An intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV

A fictional history of a 1970s Black rock singer with a complicated past.

Sunny has just been named the new editor-in-chief of the storied music magazine Aural—the first Black person and woman to hold the position—when a scoop falls into her lap. It’s 2015, and Opal Jewel, “the ebony-skinned provocateur, the fashion rebel, the singer/screecher/Afro-Punk ancestor,” is contemplating a reunion tour with her old musical partner, Nev Charles, an Englishman who’s since embarked on a successful solo career; Opal herself hasn’t performed live in more than 25 years. Sunny begins writing a book—this book, an oral history of Opal and Nev’s brief but iconic collaboration during the early '70s—and focuses particularly on the disastrous 1971 concert in which a racist mob kills Opal and Nev’s drummer, a Black man named Jimmy Curtis. Sunny’s interest in the story is more than merely professional: Curtis, she discloses in an "Editor’s Note" at the very beginning of the book, was her father—and Opal his mistress while Sunny’s mother was married to Curtis and pregnant with her. Nevertheless, the first section of the book bears all the hallmarks of a rigorously reported work of journalism. Sunny interviews everyone from the label’s receptionist to Opal’s stylist and stitches together quotes to form a multifaceted narrative of Opal and Nev’s rise. But as Sunny reconstructs the events leading up to her father’s death, she hears something that changes the story she thought she knew—and forces her to shed her protective, professional shell. Debut author Walton wields the oral history form with easy skill, using its suggestion of conversation and potential for humor to give her characters personality. “But also Virgil sold reefer. Everybody loves the reefer man,” Sunny quotes Opal saying about her stylist. Immediately after: “VIRGIL LAFLEUR: I styled ladies’ hair. That’s how I paid my bills. I don’t know what she’s told you.” And the author adeptly captures the particular tenor of discussions of race in the early '70s (Opal’s destruction of a Confederate flag sets off the fateful riot) and in the age of memes: The creator of one Opal GIF, Sunny muses, “understood the culture and the language and this current moment of Black exasperation, and was nodding to the eerie relevance of Opal Jewel in them.”

An intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982140-16-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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