just died when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were taken to internment camps. Mother and daughter went to Manzanar Relocation Camp run by ruthless George Rickenbocker, who rapes and impregnates Miyako. When he targeted Lucy, a distraught Miyako scarred her daughter’s beautiful face to try to keep the guards from raping her child. She then kills Rickenbocker and herself.

Rotating between the 1978 mystery and the WWII internment in the California desert, Garden of Stones is a deep historical that shines a timely spotlight on a dark period in American history; the terrible mistreatment of American citizens rationalized by homeland security needs. The three generations of Takeda women are fully developed with Lucy connecting family and eras. Although Rickenbocker is stereotyped as a ruthless individual, he also brings a belief that the interred are not real Americans so are subject to abuse. Readers will relish this profound storyline as one must “Never Forget” the heritage horrors caused by “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one” (Benjamin Franklin).

Harriet Klausner

Three Sisters-Susan Mallery

Three Sisters

Susan Mallery

Mira, Feb 26 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778314349

Besides humiliation and pain of standing alone at the altar in front of 300 friends and family including both moms, Andi Gordon is also left paying the bills and returning the gifts. Thus three months later, Andi decides she needs a major makeover so buys one of the Queen Anne historical “Three Sisters” houses on Blackberry Island in Puget Sound with plans to open up a pediatric practice in her new home.

She meets her neighbor artist Boston King, whose husband Zeke she already met. Boston and Zeke struggle to move on after the death of their baby, but increasingly they appear to be moving on separately.

Also residing in one of the Three Sisters’ homes are Deanna Phillips, her husband Colin and their five daughters. Deanna fears Colin is having an affair. When she confronts him, he confesses but blames her; sadly she agrees with him.

The return to Blackberry Island (see Barefoot Season) focuses on three women with emotional issues bonding like the Three Musketeers with each believing in “All for one, one for all” mantra; as the trio knows they have “sisters” who have their back during their personal crisis. The ensemble cast is fully developed due in part to the rotating storyline and mostly because of the “Three Sisters” sharing their tsuris with each other and readers.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home-Alison Singh Gee

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home

Alison Singh Gee

St. Martin's Press, Feb 19 2013, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312378783

Alison Gee lived the good life as an American journalist based in Hong Kong writing for the top magazines. Though dedicated to her work, she also enjoyed the best that Beverly Hills, Hong King and other locales offered. However, her self-perceived perfect lifestyle crashes when Alison meets Indian reporter Ajay Singh. Falling in love, he takes her to meet his royal family living in a dilapidated historical palace Mokimpur in the rural village with the same name. As his family doubts that a Southern California American “princess” has the grip to be their Ajay’s mate, she wonders also especially dealing with the plumbing. This is a terrific memoir that looks deep into what a family and a home are; made interesting by Alison Singh Gee’s ability to blend humor and seriousness into an enjoyable read. The road to the so “happily ever after” ending leads to Ms. Gee feeling bipolar with highs and lows; and readers to wonder whether his family is right that an American (even one in love) cannot slow down long enough to enjoy the peacocks singing.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Truth About Love and Lightning-Susan McBride

The Truth About Love and Lightning

Susan McBride

Morrow, Feb 12 2013, $14.99

ISBN 9780062027283

In 2010 inWalnut Ridge, Missouri, single mom fiftyish Gretchen Brink lives on her family farm with her blind twin sisters when a tornado rips through the property. After the storm leaves, Gretchen goes outside to investigate the damage. She sees nuts on the ground near a fallen walnut tree that has not been fruitful in years. However, Gretchen has no time for the nutty mystery as underneath the tree is a man who sort of looks familiar.

Fearing her forty-year lie will be exposed, Gretchen wonders whether the man suffering from amnesia could be the love of her life Sam Winston who vanished in Africa four decades ago. Meanwhile her fortyish daughter Abby comes home pregnant and single; believing that she finally meets her biological father.

