Though it begins as a byproduct of vampire romance for teens, Nevins’ novel dives into a journey befitting its laudable...

WORMWOOD

Love, catastrophe and angels at war, all in the face of Armageddon.

On her morning hike, the ground shudders beneath Kali and she witnesses spewing lava. Standing over the destruction is a man, Tiamat, whom she’d encountered a decade ago. Tiamat is a half-angel, and he and his legion, known as Nephilim, have triggered an apocalypse. Though the half-angel is responsible for the death of millions, including Kali’s beloved father, the woman is inexplicably drawn to Tiamat, such that the first third of the novel feels like a variation on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series; the reluctant angel, a forbidden love with a human and persistent reminders of Taimat’s handsome features (expansion of his wings results in a loss of his shirt). Conversations between Kali and Tiamat become Q&A sessions as Kali questions God’s reason for the end of the world and Tiamat is frustratingly unresponsive—though his motive for saving Kali from death is clear. The romance initially overwhelms the story, with Tiamat constantly apologizing for his actions and Kali seemingly more disconcerted over the angel’s apparent rejection of her advances or attempts to comfort him than over her planet in ruin. When the two leads separate, however, the novel shifts to an adventure—Kali’s epic trek across the wasteland. She meets other survivors, acquires some talents from her time with celestial beings (augmented strength and an ability to make the apocalyptic world’s pungent water drinkable) and has a confrontation with a fallen angel, an effectual character whose villainy is proficiently depicted—casually stepping on and crushing the hand of a dying woman. The author refuses to shy away from the story’s divine components, comparing a half-angel to a TV evangelist and the same creature quoting biblical verse while mercilessly beating Kali. Perhaps most revealing is the angelic (and romantic) lead gradually becoming unreliable, as the reader learns his true name and its meaning. Kali is an unyielding protagonist, more than capable with a crossbow and whose resilience makes her the highlight of the book.

Though it begins as a byproduct of vampire romance for teens, Nevins’ novel dives into a journey befitting its laudable female protagonist—a novel that happily approaches its religious overtone with zeal and no reservations.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0987761200

Page Count: 331

Publisher: Black Wraith

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

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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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