FIRESTARTER

An improvement over The Dead Zone, with King returning to his most tried-and-true blueprint. As in The Shining, the psi-carrier is a child, an eight-year-old girl named Charlie; but instead of foresight or hindsight, Charlie has firestarting powers. She looks and a thing pops into flame—a teddy bear, a nasty man's shoes, or (by novel's end) steel walls, whole houses, and stables and crowds of government villains. Charlie's parents Vicky and Andy were once college guinea pigs for drug experiments by The Shop, a part of the supersecret Department of Scientific Intelligence, and were given a hyperpowerful hallucinogen which affected their chromosomes and left each with strange powers of mental transference and telekinesis. When Vicky and Andy married, their genes produced Charlie and her wild talent for pyrokinesis: even as a baby in her crib, Charlie would start fires when upset and, later on, once set her mother's hands on fire. So Andy is trying to teach Charlie how to keep her volatile emotions in check. But when one day he comes home to find Vicky gruesomely dead in the ironing-board-closet, murdered by The Shop (all the experimental guinea pigs are being eliminated), Andy goes into hiding with Charlie in Manhattan and the Vermont backwoods—and Charlie uses her powers to set the bad men on fire and blow up their cars. They're soon captured, however, by Rainbird, a one-eyed giant Indian with a melted face—and father and daughter, separated, spend months being tested in The Shop. Then Andy engineers their escape, but when Andy is shot by Rainbird, Charlie turns loose her atomic eyes on the big compound. . . . Dumb, very, and still a far cry from the excitement of The Shining or Salem's Lot—but King keeps the story moving with his lively fire-gimmick and fewer pages of cotton padding than in his recent, sluggish efforts. The built-in readership will not be disappointed.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 1980

ISBN: 0451167805

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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