Rotating between different eras, Susan McBride provides a warm drama that focuses on how even a little white lie can have a snowball running down a hill gathering mass effect and what a family truly is. Although amnesia is an over used device, readers will root for the likable fully developed cast who are on the brink of either disillusioned dissolution or beautiful bonding.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cold Light-Traci L. Slatton

Cold Light

Traci L. Slatton

Parvati Press, Jun 27 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780984672684

The white miasma Mists burned except chlorophyll. Billions died when the Mists sucked out metals from humans and other beings on the planet during the Day. Arthur saved Emma, her young daughter Mandy and seven lost little orphans attached to her when he dispatched the Mists and brought them into his safe camp. Emma assumed her husband Haywood and their oldest daughter Beth are dead. She and Arthur become an entry while leading their settlement. However, Haywood found his wife and child in France and brought them home to Edmonton leaving Arthur behind despondent from his loss (see Fallen).

In Canada, raiders abduct Beth. She and Haywood search for their child. Clues lead them to Arthur and his townsfolk; all of whom are angry at their former first lady for leaving them. Still everyone joins in on the quest to find and rescue Beth; while Haywood and Arthur demand she choose between them as neither will voluntarily leave her. At the same time, everyone mentally prepares for the confrontation with the Mists knowing many of their loved ones will die in the final battle for survival.

The second exciting “After” post-apocalyptic thriller moves forward on two fronts: Emma’s relationships and the anticipated suicidal Armageddon Mists war as Traci L. Slatton deftly blends both subplots into a superb dystopian tale through her quality cast. The triangle participants fear the repercussions on the young at a time when nightmares are prevalent yet none of them can leave. Readers will wonder who will quote Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

Harriet Klausner

Iscariot-Tosca Lee


Tosca Lee

Simon &Schuster/Howard, Feb 5 2013, $22.99

ISBN 9781451683769

With the death of King Herod, Jerusalem turns into a deadly tinderbox as revolutionaries take down the Eagle. However, soldiers go after those who defiled the Eagle. Six year old Judas flees with his family to Galilee as his Father was one of the conspirators. While nearing Sepphoris, they learn thousands of their Father’s compatriots were slaughtered by the new king Archelaus at the Temple. Rebellion explodes across the kingdom, but is put down with Judas’ Father dying on a Roman cross. The child vows to never follow his Father’s fate.

Judas becomes a Zealot studying the Torah. When he meets Jesus, Judas believes he met the Messiah king of the Jews who will end Roman rule. Feeling euphoric, Judas breaks his youthful commandment of never joining rebels when he becomes a disciple of the Nazarene. However, his hero rejects any religious dogma, which leads to a dispirited Judas believing he erred as Jesus is no Messiah planning to free the Jews but instead has a different plot.

This is an insightful exhilarating bibliographical biblical fiction that looks deep into the soul of the man history paints as the greatest betrayer as well as how Judas changes his opinion of Jesus and the disciples. Inside an entertaining tale that brings to life first century Judea, Tosca Lee makes the arguments that the child is the adult and that the victors write the history books (and Gospels). The childhood flight culminating in his Father’s execution haunts the adult Judas while his changing beliefs as to whether Jesus is good for the Jews is not different than the doubting denying disciples. Iscariot will leave the audience to wonder how we would have acted wearing Judas’ sandals.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Forgotten Queen-D.L. Bogdan

The Forgotten Queen

D.L. Bogdan

Kensington, Jan 29 2013, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758271389

Margaret Tudor understood early in her life that she was a pawn to help her younger brother the “treasured heir” Prince Henry especially when he sits on the English throne. Thus she accepts her fate as a young teen when her father King Henry VII arranges her marriage to King James IV of Scotland. To her amazement, Margaret loves her spouse and a country she grew up to believe were barbarians to the north. A decade together, they have a son who becomes king when James dies during a battle at Flodden Field against King Henry VIII. Her goal changed to insuring her son sits on the Scottish throne and she becomes entangled with the Earl of Argus.

