Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
I found this science fiction novel, a quick read, on the 2017 Locus Recommended Reading List. Locus Magazine reviews science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Set on Earth in the near future, aliens have made peaceful first contact. They have a ship in New York harbor, and want to meet evolutionary biologist Marianne Jenner. Her research may help the aliens find distant kin on Earth, including her son Noah. The aliens from Deneb have come to warn Earth about a deadly spore cloud they will soon encounter, and the race is on to prevent a pandemic. Noah, who uses the intoxicant sugarcane, quickly bonds with the Denebs. The aliens leave behind plans for a space ship, just as the spore cloud appears. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it’s no surprise that the spore cloud’s effects aren’t as dire as predicted. Marianne’s young grandson Colin has super hearing, along with many other young children. Predictably, there are ecological and financial problems from the spore cloud, and differing opinions about the proposed starships to Deneb. The book is fast-paced, with appealing characters, and slightly mysterious, nonviolent aliens. The second book is If Tomorrow Comes, to be followed in November by Terran Tomorrow. This book is based on the award-winning novella, Yesterday’s Kin, and is a good readalike for Kim Stanley Robinson’s ecologically focused science fiction, including Forty Signs of Rain and New York, 2140.
The Lost Queen of Crocker County by Elizabeth Leiknes
Jane Willow, the former Corn Queen of Crocker County, Iowa, moved to Los Angeles after high school to study film and hasn’t been home since. Now a successful film critic, she adores her practically perfect parents and wants them to move to L.A. Jane isn’t always likable, and has too much drama and tragedy in her life. I had a hard time believing the secrets she kept from her parents and best friend, Charlotte. Charlotte, who now runs a meatloaf hotline, is more interesting than teen Bliss and her screenplay. The story is a page-turner, but not quite the feel-good read I was expecting.
You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac
A heartwarming book about second chances and dealing with a serious illness set in southwest France. Jess broke up with Adam a few weeks after their son William’s birth. He didn’t seem interested in being a father or settling down. 10 years later, Jess, a creative writing teacher in Manchester, takes William to spend the summer with Adam at the chateau and cottages he’s remodeled in the Dordogne region. Jess’ mother Susan is quite ill and it’s her wish that William and Adam develop a close relationship. Adam is quite busy, but two of Jess’ friends arrive for vacation, along with three children. Full of gorgeous scenery, good food, and family drama, this is an engaging summer read. Along the way, there are cookouts, castles to tour, a waterfall to slide down, along with some romance.
The Shipwreck Hunter by David Mearns
A fascinating real life adventure, sure to appeal to fans of The Pirate Hunters. Mearns describes the research, fundraising, and dramatic searches needed to find historical shipwrecks. His teams have searched for a 15th century ship connected to Vasco de Gama, an Australian World War II hospital ship, and the freighter Lucona, which sank in the Indian Ocean in 1977 after an explosion in the cargo hold. This book is quite the page turner; I wanted to see if his team could find yet another long missing ship, and possibly discover why it sank. Equipment failures, conflicting eyewitness accounts, and rough weather make searches even more challenging.
Space Opera by Catherynne Valente
This amusing, engaging science fiction novel was inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest, David Bowie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the author’s Maine Coon cat. Set in the near future, first contact with Earth is made by the appearance of an alien who resembles a flamingo and a fish, and can speak with your grandmother’s voice. The sentience of Earth’s inhabitants is in doubt, and Earth must participate in the upcoming Megagalactic Grand Prix and finish anywhere but last to survive. As Yoko Ono is no longer available, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, a former British glamrock trio, is selected. The two remaining musicians aren’t on speaking terms and have no ideas for a new song. Danesh Jalo (Decibel Jones) parties with the aliens en route to the contest, while Omar Caliskan (Oort St. Ultraviolet) misses his kids and chats with Oö, who resembles a red panda. Fans of Douglas Adams or Connie Willis may enjoy this whimsical, bittersweet, and ultimately hopeful musical extravaganza.
Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles
Cameron Harris, a young veteran who was paralyzed in Afghanistan, is visiting the local convenience store with his sister Tanya. Suddenly, he stands up and walks. Is it a miracle? Does it matter if it’s a miracle, and what does his regained health mean for Cameron, Tanya, and the Vietnamese American owners of the convenience store? The Vatican investigates a possible miracle, while Janice, Cameron’s doctor at the VA, struggles to understand what might have happened medically, and a reality TV producer comes calling. Tourists start visiting Biloxi to see the spot in the parking lot where Cameron first walked. We learn about Cameron and Tanya’s family, how Hurricane Katrina affected them, and why Cameron stopped playing football and enlisted in the Army. The siblings are stunned to find themselves being filmed for television, and Cameron doesn’t want to talk about his past or the secrets he’s hiding, especially from his time in Afghanistan. Witty and engaging, though not very fast paced, this contemporary novel is a thought-provoking read.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This is an absorbing novel about two very different families in the planned community of Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Set in 1998, the Richardsons and their four children seem to have everything, but it’s their house in flames as the book opens, with one of their children suspected of arson. 11 months earlier, Elena Richardson rented a small house to artist Mia and her teen daughter Pearl. Mia and Pearl are used to moving frequently, fitting all their belongings in a VW Rabbit, buying clothes and furniture at thrift stores. Izzy Richardson spends time with Mia, wanting to learn how she makes her unusual photographs. Pearl is befriended by Moody Richardson, and is fascinated by his older siblings, Lexie and Trip. Full of secrets gradually revealed, this is a story about mothers and daughters, and different paths to motherhood. Adoption, surrogacy, unwanted pregnancy, and premature birth are all covered here. Reporter Elena’s friend is hoping to adopt an abandoned Chinese American baby, whose birth mother works with Mia at a Chinese restaurant. Everything is connected, and the author gradually peels back the layers of the characters, dazzling and sometimes stunning the reader. Deservedly popular, this is a memorable and compelling read.