There are some books you just cannot stop reading. The Shining Girls (Mulholland, $26), by Lauren Beukes, is like a maelstrom—drawing you in from the first scene, and then inexorably hurling you toward its perfect ending. This crime novel with a sci-fi twist is about a man named Harper Curtis who finds a key to a house from which he can jump across time. But his time-traveling ability comes with a price: he must kill “shining girls,” young women with bright futures ahead of them. Curtis is impossible to catch until Kirby Mazrachi survives his brutal attack and starts going through old police files. Shining Girls will awe you with its remarkable characters, incredible plot, and Beukes’s graceful writing and eye for detail.
In River of Stars (Roc, $26.95) Guy Gavriel Kay returns to Kitai, a country like China, which was the setting for his earlier novel, Under Heaven. But now this grand empire is in trouble. Trade roads are closed off, civil unrest is on the rise, invaders are at the gates, and the former capital is in ruins. The fates of two characters, Ren Daiyan, a warrior, and Lin Shan, a songwriter and calligrapher, are inextricably bound with that of the empire. River of Stars is a magnificent exploration of destiny and the ability of a single individual to change the course of history. Kay once again proves himself a master of subtle dialogue and delicate phrasing, handling multiple characters and a complex plot with grace. This sweeping epic from the best fantasist in the genre reads like a poem.
As you read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, you start to wonder: is it a novel, a primer on Japanese pop culture, or an introduction to Zen Buddhism? A novelist on a beach in British Columbia finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox that contains a diary, letters, and an old watch. The diary is written by a suicidal girl in Tokyo who is writing about being bullied at school and about her family, in particular her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun. A Tale for the Time Being is a book of many layers. It is both a fictional narrative and a meditation on the nature of time, death, and what it means to call a place home. If you enjoy your fiction with a sprinkling of magical realism, history, philosophy, or quantum physics (and maybe a few footnotes here and there!), A Tale for the Time Being should definitely end up in your to-read stack.