Typically creepy and graphic fare from Masterton, with an environmental spin that may herald a new direction (Drought,...

FOREST GHOST

Twin forests on two continents seem to be haunting visitors and making them want to kill themselves.

Jack Wallace, widowed owner of a Polish restaurant in Chicago, receives some terrible news about his son Sparky’s closest friend, Malcolm. On a Boy Scout trip he took to faraway Owasippe Scout Reservation, all the Scouts and Scout leaders evidently killed themselves. Jack is shocked by this news and even more shocked that it’s not news to Sparky, who seems to have known it would happen. Although Sparky has always been a bit quirky, Jack puts much of that down to his Asperger’s diagnosis. Now, however, Sparky is consulting star charts and trying to predict the future. The two leave Chicago with Malcolm’s mother to claim the body and try to find some answers, but the forest reservation spooks them, and they’re troubled by the persistent sense that there’s something more in the woods. A séance Jack’s neighbor insists he attend connects him to a spectral voice (his dead wife?) that eventually connects him—as usual in Masterton, the logical steps are never very clear—to Dr. Krystyna Zawadka, who’s been investigating a disturbingly similar phenomenon in Poland. As Jack and Sparky travel abroad to find out if the danger is animal, human or something more, Sparky makes hauntingly accurate predictions along the way. One thing remains clear: Whoever sets foot in these forests is in grave danger, even from their own hands, until the truth can be found.

Typically creepy and graphic fare from Masterton, with an environmental spin that may herald a new direction (Drought, 2014). Given the final acts, this one clearly won’t be a series.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8344-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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