Archive for September, 2011

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman- Patricia Bosworth

September 30, 2011

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman

Patricia Bosworth

Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt, Aug 30 2011, $30.00

ISBN: 9780547152578


This is a deep biography that uses all types of reference material including Jane Fonda’s FBI file, her suicide mother’s psychiatric records, her relationship with her demanding dad the icon actor Henry and interviews to get inside the changing public images to the soul of Ms. Fonda.  The book is divided into a prologue, five distinct eras, and an epilogue.  Ms. Bosworth openly admits she and her subject have been friends since they met as students at New York Actors Studio in the early 1960s, but this does not prevent the biographer from writing about the good, the bad and the ugly.  Perhaps the most fascinating theme is a need to find a father figure who cared about her.  Ms. Fonda’s transition as reflected in the five periods of her life starts with being Henry’s “Daughter” (Tall Story) seeking his approval.  In her early twenties having given up on achieving her dad’s okay, Ms. Fonda turns to becoming the consummate “Actress” (Cat Ballou).  In the 1960s, Ms. Fonda is recognized as a “Movie Star/Sex Symbol” married to director Roger Vadim (Barbarella).  Over the next two decades she becomes a “Political Activist” (Coming Home) speaking out against the Viet Nam War and ridiculed as Hanoi Jane. while married to Tom Hayden.  Finally in the 1990s she becomes the “Workout Guru/Tycoon Wife” married to Ted Turner and running a multimillion dollar workout video company.  Ms. Bosworth enables readers to get inside “The Private Life of a Public Woman” in a wonderful biography.


Harriet Klausner



Under the Skin-Vicki Lane

September 30, 2011

Under the Skin

Vicki Lane

Bantam, Oct 18 2011, $15.00

ISBN: 9780345533654


In the Great Smoky Mountains, Elizabeth and Phillip are planning their marriage.  However, her high maintenance sister Gloria calls from Florida informing Elizabeth she is coming to rusticate and hide on her sibling’s Full Circle Farm.  An exacerbated Elizabeth believes Glory is delusional; nothing new in her mind, when she claims her third spouse Jerry is trying to kill her.


Her sister’s arrival has Elizabeth unhappy as she wants to plan her upcoming wedding to Phillip instead of serving her affluent sibling.  However, a side effect of the arrival of “Princess” Glory is Elizabeth begins to question what she knows about her fiancé.  As the two siblings turn to one another for the first time in years, each wonders who the man is tentatively in their respective lives.


Although the climax seems off kilter, Under the Skin is a fascinating tale of two sisters, opposites in every way, finally bonding after all these years.  Character driven, including by the rural Appalachia setting, readers will enjoy Vicki Lane’s entertaining thriller as the Goodweather siblings need to find one another to survive an ordeal that tests their sisterhood.


Harriet Klausner

The Cat’s Table-Michael Ondaatje

September 30, 2011

The Cat’s Table

Michael Ondaatje

Kopf, Oct 7 2011, $26.00

ISBN: 9780307700117


Eleven year old Michael is leaving his home in Ceylon for the first time to join his divorced mother living in England.  Michael is traveling alone though a first class passenger promised his uncles and aunts to keep an eye on him.  The lad is taken aback when he sees the multistoried castle he will sail on lying majestically large in Colombo Harbor.  His bunk on the Oronsay is under the waves so he has no porthole.


He is assigned Table 76 for his meals.  There are nine people at 76 including two boys (extroverted Cassius who he knows from school and pensive Ramadhin) his age.  Another table 76 occupant Miss Laqueri explains they eat at the Cat’s Table, which is to keep the dregs the furthest from the exclusive Captain’s Table.  The lads run amuck getting into one stormy escapade after another while traveling the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea while being fascinated by the mystery of the chained prisoner.  Meanwhile Michael is attracted to his older vivacious cousin Emily as she is kind to him, places deaf Asuntha under her protective wing and gallivants with a performer. 


Award winning author Michael Ondaatje provides a strong coming of age thriller that contains a metaphysical undercurrent for those who know the background of the writer.  Michael’s journey is filled with youthful adventures but also metaphorically symbolizes the journey of life as the adult is the child without the innocence.  The Cat’s Table is an excellent character driven drama, which, unlike Paradise Lost can become Paradise Regained, though innocence lost is gone forever.


Harriet Klausner


The English Patient-Michael Ondaatje

September 30, 2011

The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje

Everyman’s Library, Oct 4 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780307700872


Hana the Canadian nurse has cared for the English Patient for four months.  She knows his body as well as a lover would, but knows very little about who he really is.  The Bedouin found him in the Sahara when he ejected from his crashing blazing airplane.  They put out the fire engulfing his body, wrapped him carefully and brought him to the Italian villa where the allies set up a hospital amidst undetonated Nazi bombs.  Now the others have left except for the maniacal nurse and her English Patient.


