An overly chaotic tale from a wondrous wordsmith.

In the Seam

A group of unlikely allies tries to escape from Limbo in Folk’s debut novel.

Welcome to the Seam, “a way station between life as you know it, and death.” The essences of people who are unconscious or comatose go there, and they may or may not be allowed to return to the world they knew. Nine-year-old Frank Frandoza is one of those essences trying to get back to the real world, where the last thing he remembers is the ceiling of his underground fort crashing down upon him. Imagine his surprise waking up in the Seam, with seven talking barracudas swimming around him in midair. He finds an ally in Ivan Blastov, a “cool kid” from his hometown who was recently felled in a brawl by a glass bottle to the head. Frank and Ivan must navigate the surreal, absurdist world of the Seam, populated with such entities as a gorilla in a nurse’s uniform and a polar bear in a leotard. Through an unlikely plan involving electrocution and the formation of a rock band, they manage to return to the real world. The only problems are the difficulties awaiting them there—and all the people still being detained in the Seam. Folk is a writer of unending imagination, spewing puns and ridiculous characters on page after page: “Lou was a human remora attached to a nose. If Lou had been a rock star, his name would have been Schnozzy Schnosbourne, and his stage would have been Nostrilpalooza.” The story is accompanied by full-color illustrations (also by Folk) that are somehow even odder than his literary creations—simultaneously creepy, silly, and brutally adorable. Readers may feel ungrateful for becoming frustrated with such ingenuity, but after a while, there’s simply too much: the plot can’t keep pace with Folk’s manic creations, and the supposedly life-and-death stakes never truly feel urgent. For all the tireless punning, readers may lose interest before the writer does.

An overly chaotic tale from a wondrous wordsmith.

Pub Date: July 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9965159-1-7

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Eye Read Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 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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