A Mafia tale with good characterization and well-placed comedy.

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THE FAMILY JEWELS

In Graziano’s (Die Laughing, 2009) thriller, two brothers who severed their mob ties years ago return to their Manhattan home and become embroiled in the gangster life once again.

Thirty years ago, Tommy Rossini was an enforcer for wiseguy Pauly Fazzula. But when the stress of the job literally gave Tommy a heart attack, Pauly approved his “medical leave” from the Mafia. Tommy becomes a successful businessman in Arizona until he loses everything as one of the many victims of fraudster Bernie Madoff. Meanwhile, his older brother, Jake, married Pauly’s daughter, Bernadette, but later, he gave up all of this mob-associated wealth when he decided to divorce her. He then left New York City and had a string of failed business ventures. Now Jake and Tommy have no choice but to go home to their Parkinson’s disease–ridden mother, Maddie, and her caregiver, Dory. Tommy reluctantly starts working for Pauly again to earn some money, but Jake smartly stays hidden away from the mob boss. Around the same time, Detective Santo Olivetti of the New York City Police Department is investigating the murder of Monsignor Matthew Burns of the Church of the Most Precious Blood. He’s already connected Burns to organized-crime families, and he also has a witness—a priest named Bryce Gleason who may have seen the killer. Soon the priest’s life intersects with Tommy’s, and someone is destined to wind up dead. The Rossinis, with help from their youngest brother, Looney (who never left New York), must devise a plan for dealing with Pauly. Despite a plot that revolves around the mob, Graziano’s tale is surprisingly lighthearted. Violence is mostly implied, and the narrative is largely free of profanity—at least, compared to other gangland novels. This doesn’t diminish the impact of Pauly as a villain, however. His power is without question, and it’s clear that anyone who crosses him will likely die. That said, the author imbues the story with humor, particularly in scenes with the Rossini family. One highlight is Maddie; for instance, when Tommy is upset that Jake would have sex with a woman under their mother’s roof, Jake reminds him that she can’t hear anything. “Right,” Maddie agrees, a good distance away. “I can’t hear anything.” On the romance front, Tommy reconnects with Maria Forzano, a woman whom he left behind when he escaped the mob. Their relationship is convincing as they struggle with burdens—namely, that Pauly seems to have targeted her family-owned shop. Graziano’s no-frills prose provides the plot with a steady tempo. But it also offers lingering moments, as when Tommy walks through his old neighborhood: “On the sidewalks, white-apron-clad vendors hawked fruits and vegetables; and behind the windows of the same shops with sawdust-covered floors, old-fashioned butchers boned legs of veal and wielded scaloppine hammers.” The killer’s identity is apparent rather quickly. Nonetheless, the novel is fraught with tension, as the inevitable showdown with Fazzula could turn out any number of ways.

A Mafia tale with good characterization and well-placed comedy.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-93682-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ggp Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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