A learned and illuminating tale about Palladio’s remarkable artistic accomplishments.



From the The Mentoris Project series

A historical novel focuses on the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

Andrea di Pietro della Gondola is born in 1508 in Padua, Italy, and shows impressive signs of artistic talent at an early age—an uncommon facility for drawing, a sense of shape and proportion, and a head for numbers. His godfather, Vincenzo Grandi, a sculptor, is the first to introduce a wide-eyed Andrea to architectural drawings. The boy’s father, Pietro, believing him to be well suited to masonry, lands him an apprenticeship with Bartolomeo Cavazza da Sossano, a stone cutter. The man turns out to be a brutal tyrant, but Andrea’s precocious skill and ambition are now established—he pines to be the “best architect that Italy” has ever seen, an aspiration ably depicted by Winfrey. He moves with his father to Vicenza, the stage for the villas he designs that will ultimately bring him fame. He finds work with Giovanni da Porlezza and Girolamo Pittoni, an architect and a sculptor, and as a result meets Gian Giorgio Trissino, an influential man who eventually becomes Andrea’s benefactor and best friend. Trissino loves Andrea like a son, takes him to Rome, and introduces him to Michelangelo. Trissino even convinces Andrea, as a way to shed his inauspicious beginnings, to change his surname to Palladio, inspired by a saint of the same name. This book is part of the Mentoris Project, which examines eminent Italians and Italian Americans. The author’s reconstruction of Palladio’s life is sturdy—her research is impeccable. But the work as a whole is poetically mechanical; it often reads like a long Wikipedia entry. Given the novel’s lack of style or literary ingenuity, readers will wonder why she didn’t simply write this as a nonfiction monograph. Nevertheless, she provides a historically astute account of the work that made Palladio a giant in his field, including his seminal volume, The Four Books of Architecture, an endeavor that took him 28 years to complete.

A learned and illuminating tale about Palladio’s remarkable artistic accomplishments.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947431-32-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Barbera Foundation

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.


When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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