Judging by the engrossing first volume, this trilogy about two heroines’ perilous mission has the potential to be not only...

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The Soul Mender

From the The Soul Mender Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A debut novel follows a young woman as she struggles to come to grips with the realization that in a parallel universe everyone has an opposite.

This first installment of a trilogy focuses on the morally principled Riley Dale. Just days after graduating from college in Boulder, Colorado, Riley finds her world upended when she grasps that recent disturbing events—her grandmother dies of a heart attack, she stumbles across the body of a serial killer’s latest victim, and she apprehends that her bizarre visions seem much more than bad dreams—are all tied together. When she uncovers clues in her grandmother’s attic that point to not only the existence of a parallel world, but also her relative’s intimate knowledge of it, Riley unwillingly embarks on a dangerous journey of self-discovery. This quest brings her to the parallel world, where she meets her opposite self, a drug-addicted young woman whose entire life has been filled with hardship. A man trying to help Riley navigate this frightening new world tells her that she remains forever linked to this woman (“Basically, you are still connected…even though you live in two different worlds. If something really bad were to happen to this Riley, the same thing would happen to you”). Targeted by the police and assassins, the two women, unlikely partners, must stay alive long enough to figure out an operation to save the world. Dabney offers an utterly readable fusion of speculative fiction, mystery, biblical myth, and mainstream thriller. While parallel universes and alternate realities have been fertile concepts explored by fantasy and sci-fi writers for decades, the author brings a freshness to the well-trod subjects by giving the topics a deeply spiritual, biblical twist. Additionally, her savvy use of tension and pacing delivers a thrilling read, making the volume virtually impossible to put down. The only criticisms are largely unavoidable in a series opener—many questions regarding Riley’s abilities and ultimate goal to “heal the world” are left unanswered, and the conclusion is less than satisfying, being a respite more than any kind of ending. 

Judging by the engrossing first volume, this trilogy about two heroines’ perilous mission has the potential to be not only highly entertaining, but profoundly edifying as well. 

Pub Date: May 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-47201-9

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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