A well-researched what-if tale about the life of Christ.

GRANDSON OF HEROD

IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM

In his debut novel, Raymond sheds new light on an old story, linking ancient political history to the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

This historical novel presents an alternative version of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, portraying him not as a humble, stable-born carpenter, but as the grandson of Herod the Great, the grandson of the last Hasmonean king Mattathias Antigonus and the last scion of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty. The story is told primarily in flashbacks from the point of view of Menelaeus, the son of Mary’s servant (Mary is here called “Princess Mariamne”). Menelaeus was a contemporary of Jesus and knew him since childhood. Beginning with the political machinations that brought Herod to power, the tale winds through Jesus’ birth, life and works and ends with the possibility that Jesus survived his crucifixion. Raymond’s research is praiseworthy; the book’s careful attention to detail and meticulous footnotes draw clear connections between known history and biblically-reported events. At times, the story gets bogged down in exposition, and when the characters do speak, their reliance on anachronistic, modern English idioms can be jarring. When the book turns from facts to fiction, however, the characters’ challenges are sufficiently true to life to keep readers engaged. The life of Jesus is one of the world’s best-known stories, but this novel offers a fresh view; even the most biblically literate reader will keep reading to find out how it turns out. That said, readers with little knowledge of the Bible or classical antiquity will not be left adrift, as Raymond takes care to lay out all the facts, even when explanations risk detracting from the story.

A well-researched what-if tale about the life of Christ.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615681696

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Tower Grove Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

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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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