Lubliner (A Child’s Christmas in Queens, 2014) takes on presidential politics in this satirical novel.

Fillmore Pipp is an inoffensive Democratic president, notable only for the way in which his supporters project their feelings onto him: “Fillmore Pipp was the candidate of the well-spoken people who not only knew where they stood but took the lazy scenic route to get there.” It’s particularly off-brand, then, when Pipp makes a sex tape and allows his partner to keep a copy. His real dread is that if the tape is publicly released, America will learn of the smallness of his reproductive anatomy. It’s an urgent danger, as the Republican challenger to his re-election campaign is the hippie-turned–male enhancement guru Mel Kriegman, who’s known to be particularly well-endowed. Even worse, Pipp’s sex tape co-star, Mandy, gets recruited by a malcontent blogger to mount a third-party candidacy at the head of a movement known as the “Brown Baggers,” who symbolically express their dissatisfaction with the status quo by defecating in public while extending both middle fingers. The three-way contest quickly turns into a race to the bottom as each candidate attempts to sift through the muck to find the soul of the American voter. As sophomoric and scatological as this novel’s premise may sound, Lubliner’s America doesn’t seem so foreign from our own—particularly in the current election cycle. The prose is sharp and playful (“He was marked to be a leader of men because he was unfit for anything else”), and the author manages to sell ideas that would certainly fall flat in less able hands. The book benefits from its brevity (it’s only 120 pages long) and the fact that Lubliner keeps the plot skipping along quicker than readers can overthink its ridiculousness. Those looking to dive deeper into presidential campaign madness—rather than escape from it—could do much worse than this comic interpretation of our ever devolving politics. A slim, funny satire of America’s electoral culture.

Pub Date: July 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5309-7129-9

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


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.


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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