Italy sparkles in this layered 16th-century romance.

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STONE CIRCLE

In this debut historical fantasy, two young men become apprenticed to a seer during the Renaissance, igniting a rivalry for the man’s daughter.

Savinus di Benevento is a famed and respected seer in Pesaro, Italy, in 1585. He performs readings and geomancy (to help farmers grow crops) with great success and has won the patronage of Conte Leonardo Valperga. Savinus’ only family is a caring, strong-willed daughter named Giulia. Seeking to train a replacement, he tests some teen boys, asking them to discern what objects hide beneath three cups. A 17-year-old named Antonius Sardi proves to be genuinely psychic. But the Conte’s son Nichola is also present, displaying minor talents. Savinus takes on Antonius but realizes, to be diplomatic, he must apprentice Nichola as a second. As the teens begin examining mystical knowledge—the more arcane of which, including transforming into animals, the church considers evil—they both fall for the gorgeous Giulia. Though intelligent, she’s no match for Nichola’s masculine wiles. The two grow closer, much to Antonius’ chagrin. Ever the gentleman, he keeps his intense love for Giulia quiet and focuses on his studies. And yet, his closer bond with Savinus enrages the spoiled Nichola, who begins sabotaging Antonius’ career, first in petty—and then deadly—ways. Murdoch presents a delightful romance, feathered with light touches of fantasy. The development of her love triangle is gratifying, and even secondary characters offer stark dramatic moments; the Conte tells his son: “He has appointed you only out of respect for our family and his friendship with me. Stop complaining and show some appreciation.” Spirit protectors Arion and Agathe reveal a deeper level to Savinus’ work, and in their world lies “a vast shimmering ocean stretched to the horizon, the cobalt waters breaking against the shore with rhythmic sighs.” Best of all, Murdoch delivers wisdom valuable to anyone trying to master a field: “Those who are consumed by negative thoughts about others cannot possibly reach the level of purity required.” Despite a clever, definitive ending, readers may clamor for a sequel.

Italy sparkles in this layered 16th-century romance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Fireship Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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