Saturday, January 31, 2015

Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanger-V.C Andrews

Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanger
V.C Andrews
Pocket Books, Jan 27 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781476790626

In Charlottesville, construction company owner Burt Masterwood’s teenage daughter Kristin accompanied him to his latest job; inspecting twice burned down Foxworth Hall.  A fourth cousin on her late mother’s side to the lunatic Dollanger family who lived in the mansion, Kristin found the diary of oldest child Christopher.  She read his account of being locked away in the attic for years with his three younger siblings until one died and the survivors eventually escaped (see Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth).

Obsessed with the then teenage diarist, Kristin wonders if her school peers are right that she inherited the family insanity taint; especially with as her fixated fascination growing with every page.  However, her Dollanger passion seems harmless compared to her boyfriend Kane Hill’s preoccupation with the tragic family.  He wants to reenact the Dollanger incarceration by pretending to be Chris to Kristin’s Cathy and have sex with her while role-playing.

The second Christopher’s Diary entry continues the retelling of the Dollanger family drama but from the viewpoint of Christopher instead of Cathy.  The intense psychological thriller contains a present day lead couple as mentally disturbing as Grandma Dearest.  However, a radical departure from Cathy’s journals comes across as a shocking forced attempt at freshness that instead takes fans out of the storyline.  Those able to quickly embrace the change will enjoy the journal; while purists will suffer strokes.

Harriet Klausner

War of the Wives-Tamar Cohen

War of the Wives
Tamar Cohen
Mira, Jan 27 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778317487

When Simon Busfield died in what looks like a suicidal leap into a river, he left behind two widows, Selina and Lottie, without divorcing either.  The late bigamist’s wives are 180 degrees different in outlook.  The deceased’s first wife of twenty-eight years Selina is sophisticated and the queen of organize; while his other spouse of seventeen years Lottie is artistic and the queen of disorganize.  Selina arranges the funeral that Lottie attends when a stalker expresses his condolences for her loss.  Thus Simon’s two spouses and their respective offspring meet for the first time at his burial.

The widows are far from merry with the shocking news of their late husband’s infidelity.  As they struggles between denial and anger, Selina and Lottie share in common a need to know why he had two families and why he committed suicide if that is he actually took his own life.  To do so they must put aside their raging War of the Wives.  Thus the depressed widows bargain with each other to forge a détente in order to uncover the secrets of whom the man each spent years with truly was.

The intriguing storyline follows the Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief while rotating the lead between the two wives in each phase.  The two families have more problems than Job and myriad of secrets than the CIA possesses; both elements at times overwhelm the overall fine tragicomic family drama.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Morning After The Night Before-Nikki Logan

The Morning After The Night Before
Nikki Logan
Harlequin KISS, Jan 15 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373179138

At Broadmore Natale in London, Harry Mitchell lectures Izzy Dean on the quality of her latest report; claiming it is flat and dull unlike her earlier work.  She sulks out of his office, but calms down until his note re the Ice Age triggers her rage again.  Izzy quits.

With plenty of vino Izzy celebrates her freedom from obnoxious Prince Harry.  However, the next morning she wakes up stunned to find she shares the bed with the Australian hunk.  As amazed and mortified as Izzy is; Harry is equally astonished but secretly pleased though also flustered with the turn of the screw (apology to Henry James) their dysfunctional employer-employee (albeit former) relationship took.

This Flat in Notting Hill contemporary (see Sleeping With The Soldier by Charlotte Phillips) is a lighthearted romance in which the two bickering stars take their battle from the boardroom to the bedroom.  Although neither protagonist is likable as he is too formal and she is too easy to enflame, this is a pleasant “love and lust in the city that never sleeps” gender war. 

Harriet Klausner

The Reluctant Groom-Debbie Macomber

The Reluctant Groom
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Jan 27 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317418

“All Things Considered.”  Judd Matthiessen found Seattle stifling so he abandoned his wife Lanni and their now four-year old daughter Jenny to run off to Alaska and overseas.  However, the wanderer returned to the Forty-eight when his dying father asked Judd to bring his granddaughter to see him in Montana.  However, Lanni has no time for her runaway husband or his father with her realtor business booming and as a single mom (with a caring helpful sister) raising a child.  Realizing he made the error of his life when he chose to live up to his dad’s mantra that he was no good; Judd prays for a second chance with his wife and offspring.

“Almost Paradise.”  Twenty-one years old Sherry White desperately needs breathing room from her smothering stepmom Phyllis.  Without informing her dad or her stepmom where she plans to spend her summer, Sherry accepts a counselor position at a camp for intellectually gifted children expected to behave like adults.  Camp Gitchee Gumee director Jeff Roarke runs a tight ship with no staff hanky-panky and keeping the campers busy with learning activity.  Whereas Jeff named the camp after the Hawthorne poem, Sherry thought it was cute to use a children’s song.  Sherry just wants her seven wizards to have fun and her boss to break his no fraternization rule with her. 