The latest Tudor D.L. Bogdan historical (see The Sumerton Women) focus on the oldest sister of King Henry VIII. Margaret is a fascinating individual who does her duty, but adapts with each change in the stormy winds. Filled with vivid detail, readers will feel they are in late fifteenth and early sixteenth century England but mostly Scotland. Tudor fans will appreciate The Forgotten Queen whose legacy is her great-grandson’s Union of the Crowns when he became King of Scotland, England and Ireland.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

All That I Am-Anna Funder

All That I Am

Anna Funder

Harper Perennial, Jan 22 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9780062077578

In 2001 in Bondi Junction, Australia Dr. Ruth Becker receives a FedEx package sent from Columbia University. Inside is a first edition of political poet Ernst Toller’s autobiography I am German with a note “For Ruth Wesemann.” Becker thinks back to the 1930s when she, her husband Hans, his best friend Berthold Jacob, Toller and his lover Dora Fabian resisted the Nazis.

Though her short-term memory reflects her age, Ruth recalls in detail what happened in the 1930s. Ruth and Toller were leftists with the playwright becoming head of the Bavarian Republic before the Nazis forced both and others to flee to London. In Great Britain, they were frustrated with their host nation’s refusal to acknowledge Hitler and so relocated in 1939 in New York where they lived in the Mayflower Hotel, which in 2001 is about to be demolished and the reason Ruth got the package.

This is a great historical fiction tale that uses real people who resisted the Nazis in the 1930s. The storyline rotates between Becker’s 2001 observations especially looking back in time and Toller’s 1939 narration. Filled with tension yet leisurely paced, readers will appreciate the courageous quintet and others as they passionately try to prevent Hitler and the Nazis from their extermination path.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Villa Triste-Lucretia Grindle

Villa Triste

Lucretia Grindle

Grand Central, Jan 22 2013, $14.99

ISBN: 9781455505371

In 2006 in Florence, Italy, Police Detective Allesandro Pallioti investigates the murder of a WWII “honored hero” Giovanni Trantemento. He soon learns someone is executing "honored heroes of the Resistance" with a bullet to their respective heads and symbolic salt poured into their mouths. Pallioti learns much more about the “honored heroes” who seemingly readapted to civilian life after the war ended and the motive for their murders when he finds Caterina Cammaccio’s war diary on Trantemento’s desk.

In 1943 Italians hear rumors that the country has signed an armistice and Bagdolio fled Rome. Caterina expects her oldest brother Enrico to come home from Rome and her fiancé naval medic Lodovicio to return from Northern Africa shortly and soon after they will marry. However, as the family prepares for her wedding and her mom’s fiftieth birthday, the Nazis arrive. They take over Villa Triste where they incarcerate and interrogate partisans and their supporters while hunting Jews. Caterina’s sister Isabella resolutely supports efforts to force the Germans from Villa Triste.

Rotating eras between the 2006 investigation and the 1943-44 resistance, Lucretia Grindle provides a taut deft police procedural-historical blend. Readers will enjoy Pallioto’s inquiry as he copes with more than a serial killer; pondering “what happens when the statue on the pedestal comes crumbling to the ground” (Blessed Is the Rain by Brooklyn Bridge). The 1940s entries are also top rate, especially the diary, as the war arrives in Florence causing the upper class sisters and others to deal with the occupiers. Villa Triste is a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Out Of Warranty-Haywood Smith

Out Of Warranty

Haywood Smith

St. Martin's, Jan 22 2013, $25.99

ISBN: 9781250003522

The medical profession universally agrees there is nothing wrong with fifty-something widow Cassie Jones except inside her head. One doctor after another concludes she is a hypochondriac though she complains about arthritis and counters their claims with her twenty-four surgeries and four joint replacements. Cassie desperately misses her late Tom for what they planned to do together in retirement. However, it is medical costs that are destroying her as she has too much income for Medicaid and too little income to pay her bills rejected by her Green Shield Health Insurance provider.

