A real shot to the heart—a resonant portrait of a man out to prove he can take anything the world throws at him.


Down-on-his-luck fighter travels south of the border for the rematch of his life.

In her debut novel, journalist Kitamura indulges her interest in the mechanics of the mixed martial arts world with a sketch of two men at the edge of an emotional cliff. With throaty prose and peripheral detail, the author captures three decisive days in the lives of Cal, a wunderkind pugilist four years past a humiliating defeat, and Riley, Cal’s trainer and protector, who knows quite well what it’s like to spit out your own teeth. Their authentic, even touching partnership comes complete with the old arguments and terse verbal shorthand of longtime comrades. Their path has brought them back to the bloody rings of Tijuana for a rematch against Cal’s nemesis Rivera, a bloodthirsty, one-punch titan whose claim to the championship has brought him acclaim and affluence. Cal, meanwhile, has been on unsteady psychological ground ever since Rivera beat him four years ago. “Fighting was never easy again. He took some losses. He sat and waited for his head to get back into the game. He waited fight after fight and then it hit him how long he’d been waiting. It hit him, how far away the game had gone. He saw it for the first time and he was bewildered by it. That the whole thing could be so fragile. That it could fall away so quick.” The plot resolution is all but inevitable, the narrative short on momentum and long on self-realization, but Kitamura succeeds in penning a satisfactory addition to the canon of fight literature. While neither as heady as Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club nor as visceral as Craig Davidson’s The Fighter, this convincing meditation on combat skews admirably close to the stories of F.X. Toole as it plunges toward its harrowing ending.

A real shot to the heart—a resonant portrait of a man out to prove he can take anything the world throws at him.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0752-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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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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