Archive for September, 2012

The Last Newspaperman-Mark Di Ionno

September 26, 2012

The Last Newspaperman

Mark Di Ionno

Plexus Publishing, Sep17 2012, $22.95

ISBN: 9780937548745


In 1999, octogenarian Fred Haines tells the young reporter about his time working for the now defunct New York Mirror in the 1930s and how he never expected to look forward to lunch in a nursing home with an eighty year old broad.  As the new kid on the block he got the crap that no one else wanted.  In 1932, Fred is stuck covering a kidnapping in “Sticksville” on the wrong side of the Hudson, he assumes he is wasting him time even when the father allegedly is Charles Lindbergh; as he assumes someone is pulling a stunt.  When he realizes the report is genuine, his name is made with this story and the follow-up when he goes mano a mano with Hauptmann.  He covers the Morro Castle and Hindenburg disasters; as well as Orson Welles’ eye opening radio version of the War of the Worlds in which James learns the true influence of the media to create the illusion of the reality of a false situation.  Over the years while covering the Jersey beat, his ambition leads him to create false stories and other amoral actions until the mainstream media exiles him.  James thrives anyway as the tabloids love his exposés not caring how he got them or whether they are real.


This is a strong nostalgic look at a time when the print media was the powerful fourth estate keeping a vigilant watch on the three other estates instead of imbedded journalism as seemingly practiced by the mainstream media today.  The metafiction technique of  Fred’s story within a story is deftly handled reminding readers how far reporting has changed as The Last Newspaperman is a deep character driven epic.


Harriet Klausner



Together for Christmas-Lisa Plumley

September 26, 2012

Together for Christmas

Lisa Plumley

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN 9781420122121


Troubleshooter Casey Jackson arrives from Southern California to Kismet, Michigan with T-minus 21 days until Christmas.  Casey loathes the holidays but will baby sit pop sensation Heather Miller to insure she finishes her TV special on time.  Heather blames her kid sister Kristen for the delay while asking her sibling, owner of the Galaxy Diner, to help her deal with the terminator before he shuts down her production.  The star hides she is causing the delay because she is in love with Alex Taylor and needs time to get the intelligent set designer to reciprocate.


Casey comes to her diner where Kristen gives him pie in a jar.  He adds ketchup to her chagrin.  They argue but are attracted to one another.  Kristen asks him what he thought of Heather’s sex video as that is her litmus test whether to sleep with a guy.  Kristen’s employers Talia, Garth and Walden think Casey likes Kristen, but he failed her litmus test.   Kristen surprises Casey when she says she wants her sister to stay for the holidays though Heather’s arrival has ruined Kristen’s season.  Meanwhile Walden agrees to help Talia and Garth on their matchmaking plan as he is attracted to her.  Alex tells Heather she has the chicken pox as he does too.  As love blossoms in Kismet, so does misunderstandings.


The latest trip to Kismet (see Home for the Holidays) is an amusing Christmas frolic that with a nod to the movie Love Actually contains three wonderful romances and other loving relationships.  The lead couple is a nice pairing of obsessed opposites while the support cast enhances the storyline.  With Pinky and The Brain as a matchmaker, fans will enjoy discovering the joys of Christmas.


Harriet Klausner

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree-Janet Daily

September 26, 2012

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree

Janet Daily

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781420124620


Colorado rancher Sam Bennett arrives in Manhattan to help a college buddy and earn some money setting up Christmas trees around town.  He meets and soon works with store window display designer Nicole Young.  They are attracted to one another, but she insists they remain friends while he has four short weeks to persuade her otherwise.


As Nicole starts to dream of spending time with Sam, he abruptly has to return to Colorado.  Missing her cowboy, the window dresser wonders whether to fly to the Rocky Mountains or hope he comes back to her. 


A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree is an engaging wintry New York romance starring seemingly opposites falling in love.  In some ways a single mom baker with energy steals the show from the lead couple.  Still with a nod to the movie Silver Bells, the romance between the rural rancher and the urban designer is a fun holiday tale though her work never comes across as something artistic that she enjoys doing instead of a job easy to walk away from. 


