Too many contrivances of plot, and the earnest final section falls flat, but overall a brisk, acidly funny debut about the...

THE ALTERNATIVE HERO

In British drummer Thornton’s debut, a hapless ex-journalist reexamines what now seems his life’s fulcrum point: the onstage flameout that ended the career of Lance Webster, frontman of his beloved Thieving Magpies.

Music wasn’t merely the soundtrack to Clive Beresford’s youth; it was his youth. And when Clive’s idol, aka “Zeitgeist Man,” imploded in public in 1995, something important ended. Clive soon gave up his fanzine, Vorsprung Durch Peanut. He latched on with a higher-profile magazine, but that went sour after another episode involving his increasingly erratic idol. More than a decade has passed when Clive, now 33, underemployed, bereft and alone, notices Lance hauling home dry-cleaning; they’re neighbors. Clive embarks on an alcohol-soaked quest to befriend the Alternative Hero and to find out what led to that fateful day. After a stakeout tells him Lance has a sick cat, Clive volunteers at the vet, but succeeds only in selling his old hero a hormone spray for incontinent pets. Soon after, an intoxicated Clive pens a letter whose contents, come morning, he can’t recall—and gets an ominous visit from two roadies who warn him against stalkerdom. Finally, having lost his job, Clive repairs to a local pub to lick his wounds (or marinate them) and is chatted up from the next stool by Lance. Thornton shows off his encyclopedic musical knowledge to good effect, and the middle section, in which Clive carries on the charade of being an aspiring novelist who knows nothing about music, is delightfully awkward and entertaining, even poignant.

Too many contrivances of plot, and the earnest final section falls flat, but overall a brisk, acidly funny debut about the entanglement of identity and music.

Pub Date: July 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-27109-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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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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