Innovative sci-fi with plenty of substance, even if it’s weighed down by some confusing sequences.

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In Greenleaf’s sci-fi actioner debut, a monk with special powers heads to outer space to save a colony from destruction.

Eamon, an Akuru monk, lives in a temple sealed off from the rest of the world by a security barrier. He is a gifted healer whose empathic abilities enable him to connect to other people’s minds and manipulate their memories. He’s the best at what he does, but being cloistered on a mountaintop his whole life has made him long to see other worlds. Excitement arrives in the form of agent Rachel Blue, an assassin who was presumed dead but showed up alive on a space station. Hostile and traumatized, Rachel needs Eamon’s help, but there’s some concern that attempts to heal her may cause damage to Eamon’s genetically modified nervous system. Additionally, attacks on outer space birthing centers have been decimating the number of empaths, and the temple’s future is now in doubt. Hoping to put a stop to the hostilities and to help Rachel, Eamon decides to heal her. The process has unintended consequences, however, and Eamon soon realizes that Rachel is now determined to destroy an enemy as well as an entire colony of innocent souls. Stripped of his healing duties and facing consequences for the botched healing, Eamon escapes the temple and heads to the Europa moon to prevent Rachel from carrying out her murderous objective. Greenleaf handily succeeds in creating a new universe. A few familiar things on Earth, such as mountaintop Sherpas, live in a world wholly different from our own, with futuristic takes on genetic engineering providing support for an action plot that rarely slows down. The novel has a wealth of terminology, acronyms, and abbreviations that can test the memory, and the narrative is at times somewhat confusing and hard to follow. Still, Greenleaf’s novel is ambitious and daring. The worlds on display are unique, and the journeys into other people’s minds are as interesting as any external occurrences. The overall humanness of Eamon, and even Rachel, is what eventually grounds the wild narrative’s chaos.

Innovative sci-fi with plenty of substance, even if it’s weighed down by some confusing sequences.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9848321-4-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Freeman Park Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2015

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

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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

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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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