Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice.

BENEATH THE LION'S WINGS

In Nardin’s romance, a young woman’s life radically changes when she decides to leave America for Venice and a handsome gondolier.

Victoria Greco, 30, leads a busy life as executive assistant to a high-powered Hollywood talent agent and hopes to break into agenting herself. On a rare vacation, Victoria visits Venice, Italy, where a muscular, golden-haired young man named Alvise Moro serves as her gondolier. Although he has a degree in Italian literature, Alvise comes from four generations of gondoliers, and there’s no job he’d rather do. They’re immediately and mutually attracted; though Victoria is usually cautious, she tells herself “I’m on vacation. Why not enjoy a little romance?” Though Victoria doesn’t consider Alvise her dream guy (“The man she’d marry would have to be a successful business man to compliment [sic] her own desired success”), she misses him terribly in California. Before long, one door opens as another closes. Alvise visits and proposes to Victoria just as her boss gives the bad news: no promotion this year. Marrying a man she barely knows, moving to Venice, and giving up her career might not make sense, but “there was no negotiating with the heart.” Naturally, nothing is as easy as Victoria had hoped, and she must tackle several obstacles on the way to giving her heart what it wants. In her well-researched debut novel, Nardin does a fine job evoking Venice’s atmosphere, culture, and history. The particular practices and customs of gondoliering, along with women’s efforts to enter the profession, make for absorbing reading. Victoria’s new job—selling high-end jewelry—is also enjoyably luxurious. Given the highly romanticized love affair, the book benefits from its grounding in realistic conflicts that arise from Victoria’s situation, whether it’s the constant secondhand smoke in Europe, a critical Italian mother-in-law, or dealing with international law. Even so, it’s more than a little hard to accept that an ambitious career woman who’s always valued material success would so suddenly and completely change her plans, giving up a great deal of personal autonomy, privacy, and power.

Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 979-1-2200259-0-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Waterline Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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