Harriet Klausner

His Mistletoe Bride-Vanessa Kelly

September 26, 2012

His Mistletoe Bride

Vanessa Kelly

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN 9781420114843


In 1817 her aristocratic maternal English grandfather Lord Merritt invites Philadelphian Phoebe Linville to visit him.  By the time the Quaker arrives in London, Lord Merritt’s grandnephew and heir Major Lucas Stanton informs the American that their mutual relative had died from an infection.  Though she seems unsteady, Phoebe insists that comes from an illness she caught while sailing for the last month and not the demise of her grandfather.  Her chaperone Mrs. Tanner insists Phoebe return to Pennsylvania where her half-brother will care for her, but Stanton says Merritt made arrangements for her that as her cousin several degrees apart will support.  Phoebe says she will stay in England.


When Phoebe and Lucas are caught kissing, they marry.  He takes his wife to Mistletoe Manor where he expects meek obedience from his bride, but receives instead a fiery woman teaching him to love again.


This is a warm holiday romance starring a wonderful heroine and a mercurial jaded hero who has seen horror in combat and betrayal in love.  Although the storyline is often used in the sub-genre, the strong cast and the Mouse that Roared make for an engaging Christmas gala.


Harriet Klausner

Season for Surrender-Theresa Romain

September 26, 2012

Season for Surrender

Theresa Romain

Zebra, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9781420128864


In 1818, Lord Xavier loves betting among his hedonistic pursuits.  He will wager on almost anything, but his current challenge tossed at him by his cousin Lockwood disturbs the rogue as he considers even throwing the bet something he never does.


To win Xavier must convince Lady Louisa Oliver to remain at his two week Christmas gala; which would ruin the bookworm.  Uncomfortable, Xavier anoints himself her chaperone if she accepts his bold invitation.  Louisa expects to remain on the shelf (preferably a bookshelf) so she decides to take up Lord Xavier’s offer.  Neither Xavier nor his waging friends and cousin expected Louisa to double down on their dares as the cousins vie for the attention of the special guest.


The second Christmas Regency romance (see Season for Temptation) is a zany triangle as the virgin holds her own against rival rakes as the cousins and their guest are fully developed.  Though the theme has been used frequently in historical tales, the storyline engages the reader with a fun playful naughtiness.


Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead

September 24, 2012

The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead  

Roger Ma

Berkley, Oct 02, 2012

ISBN: 9780425247655


The Vampire Combat Manual is a fun lampooning of the genre as Max Brooks (with illustrator Max Werner) provides a how to guide in fighting the undead.  The author separates fact from fiction and what weapons like stakes, guns and crossbows lethally work best to avoid becoming a blood donor.  Those who have read The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead or The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead will find a sameness to the theme although a different paranormal with differing traits is highlighted. With insight into the natural properties of garlic and the unnatural properties of artificial ultraviolet light, fans will enjoy the tongue in cheek guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead.


Harriet Klausner

The Doula-Bridget Boland

September 24, 2012

The Doula

Bridget Boland

Gallery, Sep 4 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451641516


Though she comes from a family of funeral directors, Carolyn Connors goes in the complete opposite direction as she becomes a doula.  Used to death, her influences in becoming a birthing coach are personal; her mom miscarried and her brother drowned.  Ironically in spite of her family working with the deceased, her parents forbid Carolyn mentioning either tragedy.


In Milwaukee, Carolyn’s best friend Mary “MG” Grace tells her she is pregnant.  Caro quickly heads to her BFF to serve as her birthing coach.  However, MG’s husband Brad objects as he insists on a hospital delivery and isolates his wife from her childhood friend.  When complications occur, MG has no one to turn to except Carol who arrives in time to save the unborn while the mom dies.  Brad holds Carolyn responsible for his wife’s death and takes her to court accusing her of medical malpractice.  Still grieving her BFF’s death, a guilt-ridden Carolyn struggles to defend herself.


The Doula is a fascinating look at motherhood as Kahil Gibran stated “On Children” in the Prophet: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”  Carolyn is a terrific protagonist as she holds the engaging storyline together.  While MG’s character abruptly does a 180 degree turn around (perhaps caused by hormones running wild), fans will enjoy this deep look at birth and death.


