Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cry Father-Benjamin Whitmer

Cry Father
Benjamin Whitmer
Gallery, Sep 16 2014, $25.00
ISBN 9781476734354

Patterson Wells travels the country working as a tree trimmer at disasters.  Since a doctor erred on his son’s diagnosis leading to the child’s death; Wells has become a disaster.  His marriage died with his child, but his ex who lives in Taos wants to sue the medical killer for malpractice; while Wells no longer cares about anything except writing letters to his late son Justin.  His only companion is his dog Sancho.

He visits his friend Chase to go fishing, but his buddy is meth dazed and hogtied a female who upon release by Wells bashes the head of her drugged out host with a bat.  At home in Colorado, Wells meets drug runner and user Junior, son of his neighbor Henry.  Wells and Junior begin an odyssey of violence fueled by coke and meth.

This gory thriller opens up with the swings of a bat and closes with more violence after much blood and guts flow in between.  Wells is a mesmerizing sociopathic antihero as he no longer cares about life since his child died; yet keeps alive their father-son relationship through the letters he writes to Justin.  Not for anyone with a squeamish stomach, Cry Father is an extremely dark and very brutal tale.

Harriet Klausner

Last Family Standing-Jennifer AlLee

Last Family Standing
Jennifer AlLee
Abingdon, Sep 16 2014, $13.99
ISBN: 9781426768095

Jules calls her BFF Monica informing her that the newborn the latter gave up at birth twenty-five years ago is on the reality TV show Last Family Standing.  Besides looking like Monica did years ago, fashion designer Jessica Beckett holds Monica’s graduation photo.  Jess says she is close with her adopted parents but would like to meet her biological mom and have her compete with her on the show next season while failing to explain why not her mom Susan.

The next morning the show’s host Rick Wolff visits Monica, whose friends gave his staff her name and address.  Reluctantly and between crying bouts, Monica agrees to do the show just to meet her offspring even if their encounter will be filmed on a deserted island.  Adding a shocking complication is Jess’ biological father Duncan arrives to meet his daughter too.

Although there is too much Survivor in the pleasurable contest and an unnecessary but nice romance, Last Family Standing is a wonderful extended family drama.  The cast consists of likeable people connected through Jess; as a TV host and two sets of parents try to come together in a fishbowl while a national audience watch.

Harriet Klausner

Where Treetops Glisten-Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin

Where Treetops Glisten
Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin
WaterBrook Press, Sep 16 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781601426482

“White Christmas” by Cara Putman.  In 1942, Abigail Turner stays home in Lafayette, Indiana while attending Purdue University and working at a candy store.  Abigail prefers no man in her life after her boyfriend Sam died at Pearl Harbor until limping Jackson Lucas rescues her from being hit by a car.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Sarah Sundin.  In 1943 Army fighter pilot Pete Turner is back in in Lafayette but struggles to adjust to the home front after his combat experiences until he meets sad six year old Linnie Kessler.  Her daddy died and his body was never recovered.  Pete wants to bring a Merry Christmas to the hurting child and her widow mom Grace who only knows him as a nasty person.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Sarah Sundin.  In 1944 in Nieuwenhagen, the Netherlands, Meredith, the younger sister of Abigail and Pete serves as a combat nurse following just behind the troops at the front lines.  However, someone seems to know her, but Merry fears this unknown person is betraying her with reminders of her broken heart or perhaps it is a Christmas miracle.

This is a spectacular WWII family anthology as three siblings are caught up in war and romance to the music of Bing.  Historical romance fans will sing Let It Snow while wishing for the Turner trio to have a Hoosier Merry Christmas in 1945.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fiction River: Past Crimes-Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)

Fiction River: Past Crimes
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Editors)
WMG Publications, Oct 1 2014, $15.99
ISBN: 9781561466061

“Stolen In Passing” by Dory Crowe.  In 1857, the slave catchers arrive at Cape Cod in pursuit of a runaway; unaware why here.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter.  As the Canadian-Pacific is built, with a Tong connection Mei works tables in Victoria.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb.  He left Puget Sound for five years, but in 1901 returns seeking revenge against those who shanghaied him.

“An Education For Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith.  Arriving in Delamar, Idaho Angela seeks revenge against two rapists.

“The Curious Case Of The Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred.  In 1923 on the Canadian Pacific, Drennen and Nevins discuss Professor Chase. 

“The Horns Of Hather” by Richard Quarry.  Decreeing all will worship Aten, the Pharaoh sends Chenzira to stop the Festival of Opet.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne.  In 1780s London, as a child he saw his first death mask; as an adult he hunts this serial killer.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo.  In 1858, he met the pickpocket in New York; they meet again as POWs in Andersonville.

“The Monster In Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott.  In 1918 Arkansas, Lureen sends a postcard depicting a lynching to Emerson in Atlanta.

“Blood And Lightning On The Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle.  The Revenuer returns to Knoxville with plans for the nearby moonshiners.

