While convoluted in parts, this impossible-mission tale features an appealing hero.

CHALLENGES OF THE GODS

From the Challenges of the Gods series , Vol. 1

A comedic sci-fi novel focuses on one man’s undercover quest to destroy Earth.

Debut author Hofsetz presents Mike Pohlt: a brilliant, young astrophysicist who has just come out of a coma. The problem is that, upon awakening, Mike suffers from amnesia. He cannot remember any of his friends, and many aspects of life on Earth baffle him. This is true because Mike is not really Mike. Unbeknown to those around him, the body of Mike is inhabited by a man named Zeon from the planet Jora. Jora is a lot like Earth, only more advanced in many ways. For instance, on Jora the idea of getting in a car that is not a self-driving vehicle would be ridiculous. Zeon’s task (while he impersonates Mike) is simple: He must destroy Earth. Due to circumstances put in place by creator Gods (along with some components of multiverse theory), either Earth or Jora must be obliterated if the other is to survive. Zeon doesn’t really want to annihilate this world of colorful cars and American football, but he must if his own people are to live. So Zeon, along with Mike’s friend Ravi Chandrasekhar, goes about developing technology that makes him very rich. This technology could also result in an end to Earth. Things are complicated further by a dreamlike realm populated by people called Protectors. In the world of the Protectors (which Zeon, as Mike, also traverses), humans from Earth battle warriors from Jora. Who will emerge victorious? Hofsetz delivers an intricate setup for a complex story. But despite Gods, Protectors, Messengers (who explain all), and the rules of different worlds, everything boils down to kill or be killed for Zeon. Later chapters incorporate odd twists and action scenes full of explosions and military maneuvers, yet the energetic tale is at its most memorable when focusing on Zeon. He always maintains a sense of humor. This is the case when he reflects that “Earth has some crazy people, and they’re good at their craziness.” He is altogether likable and self-effacing despite the fact that he has been sent to terminate everyone around him. Throughout it all, readers are kept in suspense about how such a struggle will end.    

While convoluted in parts, this impossible-mission tale features an appealing hero.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2432-6

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

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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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