In Buckhead, Cassie meets COPD sufferer Jack Wilson at Doctor Shamlan Patel’s Fungal Institute office; neither likes the other. Dr. Patel tells Cassie she suffers from a rare genetic form of arthritis and an extreme allergy to yeast, mold and fungus. She cannot afford the cure and knows her Antichrist insurance will reject her claims. Cassie tries employment but finds only minimum wage jobs. Deciding she needs a husband with money, she tries dating; that proves worse than her employment opportunities. Her only hope is to marry the one-legged grouch she met in Patel’s waiting room as she needs his insurance and he needs her pristine abode since his farmhouse hoardes tons of dirt and whatever resides in filth.

Out Of Warranty is a biting satire that rips the American medical system through two captured customers. Cassie brings amusing caustic asides while Jack adds likable grumpiness though both at times become irritants (in fairness each stays in character). Mindful of Michael Moorer’s Sicko documentary with a deep storyline Obama could have used a few years ago, Haywood Smith lampoons the essence of the health system in which profit supersedes caring.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scent of Darkness-Margot Berwin

Scent of Darkness

Margot Berwin

Pantheon, Jan 29 2013, $25.00

ISBN: 9780307907523

When Evangeline was a little girl growing up with a single mom in Brooklyn, her beloved grandma “Louisiana” Louise the aroma grandmaster taught her to appreciate the power of various scents. Eva enjoyed visiting Louise every summer in Cyril, New York where she learned about the power of perfumes like placing lavender under her pillow so she could sleep dreaming of her Prince Charming. When Eva turned eighteen, elderly Louise gave her a special gift of a scent customized for her.

Ignoring the accompanying warning that if she opens the vial, her entire life will radically change, Eva places a dab on her neck. Always a background shadow with others before she applied her personal scent, suddenly both genders is aware of her with intensity; even animals want to be her pets. Attracted to Gabriel the student, Eva is euphoric when he falls in love with her. However, strangers, acquaintances, friends, family and cats stalk her for a sniff and a touch. Frustrated with all the adulation, she doubts any of her worshippers care about the real Evangeline rather than just Eva’s scent. That is until Eva meets Michael the artist, who seems to ignore her irresistible aroma.

With an olfactory spin, Scent of Darkness is a wonderful coming of age Bayou fantasy in which a regretful Eva learns perhaps too late that sometimes a person receives what she wished for. Eva is a wonderful protagonist who finds out the hard way that being the “It Girl” magnet proves undesirable. If you enjoy something with a different enticing aroma than the usual sub-genre entry, you will want to read Margot Berwin’s engaging second tale (see Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire).

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Ambassador's Daughter-Pam Jenoff

The Ambassador's Daughter

Pam Jenoff

Mira, Jan 29 2013, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778315094

In 1919 “the war to end all wars” seems over as world leaders arrive in Paris to negotiate the peace treaty. Margo Rosenthal’s Papa Friedrich, the Jewish Oxford Professor and now a diplomat, attends the peace conference because her maternal Uncle Walther the industrialist supporter of the war insists family be at the table. Papa brings Margo with him to Paris; neither father nor daughter wants to come to France at this time.

Worried about her wheelchair bound fiancé Stefan Oster left behind in Berlin, Margo runs into seething resentment by the Parisians towards Germans. As Margo adjusts to Paris, she meets the daughter of a Polish diplomat Krysia Smok the accomplished pianist, who knows her father’s writings on suffrage and introduces her to others debating the continent’s future. As Margo becomes invigorated by the free thinkers she encounters, she meets German Naval Captain Georg Richwalder who believes the National Socialist Party is his country’s savior. Put in the middle of rage to and from Germany as everyone except Wilson blames her hinterland for the war, Margot must decide between protecting her father, accused of stealing a top secret document, protecting her heart, and protecting her country.

Pam Jenoff’s latest early twentieth century historical (see WW II tales: The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat's Wife) provides a strong look at the end of a centuries old social class distinctions torn apart by WWI and at the resentment towards an increasingly upset Germany. Although there is too much improbable happenchance, fans will appreciate the not so peaceful Paris peace conference.

Harriet Klausner