Harriet Klausner


The Runner-A Wayne Gill

September 24, 2012

The Runner

A Wayne Gill

Iron Pillar Media Group, Dec 2011, $8.45


ISBN: 9780979785610


In the Division Three NCAA football semifinals, Ozark College’s Michael Knight catches the winning Hail Mary touchdown thrown by his best friend Todd McBride.  In the end zone, he thanks God when he hears the voice for the first time telling him to preach to thousands times ten-thousands.  Being the son of a preacher Reverend Jeremiah and Kathryn, he is not as shocked with hearing the Word as he thought he should be.  Michael also realizes at that moment when his girlfriend Abby Snow calls him her champion that he loves her.  However, not all is perfect in heaven as Michael’s older sister Cindy feels their dad loathes her and despises her biker boyfriend Ramon Sanchez who reciprocates those feelings.


Just after his team loses in the championship game, Michael receives an admissions letter to attend NYU law school over the objection of Abby and his dad.  Cindy congratulates him for being the first Knight to leave Ozark Halls, Missouri.  His parents pray for him as both the Snow and Knight families believe he heads to Sodom and Gomorrah.  As Michael finds the glitter of temptation in Manhattan, Ramon works for Kansas City gangster Raul Diego-Vega.  Soon worlds will collide as everything goes full circle for Michael when death arrives and Krytsal Alvarado goes missing.


The Runner is a fascinating Christian character study that focuses on Michael’s journey.  The storyline starts slow as readers meet the cast especially the beliefs of the key players.  Once relationships are established, A Wayne Gill’s opening act turns into a discerning look at a devout person struggling with temptation at a time when the world of his loved ones and him spin mysteriously out of control.


Harriet Klausner

Practically Wicked-Alissa Johnson

September 24, 2012

Practically Wicked

Alissa Johnson

Berkley, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425258033


At Mrs. Wraeburn’s gala, a drunken Viscount Maximilian Dane arrives in the library to find the furniture rather odd.  Already there is “the” Miss Anna Rees who explains that Lord Highsup cut the legs off when she was six years old.  He astutely states she is not six as he calls her the “Ice Maiden of Anover House” and she retaliates by naming him the “Disappointment of McMullin Hall.”


The pair is total opposite in nature as she prefers a quiet scandal-free life after growing up as the daughter of a courtesan who grew up in her mom’s environment while he relished wickedness as vice is the ultimate virtue.  They are attracted to one another, but she rejects his efforts for a tryst refusing to cede her Nearly a Lady status.  Dane thinks he may have to court Anna as An Unexpected Gentleman, but that goes against his hedonistic lifestyle.  Instead he tempts his beloved to come to his Practically Wicked world.


This is an engaging gender war historical romance starring two adversaries in love.  Fast-paced from the opening encounter, fans will enjoy the combat between the hedonist rake and the courtesan’s daughter as each knows love is not enough to bridge the lifestyle gap that separates them.


Harriet Klausner

Ancient Light-John Banville

September 23, 2012

Ancient Light

John Banville

Knopf, Oct 2 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307957054


Sexagenarian Alex Cleave muses back fifty years to the love of his life.  Fifteen years old, he fell in love with his best friend Billy Gray’s mother.  Alex even ponders searching for the octogenarian woman assuming she is still alive to see if they still have it even though his wife Lydia might object in spite of their emotional distance since their daughter Cass died.  Her death haunts and taunts Alex who desperately wants to know the identity of the man Cass spoke of just before she died.  As he mentally struggles with his customized memories of the two females he cherishes, his dead acting career revises with the movie role of Axel Vander, who ironically called him on the day Cass died.  As the movie begins to anchor in Alex’s mind what happened to Cass, he goes deeper inside his fond memories of Mrs. Gray and Cass.


Ancient Light is an insightful leisurely paced look at memory as the protagonist’s brain looks back over a lifetime filling vacuums with creative disinformation and misinformation that seems right because it fits well with the core information that really happened to Alex as he seems to recall.  Character driven and filled with metafiction irony, John Banville provides a profound tale of realistic Paradise Lost and memory-altered Paradise Regained.


Harriet Klausner