Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ember Island-Kimberley Freeman

Ember Island Kimberley Freeman Touchstone, Apr 15 2014, $16.00 ISBN: 9781476743509 In 2012, highly regarded author Nina struggles with writer’s block of which she believes she knows the underlying cause that she conceals from everyone especially her agent Marla. She rationalizes to Marla that she needs to get away to complete her book. Although she knows her grandmother Eleanor’s house Starwater on Ember Island in Brisbane's Moreton Bay suffered storm damage, Nina heads there to oversee the repair and hopefully complete her writing; unaware of what she will find there. In 1891 Dorset, Matilda and Jasper marry but the ceremony turns tragic when her beloved grandpa dies. Grieving her loss, Tilly obediently follows her husband to the Channel Islands off of Normandy, but instead of solace and loving comfort in Guernsey she finds terror. Fleeing another trauma, Tilly arrives on Ember Island seeking inner serenity. There she becomes the governess to the prison superintendent’s daughter, Nell. Tilly diligently hides her past, but Nell observes everything and keeps journals that she hides all over the house. Although there is a thematic similarity to Kimberley Freeman’s previous Australian novels (see Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill), the three fully-developed key females provide a fascinating look at two women separated by over a century struggling with similar issues. Rotating the lead between Nina and Tilly, but linked by Nell, Ember Island is an engaging tale focusing on efforts regardless of the era to surmount heart-wrenching tragedy. Harriet Klausner

The Bodyguard-Lena Diaz

The Bodyguard Lena Diaz Harlequin Intrigue, Apr 15 2014, $5.50 ISBN: 9780373697632 Suffering physical and mental spousal abuse from the moment she married financier Richard Ashton III, Caroline plans to flee her cruel husband who throughout Georgia has been anointed a saint and her pathetically needy. Fearing Richard’s reaction and knowing he uses Stellar Security, Caroline hires rival firm Savannah-based Dawson’s Personal Security Services owner Luke Dawson as her bodyguard when she runs away. When Caroline and Luke arrive at the safe cottage she leased, they find Richard’s murdered corpse there. Chatham County Police Detective Cornell considers the victim’s siblings Daniel and Grant as persons of interest, but his main focus is on the wife who discovered the body and her bodyguard. Luke believes in his heart his client is innocent especially when someone makes several attempts to kill Caroline. He vows to keep her safe from her unknown lethal adversary while also investigating the identity of her attacker who he assumes killed Richard and soon afterward others. The Bodyguard is an exciting action-packed thriller in which keeping the heroine safe and uncovering who the deadly enemy is supersedes the frequently used romantic premise of love between a bodyguard and a client. Filled with red herrings and several surprising twists, readers will enjoy Lena Diaz’s strong intrigue. Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Given Time Living Our Last Months Together-Helene Park Bigelow

Given Time Living Our Last Months Together Helene Park Bigelow Fithian Press/Daniel & Daniel Publishers, Apr 7 2014, $14.95 ISBN: 9781564745538 In 2005, seventy-one year old Helene and sixty-eight years old Ed, a couple for over three and a half decades, enjoyed walks on the Maui beach though he always wore a hat to keep sun radiation off a spot on his head. When he went to the doctor for a routine biopsy of that spot, neither were concerned as both had skin biopsies before that came up negative; though Ed was warned as a teen that this spot, probably harmed by swimming and sunning at Lake Michigan and he diligently protected for fifty years, could someday be a problem. Ed’s prognosis was the dreaded “M Word” Melanoma. He soon found out that the cancer had spread and with chemotherapy he could live a few extra months. Wanting to spend as much time as he can with his beloved Helene, Ed chose chemo. This profound memoir provides a powerful look at a loving couple sharing their last few months together as much as possible in the same upbeat manner they had for the thirty-five years before Ed’s death sentence. Besides a brief look into their shared lives together (including raising three children) before the M Word, Helene Park Bigelow provides a deep glimpse into the impact on the caregiver as she watched Ed’s deterioration; if God forbid I am in the same situation as her I hope to be as strong as her. Though the Bigelow’s wanted another thirty-five happy healthy years together, they know what the Navaho told Ed at Window Rock that “There are blessings, there are blessings , there are blessings”; and they surely were blessed. Harriet Klausner

