With its overly simplistic approach to good vs. evil, this vampire saga thus far lacks drama and bite.

Refuge

Alongside the young woman they saved from an attack, a vampire-hunting duo faces off against a gang of bloodsuckers in debut author Macomson’s evangelical tale for young adults.

Drinking blood bestowed by the master of a vampire coven and embracing evil over God: these are the decisions that lead to vampirism, according to vampire hunter Will. For five years, Will has slayed the fanged creatures alongside the brooding Eric, a rogue vampire who forsook his coven to protect humanity. Their latest rescuee is Carol Westdale, a college student who crosses paths with a hungry vampire after crashing her car into a ditch. Though Carol’s is a classic case of wrong place, wrong time, the coven now believes she’s part of Will and Eric’s team. After several more showdowns with the coven, the trio escapes to a church called Our Lady of Refuge, where Carol—skeptical of supernatural forces like vampires and God—learns that “there is such a thing as evil in this world, and there is a God, and He is good.” Will goes on to explain that he is a servant of the Way, meaning he is a marked follower of Jesus Christ that no vampire can harm. Because Carol is not a believer, she will die if she falls into the hands of the coven, which plans on using her to trap Eric and execute him for choosing humans over his own kind. Those stakes fuel the rest of this first entry in Macomson’s trilogy, whose biblical references intend to “share the Gospel with young adults in a relevant and interesting way.” Macomson gathers the right ingredients for a compelling vampire yarn, but the religious goals ultimately get in the way of an interesting story, in large part because his characters are either entirely good or entirely evil. As a result, none act like actual, flawed humans; instead, they’re devices that help the narrative prove its point.

With its overly simplistic approach to good vs. evil, this vampire saga thus far lacks drama and bite.

Pub Date: May 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-329-16241-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: July 20, 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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