Hana is not concerned with who her English Patient is and what he might have done or even if he is married; as he has given her a reason to live.  Still grieving the death of her father, Hana feels that the unknown burn victim is her family.  However, her idyllic parasite is invaded by thieving spy Caravaggio who was tortured and maimed by the enemy, and Kip the Sikh from India working as a sapper mine detonation expert for the British army in North Africa.  The newcomers feel as displaced by the war as do the Canadian and her patient.


This is reprint of one of the most haunting classic war stories ever written.  The story line focuses on displacement of four people who had diverse roles in WWII.  Each character is fully developed coming from different cultures though all are part of the sun setting on the British Empire as the war closes.  All’s quiet on the African front, but the aftermath of war remains as volatile as the unexploded ordinance; symbolized by these protagonists who come together over the mystery of whom is the English Patient.


Harriet Klausner


Nanjing Requiem-Ha Jin

September 30, 2011

Nanjing Requiem

Ha Jin

Pantheon, Oct 18 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307379764


In 1937, the Japanese occupation force takes control of Nanjing with a brutal violence to insure the suppressed population could not rebel.  American missionary dean of Jinling Women’s College Minnie Vautrin is horrified with what she witnesses and what she hears as the Japanese army terrorizes civilians with mass slaughter and rape.  She and her assistant Anling Gao open the college as a shelter to the homeless.  While the Japanese threaten to destroy her school and her, Minnie continues to act as the “Goddess of Mercy” to over ten thousand battle fatigued women and children. 


Anling bears her own demon in secret.  Her daughter in law is Japanese so though she desperately wants to welcome her son’s wife and worse her grandchild as her kin, she cannot acknowledge them if she does not want to become a pariah in her community and ineffective in assisting Minnie.  She takes solace with her work helping the Goddess of Mercy perform miracles by risking their lives.  Still both women feel tormented by those they could not save from the horrific murdering and raping of Nanking. 


With a nod to Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanjing, Ha Jin provides a powerful cautionary historical thriller with a focus on the real life missionary who the author makes a strong case deserves international legendary status for what she did at a sacrifice to herself.  Reading somewhat like a biographical fiction, Anling tells the tale of her boss’ efforts and sacrifice to rescue the beleaguered unprotected civilians from a reign of terror. 


Harriet Klausner

The Wedding Quilt- Jennifer Chiaverini

September 30, 2011

The Wedding Quilt

Jennifer Chiaverini

Dutton, Nov 1 2011, $24.95

ISBN 9780525952428


In 2028 Sarah McClure owns Elm Creek Manor where her daughter Caroline is getting married.  Attending the wedding on the bride’s side besides her friends and family is the Elm Creek Quilters. 


Sarah looks back to when Caroline and her twin James were born to her and Matt.  Inheriting the manor, Sarah saved the Elm Creek Quilt Camp from insolvency.  She recalls the Quilters being there for her during her pregnancy but Matt was away much of the time helping his father with his business.  Musing about some of her cherished Quilters and their quilts, Sarah is caught by surprise when her bookworm daughter decides to create a special wedding quilt since Caroline never was passionate about quilting like her mom is.  Sarah wants to help her daughter’s dream come true as she never made a wedding quilt, but is unaware that her historian loving son is secretly seeing Gina.


The latest Elm Creek Quilts drama is for die hard fans only as the story line consists of a series of flashback vignettes from previous novels.  The cast is as always is solid and references to the “Founding Mother” Sylvia add to the tale.  However, there is little conflict amongst the party; as The Wedding Quilt mostly summarizes much of the major episodic events from previous novels.


Harriet Klausner

All About Seduction-Katy Madison

September 30, 2011

All About Seduction

Katy Madison

Avon, Oct 25 2011, $7.99

ISBN 9780062017352


Caroline Broadhurst has been married for fifteen years to an abusive mill owner who paid her family for her.  Now with no heir and learning he is sterile, Broadhurst orders his wife to bed an aristocratic friend of her brother.  She is appalled as her husband parades the who’s who of decadence passed her.  However, Carline is an obedient wife so will do what is demanded of her even if she loathes sleeping with any of these rakes or for that matter her odious mate.


