BEAST

At least Benchley (Rummies, 1989, etc.) didn't call it Tentacles—although he might have. Seventeen years after Jaws chewed up the bookracks, he now weaves another ripping sea-monster yarn, this one about an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, menacing Bermuda. Benchley puts a 90's ecological spin on his story—the squid is on the prowl because its food supply has been diminished by wanton overfishing—but at bottom this is just another Jaws retread, opening, as did Jaws, with a night attack by the monster (here, on a castaway sailing couple) and concluding, as did Jaws, with a daylight frontal assault on a ship and crew determined to destroy it. In between, there's no romantic subplot like the one Spielberg discarded for his film of Jaws; the narrative is full- tilt action adventure, beginning with hero Whip Darling, the 41- year-old Bermudan fisherman who identifies the squid from its traces after it kills a pair of young twin divers, children of Manhattan media magnate Osborn Manning. Knowledge of the squid sends Bermuda tourism—and Darling's business—into a nose dive, but when a vengeance-minded Manning, accompanied by a Canadian squid-expert, tries to hire Darling to help hunt the squid, the Bermudian refuses: better poor than dead. He does agree to guide a submersible party, including a journalist and an obnoxious politico, to the squid's most likely haunt, leading to a terrific scene in which the hungry squid—still not fully revealed—toys with the submarine, then cracks it open to enjoy human-on-the-half- shell. Finally, Manning uses financial blackmail to force Darling to the hunt. The extended conclusion, surpassing Jaws's for excitement, sees the 100-foot squid climbing onto Darling's boat, tentacles and whips flying, eyes glowering, beak chomping, as Manning meets a predictable Ahab-like fate and Darling fights for his life. Although necessarily lacking the shock value of Jaws, this crafty, well-researched, exhilarating semi-sequel, powered by that marvelously demonic squid, who's every bit a match for the Great White, is bound to clamber way high up on the best-seller lists.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40355-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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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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