A sparsely detailed but engrossing dystopian tale with well-rounded lead characters.



In Palmer-Baker’s debut fantasy, an elementary school teacher stumbles into an apparent other world rife with pleasures—but it’s a realm some people are trying to escape.

Sara is at a typical shopping mall with her generally indifferent husband, Carl. When Carl brazenly flirts with a female clerk, Sara, desperate to get away from him, leaves through an unmarked door. Though she still seems to be in a mall, she eventually learns it’s simply Mall, which is another world entirely. After Mall guards detain Sara for “amoking”—their variation on running amok—she gets an assigned “Mental Health Practitioner” in Nona. The MHP is shocked that Sara claims ignorance of Mall’s various regulations, such as administering drugs to neutralize negative feelings. Fascinated by the woman from Outside, Nona helps her avoid unwanted attention by securing for her an ID, customary flashy Mall attire, and employment. Sara, looking for a way home, zeroes in on Junkers, a group of people anonymously wreaking havoc, whose apparent goal is making it Outside. But with a loveless marriage awaiting, Sara may prefer staying right where she is. Nona, meanwhile, starts questioning some of what Mall’s Code forbids, like sex with certain people. There’s a discernible parallelism between Sara and Nona. While Nona ultimately sees Mall’s shortcomings, Sara sees its appeal, including that of a potential partner in lieu of Carl, who actively avoids sex with her. Despite abundant discussions on sex, both hypothetical and realized, there are no erotic scenes. Rather, Palmer-Baker showcases characters’ frosty attitude toward sex, one that Sara discovers has little to do with love. The frequent use of dialogue unfortunately comes at the expense of the particulars of the environment, like creepy “moving mannequins” that the narrative mentions only sporadically. Nevertheless, the author amps up the story with notable threats against Sara and Nona; if either has ties to Junkers, they could face Judgment (with a prisonlike sentence) or Mem-wipe, in which they’d lose some or all memories. 

A sparsely detailed but engrossing dystopian tale with well-rounded lead characters.

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9998425-5-3

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Del Sol Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.


In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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