The book’s pulp-fiction cover art, where Spartacus looks rather like Mel Gibson, is somehow perfect.

SPARTACUS: REBELLION

This historical yarn from Kane (The Forgotten Legion, 2009, etc.) isn’t your grandfather’s Spartacus, or even Stanley Kubrick’s. But it likely marks the first time that the Thracian gladiator, who began his rebellion against Rome in 73 B.C., ever charged into a sword battle with the words “We go for it!”

Picking up from the author’s Spartacus: The Gladiator (2012), the story joins Spartacus and his troops as they savor an early victory over Rome. But trouble is already brewing: Spartacus celebrates his victory by staging a munus, in which 400 Roman captives are made to duel one-on-one until only one is left alive. It’s the first of a few signs that the gladiator’s bloodlust and thirst for power may be his undoing. Political intrigue mounts as his army begins to fragment, with his Gaulish generals plotting to seize control. There is also a feminist subtext as Spartacus’ wife, Ariadne, a priestess of Dionysus, becomes the first to see his fate. The story reaches a turning point when the pregnant Ariadne entreats him to flee into the Alps, but he remains compelled to carry his rebellion against increasing odds. Historical figures, including Julius Caesar and the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus, lend the story some legitimacy. The parts heaviest on sex and violence are also the most enjoyable, including a sequence where Spartacus’ general Navio visits a brothel on a spying mission, gets charged by Romans at the most inopportune time and has to escape through a dung heap.

The book’s pulp-fiction cover art, where Spartacus looks rather like Mel Gibson, is somehow perfect.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-01277-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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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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