Brave the Antarctic elements with a fiery tour guide who speaks in stanzas.


In which a young poet travels to Antarctica, draws a direct line between environmental fragility and human weakness, and chronicles her observations under titles starting with “In which....”

Martin’s debut collection was written during her recent stint as Antarctica’s poet-in-residence, as evidenced by the polar chill running through her work: Eco-devastation looms large, chaperoned by aching hearts and crises of faith. “[W]e’ve rocketed beyond the age of miracles,” she suggests, and “we are doomed to orbit back into the maw of our mistakes.” If this sounds a bit heavy-handed, that’s because it can be. But Martin’s sharp humor pops up in just the right places (“Helvetica is Satan’s favorite typeface”; “The purpose of mummification / is to make a good first impression”), and her asides about love and loss offer a balance of warmth. (A dark piece with an imposing title, “Repercussions of the Current Import/Export Ratio,” ends on this wistful note: “I asked the donkey / the odds you’ll ever come back.”) And if animals are your jam, you’ll find much to enjoy in these poems full of bears, bees, horses, pigs and a surprising number of house cats. Their sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle energy drives Martin’s writing and represents it well. By her account, people also spend time on all fours fending for themselves—a stark reminder of the debt we continue to owe to the natural world, which has a great champion in Martin.

Brave the Antarctic elements with a fiery tour guide who speaks in stanzas.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-88748-596-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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