Archive for October, 2009

The Mental Floss History of the World-Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur

October 31, 2009

The Mental Floss History of the World

Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur

Harper, Oct 27 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061842672

 

This is a fun way to look at the history of the world (in 400 pages) as the mental Floss crowd provides their irreverent glimpse back in time and for a few pages the Great Bush Recession.  With twelve chapters divided by eras, an appendix on Oh Canada and of course that Great Bush Recession, readers get a taste of chicken beer historical trivia.  The reference tome includes chronological and locality asides, but mostly focuses on the who’s who of the past and who they are doing it to; and not just Europe and North America; as Chapter 4 aptly represents the book with its  “There’s No Place Like Rome (Except China, Persia India, Mexico and Peru).  Amusing and hip even when discussing pestilence, disease and war like how the great plague limited the great Justinian or that six battles on the western front in WW I resulted in at least 250,000 dead or there is a bit of land beyond the Hudson.  Whether it is invoking divine approval by Sumerians, Persians, or Americans, this is an engaging look at the world’s historical foibles even during critical pivotal points missed by that much by the Third Estate (some things remain the same whether the coverage is the French Revolution, Imperialism in Africa or The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars).  The Mental Floss History of the World provides as Paul Harvey would say “the rest of the story”.  Did Abraham really give up that beach front property to his nephew?

 

Harriet Klausner

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A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books-Charles Dickens

October 30, 2009

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books

Charles Dickens

Everyman’s Library (Knopf), Nov 14 2009, $18.00

ISBN: 97803072721754

 

This collection consists of the Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books, all written in the 1840s

 

A Christmas Carol (1843).  Everyone knows the story of how Ebenezer Scrooge the miser got the Christams message from his late partner and the three ghosts.

 

The Chimes (1844).  Porter Trotty Veck has no hope for the future on New Year’s Eve until he hears the spirits of the chimes.

 

The Cricket on the Hearth (1845).  John is much older than his wife Dot, but their marriage appears to be over when he finds evidence that makes him believe she cuckold him.  John talks with the spirit of the Cricket on the Hearth whose chirping Dot says means good luck.

 

The Battle of Life (1846).  Doctor Jeddler is a cynic, but his daughters’ sacrifices for loved ones make him reconsider his scorn.

 

The Haunted Man and the Ghost (1848).  Chemistry Professor Redlaw is tormented by his past until a ghostly twin arrives on Christmas Eve to make him forget his past; afterward any one who meets the professor also forgets their distress as he does with the Swidger and Tetterby families until Milly Swidger reverses the spell because of her goodness that comes out of a lost child

 

The reprint of Charles Dickens early Victorian Christmas stories will prove a delight for fans of the most famous entry, A Christmas Carol. The Cricket on the Hearth and The Haunted Man and the Ghost are somewhat similar in lessons learned to that of A Christmas Carol though with their own inspiring twists while The Chimes uses a spiritual advisor but spins quite differently.  However, the most diverse is The Battle of Life, which has a rushed ending and no paranormal guru as it feels more like O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi,.  This is a holiday winner as all five tales showcase the works of one of the greats of literature.

 

Harriet Klausner

Hot Spell-Michelle Rowen

October 29, 2009

Hot Spell

Michelle Rowen

Harlequin Blaze, Nov 2009, $

ISBN: 9780373795079

Paranormal Assessment and Recovery Agency psychic Amanda LaGrange hates her skill as she believes her father deserted the family when she was a child because he loathed her abnormal ability.  Empathic Jacob Caine only recently learned of his uncanny talent and relishes using it to help others.

 

They are attracted to one another, but her self-loathing leaves them with no chance to explore a relationship between two people with extraordinary skills as she sees it as a curse and he believes strongly both of them have a special gift.  Although she prefers not to work with him because she knows she wants him but distrusts relationships as men leave, they unite to investigate an alleged haunted house.  There they meet two ghosts who were lovers in life, but murdered and trapped by a curse until someone frees them.

 

This is a fascinating paranormal romance as the modern day couple become “cursed” so must resolve the mystery of the ghosts to free themselves.  The story lien is entertaining although Amanda’s constant self deprecation after a while turns into a super whine.  Still fans will believe in ghosts and the ghostbusters as Michelle Rowan enahcnts her fans with a Hot Spell.

