Archive for the ‘Mainstream’ Category

The Apple Orchard-Susan Wiggs

May 4, 2013

The Apple Orchard
Susan Wiggs
Mira, Apr 30 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778314936

Hard working Sheffield Auction House provenance specialist Tess Delaney uses her job as an escape from her lonely life. She has no idea who her dad is and rarely sees her wanderlust mother; so she precariously lives through her clients like Annelise Winther who she gave back a WWII precious item or the Krakow Museum in Poland whom she returned Nazi stolen art.

The latter brought her fifteen minutes of fame and a comatose apple orchard owning grandfather Magnus Johansen in Sonoma she never knew existed. Even more shocking to a stunned Tess is when the messenger banker-vintner Dominic Rossi tells her she has been added to Magnus’ will to inherit half his Bella Vista orchard along with s with someone else she never heard of, her half-sister Isabel Johansen. Tess and Isabel investigate what happened to the family going back to their grandfather’s childhood in Denmark during WWII; while the newcomer and Dominic begin to fall in love though his family stands in their way.

The Apple Orchard is an insightful family drama with a powerful undying moral message of the value of family and memories should supersede material items. Tess now knows to seek true loved ones and make new memories with them. Readers will appreciate learning alongside Tess her ancestry.

Harriet Klausner

A Spear of Summer Grass-

May 4, 2013

A Spear of Summer Grass
Deanna Raybourn
Mira, Apr 30 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9780778314394

In 1923 Paris, affluent American Delilah Drummond sends divorce papers to her third husband. Upon receiving them he kills himself. The reaction from the Parisian upper crust makes Delilah a pariah. Her advisors demand she leave France until some other scandal replaces hers. Thus, accompanied by her cousin Dora, a chagrined Delilah reluctantly travels to her stepfather’s Fairlight Plantation in Kenya.

She finds a hedonistic expatriate population in which orgies set to jazz is the only matter. The only exception is Ryder White who takes her on an exhilarating tour of Africa beyond the European-American drunks. Delilah also finds a purpose as she provides nursing skills to the Kikuyu. However, when blood flows, Delilah must choose whose side she is on.

With a nod to Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa though without spanning the decades between the world wars, A Spear of Summer Grass is an enjoyable historical that brings to life the 1920s mostly in Africa. Though the romance feels like a forced requirement, the African adventures are superb as the audience obtain a taste of the White Man’s Burden from the licentious perspective of the Génération au Feu.

Harriet Klausner

Amity and Sorrow-Peggy Riley

April 29, 2013

Amity and Sorrow
Peggy Riley
Little Brown, Apr 16 2013, $25.99
ISBN: 9780316220880

The First Wife, Amaranth did the unthinkable when she fled with her bound to each other at the wrists daughters (Amity and Sorrow) from her husband Zachariah as he did the one thing she rejected. Four days of no sleep constant driving in fear that her spouse will come for her and their kids as none of his fifty wives ever fled the patriarch. The road escape ends in a crash in Oklahoma on Bradley’s farm.

Grieving the loss of his wife, Bradley allows the strange three females to remain on his failed farm though he cannot understand their odd polygamous belief system. Amaranth feels welcome by the farmer; while Amity enjoys the chance to see the world beyond the confining compound; but suffering with stomach problems. Sorrow misses her home desperately. As the foursome forge a family of sorts, each struggles with a faith that is tested by the others.

Amity and Sorrow is an intriguing look at the effect of a polygamous lifestyle on the next generation. The sisters make the tale as their different reactions to the outside world seems deftly genuine as do the flashbacks to life in the compound. Although the fascinating storyline turns too twisting and complex at times; overwhelming the insightful glimpse at what a family and a community is, readers will appreciate Peggy Riley’s deep character-driven novel.

Harriet Klausner

From Ashes-Molly McAdams

April 29, 2013

From Ashes
Molly McAdams
Morrow, Apr 16 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062267726

In California, Ty and Cassie grew up as BFFs. Whereas Ty’s parents are nice and supportive; Cassie’s mom and stepdad are abusive drunks. For the next decade Cassie’s parents batter her, but she made her buddy promise not to tell anyone. Ty leaves for the University of Texas at Austin where he will room with his cousin Gage. Cassie goes with him. When Gage and Cassie meet, they each are stunned by their reaction. He also sees bruises on her body. Ty explains he feared leaving her behind with her abusive parents.