These are reprints of two late 1980s romances though their themes are radically different.  All Things Considered is a typical second chance at love; while Almost Paradise provides the audience with how adults probably treated the brains of Scorpion when they were kids until Sherry proved “learning can be fun.”

Harriet Klausner

Happy Are The Happy-Yasmina Reza

Happy Are The Happy
Yasmina Reza
Other Press, Jan 27 2015, $20.00
ISBN: 9781590516928

In Paris “Robert Toscano” and his wife Odile argue at the supermarket over the tons of sugar products she placed in the cart for the children and the wrong cheese he purchased.  Odile’s tante Lycee Spanish Professor “Marguerite Blot” looks back over the years to when her now adult children were young and her fear of becoming lonely Madame Compain before the tall female companion and the dog joined the lonely woman.  Odile’s septuagenarian father “Ernest Blot” knows love or even companionship is not why his wife “Jeannette Blot” wants them buried together as even after death his spouse needs the gossips to believe the image of a happy couple.  Meanwhile “Odile Toscano” wonders when her husband became an anxious opinionated pest instead of the the delightful relationship that Lionel and “Pascaline Hunter” share (or not with their son Jacob institutionalized because he claims to be Celine Dion.

The 21 extremely short cleverly interrelated yet brilliantly independent vignettes provide the audience with a contemplative look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the various relationships the eighteen characters have forged.  Using everyday life in Paris as a backdrop, the cast desperately seeks affection in diverse ways; deals with loneliness even when residing with a spouse or other family members; and above all else insures the proper public image.  Amusing yet melancholy Yasmina Reza asks the Peggy Lee question:” Is That All There Is?” while spinning Jorge Luis Borges: “… Happy are the happy” except frequently the happy wear a clown’s smiling face to conceal the unhappy.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blood Wolf Dawning- Rhyannon Byrd

Blood Wolf  Dawning
Rhyannon Byrd
Harlequin Nocturne, Jan 1 2014, $5.75
ISBN: 9780373009367

Sayre Murphy and Cian Hennessey knew they were mates, but he ignored her until five years ago when he abruptly left her and their Bloodrunners Pack without an explanation.  Heartbroken and confused, Sayre became a hermit while Cian a wanderer without a home.

Though he sacrificed all he desired to keep his mate and his friends safe, depressed Cian concludes that his noble deed failed as his blood enemy threatens his beloved Sayre and the pack.  Thus he comes home to confront the nightmare that sent him packing and if he somehow survives the altercation, Cian doubts he will find confession good for his soul when he tells the truth to Sayre and the Bloodrunners.

The seventh Bloodrunners werewolf romantic suspense (see the “Last Wolf” trilogy, and the “Dark Wolf” quartet) is an action-packed second chance (if he survives his personal war and persuades his Sayre) at love paranormal.  A stunning key twist re why the lead male left the pack makes this High Noon tale entertainingly electrifying, but also feels out of place in terms of the overarching saga’s theme.

Harriet Klausner

Shark Skin Suite-Tim Dorsey

Shark Skin Suite
Tim Dorsey
Morrow, Jan 27 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062240019

In Florida, Serge A. Storms kidnaps foreclosure paralegal Brook Campanella although she is unaware of being abducted as they share plenty of sex heading towards Key West,  Meanwhile the police hunt the pair in connection to a pair of recent murders.  Though Serge feels somewhat insulted as the TV news anchor barely mentions his twenty other kills, Brook faints.  The couple goes separate ways as each diligently but differently studies to become a lawyer.  Brook attends law school; on the other hand Serge assiduously watches legal thriller movies like Absence of Malice

Shapiro, Heathcote-Mendacious and Blatt hires Brook after she saves the home of Hilda and Vernon Rockford from the First American Bank foreclosure.  She sits as her second chair to equally inexperienced Shelby Lang on the Sheffield et al v. Consolidated Financial class action suit.  The institution robo-signed mortgages ignoring whether the person could meet payments, and when they failed to remit repossessed the home to resell it.  Judge Kennesaw Montgomery Boone makes it clear from the onset he believes corporations do no wrong; people do wrong.  However, neither the defendants nor the Judge factored in Brook’s secret weapon Serge.  With his sidekick Coleman, Serge interprets the law applying his unique methodology to insure justice is served except when Molly, in her distinctive appealing way, serves as judge and executioner.

The eighteenth Serge A. Storms thriller is a cutting satirical look at American corporatocracy economic system in which big government (in this case the courts) enables big business; which in turn enables Big Government, etc. in an exclusive symbiotic mutualistic system.  Fast-paced with the usual jocular irreverence (see Tiger Shrimp Tango), Serge and his teammates are at their American exceptionalism best.

Harriet Klausner