A space odyssey that’s worth taking.

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THE ENCELADUS MISSION

HARD SCIENCE FICTION

A probe’s discovery of organic molecules on a moon of Saturn—proof positive of alien life—prompts an international team of scientists to embark on a dangerous journey in Morris’ (Der Riss, 2018, etc.) hard-sci-fi novel.

In 2031, a long-range automated spacecraft confirms biological material on Saturn’s ice moon Enceladus, where a liquid ocean exists beneath the frozen surface. The prospect of extraterrestrial life awaiting discovery in the solar system prompts a worldwide effort under NASA to recruit, train, and finally send several scientists on a 2046 mission to explore below Enceladus’ surface in the Valkyrie, a manned vessel described as “a drill that could swim, not a submarine that could drill.” Its co-pilot is Martin, a cool-headed Jet Propulsion Laboratory contractor who seems to have no fear of death due to a personal tragedy; the epic unfolds from his point of view during the risky, monthslong voyage. Morris is an exponent of highly technical sci-fi that details aerospace exploration and innovation practically down to the last rivet. Happily, he also pays heed to the human element, an aspect that can feel poorly engineered in many other hard-sci-fi books. Early on, for instance, the crew deals with an emergency when the mission commander, Amy Michaels, who’s in a relationship with engineer Hayato Masukoshi, becomes pregnant despite the fact that doctors told her that she was infertile. Morris also gets plenty of altitude from the brainy, minuscule crew’s problem-solving, as they cope not only with the challenge of having another mouth to feed, but also missing supplies and malfunctioning propulsion. The fact that the stakes on Enceladus may only involve unicellular organisms is no drawback; the author’s gift for narrative even endows the collision between a space rock and an automated vessel with something like emotional weight. The book also adroitly handles the tricky question of alien intelligence. Lengthy nonfiction postscripts, written in a similarly supple style, describe the science in the story; it’s hopefully not a spoiler to note that the Valkyrie is an experimental concept in real life (and the head of the firm behind it, as well as businessmen Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, is mentioned in the novel).

A space odyssey that’s worth taking.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72683-024-9

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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