A promising beginning for a new writer, but to make the most of his talents, Woodward needs to work on developing an ear for...

Canidae: The Journey

Seeking reasons behind the extinction of humankind some 7,000 years before, a team of humanoid dogs uncovers an impending invasion of crystalline aliens and a traitor at the heart of their society.

Woodward’s debut novel is based on the entertaining premise that, after the extinction of humans at the hands of an alien race called crystallen, dogs developed superintelligence and opposable thumbs. This race, which calls itself Canidae, is divided into numerous tribes and recently united as the Unified Canidae Society. Azure is the 19-year-old son of the Chancellor of UCS, and as the story opens, he undergoes a rite of passage that will pinpoint his calling in life. To his surprise, he is revealed as a potential leader, despite his lack of interest in politics. To gain further insight into his path, Azure volunteers to join an expedition investigating the cause of human extinction. Their expedition uncovers journal entries and other documentation of Dr. Zennith, the last human, while they simultaneously encounter the resurgent crystallen. Woodward has developed a strong plot that, unlike many first installments of what is clearly intended as a series, resolves satisfyingly within the volume. The idea of dogs as the dominant species on Earth has great potential, both serious and humorous; however, that potential remains unfulfilled. The Canidae seem to be little more than furry humans with doggy faces (effectively portrayed in DiLeva’s chapter-head illustrations). Canidae families are called “packs,” but they evince little packlike behavior; Vence, who serves as a guide dog—a joke still waiting to be made—has a better sense of smell than the others, but there is otherwise little exploration of how the canine experience of the world differs from humans. And one can’t help thinking that the preservation of human structures and paper documents for 7,000 years would be slightly less unbelievable if that time were in dog years. Either way, the writing is often repetitive and clunky: “ ‘Let’s go to the ruins.’ Azure, Kael, Yasu and Vence all left the tent and began heading toward the ruins.”

A promising beginning for a new writer, but to make the most of his talents, Woodward needs to work on developing an ear for language and worldbuilding.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692323045

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 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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