Archive for January, 2009

An Accidental Light-Elizabeth Diamond

January 31, 2009

An Accidental Light

Elizabeth Diamond

Other Press,

ISBN: 9781590513019

2 Park Ave, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016

As it was starting to get dark police officer Jack Philips is driving home when thirteen years old Laura Jenkins runs out of the blue into the road from behind a bus. He has no time to break and kills her. Although the inquest exonerates Jack, he cannot forgive himself as he goes over each second of the tragedy wondering what he could have done different; perhaps turning on his headlights. He remains traumatized as he sees Laura everywhere. He fears for his two daughters and thinks of his mom’s suicide when he was a teen. Unable to work Jack goes on medical leave and unable to talk to his wife Samantha his marriage crumbles.

Laura’s mother Lisa is as depressed as Jack is and ties her daughter’s accidental death to the heart attack that killed her father when she was about Laura’s age. Like Jack she sees Laura everywhere. She turns to psychics as she feels her daughter’s ghost is trying to reach her. Her spouse Derek ignores his wife’s pain. Instead he stalks his daughter’s killer. Jack wonders if the unhinged man is considering an eye for an eye while also pondering whether the teen’s ghost is real and trying to tell him something.

The key to the psychological ghost story is the aftermath on two families sharing an accidental tragedy. Both families deteriorate following the death of Laura although Sam and Derek are never developed beyond the roles of spouse and parent; on the other hand Jack and Lisa are full blooded grieving parents with similar past histories. Fans will wonder if Laura is actually there and if yes, why as Elizabeth Diamond provides a deep family drama that mixes the paranormal with the psychological.

Harriet Klausner

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The King’s Grace-Anne Easter Smith

January 31, 2009

The King’s Grace

Anne Easter Smith

Touchstone, Mar 10 2009, $16.99

ISBN: 9781416550457

In 1485, Richard III, having incarcerated his two nephews Edward and Richard in the London Tower a few years earlier, dies in battle. Everyone including their illegitimate half-sister and frequent visitor Grace Plantagenet assumes the young York Princes who vanished were killed by him. Thus Henry of the House of Tudor claims the crown and ends the War of the Roses.

A few years later Perkin Warbeck arrives in London insisting he is the Duke of York, the younger Prince Richard and the rightful King of England, since he also claims his older sibling was killed by their uncle. Though her half-sister is the queen of King Henry VII and she herself is on the outer fringe of the court’s retinue, Grace needs to know the truth whether Perkin is Richard or a ruse set in motion most likely by a bitter desperate Duchess Margaret to put the House of York back on the throne.

Using an ultra minor real person with links to all the major players in the late fifteenth century as an amateur sleuth, Anne Easter Smith provides the audience with a deep look at the fates of the two princes. The story line is driven by the heroine who wants to be truly accepted by her family as she figuratively swims the polluted Thames trying to determine if the claim is genuine. Fans will enjoy her efforts as Ms. Smith brings to life a court loaded down with Machiavellian-like politics and backstabbing while the major players on the English stage are given the minor treatment as support cast.

Harriet Klausner

The Scent of Sake-Joyce Lebra

January 31, 2009

The Scent of Sake

Joyce Lebra

Avon, Feb 17 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780061662379

In Kobe when her two year old brother Toichi died because she failed to watch him closely, Rie is filled with guilt. A few weeks later, her father Kinzaemon IX informs the grieving Rie that she is the “future of the Omura House”. Her interpretation of his simple statement defies societal beliefs. Instead of marrying the next sake brew master, as a woman entering a brewery sours the products, she decides she must save the House of Ohura. She detests her mother’s adage that a female must always live for the male by “killing the self”.

Her parents arrange her marriage to Johei in order for them to produce the next heir. However, she realizes her husband is an incompetent womanizer who will destroy the House of Ohura if left in charge. Rie vows their product White Tiger will be number one sake in Japan, which means defying the demands of her womanizing spouse to raise his children (with a geisha) and by tradition he take charge of the House of Ohura. Over the years she proves a superior business person and her diverse ideas make the House of Ohura strong; her father gives the official brewery seal to her not Johei.

This late nineteenth century Japanese tale focuses on the venerable sake brewing industry through four generations of a family. Rie is the link between her parents, her children and grandchildren as she holds the interesting story line together. What is fascinatingly is how she changes from warm and caring to cold and dominating towards family members. Only the sake eventually receives her warmth. Genre fans will appreciate this deep historical tale that provides insight into late nineteenth century Japanese culture and tradition through the eyes of someone who defies the norm.