Gage feels protective of Cassie and lectures his cousin for not interceding to keep his girlfriend safe. Ty shows Gage pictures he took over the years in which Cassie shows no emotion. Ty sees how Gage and Cassie look at each other. When he tries to kiss her, he upsets her. Ty tells Cassie that Gage sees her as a sister and hates chauffeuring her to work like he does every morning. Cassie is upset but drives herself to work, which upsets Gage who likes taking her to her job. Gage tells Ty he loves Cassie. Ty says he loves Cassie too. Eight months since Cassie crushed Gage’s heart when she ended his driving her, he tells his concerned family he loves Cassie but she loves Ty.

Cassie’s resiliency makes her an inspiring heroine as she grows up a victim, but refuses to remain a victim although excessive melodramatic tsuris is piled on her. The key support cast like Cassidy’s BFF, her mom and a cop act out of character at pivotal moments, but fans will enjoy the touching relationship between Gage and Cassie.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets From the Past-Barbara Taylor Bradford

April 24, 2013

Secrets From the Past
Barbara Taylor Bradford
St. Martin’s, Apr 9 2013, $27.99
ISBN: 9780312631666

Thirtyish Serena Stone chose to follow her dad’s dangerous occupation as a photo-journalist rather than her late mother the actress. After working in the Middle East for several years and with the death of her hero her father in France, Serena feels burned out and decides to go to New York to grieve and to honor her father by writing his biography.

However, Serena revises her plans when she finds out that her ex-lover Zac North suffers from PTSD. She travels to Venice to help nurture Zac and persuades him to join her on her paternal homage project. Together they go to her family home in Nice to look over her father’s work. However, Serena is stunned to find information that contradicts what she believed about her and her parents. Needing the truth, she follows the clues to Civil-War torn Libya.

Secrets from the past is an entertaining tale starring a woman seeking the truth though she fears in her case this will not set her free. With a strong cast, especially her father’s boss and Serena’s twin sisters, fans will relish accompanying the heroine and her one-woman man as they investigate a family mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Garden of Stones-Sophie Littlefield

February 25, 2013

The Garden of Stones
Sophie Littlefield
Mira, Feb 26 2013, $14.95
ISBN 9780778313526

In 1978 San Francisco, someone murders fifty-nine year old Reginald Forrest in his office near his gym in the basement of the De Soto Hotel. SFPD Inspector Torre visits Forrest’s acquaintance Lucy Takeda as a witness placed someone who looks like her with her pink scarred face at the gym when the murder occurred. Lucy admits knowing the victim over three decades ago.

Lucy tells her upset daughter Patty about what happened to her when she was fourteen and to her mom Miyako. Her father just died when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were taken to internment camps. Mother and daughter went to Manzanar Relocation Camp run by ruthless George Rickenbocker, who rapes and impregnates Miyako. When he targeted Lucy, a distraught Miyako scarred her daughter’s beautiful face to try to keep the guards from raping her child. She then kills Rickenbocker and herself.

Rotating between the 1978 mystery and the WWII internment in the California desert, Garden of Stones is a deep historical that shines a timely spotlight on a dark period in American history; the terrible mistreatment of American citizens rationalized by homeland security needs. The three generations of Takeda women are fully developed with Lucy connecting family and eras. Although Rickenbocker is stereotyped as a ruthless individual, he also brings a belief that the interred are not real Americans so are subject to abuse. Readers will relish this profound storyline as one must “Never Forget” the heritage horrors caused by “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one” (Benjamin Franklin).

Harriet Klausner

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home-Alison Singh Gee

February 21, 2013

Where The Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home
Alison Singh Gee
St. Martin’s Press, Feb 19 2013, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312378783

Alison Gee lived the good life as an American journalist based in Hong Kong writing for the top magazines. Though dedicated to her work, she also enjoyed the best that Beverly Hills, Hong King and other locales offered. However, her self-perceived perfect lifestyle crashes when Alison meets Indian reporter Ajay Singh. Falling in love, he takes her to meet his royal family living in a dilapidated historical palace Mokimpur in the rural village with the same name. As his family doubts that a Southern California American “princess” has the grip to be their Ajay’s mate, she wonders also especially dealing with the plumbing. This is a terrific memoir that looks deep into what a family and a home are; made interesting by Alison Singh Gee’s ability to blend humor and seriousness into an enjoyable read. The road to the so “happily ever after” ending leads to Ms. Gee feeling bipolar with highs and lows; and readers to wonder whether his family is right that an American (even one in love) cannot slow down long enough to enjoy the peacocks singing.

Harriet Klausner

Scent of Darkness-Margot Berwin

January 12, 2013

Scent of Darkness
Margot Berwin
Pantheon, Jan 29 2013, $25.00
ISBN: 9780307907523

When Evangeline was a little girl growing up with a single mom in Brooklyn, her beloved grandma “Louisiana” Louise the aroma grandmaster taught her to appreciate the power of various scents. Eva enjoyed visiting Louise every summer in Cyril, New York where she learned about the power of perfumes like placing lavender under her pillow so she could sleep dreaming of her Prince Charming. When Eva turned eighteen, elderly Louise gave her a special gift of a scent customized for her.

