If it’s anything like this one, it’s shaggy, clueless, winsome, sad, and funny too.

KILL TWO BIRDS & GET STONED

Since the mystery plots have always been the weakest parts of the Kinkster’s hilariously antic mysteries (Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, 2002, etc.), it’s only natural that he’d try his hand at a shaggy-dog tale without a clue.

Once upon a time, Walter Snow was the successful author of The Rise and Fall of Nothing at All, but he’s been blocked for so long (seven years) that he has no idea what his second novel will be about. Luckily, the answer comes one day while he’s at the bank and seductive Clyde Potts asks him to store a package containing her grandmother’s heirloom silver in his safe-deposit box. Two weeks later, after the NYPD has informed Walter that the package actually contains something quite different, Clyde celebrates her birthday by introducing Walter to her partner-in-mayhem, Fox Harris. Maybe Clyde is a former heroin addict and Fox her rehab counselor. Maybe it’s Fox who’s the recovering addict. Whatever the case, alcoholic Walter is soon happily falling off his own wagon, joining the pair for some great booze, great smoke, and great ideas for naughty subversion that could have come right from Jack Kerouac’s Merry Pranksters. Just for fun, they con a bartender out of a hundred-dollar bill, spring a delusional street preacher from a mental institution, throw a party for a thousand homeless New Yorkers on Donald Trump’s dime, and avenge themselves on Starbucks, which is plotting to take over Walter’s neighborhood bar, in fiendishly adolescent ways. It’s not long before Walter’s juices are flowing again and he’s written his friends into a new book, The Great Armenian Novel (alternate title: The Cat Who Killed Christ), that his agent calls “racist, homophobic, politically incorrect, insensitive, and, well, frankly, unrealistic and ludicrous.”

If it’s anything like this one, it’s shaggy, clueless, winsome, sad, and funny too.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-620979-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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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