 

Harriet Klausner

It Happened One Night-Lisa Dale

October 29, 2009

It Happened One Night

Lisa Dale

Forever, Nov 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780446406901

 

Lana Biel dreams of seeing the world, but is devoted to helping her married sister Karin run their wildflower farm.  Karin dreams of having a family but so far has not conceived.  Lana ponders over living in Burlington and realizes she is not living her dream, but that of Karins’; she wants out without hurting her sibling but has no way to do so.

 

Lana becomes pregnant, but has doubts about raising a child especially as a single mom; besides she fears an infant will nuke her plans to leave Vermont.  She turns to her best Eli Ward for advice as she has already ruled out an abortion.  However, Eli has his own issue as he wants to tell Lana he loves her, but fears his revelation could result in the end of their friendship.

 

This is a fascinating Vermont contemporary extended family drama that is wildflower refreshed by the two sisters, who are realistic especially with their self indulgent whines (somewhat overdone with no cheese) making both of them not particularly likable.  They make the tale as ironically Eli is a likeable player, but seems underdeveloped. Not an easy read, It happened One Night is a deep look at what happens to people when dreams are not fulfilled and even when they are.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Christmas Diamonds-Devon Vaughn Archer

October 29, 2009

Christmas Diamonds

Devon Vaughn Archer

Harlequin Kimani, Nov 2009, $5.99

ISBN: 9780373861392

 

Her mother dumped her as a child on her grandmother who raised her with love.  However, though beautiful and intelligent interior designer Paula Devine has a résumé of losers so has given up on a romantic relationship like that of her grandma whose husband proposed on Christmas.

 

Diamond jeweler Chase McCord misses his wife Rochelle who died two years ago.  He hires Paula to redecorate a room in his home.  However, before they meet formally, they encounter one another over cappuccinos in a cafe in Silver Moon, Washington which she, tired of trite males, rips his skin for staring at her.  After he takes her down a peg or two, they meet formally in his office.  As she works the renovation, they are attracted to one another, but he has doubts due to his feelings of deserting Rochelle and one of her ex boyfriends seems to have her on a string.

 

This is a fabulous holiday romance between a terrific female weary of the gender game and a wonderful somewhat fickle widower who is not afraid to exchange barbs.  This pair makes a fine couple, but their respective pasts haunt them more than the ghosts visiting Scrooge.  Readers will enjoy this fun tale as diamonds are a woman’s second best friend after the love of their life.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan-Ali Eteraz

October 28, 2009

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan

Ali Eteraz

Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061567087

 

Ali Eteraz was born in Pakistan but raised also in the United States where his family moved to when he was ten years old.  His father prayed to Allah that if God granted him a male offspring, he pledged that son would be a servant of Islam.  As a child he is taken to Mecca where is further pledged to God and attends the Madrassa Islamic school where teachers abuses the children in the name of Allah.  Ali rebels as a teen, but also begins to embrace his religion.  However, as he grows into adulthood, he begins to understand his religion is also a culture, but struggles with how strict should one adhere to scripture in a shrinking world?

 

This is a fascinating intelligent memoir that focuses on the author finding his identity in a western culture that thrives of individual freedom that on the surface seems contradictory to the dogma of religion, in Ali Eteraz case Islam, but could have been the other major religions too.  Mr. Eteraz feels his niche is to fight from the pulpit the two extremes of Taliban-al Qaeda deadly extremism and the uninspired event worshipper.  How he reached his conclusion is a terrific personal journey of the soul that is easy to follow and admire.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Good Plain Cook-Bethan Roberts

October 28, 2009

The Good Plain Cook

Bethan Roberts

Serpent Tails, Nov 1 2009, $15.95

ISBN: 9781846686658

 

In 1936 in rural Sussex affluent American widow Ellen Steinberg advertises for a cook at her new country home.  Nineteen year old Kitty Allen, needing to find a place to stay, applies for the position and to her shock though she lacks any experience gets the job because of her résumé filled with lies.

 

Ellen expects Kitty to make whatever meal she orders for herself, her poet lover George Crane, her eleven year old daughter Geenie and George’s tweener daughter Diana.  Her employer also insists on openness from everyone as she knocks down interior walls to affirm her beliefs.  Ironically she hides her feelings of guilt re her husband’s death from her daughter.  Meanwhile George begins writing bad poetry to Kitty while bewildered Geenie and confused Diana observe his actions with both unhappy about it.  Geenie also blames Kitty for her inability to get the attention of her negligent mother.  Like everyone else except perhaps Arthur the gardener, Kitty struggles with her place in this dysfunctional household.

