A curious vampire tale that zeros in on the human element.




From the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles series , Vol. 10

The Kandesky vampires combat forces invading Ukraine while a woman contemplates joining the formidable family in this 10th installment of a series.

Jazz Fall doesn’t question her love for centuries-old vampire Nik Kandesky, which is why she agreed to marry him. But she’s understandably anxious: Jazz is a “regular” (a mortal) and wedded bliss with Nik entails becoming one of the undead. She seeks advice from her vampire pal Maxie, a former regular whose husband, Jean-Louis Kandesky, is second-in-command of the Kandeskys. Both women hold significant positions at SNAP, “the world’s largest and richest celebrity gossip empire,” which provides much of the Kandeskys’ wealth. But Jazz isn’t only worried about a drastically different vampiric life; Nik has an apparent desire to control her, a problem Maxie faced with Jean-Louis. Meanwhile, what appear to be Russian soldiers stage an attack in Odessa in Ukraine, the country where the Kandeskys live. The vampires try to determine whether the Russians’ incursion is a terrorist strike or an act of war; the latter could feasibly ignite World War III. Their quasi-investigation leads to confrontations with the invading enemy that ultimately put everyone, including Jazz, in danger. Drier (SNAP: I, Vampire, 2016, etc.) convincingly incorporates vampires into a soap-opera narrative. Jazz is comfortable with the notion of vamps; her biggest potential loss, it seems, is food, as the Kandeskys only consume blood. Though there’s little action in the tale, the author deals with violence in clever ways. For example, in one scene, Jazz experiences a gunfight and explosion by sound alone, as she takes cover inside a limo. The lucid story, centering on the couples’ relationships, makes strong points about vampires and regulars alike, particularly that both parties should be willing to compromise. But that message, at least in this installment, doesn’t wholly succeed: Jazz’s life will radically change whereas Nik will sacrifice hardly a thing.

A curious vampire tale that zeros in on the human element.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2018


Page Count: 333

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2019

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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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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.


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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