Thursday, April 24, 2014

Secrecy-Rupert Thomson

Secrecy Rupert Thomson Other Press, Apr 22 2014, $16.95 ISBN: 9781590516850 In 1691, Sicilian artist Zumbo sculptures in wax masterpieces of victims who died violent deaths. Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III admires his craftsmanship and invites the artist to come to Florence. Zumbo understands the importance of a powerful patron’s protection so accepts the offer. In Florence, Cosimo still misses his wife Marguerite-Louise d'Orléans who deserted him. He secretly commissions the sculptor to create the perfect life-sized female beauty. Zumbo obtains a corpse from the mortuary of a woman found in a canal. He wonders who killed the victim, what the motive was and is the mysterious dog’s head etched deeply into the top of her spine the work of the dangerous Dominican persecutors. Padre Stufa the Dominican wants Zumbo’s head, but impatiently waits for the artist to fall out of grace with the duke. When the Sicilian falls in love with Faustina, her secrecy may be the avenue for Stufa to achieve his objective as the Padre seeks to uncover what she diligently hides. This is a great historical biographical fictional account of the real Baroque sculptor Gaetano Giulio Zumbo. The atmospheric storyline transports the audience mostly to Florence towards the end of the seventeenth century though there are other references to France and Sicily with Zumbo telling much of the tale in a flashback while dying from natural causes a decade later. Readers will relish this strong entry as life in 1691 Florence is very dangerous even for a favorite of the Medici Duke. Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On The Rocks-Erin Duffy

On The Rocks Erin Duffy Morrow, Apr 22 2014, $25.99 ISBN: 9780062205742 As Abby tries on wedding gowns at Vera Wang, she and her BFF Grace discuss the former’s upcoming marriage to long time BF Ben. Grace looks up the fiancé Facebook page. To both their horror and Abby’s consternation, Ben changed his status to single; using social media to end their engagement. When she confronts him, he is apologetic and explains there is no other woman, but a job offer in Arizona that he accepted. Heartbroken Abby feels worse because her younger sister Katie becomes engaged. For the next few months, Abby makes Ben and Jerry her BFFs until Grace persuades her to spend the summer together in Newport. Grace explains that she needs to leave Boston to escape an affair with a married man and Abby needs to accept and move on that Ben is yesterday. Confused over the single scene Abby struggles with dating in the age of social media changing the rules of engagement since she had been with Ben for a dozen years. On the Rocks is a fun lighthearted contemporary as Abby seeks her groove in a world in which she feels like a fish out of water; as technology radically changed the mores from what she recalls when she last was single on the dating scene in her twenties. The cast is quirky though not deep, but fans will enjoy most of their antics (except when realistic nastiness occurs on line for all friends to ridicule) as the singles scene has gone virtually naked for all to see. Harriet Klausner >

A Life Apart-L. Y. Marlowe

A Life Apart L. Y. Marlowe BDWY/Broadway Books, Apr 22 2014, $16.00 ISBN: 9780307719393 In 1940 Boston, Morris Sullivan and Agnes marry just before he enlists in the Navy. While he is stationed at Pearl Harbor, she remains in Massachusetts raising their baby with him making two short visits over the next eighteen months. At the same time Beatrice Dobbins follows her brother Robert leaving Mississippi for Roxbury where she trains as a teacher and he joins the Navy. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Morris’ ship the USS Oklahoma is hit. He loses his footing and slides into the ocean. His last thoughts are on his wife and daughter, but Robert saves his life. Soon after his heroism, Robert dies as the assault continues. Feeling he owes Robert, Morris sends a letter offering comfort to the man’s grieving sister. Beatrice responds thanking him for his kind note especially informing her that her sibling died a hero. However, both know a white married male and a black female cannot be friends so they end their correspondence. Two decades later, Morris and Beatrice meet and soon each admits to being in love with the other. They begin an affair as Morris struggles to maintain two families. Rotating perspective between Morris and the two women in his life over five decades, A Life Apart is an engaging timely (with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and recent SCOTUS decisions on voting and affirmative action) family drama. The protagonists of the biracial triangle are fascinating with Morris acting fickle; Agnes knowing something is wrong; and Beatrice fearing consequences. Although the storyline fails to dig deep into the tumultuous background, readers will appreciate this enjoyable historical epic of a man and his two families. Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 21, 2014

Paris At The End Of The World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918-John Baxter

Paris At The End Of The World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918 John Baxter Harper Perennial, Apr 15 2014, $16.95 ISBN: 9780062221407 Seeking to understand why his Grandpa Archie abandoned his family and quit his job that waited for him upon his return from fighting in the front during WWI to stay in Paris, John Baxter researched his relative’s time in France. Adding to the mystery of what happened to change Archie is how adamantly he refused to discuss the war though his diaries provide a glimpse into his soul. However, instead of just a memoir, Paris At The End Of The World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918 is also a superb historical that shines a light on how Parisians especially artists, who flocked to the city from around the world in spite of the horrors not far away, adapted to the fighting. Whereas the city’s residents kept the gaiety of the arts thriving in spite of shortages and the sounds of war nearby, the grim no nonsense Australian soldiers across the Channel prepared to take the fight to the Kaiser. Readers will appreciate this strong WWI account of Paris and the Aussies in Britain while also enjoying the search for Archie’s motivation. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Steady Running Of The Hour-Justin Go

