Promising opener to a female-led series that doesn’t yet soar to incredible heights.

THE DRAGONEERS

From the The Chronicles of Susah series , Vol. 1

In this new edition of his first novel, Sutherland (The Last Dragoneer, 2014, etc.) creates a modern-feeling world before Noah’s flood, a world populated with dragons, warriors, and a determined young woman who fearlessly seeks her proper place in the world. 

Eighteen-year-old Susah has long been able to sense the thoughts and feelings of animals, a gift that once keeps her and her young cousin out of the jaws of desperate wolves. She loves exploring her father’s garden, a forest where all types of animals gather and are protected by Noah, the ark builder. But she is also fascinated by Sethopolis, a city of millions, where people live in skyscrapers and drive hovercrafts. Her father disapproves of everything from that great city, so it’s a huge treat to be invited out to dinner there with her cousin’s family. But as much wonder as the city holds, it also hides dangers: half-ogres (hogres) roam the streets in gangs, and Lilith, a giantess, is determined to gain the secrets of Eden. When Lilith senses Susah’s growing power, she commands her minions to hunt Susah down and kill those with her. After the hogre pack kills Susah’s aunt and uncle, the night almost ends tragically for Susah and her cousins as well—until they receive a timely rescue from Dachux, head of the Dragoneers. From her first flight in a chariot pulled by dragons, Susah feels called to become a Dragoneer herself, despite her father’s wishes. After returning home, Susah runs away to join the military in hopes of getting into the Dragoneer Corps, but she gets further embroiled in Lilith’s plans—and becomes instrumental in keeping Lilith out of Eden. Sutherland creates an original vision of a corrupt antediluvian world, one that feels modern yet magical. The novel’s pacing, however, makes it difficult to dive into the story: for instance, it’s not clear until a few chapters in that chariots and skyscrapers coexist, and it’s nearly half the book before Susah follows her dream of becoming a Dragoneer. Susah’s training feels suitably militaristic, but it happens too quickly to be believable, despite some hand-waving explanatory logic from the narrative. And while Susah is well-developed, few of the other characters emerge as three-dimensional, with Lilith taking part in mustache-twirling-level dialogues.

Promising opener to a female-led series that doesn’t yet soar to incredible heights.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-937366-11-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Narrow Way Press LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2015

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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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