A sci-fi romp that’s vast in scale yet thoroughly playful.

READ REVIEW

THE UNWINDING

GIN'S STORY

A novel sees a woman shunted through time and space as two universes go to war.

Virginia Sun-Jones, a Korean American who goes by Gin, is enjoying Christmas with her family in Nags Head, North Carolina. Unseasonable warmth has allowed Gin; her husband, Alan; their daughter, Grace; and her son-in-law, Eric, to visit the beach for a picnic. When Gin catches an antique newspaper blowing in the wind, she notes the publication date of March 28, 1827. She then proposes a toast, but it’s interrupted by a thunderstorm, during which she finds herself mysteriously alone. She eventually meets a woman named Hope and learns that she’s been transported to 1827. Strangely, Gin still possesses a pearl that she found on the beach before the picnic. This legendary Cintamani pearl grants her desires for dry, clean clothes and much more when she asks to leave 1827 in search of her family. A sentience known as the Quantum Opposable Singularity provides Gin with a dragon called Hangul to travel further in time. Gin, despite a limited understanding of the cosmos, has been chosen to combat a disastrous Unwinding of the universe. Entities like Golaeth, who oversees the cosmic nursery, and Emperor Calaneris XXIII, who believes the cosmos is a labyrinth to be pruned, strive to control the chaos as two universes clash. In this sci-fi series opener, Rew (Erenarch Academy, 2018, etc.) fans her fiery imagination consistently throughout this time- and dimension-hopping adventure. Lines like “I have no eyes, but I can see wavelengths pulsing as if I still had an optic nerve they could travel” challenge readers to keep pace with genuinely alien tableaux. Strange characters, such as alien physicists Benrus and Ralff, have brightly sketched backstories that could carry their own novels, contributing to the tale’s episodic feel. And while “whole areas of space-time are being deleted,” Gin’s pearl and other MacGuffins that can do virtually anything lessen the plot’s overall tension. Grounded revelations regarding Alan, Grace, and Eric provide the emotional signal that cuts through lots of Doctor Who–style noise.

A sci-fi romp that’s vast in scale yet thoroughly playful.

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73221-899-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sophont Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more