A quirky and engaging crossroads for fans of baseball, the Civil War, and time travel.

BLOWBACK '63

WHEN THE ONLY WAY FORWARD IS BACK

From the The Blowback Trilogy series

In this YA sequel, twins embroil themselves in further time-travel high jinks while searching for their mother.

Astrophysicist Dr. Octavia Jongler has been lost in time for over a year. Her twins, North High School juniors Iris and Arky Jongler-Jinks, possess the device that sent her to another era—an enchanted cor anglais, or English horn. While Iris experiments with the instrument to learn more about their mother’s location, Arky focuses on his college application essay. He travels with his father, history professor Howard Jinks, to Fredericksburg, Virginia, for a Civil War re-enactment that may inspire his essay. Later, in a baseball game between North High and City High, Arky’s friend Danny Bender accidentally hits former classmate Rafael Santeiro in the head with a pitch. After a brawl between the teams ends the game, a gang of City High teens hunts for Danny at his dad’s junkyard. Iris, meanwhile, believes that finding her mother’s journal (The Book of Twins) and a disc of grenadilla wood proves that the cor anglais is about to work its magic again. As Arky rushes to save Danny from Rafael’s friends, Howard catches Iris handling the instrument. He asks her to play it—in memory of Octavia—and as she does, its mists cocoon Arky and Danny, sending them back to 1863. In his energetically plotted sequel, Meehl (Blowback ’07, 2016) once again merges his love of history and sports for a winsome adventure. Nevertheless, upon finding soldiers encamped in 1863, Arky compares them to the enthusiasts back home and sees “gaunt masks of darkened hide or unruly whiskers that veiled the face-carving effects of war.” But overall, Meehl weighs his narrative in favor of baseball, not war, exploring the game’s early days of Massachusetts rules, which involved overhand pitching and “plugging” runners with the ball. In the present, Iris and a boy named Matt Grinnell begin an adorably awkward courtship as only a music nerd and a jock can. Hints regarding Octavia persist, but locating her won’t matter if Arky damages the Jongler-Jinks lineage. A perfect cliffhanger blows readers toward the next installment.

A quirky and engaging crossroads for fans of baseball, the Civil War, and time travel.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59330-937-4

Page Count: 419

Publisher: Twisco Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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