April Reading Wrap-Up

April was a very eclectic reading month for me this year! A handful of the books I read were for one of my uni classes on epic literature, so it was a little expansive for me — which is something I always enjoy! I’ve also been in such a variety of moods when it comes to what I choose to read next. Overall I read six books this past month (including audio). Onto my reviews!

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

The son of a drug king, seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter is negotiating life in Garden Heights as he balances school, slinging dope, and working two jobs while his dad is in prison. He’s got it all under control – until, that is, Mav finds out he’s a father. Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. Loyalty, revenge and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. So when Mav is offered the chance to go straight, it’s an opportunity – in a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing – to prove he’s different and figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. (Synopsis from Walker Books.)

I absolutely adored The Hate U Give and loved Maverick in particular, so I really enjoyed the insight into his more formative years. Concrete Rose is nothing like Starr’s story in THUG, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a story about different issues faced by economically downtrodden, obviously primarily Black, communities, but still with plenty of King Lord drama we’re familiar with. I enjoyed seeing how each character develops into who they are when they’re older in THUG, and seeing lil baby Seven and references to newborn characters I already know and loved.

House Magic by Aurora Kane

Home-healing spells and meditations-accompanied by more than 100 colourful and inspiring illustrations-give you everything you need to transform your home into a restorative and magical space. House Magic presents home protections for every living space that bring together the traditions of earth magic, meditation, herbalism, self-awareness, astrology, and feminist spirituality. (Synopsis from Booktopia.)

So I only post about my spiritual practice occasionally, but I do like to read books on witchcraft as well! As a lot of my spirituality revolves around physical space and home activities, House Magic was a no-brainer for me to pick up. This is a super useful reference book to have on hand for all kinds of magical practice around the house, although most of the information is brief and some of the spells are more personal reflections than any real manifesting. The illustrations are simply gorgeous and I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this in my home-based practice.

Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

Uprooted from Bath by his father’s failures, Gideon Belman finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, Gideon finds his only comforts in the land. Gideon will live or die by the Orme, as all his family has. (Synopsis from Goodreads.)

A short and sharp story with a heavy-hearted protagonist that hits a number of dark emotional notes. This is one of the books I read for class, so I wasn’t super in the mood for this kind of read. The story is good, but sometimes feels a little empty, at least between the major events that thrust Gideon into the next phase of his story. Overall worth the read, but I’m glad it was only a short novella.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. (Synopsis from Goodreads.)

This is such a sweet and heartfelt fantasy epic with a friendship between two misunderstood souls (not the villains or monsters the so-called heroes say they are!) at its heart. I very easily became attached to the titular Nimona, whose fun-loving personality and repressed darkness give her a beautiful sense of dimension for the fairly short arc of the story. I also love the subtle queer representation throughout the book, and its bittersweet finale.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city in the grip of chaos. At its heart is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang – a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love . . . and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns – and grudges – aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule. (Synopsis from Hachette.)

First of all wow that ending really left me reeling and legitimately screaming through the house because damn. This book has everything I could ask for — a Shakespeare classic retold in a wildly different setting that still just works, a badass bloodthirsty female protagonist and her softboy partner in literal crime, gangs, enemies-to-lovers trope, magical realism, political intrigue. Wow. I loved it so much. I’m so looking forward to Our Violent Ends and further work from Gong in the future.

Azadi by Arundhati Roy

Azadi—Urdu for Freedom—is the refrain in the iconic chant of the Kashmiri freedom struggle. And now, while Kashmir’s streets have been silenced, the irony is that its people’s anthem, with similar lyrics, rhythm and cadence, echoes on the streets of the country that most Kashmiris view as their coloniser. What lies between the silence of one street and the sound of the other? Is it a chasm, or could it become a bridge? (Synopsis from Goodreads.)

Arundhati Roy’s collection of essays on the fight for freedom and the rise of fascism in the Indian subcontinent, and the power of language in shaping people’s ideas about the social structures of power is a compelling read. Not only does Roy paint a fierce picture of political struggle but also explores how the language of struggle can play a role in shifting the reading of history itself, and asks whether or not this language will bring separate struggles together, or keep them apart.

My full review for Azadi is up on an earlier post.

Published by Leigh Briar

Leigh Briar lives and writes on Kaurna land. Her current Honours thesis in creative writing explores the evolving representation of transgender narratives in YA fiction. In 2021 her short story 'Entirely Perfect in (Almost) Every Way' was highly commended in the Feast Festival Short Story Competition. ‘Last Call’, a collaborative short story anthology produced by the Flinders creative writing class of 2021 and featuring Leigh’s story ‘Dreams in the Deep’ is due to be published late 2022 by Glimmer Press.

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