Thursday, May 19, 2022

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Book Review

Book Reviews

4/6/2022

By Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
03/15/22
304 pages
$27
Doubleday Books

‘When We Were Birds’

I can write this review in one sentence: This might be the perfect magical realism novel; go read it. 

Yejide has a complicated relationship with her mother, to say the least. Bitterness and neglect and a strange family burden crack the mother-daughter relationship beyond repair. When her mother dies, Yejide is left adrift with an unwanted inheritance. She is now responsible for shepherding the dead souls in her city to the afterlife. She soon finds herself at the gates of Fidelis, Port Angeles’ oldest cemetery, where she meets Darwin, a soon-to-be gravedigger who has cut ties with his Rastafarian roots in order to provide for his family. Darwin and Yejide both have battles to fight with the past to find healing, love and what family really means. These powerful, beautiful characters lead the way into a soaring, immersive story that I literally couldn’t put down. 

This book is bittersweet, rapturous, immersive and oh-so-gorgeously written with not a single word out of place. Ayanna Lloyd Banwo has created a rich, tender and heartbreakingly human story that’s better than good; it’s truly magical. n 

— Review by Julie Goodrich

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

By Francesca May
03/29/22
432 pages
$28
Redhook

‘Wild and Wicked Things’

A retelling of “The Great Gatsby” with magic and gay witches? Sign me up. It’s always fun for me to find a new author doing interesting things with old stories. Some stories are so ubiquitous as to be engraved in our bones and lose their wonder in the bargain. In the right hands, though, something old is new again, teaching new lessons and sparking that old joy with a new sheen. 

Annie came back to Crow Island to settle her father’s affairs after his death. She didn’t come back to be roped into a decadent and slightly menacing crowd of wealthy, illegal magic users. Yet, her best friend Bea draws her in against her will, and suddenly murder, romance, secrets and dark magic all turn Annie’s world upside down.

Set in the post-WWI jazz age, where the wealthy seemed like almost another species, the addition of magic and unwise romance just add to the dark, lyrical writing to make a fantastic story. I adored this book and can’t wait to see what Francesca May does next. n 

— Review by Julie Goodrich

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