When an emerging poet looks for inspiration at a museum, she might lapse easily into cliché. This candid self-portrait rarely does.

Bates approaches her debut poetry collection more as observer than participant, then eases slowly into the idea of herself as an artist. Voiced as an “I,” she haunts a gallery of ancient statues in search of a muse—and at first it’s hard to tell whether the hunter or the hunted is more reluctant. Bates’ goal is not distinctive, but her journey is. She interweaves dry art history with rich personal history, sweeping from Mount Helicon and Latin etymology to her LA neighborhood, a lonely bus ride, a family day at the beach. The result is a travel memoir in verse, linked prose poems narrating a curious child’s evolution into a writer (“Would you choose then or now to be alive?”). To get there, she builds bridges from creation to destruction, birth to benediction. Some are more effective than others; all are worth crossing. A former Fulbright Fellow (and current Kirkus contributor), Bates has a refreshingly unsentimental take on antiquity: “A consecration, an assassination, a flood. Repeat.” But her writing is best when she dips into memory, emerging with clearer eyes and a sense of connection to her own talent. “Once there was a time when I was the most awake,” she recalls. “I noted everything that happened and thought maybe I was an artist.” This collection is full of awake moments, and it’s a pleasure to see Bates find her way to them.

A poet in progress invites her muse along for the ride.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9885873-7-3

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Rescue Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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


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.


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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