A crisp, stylized fantasy with plenty of surprises.

ANGEL LAND

From the Angel Land series , Vol. 1

This debut YA novel sees an angel without wings strive in a competitive society and learn its secrets along the way.

Thirteen-year-old Gabriel Perez, unlike most people in Celestia, was born without wings. He’s been raised by his Grandma since his father abandoned the family early on and his mother died when he was 2 years old. Despite these setbacks, Gabriel hopes to one day become the ruling archangel of Celestia. But he must first gain admittance to the Holy Guild, where he may learn to master his superspeed ability, known as Quicksilver, and stand a chance competing for the ruling spot. Soon Gabriel discovers that he did not get into the Holy Guild, which means he’ll likely continue polishing wings for a living. But he does meet Raziel Kor, another teen, who explains that clip-on wings, invented by his father at Angel Innovates, can be purchased. Later, Gabriel gets a notice from the Z Guild that because another student withdrew, he’s been accepted. Gabriel then obtains wings, finally takes flight, and feels like his “soul has been set free.” While traveling home that night, Gabriel is accosted by a “cloaked, black angel” with claws and no visible face. Could this ravenlike creature be responsible for the angels missing from the Northern Quarter? In this fantasy series opener, Scott unfolds the layers of Celestia in neat stages, giving the characters and the narrative space to develop. Gabriel eventually joins the Holy Guild, but how this happens involves a single twist among many. Classmates Ariel Bluestone, Swati Mehra, and Cael Kutch become instrumental to the plot in their own ways. Gabriel’s easy access to his personal hero, Ruling Archangel Michael Hunter, illustrates the hermetic, though bracing, worldbuilding. Readers may chuckle at the ubiquity of “pagers,” which are essentially smartphones. It’s also vaguely fascistic that Celestia is ruled by whomever wins a fighting tournament. Nevertheless, the primary message is “Being different isn’t a curse….It’s a responsibility to bring only what you can do to the world.” The finale upsets the status quo, energizing the next volume.

A crisp, stylized fantasy with plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: March 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-132318-6

Page Count: 263

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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