Caroline is attracted to mill engineer Jack Applegate who has loved her from afar since he first saw his employer’s wife.  When Jack is injured at the mill, Caroline takes him to her manor house to heal.  He learns of Broadhurst’s insidious scheme and volunteers to be the sire of her offspring.   However, her husband learns of her duplicity with an unacceptable middle class worker so plots revenge as the cuckold spouse.


With a nod to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, readers will enjoy this entertaining Regency romance.  The exciting story line is character driven mostly by Caroline who is refreshing with her pathetic inability to break out of what society and her family expects of a woman.  Although over the top of the Tower especially once Jack is injured, fans will enjoy this engaging nineteenth century version of the Miller’s Tale.


Harriet Klausner

Reality Jane-Shannon Nering

September 30, 2011

Reality Jane

Shannon Nering

Bancroft, Oct 31 2011, $15.95

ISBN: 9781610880282


The self help reality guru of media Ricky Dean hires Canadian journalist Jane Kaufman as a television producer.  She travels to Hollywood where she is almost famous while on call 24/7. She became a caffeine addict with her daily coffee seemingly matching her age of twenty-eight; and learning the ropes of reality TV means throwing the innocent lambs like the obese seven child to the wolves dressed as fans. 


After growing up in a loyal caring Canadian prairie family, Jane struggles with backstabbers and dealing with maniacal guests and their rapacious retinue.  Her fill in when she can have a personal life limited to no sleep has faithful Grant as her boyfriend, but sexy Alex owns her fantasy libido.  However, it is that seven year old fat girl whose hysteria is a wake up call to Reality Jane as she ponders how future generations looking back at her accomplishments would react.


Reality Jane is an entertaining satire on the survival of the nastiest in Hollywood’s reality shows written by an insider.  Jane is terrific as she realizes who has her back and who is stabbing her back.  With an is that all there is theme, Shannon Nering provides an intriguing portrait of a woman who enjoys the reality media concept, but loathes the belief that the attendees want blood from the participants; who are unwitting volunteer Christians facing lions inside the Roman Coliseum.


Harriet Klausner

My Christmas Cowboy-Shelley Galloway

September 30, 2011

My Christmas Cowboy

Shelley Galloway

Harlequin American Romance, Nov 1 2011, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373753833


His body battered from a bull, rodeo performer Trent Riddell comes home to heal from busted ribs, arm and other injuries that put his career in jeopardy.  Childhood friend Jolene Arnold calls Trent who assumes she wants to start a tryst with him. He prefers not to follow up on their one night stand when he was last laid up.  Instead she arrives with her three month old baby Amanda Rose who she says is his.


While Trent is in denial and demanding paternity tests, his dad arrives and accepts Amanda Rose as his granddaughter while telling Jo she will not be alone anymore.  She explains she called him numerous times to tell him, but he refused to return her calls.  Trent insults her offering her money and saying she slept around.  Jo leaves.  However, his dad warns him to make it right.


The latest Riddell cowboy contemporary is an engaging family drama though as Trent explains there is no engagement so the romance is muted to first comes, the carriage than comes the marriage and finally comes love.  The Riddell patriarch is a superb role model as he welcomes Jo and Amanda as a daughter and granddaughter.  Trent and his brothers are not quite as welcoming.  The mystery involving missing farm equipment detracts from the prime story line of whether Trent mans up to make the two females in his life part of his family.


Harriet Klausner

A Texas Ranger’s Christmas-Rebecca Winters

September 30, 2011

A Texas Ranger’s Christmas

Rebecca Winters

Harlequin American Romance, Nov 1 2011, $5.25

ISBN: 9780373753819


Divorced Texas Ranger Captain Caige Dawson considers leaving the force in order to spend more time with his special needs eight year old son Josh.  Three years ago the accident changed the family dynamics leading to Liz leaving him to raise their son by himself; though thanks to angles like teacher Mrs. Wright and caregiver Elly, he knows his child is bring taken care of with love when he is away. 


His supervisor Mac Leeson assigns Caige to work on a FBI five years old cold case.  Agent Robbins explains that banker Nathan Farley left a branch of the Yellow Rose Bank only to vanish.  His wife Blaire was a UT at Austin undergraduate when her husband disappeared.  Blaire’s parents called asking for Robbins to bring closure to them and their daughter.  Caige goes undercover at the Texas Forest Service where Blaire Kosolov works.  He and his son are instantly attracted to the kind Blaire, but he fears she has killed her spouse as two more murders seem to converge on her.


This is a powerful family drama starring three likable individuals, but Josh steals the show from the adults.  The mystery of the vanished spouse is deftly handled to blend in with the romance and the nurturing of Josh, who needs special attention.  Readers will appreciate Rebecca Winters’ superb holiday thriller.


Harriet Klausner