“Deathmobile” by Michelle Lang.  In 1977 Long Island, Mr. Deathmobile threatens Little Rocky and Tony. 

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijesdi.  Working for the mob, he and his partner seek the informer at the gay establishment when a kid arrives; soon afterward the police raid the place.

Meeting the exceptional quality of previous anthologies, this collection contains excellent Past Crimes short stories.

Harriet Klausner

The Goddess Of Small Victories-Yannick Grannec

The Goddess Of Small Victories
Yannick Grannec, Willard Wood (translator)
Other Press, Sep 9 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781590516362

In 1980, the Institute for Advanced Study sends archivist Anna Roth to the Pine Run Retirement Home in Pennsylvania to persuade obstinate widow Adele Gödel to release the papers of her late husband, brilliant troubled mathematician Kurt.  Anna says she would like to catalogue the Nachlass so that those qualified can study it.  She also explains she reads the rarely used Gabelsberger shorthand; the style Kurt employed.

Adele tells the visitor how they met in Vienna and though several years older than Kurt with his mother’s reluctant approval they married.  When the Nazis annexed Austria, Kurt and Adele fled eventually arriving in America, but treated as enemy agents due to their accents.  While she did everything to make her disturbed mate’s life easier over the five decades together, for the first time Kurt, still distressed, found acceptance at Princeton because of his brilliant work.

This is an intriguing biographical fiction that focuses on the mentally tough widow and through her filter we see the great but mentally ill genius.  Although distracting from the fascinating main storyline, a well-written secondary subplot re the relationship between Adele and Anna further shows the strength of the older woman; as she encourages her visitor to be all she can be with what she wants out of life.  With real persona like Einstein; documented incidents (with footnotes) and events like the A-bombs and the Cold War to anchor time and place, readers will appreciate The Goddess Of Small Victories.

Harriet Klausner

The Language Of Silence-Peggy Webb

The Language Of Silence
Peggy Webb
Gallery Books, Sep 9 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781451684810

In 1976 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Ellen Blair fears her husband Wayne.  To the rest of the world Wayne is a charming businessman; but inside their home he is violent having sent his wife to the hospital with accidents caused by her clumsiness.  Knowing if she does not flee soon, her spouse will one day kill the child she carries. 

Her Great Aunt Ruth Gibson encourages her to leave town just like Ellen’s grandmother Lola did five decades earlier.  Lola joined the Great Giovanni Bros/ Hogan & Sandusky Circus as a star tiger tamer to escape family violence.  When Ellen gets to the Haven House shelter, Wayne greets her with a beating he disguises as a car accident.  Her mom offers no hope as Josie insists Wayne is a good husband if Ellen could learn the Language of Silence.  When Ruth is hospitalized in Arkansas, Ellen insists on going to the Ozarks while Wayne demands they stay home to greet his visiting Japanese client.  Leaving Tupelo, Ellen joins the same traveling circus as her grandmother did but as a teacher with her favorite student being mute Nicky.  Ruth welcomes her niece, but soon sees visions of irate Wayne coming for his runaway spouse.  With Lola’s help, the female relatives flee for their lives from a psychopathic husband.

The Language of Silence is a profound tale that looks deeply at spousal abuse during the “Stand By Your Man” at any cost even your life era.  Ironically, Wayne believes in the sanctuary of his vows enhanced by his fists.  Although the ending seems over the top of the trapeze wire, The Language Of Silence is a wonderful second chance at life if you take the risk.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sword of the Bright Lady-M.C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady
M.C. Planck
Pyr, Sep 9 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149888

At first mechanical engineer Christopher Sinclair thought he was in some sort of weird dream with no electrical device anywhere and a dirty teenaged stranger named Helga sharing his bed instead of his wife.  He changes his mind about sleeping and assumes he was in a plane crash in a remote medieval part of Europe.  However, he soon realizes this is not Arizona, America or Switzerland; as somehow he “walked” into another realm.

Feeling lost and missing his spouse, Christopher begins to learn the rules of “physics” in his new world are based on tael death magic with the power hierarchy dependent on how much a person controls.  To initially survive in this war-ravaged dominion, Christopher pledges allegiance to the Goddess of Healing, the Bright Lady.  When Marcius the God of War offers the engineer a better deal he accepts performing the deity’s quests in return to going home.  Sinclair introduces a new type of magic based on guns and butter as he teaches commoners to forge steel to make weapons and household items.

Book One of The World Of Prime is a fantastic opening act in fantasy as a twenty-first century American engineer with contemporary inclusiveness ethics and a belief in physics falls through a rabbit hole into a medieval feudal land whose system is magic based and deity connected.  Much more Clark Kent than Superman, bewildered Christopher keeps the intense storyline focused by muddling through his new life as a fish out of water while dealing with enemies who relish the status quo and Doubting Thomas supporters.  He wants to go home, but the Gods refuse to give him ruby red slippers.

Harriet Klausner