An entertaining yarn that delivers a curious mix of science and sci-fi.

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An astrophysicist discovers an artifact from outer space containing a cryptic message that may be a precursor to an alien attack in this debut novel.

Lukas Linsky is a genius who dreams of becoming an astrophysicist. He was born to accomplished parents Flo, a doctor of genetics, and Marcus, who in 2017 founded the CIA-backed Android AI. The CIA wants to use the company to create combat robots, but advancement in artificial intelligence leads to a line of superior androids called Andi Mk2s. Their purpose is to help humans reverse the increasing devastation caused by global warming. At the same time, Lukas starts building the Linsky Observatory in New Zealand, completed by 2032. It’s in New Zealand where Lukas spots a “bolt of bright orange plasma light” moving with purpose and obviously not a natural occurrence. He and his pal Angus “Gus” Macleod later see and chase another plasma ball, which lands on Earth. It’s a sphere that Marcus determines is of an element or alloy not of this world. It also contains a binary-coded message, the initially translated synopsis providing a future date and coordinates to the sun. The sphere seems to have originated from an Earth-like exoplanet, Kepler-452b. Noting that Kepler-452b is lacking in a particular resource that’s more abundant on Earth, Lukas surmises an alien species may be intent on taking the treasure in a likely unfriendly manner. Further decryption of the sphere’s code reveals that the aliens may be wary of the Mk2s and have a plan involving the androids. Lilly’s engaging tale, despite Lukas’ first-person voice, reads like a history book. There’s very little dialogue, and the narrative’s occasionally interrupted by separated text defining terminology or clarifying historical references. These notes reinforce a smart story rife with information, even when they explain something relatively simple like TV—after all, it may be obsolete for distant-future readers. There is, however, some redundancy: expounding on wormholes more than once or discussing the Richter scale and electromagnetic pulses well after they’ve already appeared in the story. The protagonist generally relays events as they unfold, which is fitting for a scientist. But he’s not merely a cold observer; the author skillfully provides insights into his character. It’s clear that Lukas loves his parents, and he quickly falls for Vicki, a former professional football (aka soccer) player in England. He also believes calling Marcus “Dad” is a “childish slip,” a sign that he fears emotional attachments, even to loved ones. Still, his relationships to friends and family are sturdy enough that, when death ultimately rears its ugly head, there’s an unmistakable impact. Lilly deftly retains suspense by way of the aliens’ anticipated actions; there’s a countdown to the 2035 date cited in the message (down to the final seconds), while an invasion at that point is still speculation. Tech is both familiar and new (for example, a top-secret submarine) and sometimes creatively named: a ship's operations room for flying pilotless aircraft is called "The Kids Room" for its resemblance to handheld gaming consoles.

An entertaining yarn that delivers a curious mix of science and sci-fi.

Pub Date: May 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-473-38440-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2017

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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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