Harriet Klausner

Life Sentences-Laura Lippman

January 30, 2009

Life Sentences

Laura Lippman

Morrow, Mar 10 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061128899

Author Cassandra Fallows’ nonfiction work received critical acclaim and was best-sellers. Her venture into novels did okay, but not near the level of her memoirs of growing up in Baltimore in the turbulent 1960s or her revelations into her relationships; two failed marriages and a zillion affairs.

She considers writing a biography of her elementary school colleague notorious African-American Calliope Jenkins who two decades ago was accused of murdering her infant son. Jenkins has not answered one question on the infanticide charge. A Caucasian Cassandra looks up three African-American former classmates of both her and Jenkins in order to obtain their memories of her subject’s childhood. However, she is taken aback as their recollections are Grand Canyonesque apart from hers.

Allowing Tess Monoghan to take a well deserved breather but remaining in Baltimore, Laura Lippman provides a deep character study that focuses on the tricks of memories. The gap between what Fallows recalls from their school days vs. the three interviewees is oceanic in size as relativity of perspective surface. Readers will enjoy this strong psychological tale that spotlights the tricks the mind employs to conceal the negative memories; especially those in which the person is more a passive observer rather than directly actively involved.

Harriet Klausner

The Laws of Harmony-Judith Ryan Hendricks

January 30, 2009

The Laws of Harmony

Judith Ryan Hendricks

Harper, Feb 10 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061687365

Sunny Cooper grew up in a New Mexico commune. However, when she was eighteen, an accident killed her younger sister freaking out Sunny. Unable to remain at the commune, she fled in self-exile barely able to communicate with her mom Gwen.

Fourteen years later, Sunny lives in Albuquerque, but still has not moved past her grief and thus remains somewhat estranged from her mom; both somewhat impact her relationship with her boyfriend Michael as she hides part of her self from him. When Michael dies in a questionable accident, the cops interrogate her like she is a killer and like a zillion cockroaches creditors surface demanding payments of Michael’s enormous debt that she was ignorant existed. She flees to the commune, but mom remains the same out of touch happy hippie homemaker. Still needing escape, Sunny flees to Harmony on San Miguel Island off Washington State. However, her past follows her to the barrier island.

Sunny is the key to this intriguing character study of a person hammered by two tragedies in which she has obtained closure in neither. Whereas her mom wrote off her daughter’s death as the laws of nature have taken back her younger child, Sunny internalized it. As to Michael, no one will let her move on. Although the story line has too many sidebars that subtract from the focus of THE LAWS OF HARMONY, a deep psychological drama of a person struggling to cope with traumas in a world that will not allow her to do so.

Harriet Klausner

The Desires of Her Heart-Lyn Cote

January 30, 2009

The Desires of Her Heart

Lyn Cote

Avon, Feb 10 2009, $12.99

ISBN: 9780061373411

In 1821 twenty-five years old spinster Dorritt Mott fears her stepfather Mr. Kilbride is up to his usual no good, but this time her clenched gut expects the worst. She proves right when she learns he gambled away her family’s Belle Vista Plantation that he has lived off of while she ran it. Knowing he must flee from New Orleans, he informs his extended family they will leave for the Texas Territory where they can claim land and start over. Dorritt would like to go her own way, but knows her pampered mom and her spoiled sister Jewell whose fiancé dumped her need her.

Dorritt knows Mr. Kilbride is an amoral moron who will vanish at the first inkling of trouble; from what she knows of the trek from Louisiana to Texas it is very dangerous. She prefers to depend on wagon train half-breed scout Quinn and God than Kilbride. However, as her attraction for the half Cherokee grows, she learns once again a man cannot be trusted as he has business yes with Kilbride.

The opening Texas Star of Destiny tale is an interesting “Era of Good Feelings” Americana romance. Although Mr. Kilbride, his wife and Jewell are too stereotyped, Dorritt and Quinn are fully developed intriguing lead characters. Fans will relish this fine tale of a feisty female defying the expected role of a Louisiana aristocrat in life and in love.

Harriet Klausner


Iodine-Haven Kimell

January 29, 2009

Iodine

Haven Kimell

Free Press, Aug 2008, $24.00

ISBN: 1416572848

In Indiana, college senior Trace Pennington earns a “living” working at a farmhouse while attending school under the name of Ianthe Covington. .She excels at school, but is a life drop out. She may have run away from home but the abuse of her home and her mom’s church never left her in spite of an exorcism. Her only contact at home is Candy who insists both of them have had encounters of the first kind with aliens.

When Trace meets older sophisticated Dr. Jacob Matthias, she begins to have dark sexual dreams about having sex with him as a father substitute for her broken angelic dad. Trace intellectually knows this would be a mistake, but her increasing madness drives her to be what her dream lover wants her to be until she marries her professor who shapes her into his second faculty wife. As the insanity supersedes the increasingly rare intelligent clear moments, Trace whenever she lucidly remembers who she is also wonders what to do when he ever rejects her like he must have with his vanished first spouse.

