Fiction, October 12, 2018 | Xpress Reviews

This intriguing, Sapphic, Vietnamese take on “Beauty and the Beast” is recommended for readers who enjoy diverse, lushly described fantasy; not many surprises here but an entertaining read with well-placed social commentary; recommend only where Noonan’s previous titles are very popular

Week ending October 12, 2018

De Bodard, Aliette. In the Vanishers’ Palace. Jabberwocky. Oct. 2018. 198p. ISBN 9781625673985. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781625673749. FANTASY
Yên is a failed, unvalued scholar in a once conquered then abandoned world. Vicious creatures called Vanishers left everything devastated and disease-ridden. Attempting to save the sick are two healers: Yên’s mother and a shape-shifting dragon named Vu Côn. When Yên’s mother calls upon Vu Côn’s magic to save a patient, the elders decide Yên must pay the price. She is seized and taken to Vu Côn’s mysterious home, where Yên expects to die. Instead, Yên is tasked with tutoring Vu Côn’s two rambunctious children. Yên finds herself falling in love with her complex dragon jailer and must decide whether she can accept Vu Côn for who she is. De Bodard’s (“Dominion of the Fallen” series) latest features a cast of Vietnamese-influenced characters who are gender and sexually diverse working through choices between duty and personal happiness. The short length leaves little room for relationship development or worldbuilding, but readers will enjoy interpreting the many facets of Yên’s journey nonetheless.
VERDICT This intriguing, Sapphic, Vietnamese take on “Beauty and the Beast” is recommended for fans of De Bodard’s previous works or readers who enjoy diverse, lushly described fantasy.—Katie Lawrence, Grand Rapids, MI

Lewis, Kristyn Kusek. Half of What You Hear. Harper. Jan. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780062673350. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062673374. F
Lewis’s third novel (Save Me; How Lucky You Are) is an enjoyable albeit somewhat predictable read. Bess Warner and her family have recently relocated to her husband Cole’s idyllic childhood home from the hustle of Washington, DC. Still nursing a bruised ego after being fired from her job at the White House, Bess struggles to adjust to life in Greyhill, VA. When she lands an assignment from the Washington Post to interview the town’s most colorful character, Susannah “Cricket” Lane, Bess uncovers more than she expected about the town and herself. In spite of the buildup, the mystery surrounding Susannah falls a little flat. However, Lewis does a good job of developing an intriguing cast and keeps the story moving along at a good clip.
VERDICT Not many surprises here but an entertaining read with well-placed social commentary. Recommend to fans of Emily Giffin and Sarah Jio.—Sarah Stimson, Mission Viejo Lib., CA

Noonan, Rosalind. The Sisters. Kensington. Nov. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781496708045. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496708052. F
In Noonan’s latest novel (after Pretty, Nasty, Lovely and Where the Lost Girls Go), Glory is a young mother to two young daughters, four-year-old Ruby and toddler Aurora. Her husband is no longer in the picture, and Glory and the girls have fallen into bad financial straits. Glory meets some women known as “the sisters” at a local mall food court; they are part of a group run by the charismatic Leo. The group will take her into their fold, but she cannot bring her children. So she makes the difficult decision to leave them at the local fire station, hoping they will be cared for by a good family. Fast-forward 12 years, and Ruby and Aurora now live in a loving home with their adoptive mixed-race parents. Ruby, the elder sister at age 16, has questions about her biological mother and seeks out Glory’s whereabouts. Now Glory is trying to escape the cult and Leo with Luna, her third daughter. As Glory and her daughters come closer to reunion, events take a dramatic turn.
VERDICT The story lines feel contrived and unrealistic; the issues of racial tension feel forced. Recommended only where Noonan’s previous titles are very popular.—Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX

LJ Reviews
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