The Steady Running Of The Hour Justin Go Simon & Schuster, Apr 15 2014, $26.00 ISBN 9781476704586 In 2004, JF Prichard of London-based Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors contacts American Tristan Campbell. He explains to the recent college graduate that he may be heir to a trust fund established in 1924 by mountain climber Ashley Walshingham, but never claimed by his beneficiary at that time Imogen Soames-Andersson. Over the next eight decades the firm searched for the rightful heir, but until recently found no clues. Even now the solicitors remain unsure if Tristan is the one though they have some evidence pointing in his direction. Tristan arrives in Europe where he seeks proof that he is Ashley’s descendent. In 1917, Ashley and Imogen share a tryst fueled by love before he goes off to the continent to fight in the trench war. Though fortunate to survive, Ashley is not the same. By 1924, the daredevil mountaineer decides to climb Mount Everest. He dies in the attempt leaving behind his vast fortune to his beloved Imogen though he never saw her after he left for the war. Now with two months to go before the trust fund is turned over to charity on the eightieth anniversary of Ashley’s death, Tristan is spellbound by the man’s adventures. This terrific character-driven tale deftly rotates the two subplots though the WWI and post war eras being the stronger with a timely reminder that combat veterans’ damaged souls may lead to many unable to return to the civilian life even to waiting love; Ashley suffered from a harrowing stint in the trenches of France that changed him. Although Tristan’s romance feels unnecessary and forced, readers will appreciate this entertaining drama especially Ashley’s awesome adventures. Harriet Klausner

A Broken Kind Of Beautiful-Katie Ganshert

A Broken Kind Of Beautiful Katie Ganshert WaterBrook Press, Apr 15 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9781601425904 Feeling all alone, abandoned by family and God, fourteen year old Ivy Clark left Greenbrier, South Carolina to become a fashion model. Over the next decade she proved to be very good at her vocation since clients sought her out. She is also hurt by the people in her life as she desperately needed someone who would break down her barriers to love her as Ivy and not just for being a success. Now at twenty-four, Ivy’s career is in rapid decline as the camera shows her age to those who pay the bills demanding a younger face. Ivy returns to Greenbrier and works at her deeply devout stepmother Marilyn’s bridal shop ironically to include modeling the purity white gowns that constantly remind her of being unwanted damaged goods. Ivy’s former photographer Davis Knight left his camera behind to follow her to Greenbrier where he also once lived; he obtains maintenance work at a church. He always could see passed her mask to her inner insecurities and makes it clear to her he wants more between them; but she rejects him though she feels the same. This is a wonderful Christian inspirational drama starring three emotionally lonely people. The lead trio’s relationship with the Lord will fascinate the audience as Marilyn remains a true believer though disappointed while Ivy and to a lesser degree Davis feel God wants nothing to do with them leaving them in exile. Though the climax is too neat even for a romance, the journey to redemption is incredible. Harriet Klausner >

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Hurlyburly's Husband-Jean Teulé and Alison Anderson (translator)

The Hurlyburly's Husband Jean Teulé and Alison Anderson (translator) Gallic, Apr 15 2014, $15.95 ISBN: 9781906040659 In 1663 the Marquis de Montespan Louis-Henri de Pardaillan Gondrin and Françoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who begins to use the name Athénaïs, marry. In love with each other, the newlyweds feel blessed to have found one another. However, love is not enough to pay the bills of an aristocratic couple living the good life well above their means. To bring in needed income and become a favorite of King Louis XIV, Louis-Henri enlists in the army though he finds the front unappealing. In the new Palace of Versailles, Queen Marie-Thérèse employs Athénaïs as a lady-in-waiting. Feeling out of place in the decadent Sun King’s palace, Athénaïs pleads with Montespan for them to leave immediately for Paris, but he refuses. Soon afterward, the monarch sees ‘hurluberlu’ blond curled Athénaïs and makes her his royal mistress. While his wife becomes the talk of the kingdom, as the latest lover of the king, Montespan is expected to ferme la bouche and quietly enjoy the benefits. Instead unlike the cuckold behavior of his peers who take the money silently, he publicly displays his dismay as the victim who wants his beloved wife returned to him immediately. Based on a true seventeenth century triangle, The Hurlyburly’s Husband is a dark comedy starring a fascinating hero who will remind readers of Quixote and his changing from innocent to obsessed. Character-driven by the lead couple, readers will appreciate Jean Teule’s latest witty tale (see The Suicide Shop) as Montespan rejects the acceptable norm and “willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause” (The Impossible Dream lyrics by Joe Darion). Harriet Klausner