A Dark Song Of Blood-Ben Pastor

A Dark Song Of Blood Ben Pastor Bitter Lemon Press, Apr 15 2014, $14.95 ISBN: 9781908524300 In 1944 Rome, German Embassy Secretary Fraulein Magda Reiner falls from her apartment window to her death. Italian Police Inspector Sandro Guildi investigates although his superiors, fearing accusations of collaboration with the Nazis as the American military victory in Italy is assured rather soon, insist that National Confederation of Fascist Unions official Ras Merlo killed the now cremated woman. As Guildi looks into the homicide, he begins to believe someone framed Merlo. Wehrmacht Major Martin Bora surprisingly reappears in his life to assist on the inquiry, which concerns the cop as he does not want to be associated with a German when the Americans take the city. Bora’s wife Benedikta arrives to inform him she filed for divorce as the war ended their five year marriage. While Bora feels gut punched though not shocked; at the boarding house where both reside Guildi meets and is attracted to Francesca Lippi. As the case turns even more complicated with additional killings and ties to the Vatican, Gestapo and other high ranking Germans; Rome increasingly turns violent with the Resistance mounting bolder assaults. The third Martin Bora WWII drama (see Liar Moon and Lumen) is an intriguing historical that uses a police procedural to enable readers to look inside the heads of those in Rome at a time when the Nazi control is almost over. Suffering from physical ailments and PTSD, Bora feels ancient due to being divided between his moral sense of right and wrong, and patriotism; while Guildi also wants to do the right thing but fears the consequences. Readers will relish this entry in one of the best WWII series. Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ten Thousand Things-John Spurling

Ten Thousand Things John Spurling Overlook, Apr 10 2014, $27.95 ISBN 9781468308327 While sitting on a cold stone floor waiting for judgment, septuagenarian Wang Meng knows the bad times are back as he muses on being arrested for suspicion of conspiracy due to his visiting the art collection of the late prime minister executed five years ago for the same charge he faces. He thinks back over the decades of his life when he ignored his wife’s harangue to better their lot by choosing painting landscapes and a low level bureaucratic job over using his direct family connection to the emperor. During those years Wang watched the once invincible Mongol Dynasty that he and his Great Family ancestry supported collapse into lawlessness until the rise of the Ming Dynasty brought order. Still with all the turmoil, Wang loves to paint nature, which led him to other artists, a teenage Buddhist novice, and White Tigress and her bandits who roamed the countryside. This enchanting biographical historical fiction is a superb look at fourteenth century chaotic China through the eyes of a renowned influential artist. Though there is some action especially with what is happening in China, readers will appreciate more the sense of walking the mountains alongside of Wang Meng as he captures nature with his inks. Harriet Klausner

Driving Lessons-Zoe Fishman

Driving Lessons Zoe Fishman Morrow, Apr 8 2014, $14.99 ISBN: 9780062059826 Married four years, Sarah and Josh hate the New York grind. When Josh receives an offer to teach at a small liberal arts college in Farmwood, Virginia the thirty-something couple agrees to accept the position, leaving behind Brooklyn and her marketing job. Sarah hopes to find more to life while fearful of Josh’s desire for children. As terrifying to the native New Yorker is to raise a child, she is just as afraid to drive, though a necessity, for the first time in two decades since there is no public transportation. While Josh loves his job and is very contented with the area, Sarah feels lost as she cannot find work compensable to her experience and education. When her BFF Mona tells her she has cervical cancer that requires a hysterectomy which will leave her barren and perhaps lead to her boyfriend Nate leaving; Sarah returns to the city to be there for her. Back in the Big Apple, Sarah also spends time with her sister-in-law Kate and her new baby nephew Franklin. She notices the pair enjoys being together though the infant leaves his mom exhausted and even at times frustrated. By observing the euphoria and the heartbreak, Sarah knows she must conquer her phobias to achieve whatever she decides she wants out of life. Though extensively Sarah’s tale, Driving Lessons is a profound look at three realistic flawed women with diverse fears as each thinks the others’ grass is greener (yes A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith). Character driven by the strong portrayal of the females, readers will enjoy Sarah’s sarcastic New York shtick journey to her awakening though her epiphany is expected even before she raced back to New York. Harriet Klausner

Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion ... So Far-Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs

Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion ... So Far Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs Harper, Apr 8 2014, $27.99 ISBN: 9780062292551 The latest edition of the Discworld companion book (previous edition published in 2003) targets diehard fans of the phenomenal series as four hundred plus pages are an enormous glossary of terms, biographies, geography (including maps) and illustrations taken from the forty or so books. These are fun to read entries (over an extended time as it can turn tedious) reminding us of the brilliance of the puns and quips making social commentary that satirizes and puns our world in novel format for the last three decades. In addition to the enormous amount of information, the reference tome contains two small segments published in the 1994 original companion: an interview with Terry Pratchett and how he deals with readers and fan snail mail (stored in cardboard boxes); and an updated essay on translating the saga into other languages. Finally there are also rules for playing "Cripple Mr Onion." Harriet Klausner