 

Filled with symbolism of breaking down barriers to relationships in order to build stronger affinities, the aptly titled The Good Plain Cook is a terrific character driven historical nove;  Kitty and the two children are innocents with the newcomer becoming an object of affection of the poet who sees her as his symbolic muse yet can’t seem to write poetry while his benefactor assumes he is writing an ode to their love; the kids are watchers of the adults using pretense to conceal feelings behind self built defense mechanism, which they emulate in differing manners as Geenie is overtly angry and Diana introvertly fearful.  All five players are fully developed in this well written depression Era drama.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Conflict Of Interest-Anna Adams

October 28, 2009

A Conflict Of Interest

Anna Adams

Harlequin SuperRomance, Nov 2009, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373783434

Dr. Maria Keaton testifies against a teenage client Griff Butler accused of murder in court, but his lawyer accuses her of having an affair with his client.  She is suspended over the accusation of sexual misconduct.  Her peers kick her to the curb and her reputation torn to shreds as she is temporarily barred from practicing psychiatry.

 

Maria turns to Judge Jake Sloan, who was hearing the Butler case.  He has doubts about her professionalism, but quickly turns around convinced she is innocent except for being a good citizen.  As they begin to fall in love, he pulls back when he learns she was his daughter Leila’s shrink.

 

A Conflict of Interests is a great contemporary romance as Anna Adams looks deeply at psychological issues, court proceedings, and extended family.  Her mom and sister, and his daughter as well as Griff enhance the relationship between the lead couples as he is a control freak and she is an independent freak; their underlying respective philosophies of life are total opposites. Fans will relish Ms. Adams strong tale with a fabulous twist to the Butler case.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

Alaskan Renegade-Kate Bridges

October 28, 2009

Alaskan Renegade

Kate Bridges

Harlequin, Nov 1 2009, $5.99

ISBN: 9780373295685

 

In 1899 Victoria Windhaven provides nursing services to injured miners and others in the Skagway vicinity of the District of Alaska.  Her work requires her trekking into some dangerous wilderness so a bodyguard is assigned to escort her.

 

Her current protector is Brant MacQuaid who jilted Victoria’s sister at the altar in St. Louis.  He has been hired as her bodyguard and that of her associate medical student Cooper Sullivan as they tend to injured miners on Glitter Mountain.  Victoria remains outraged with him and wishes someone else would escort her.  He can feel the anger she emits at him, but refuses to allow anyone else replace him even the rival Philadelphian medical student as he needs her as his cover to capture a nasty felon besides being in love with her although keeping her safe comes first before the criminal and his desire.

 

This is another great Kate Bridges Alaskan Territory late nineteenth century police procedural romance.  Fans will feel they are on Glitter Mountain assisting Kate and Cooper with the injured and observing the Mountie Brant as he gets his man (and more important his woman).  Cooper is a strong likable support character who offers Victoria every quality trait she wants in a husband while Brant provides everything she detests in a spouse.  Their spirited rivalry make for a fun historical.

 

Harriet Klausner

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan-Ali Eteraz

October 28, 2009

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan

Ali Eteraz

Harper, Oct 2009, $25.99

ISBN: 9780061567087

 

Ali Eteraz was born in Pakistan but raised also in the United States where his family moved to when he was ten years old.  His father prayed to Allah that if God granted him a male offspring, he pledged that son would be a servant of Islam.  As a child he is taken to Mecca where is further pledged to God and attends the Madrassa Islamic school where teachers abuses the children in the name of Allah.  Ali rebels as a teen, but also begins to embrace his religion.  However, as he grows into adulthood, he begins to understand his religion is also a culture, but struggles with how strict should one adhere to scripture in a shrinking world?

 

This is a fascinating intelligent memoir that focuses on the author finding his identity in a western culture that thrives of individual freedom that on the surface seems contradictory to the dogma of religion, in Ali Eteraz case Islam, but could have been the other major religions too.  Mr. Eteraz feels his niche is to fight from the pulpit the two extremes of Taliban-al Qaeda deadly extremism and the uninspired event worshipper.  How he reached his conclusion is a terrific personal journey of the soul that is easy to follow and admire.

 

Harriet Klausner