A delightful and humorous wish-fulfillment tale about interspecies bonding, engaging until the very end.

The Boy and the Dolphin

A debut novel follows an orphan living in a Bahamas resort who aids a baby dolphin.

Toby Matthias was orphaned at age 11, having lost his parents in a 1954 plane crash. Now he resides with his grandparents Vernon, aka Pop, and Irene, helping them run their Bahamian Out Island resort on the fictitious Piper Cay and commuting to school on the island of Nassau. He spends his free time learning how to sail, fish, and run his grandfather’s small power launch. What Toby lacks, living on an isolated island, is a close friend. That’s about to change. It is March 1957, and a baby bottlenose dolphin is jumping and emitting frantic clicks and cries at the end of the island’s garbage pier. Toby grabs his knife and swims over to investigate the commotion. The calf’s mother is entangled in fishing nets and unable to surface for air. Toby cuts the nets and frees the mother, earning the gratitude, and gradually the love, of the calf he names Phinney. In a fanciful idyll, Schmidt traces their friendship over the course of 12 years, as boy and dolphin play together and then move into adulthood, separating and reconnecting periodically. Readers follow Phinney as she travels with her pod and Toby when he attends school on the mainland, joins the Navy, and becomes an aircraft carrier pilot in Vietnam. Schmidt employs a split point of view approach, alternating between Toby’s perspective and Phinney’s, resulting in two well-developed characters. The book is filled with charming vignettes of their interactions, as when Phinney worries because Toby has switched from free diving to using scuba equipment: she knows the human cannot possibly stay underwater long. The author’s own passion for the sea and extensive sailing experience add a knowledgeable extra dimension that brings readers right into the enticing water. Despite Schmidt’s claim that he possesses no “special” knowledge of dolphins, his detailed descriptions of their physiology and cooperative social behavior remain informative and compelling. This joyful, imaginative fantasy feels so real that readers should willingly suspend their disbelief for the sheer pleasure of the ride.

A delightful and humorous wish-fulfillment tale about interspecies bonding, engaging until the very end.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975010-1-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Landslide Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2016

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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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