A bevy of action, suspense, and romance within a detailed futuristic setting.

Sparcus: Broken Worlds

Two agents work a simple murder case together and stumble upon an intergalactic conspiracy in the first book of Carminati’s sci-fi series.

Sarza Beshemet is a trusted Interplanetary Police (IPP) agent, but her animosity for humans is understandable. She’s a Sparcus, part of an alien race that used its brute strength to end the Great Conflict among the planets in the early 23rd century. Consequently, Earth feared Sparcus dominance and initiated Project Geno, the sterilization of all Sparcus males. IPP assigns human agent Wes Venta to be Sarza’s handler for a case involving a dead alien (a Braxian). The circumstances of the murder seem to implicate various species. The investigating duo are soon looking into a series of killings and quickly suspect something bigger at play—especially after apparent Sparcus agents try to kill Sarza. Carminati’s novel concentrates on the mystery, but doesn’t shy away from romance. There’s a mutual but repressed attraction between Sarza and Wes, which opens up a delightful avenue for Sarza’s character: her hair changes color with her mood, so she can’t hide her arousal. She often has blue hair when near Wes, and a story highlight is when her hair turns purple, a mix of blue and red—the latter hue a sign of anger. (Carminati also incessantly toys with readers’ anticipation of a sex scene.) The conspiracy running throughout the narrative also provides a persistent tension. Both agents, for example, have a secret; readers know right away that Sarza’s a double agent for the covert but publicly denied Sparcus intelligence organization, which is searching for a rumored antidote to the mass sterilization. There’s an overwhelming sense of distrust among the species, and the threat of a second Conflict; different aliens turn up dead on different planets, and Sarza suspects that the Sparcus may be responsible for at least one murder. There’s undoubtedly plenty of room for a sequel with Sarza, Wes, or any of the other vibrant characters here.

A bevy of action, suspense, and romance within a detailed futuristic setting.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-75824-4

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 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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