While it’s sometimes disorienting, this wild ride remains enjoyable and well worth the price of admission.

EVENING IN THE YELLOW WOOD

In this debut paranormal novel, a young woman becomes enmeshed in a murder mystery.

Justine Cook is no stranger to enigmas, having grown up with a daydreaming father who walked out shortly before her 12th birthday. But tracking him down 10 years later kicks up more uncertainty and weirdness than even she could have imagined. Having moved back to her hometown after college, Justine has gotten used to playing it safe and keeping her feet on the ground, in sharp contrast to the man who left her behind. But when she catches a glimpse of him in a newspaper photograph, something changes within her, and she finds herself thrust into the peculiar world of the village of Lantern Creek. Her family history aside, Justine ends up involved in a murder investigation, as the victim bears an uncanny resemblance to her, and she finds sparks flying between her and Sheriff’s Deputy Dylan Locke. But the inquiry may have more to do with Justine than she realized, as alongside clues about the crime, she discovers her father’s double life, including her half brother, Adam, and a supernatural destiny that binds them all together. The story’s hook is strong, and the pacing moves very quickly, getting from brief sketches of Webber, where Justine and her mom live, to Lantern Creek and the main action of the novel in a matter of pages. Unfortunately, this speed does leave behind a few overly telling or expository paragraphs, which are sometimes redundant with more evocative scenes or pieces of dialogue, as in an early section where Justine describes her love life. Still, there’s plenty to recommend in Kemp’s tale, from the varied intrigue to the standout secondary characters to the light tone, which still manages to present darker moments effectively. Occasionally, the plot can feel overly busy, glossing over Justine’s feelings, the facts of the mysteries, or the ghosts, visions, and other supernatural facets in an effort to balance these disparate elements. Nevertheless, the author delivers a bevy of good ideas, and readers will find a lot to love if they take the chance to look.

While it’s sometimes disorienting, this wild ride remains enjoyable and well worth the price of admission.

Pub Date: March 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950627-06-6

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

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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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