Witty, intelligent activist-caper, with a thought-provoking narrative that doesn’t get swamped in its own satire.

THE NATURE NOTEBOOKS

Trouble ensues when an environazi from the Left Coast hatches a plan to take down a mountain development—and seduces a few local women to help him pull it off.

Kyle Hess is one of those writers who are read only by other writers—in this case, nature writers like those in Erin Furlong’s Burlington, Vermont, workshop. A transplanted Oregonian, Erin was once Kyle’s lover back home, and she invites him to meet with her workshop and share his insights on nature writing. Not just a mere tree-hugger, Kyle is an outright saboteur who has organized and executed violent attacks against developments in California and the Pacific Northwest, and Erin’s students quickly find that he is more interested in talking about Mount Mansfield than writing. That’s because Mount Mansfield (Vermont’s highest mountain) is now being eyed by real estate developers who want to build a resort, as well as by broadcasters who have already started to erect transmitting towers at the peak. Kyle systematically works his way into the beds of three of Erin’s students—llama farmer Lauren, realtor Marianna, and sports bimbo Rachel—bringing each into his underground plan to subvert the construction. Marianna is an unwilling accomplice from the first, and Lauren becomes increasingly wary when she learns that Kyle is being hunted by angry movement types from California over some mishap that he fomented back there. But Rachel is a total groupie, and they are all madly enough in love with him to push their qualms out the window along with their self-respect. So we know there will be big trouble soon. Erin alone seems to know what Kyle is capable of, but she still goes weak in the knees when he’s about.

Witty, intelligent activist-caper, with a thought-provoking narrative that doesn’t get swamped in its own satire.

Pub Date: April 16, 2004

ISBN: 1-58465-357-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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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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