Italy sparkles in this layered 16th-century romance.

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 tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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