The author has nice comic timing and shows capacity for real depth, but his seeming contempt for the genre he’s working in...

MS. TAKEN INDENTITY

First-timer Begley’s chick-lit novel about a man who writes a chick-lit novel is not as cunningly postmodern as it sounds.

When academic Mitch Samuel’s epic about farm life is rejected yet again, he explodes in his vestibule, tearing up the returned manuscript along with his neighbor’s copy of People. At the bookstore to replace the magazine, he sees a display for Katharine Longwell’s latest, The Cappuccino Club. Enraged again, Mitch steals a copy so he can (figuratively) rip it up, proving to himself that yes, life is unfair. Who should spot Mitch reading The Cappuccino Club in a café, but Katharine herself? He has a cousin who wants to break into the chick-lit market, Mitch lies, Katharine offers her help (and her private number, wink, wink) and the plot is pushed into action. If that bimbo can write a bestselling novel, so can he, Mitch figures. One small problem: He doesn’t know how to think like a woman, or at least not the kind of woman who would read chick lit. Mitch begins watching Oprah and looking at shoes, but his rough draft is flat. Roommate Bradley suggests Mitch go eavesdrop on vapid gal-talk at a dance class Bradley’s sister Marie takes. Masquerading as a pharmaceutical sales rep named Jason, Mitch is soon twirling and talking and actually enjoying himself with Marie. This comes as a surprise to Mitch, because after all, she’s a hairdresser, and what could they have to talk about? That’s right, Mitch is a jerk. By novel’s end he learns his lesson, but along the way he disses not only chick lit, but also its assumed-to-be-vacuous readers—in other words, Begley’s intended audience.

The author has nice comic timing and shows capacity for real depth, but his seeming contempt for the genre he’s working in is unfortunate.

Pub Date: June 22, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-50618-2

Page Count: 278

Publisher: 5 Spot/Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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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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