A gripping, fast-paced adventure that delivers passionate writing.

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THE BLOOD THRONE OF CARIA

A determined Carian princess rails against a patriarchy in this debut historical novel.

At the impressionable age of 13, Princess Artemisia outruns her bewildered aides and climbs a tree to witness a great battle between the Carian and Labraundian forces in the early fifth century B.C.E. Her father, King Lygdamis, leads the Carians into combat, and at his side stands a fearless female warrior. Artemisia learns from her bodyguard, Myron, that the fighter is Persian. Persians permit women to enter into battle. Artemisia is consumed with envy, as no such allowance is given to the women of Caria. When the princess declares that she too wants a life of glory and struggle, she is told that as a girl she should know her place. From that moment on, she makes a vow to herself that she will become a satrap, a warrior ruler. When Emperor Darayavahu requests a hostage to take to Persia, Lygdamis flinches at the thought of losing his only son and instead negotiates for Artemisia to be taken in his place. So begins the princess’s journey into womanhood. Away from the confines of Caria, she develops an unblinking confidence that allows her to reason with the emperor himself. She also convinces Myron to train her in combat, in which she proves to be devastatingly skillful. Slowly, Artemisia develops the necessary talents to gain a foothold in a world where women are subservient to men. But is this sufficient for her to achieve her dream of replacing her father as king? Those familiar with ancient Greek history will know how the story unfolds. This is a riveting tale of a defiant young girl who dares to challenge patriarchal norms. Casagranda has an agility and fluidity to his writing that are particularly evident when describing combat: “Artemisia realized that her Milesian opponent was as surprised by the stumble as she was. Instead of fighting it, she moved through it, ducking down and then thrusting the tip of the blade up. It found the soft underside of the Ionian’s chin.” The urgency, rhythm, and motion of battle are captured vividly. But on occasion, the author is prone to repetition. For example, he often describes events occurring in the heroine’s peripheral vision: “A person walked into Artemisia’s peripheral view.” This isn’t off-puttingly irritating but perhaps indicative of an unseasoned writer leaning on favored words or phrases. The novel is dedicated to “all the victims of patriarchy,” and although it succeeds in depicting men as blundering and bloodthirsty rulers, there is a nagging doubt as to whether a leader such as the masterful Darayavahu would unravel emotionally and admit his failings: “You see me as all-powerful, but I’m weak….You’d think that” having an empire “would make me like a God. But it makes me a slave to one thousand masters.” Still, despite some minor weaknesses, Casagranda’s story is a bona fide page-turner that should have readers rooting for the tenacious Artemisia from beginning to end.

A gripping, fast-paced adventure that delivers passionate writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 417

Publisher: Sekhmet Liminal Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2018

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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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