This is not an easy book to read as Haven Kimell gets deep inside the head of a very disturbed female who opens the novel with a stunning “confession” and continues to dig deeper into the battered darkened psyche of the probably insane lead protagonist. Although this disturbing well written character study can turn overly melodramatic, readers who appreciate something radically different will want to read IODINE, the psychological story of an abused child who has become a mentally ill adult.

Harriet Klausner

Believe Me-Nina Killham

January 29, 2009

Believe Me

Nina Killham

Plume, Jan 2009, $15.00

ISBN: 9780452289765

While her husband the professor lives and works in Williamsburg as he has for the last two years, University of Maryland astrophysicist Lucy Delano raises their thirteen year old son Nicolaus Copernicus “Nic” Delano though dad sees him frequently. Lucy the atheist encourages Nic to ask questions on any topic as she insists none are stupid. However she has reconsidered her curiosity concept as lately Nic’s interests veer towards two taboo topics: girls and religion; not that he asks mom much on either.

Nic finds suburban Christianity comforting when he ponders the free will of selecting a brand of crunchy peanut butter from eight choices while at the same time a kid his age in Pakistan has his house fall on his head. The Christians may not be able to answer his five whys except in some mystical mumbo jumbo (which is not that different than mom’s naturist big bang theory), but Mrs. Porter bakes good cookies that provide comfort while mom buys cookies. Lucy is concerned about Nic not so much that he admires the long legs of his babysitter, but because his teen rebellion is heretical as he studies God forbid the bible. Mom knows she cannot excommunicate her son, but the bible in her mind was written by the first fantasists. However both reconsider their beliefs when illness strikes.

The key to this debate over whether there is a god is the low-keyed family approach to the question rather than the extremes pounding theories as scientific proof or gospel. Nic makes the tale from the onset starting with his simple peanut butter question and his continual search for the truth. Although the support cast is to religiously “correct”, readers will appreciate Nic’s quest especially why would God turn his back on an ailing child of his as his mom and dad would never do that to him.

Harriet Klausner

The Triplets’ Rodeo Man-Tina Leonard

January 29, 2009

The Triplets’ Rodeo Man

Tina Leonard

Harlequin American, Mar 2009, $4.99

ISBN: 0373752547

With his father is in the Union Junction Hospital in need of a kidney transplant, rodeo star Jack Morgan returns home to the family ranch after being away for a decade due to an estrangement between them. The bronco riding champion and his dad have argued over his working the ranch vs. bronco busting.

Jack and Cricket Jasper, a deacon, meet for the first time in several years at the hospital. They are attracted to one another and enjoy an incredible night together. However, when she becomes pregnant carrying triplets, he offers to marry her. Shockingly Cricket refuses. She has loved Jack ever since she was a little girl, but assumes he wants to wed her now for the sake of their children; and besides she wants him to end his rodeo career before he gets hurt. Meanwhile Jack’s dad offers him a million dollars if he remains on the ranch for one year. Jack has some decisions to make starting with convincing doubting Cricket he loves her.

This is an intriguing contemporary romance starring a lead protagonist who is at a point in his life when he must choose. The plot is thin as it does not explore deep enough inside his head how pulled Jack is. Still fans will enjoy his efforts to reconcile with his dad, his brother, and the woman he loves carrying his offspring.

Harriet Klausner

The Sheriff of Horseshoe, Texas-Linda Warren

January 29, 2009

The Sheriff of Horseshoe, Texas

Linda Warren

Harlequin American, Mar 2009, $4.99

ISBN: 0373752539

Wealthy socialite Peyton Ross drives through Horseshoe, Texas like a bat out of hell; going at least twice the speed limit. The sheriff gives chase, but the spoiled brat accelerates as if the sirens were not blaring behind her. She is finally forced to pull over and is arrested for reckless driving as well as speeding.

The Judge is disgusted with Peyton’s nonchalant attitude. Frustrated and irate with her, she is fined and sentenced to two weeks of community service. The widowed Sheriff Wyatt Carson reluctantly gives his spare room to the recalcitrant woman to sleep as the town has no rooms to rent. Both detest the attraction between them especially the lawman as he feels guilty about betraying his high school sweetheart late wife Lori, who died six years ago. However, his eight year old daughter Jodi and her grandma think otherwise.

This is an enjoyable Texas two step romance as the attitudes of the three prime players change due to the influx of the new relationships between them. The character driven tale stars a strong support cast, but is owned by the lead couple and his daughter. Contemporary fans will enjoy this fine tale from the moment the sheriff arrests the party girl not realizing at that moment when she frustrates him with her cavalier attitude she captured his heart.

Harriet Klausner