Ignoring the accompanying warning that if she opens the vial, her entire life will radically change, Eva places a dab on her neck. Always a background shadow with others before she applied her personal scent, suddenly both genders is aware of her with intensity; even animals want to be her pets. Attracted to Gabriel the student, Eva is euphoric when he falls in love with her. However, strangers, acquaintances, friends, family and cats stalk her for a sniff and a touch. Frustrated with all the adulation, she doubts any of her worshippers care about the real Evangeline rather than just Eva’s scent. That is until Eva meets Michael the artist, who seems to ignore her irresistible aroma.

With an olfactory spin, Scent of Darkness is a wonderful coming of age Bayou fantasy in which a regretful Eva learns perhaps too late that sometimes a person receives what she wished for. Eva is a wonderful protagonist who finds out the hard way that being the “It Girl” magnet proves undesirable. If you enjoy something with a different enticing aroma than the usual sub-genre entry, you will want to read Margot Berwin’s engaging second tale (see Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire).

Harriet Klausner

The Ambassador’s Daughter-Pam Jenoff

January 9, 2013

The Ambassador’s Daughter
Pam Jenoff
Mira, Jan 29 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778315094

In 1919 “the war to end all wars” seems over as world leaders arrive in Paris to negotiate the peace treaty. Margo Rosenthal’s Papa Friedrich, the Jewish Oxford Professor and now a diplomat, attends the peace conference because her maternal Uncle Walther the industrialist supporter of the war insists family be at the table. Papa brings Margo with him to Paris; neither father nor daughter wants to come to France at this time.

Worried about her wheelchair bound fiancé Stefan Oster left behind in Berlin, Margo runs into seething resentment by the Parisians towards Germans. As Margo adjusts to Paris, she meets the daughter of a Polish diplomat Krysia Smok the accomplished pianist, who knows her father’s writings on suffrage and introduces her to others debating the continent’s future. As Margo becomes invigorated by the free thinkers she encounters, she meets German Naval Captain Georg Richwalder who believes the National Socialist Party is his country’s savior. Put in the middle of rage to and from Germany as everyone except Wilson blames her hinterland for the war, Margot must decide between protecting her father, accused of stealing a top secret document, protecting her heart, and protecting her country.

Pam Jenoff’s latest early twentieth century historical (see WW II tales: The Kommandant’s Girl and The Diplomat’s Wife) provides a strong look at the end of a centuries old social class distinctions torn apart by WWI and at the resentment towards an increasingly upset Germany. Although there is too much improbable happenchance, fans will appreciate the not so peaceful Paris peace conference.

Harriet Klausner

Greenwood and Archer-Marlene Banks

December 28, 2012

Greenwood and Archer
Marlene Banks
Lift Every Voice Books (LEVB)/Moody, Sep 20 2012, $14.99
ISBN: 9780802406217

In 1921 in Tulsa, taking advantage of the rage of the white community over a newspaper accusing black Dick Rowland of raping white Sarah Page, the racist White Glove Society screams for the lock up of all colored especially in the affluent Greenwood District. Their bigoted shrill wins causes a race riot in Greenwood leaving over 300 dead (see Son of a Preacherman).

Engaged couple, son of a preacher Billy Ray Matthias and oil heiress Benny Freeman are dismayed since the former’s brother Ethan defended Rowland. Benny’s ex-fiancée Jordan Franks returns; his dumping her turned her into a recluse until Billy Ray intervened. While believing God wants him to preach, Billy Ray prays for his beloved.

Federal agent DP Dooley believes the race riot affirms his rage with God. He vows to destroy the “Godly” White Gloves Society even as they gain new supporters. Ignoring immense pressure to lock up the colored, fervent racist Police Chief Jake Gilbert saw the Greenwood massacre first-hand. He joins with Dooley to end racial hate crimes in his city with support from the newly created Interdenominational Christian Clergy who wants God in everyone’s life; while the Chicago mob sees an opportunity to expand their operation into Tulsa.

This is a powerful historical that looks deep at the aftermath of the Greenwood race riots. With a present day relevancy, the underlying irony of the tale is the diverse cast believes that God is on their side as so many invoke the Lord’s name in defense of whatever they do. Besides a fabulous look at devastated 1921 Tulsa, Marlene Banks makes a case that claiming Jesus has your back is not soul-deep believing in Jesus.

Harriet Klausner