A hugely entertaining techno-magic adventure novel.

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Something Greater than Artifice

In Speegle’s (Pen and Platen, 2011) novel set in a fantastic future world, technologically enhanced craftsmen face a deadly new threat.

As the story opens, a young man named Gregor loses his home, his best friend and very nearly his life in the hinterlands at the fringe of the Tech Republic. He and his friend Anatoly are skilled “Artificers” who use small, handheld computers to tap into a “Feed” of neutral matter, which they electronically resequence to create things to suit their needs. But their skills don’t protect them when they’re attacked by Frontmen—soulless, interchangeable minions of an all-devouring malevolence called SILOS. Gregor’s life is only saved thanks to the appearance of a woman named Ros, who hails from another dystopian enclave: the musicians’ haven called State of Play. Ros uses technology and her considerable fighting skills to rescue Gregor and take him on her quest to fight SILOS by enlisting the aid of yet another enclave, the Writers’ Bloc. There, the people prize the written word above all else, and a text called the Book may hold the key to victory. Along the way, Gregor and Ros squabble (at one point, he sarcastically calls her “Ros the Unnecessarily Taciturn”), but she gradually fills him in on the perilous state of the world outside the Tech Republic, her own past and training in the State, and the rise of the evil quagmire of SILOS. The author conveys most of this information in prolonged flashback segments, which he handles with a great deal of skill. The technology in Speegle’s world has morphed and sharpened into something akin to magic, and the Tech Republic, in particular, is impeccably imagined. He also makes the various sects’ worldviews believably distinct. Overall, his crafting of his characters is sensitive and, at times, winningly funny.

A hugely entertaining techno-magic adventure novel.

Pub Date: April 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-26050-0

Page Count: 478

Publisher: &yet

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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