Nothing terribly fresh here, but it goes down easily.

HELLO, SUNSHINE

A flashy heroine who falls from grace, a child who helps her regain perspective, an estranged sister to reconcile with, and a couple of handsome and successful male foils—this novel has all the ingredients of a tasty beach read.

Sunshine Mackenzie is a YouTube sensation who's about to become the next Food Network star—until a hater hacks into her Twitter account and outs her as a fraud. Not only does this celebrity chef not know how to cook, but she doesn’t even have an authentic biography—her whole Southern farmer's daughter persona was created by a TV producer looking for just the right face to front a food show. When she loses everything, she slinks back to her real childhood home, which happens to be in Montauk and where she has an angry sister she hasn’t seen in years. But Sunshine isn’t one to let life knock her down without getting up again, so Dave (Eight Hundred Grapes, 2015, etc.) provides a few paths to redemption: Sunshine bonds with her young niece, makes an actual friend, and tries to win her way back into the food world by doing her own work, this time in the kitchen of a demanding, Thomas Keller–like chef. Dave tries to juxtapose authenticity, privacy, and reality with extremes of exposure and fakery in both the virtual world and the real one, but the book never really takes off with these themes. Still, Sunshine doesn’t go entirely unredeemed, and the story is fun to read in the same way cooking shows are fun to watch.

Nothing terribly fresh here, but it goes down easily.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8932-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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