Thankfully, last month’s slump has abated and left me excited to read books I’ve had on my radar for a while. Many of the books have been a success so far, which I’m quite pleased about! Plus, if you’ve been wanting to read a book with a pretty good twist, these all had twists that I was not expecting (maybe that’s also just me being oblivious sometimes, though).
Reviews are spoiler-free!
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton | ★★★★1/2
This was such a compelling historical fiction novel with rich characters and writing that transports you to a time and place that seems completely authentic. Written in the style of a biography of the fictional afropunk duo, Opal and Nev, the book completely made me believe that these people truly existed. Several times, I nearly reached for my phone to look up what Opal’s stage outfits looked like or to find one of the band’s songs to listen to. I love that level of realism.
This novel is very much centered on the racism that the characters experience, both in the 70s and in the present, and truly shows how little has changed in 50 years. It’s frustrating and angering, but so worth the read. The twist at the end was phenomenal as well, especially considering how true to life it was. I’m still thinking about it a week later. I would recommend Opal & Nev to readers who enjoy books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
Check out an OwnVoices review here.
CW: Racism, racial slurs, racial beating causing death, drug use, addiction, sexual harassment (mentioned).
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas | ★★★★☆
I finally got around to reading Cemetery Boys and I am so glad that I did. I listened to the audiobook, which I think added to my enjoyment of the book a lot. I loved the world that Aiden Thomas created more than anything. His melding of the spirituality and traditions of cultures who celebrate Día De Los Muertos with his own fantastical story was so beautiful. Yadriel’s struggle to gain his Latinx family’s affirmation of his gender is at the center of the book, and I truly appreciated seeing him come into his own. Those things, executed so beautifully, clouded my judgement of the rest of the book to be honest. The romance was a bit insta-lovey (I still loved it), the pacing was a little off, but I can’t stop my heart-eyes for this book and it’s characters. I also didn’t see the twist coming. I’m super excited to see what else Aiden Thomas has in store!
CW: Misgendering, allusions to deadnaming, depictions of gender dysphoria, exploration of parental death, non-violent references to blood magic, some descriptions of self-harm (for ritualistic purposes)
CWs from this OwnVoices review by Adri.
The Removed by Brandon Hobson | ★★★★☆
I don’t really know where to start with this book. The writing style was fascinating and so steeped in intricate Cherokee tradition and history, I couldn’t put it down. The Removed confused, enthralled, and surprised me. Focusing on a Cherokee family dealing with the grief of losing their son and brother at the hands of a police officer, we witness their grief and loneliness from their various perspectives chapter to chapter.
The symbolism and imagery of the many perspectives had me flipping back to previous chapters to recall the patterns that were appearing in nature and their lives. There were definitely connections and aspects that I did not understand completely, especially considering that I am not an OwnVoices reader, but by the end of the novel I was able to understand more of characters’ motivations with some revelations, which put it all into perspective. I would recommend reading this book without expectation and some historical knowledge ( read about the Removal Act and Trail of Tears here ). The examination of trauma, grief, and the effect of colonialism on an entire people was so profound and worth a read.
CW: Drug and alcohol use, addiction, racism, assault, police shooting resulting in death, gun violence, graphic depiction of colonization (Trail of Tears, removal), allusions to suicide.
Have you heard of any of these books, do any of them sound like your cup of tea? Thanks for reading, hope you are having a lovely April!