Hello everyone, and happy Tuesday! Today, I’m trying something a bit different from my usual review. I am so behind in reviewing the books that I’ve read, so I decided to bring you a collection of mini-reviews for several books I’ve recently finished. It’s my first time writing mini-reviews, so I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing 😂, but bear with me as I get the hang of this. One major change from a full-length review is that instead of giving the usual segment from Abby the Christian Bookworm, I’ll be adding a Bible verse that reminded me of the book in question at the end of each mini-review.
In other news, all three of the books here were added to my TBR through lists of YA books by Black authors that circulated when the #BlackLivesMatter protests were at their peak. It’s such a cool coincidence that I got to read these books in quick succession.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
TITLE: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
AUTHOR: Roseanne A. Brown
GENRE: Fantasy, romance, young adult
PUBLICATION: June 2020 by HarperCollins
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ½
OFFICIAL BLURB & TRIGGER WARNINGS
The first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
TW: Self-harm ideation, fantasy violence, emotional & physical abuse, anxiety, panic attacks, parent death, animal death (A big thank you to Ms. Brown for being considerate enough to include content warnings at the beginning of this book!) | Trigger Warning Database
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a West African-inspired fantasy that is lush with culture and mythology. We follow two main characters over the course of Solstasia, a weeklong festival: Malik, a desperate refugee searching for a home for his family, and Karina, the Crown Princess on the verge of falling apart after losing one family member too many. I loved the storyline. The rapid twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel. I could, however, guess some of the major plot twists from the very beginning, but that didn’t detract from my reading experience. I never knew which way the author would the characters next, and I loved that. But what I appreciated most was that the author never once sacrificed plot for character development.
Both Malik and Karina go through grief, feelings of unworthiness, fear, and resentment, and their pain was tangible as each of them were faced with one difficult decision after another. Each of their personalities was so well-developed. Karina masks her self-doubt and fear beneath a combative nature and her reckless actions. And Malik is an anxious Soft Marshmallow™️ who experiences several panic attacks over the course of the story. And — get this — he’s not ashamed of his emotions. It was so refreshing reading about a male character who just lets himself cry when he feels like it. Too many times in YA, guys crying serves as some kind of plot point and major turning point for the character development. I’m not saying that trope doesn’t have its highs, but we absolutely need more characters like Malik in books.
Obviously, Karina’s stabbiness and Malik’s softness make for some intense chemistry. I am rooting for them, although the way this book ended is giving me some serious worries over where this OTP will end up. Add everything I’ve mentioned so far to beautiful writing and rich mythology, and you’ve got a new favorite on your hands. Highly recommend this book.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4 NIV
Malik and Karina struggle with fear and worry all throughout this book. But God is always there for you. He is God Almighty, and He loves you. He will take care of you.
TITLE: The Voting Booth
AUTHOR: Brandy Colbert
GENRE: Contemporary, romance, young adult
PUBLICATION: July 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ⭑ ¾
OFFICIAL BLURB & TRIGGER WARNINGS
From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also A Star.
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.
Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change — but some things are just meant to be.
TW: Loss of a loved one (sibling), racism (discussed)
The Voting Booth follows two Black teens on their first Election Day who each have different reasons for voting: Marva, who’s been looking forward to this day her entire life, and Duke, laden with grief over the death of his activist brother. Over the course of one eventful day, Marva and Duke skip school, look for Marva’s missing cat, and confront messy relationships with significant others and family, on their journey to do one thing: vote. This book is a charming story charged with a passion for social justice and a lovely romance on the side. I loved that the romance wasn’t progressed at a snap of the fingers. The romance in this book is significantly different from The Sun is Also A Star, which it was pitched as. While the one book focuses on fate and how the two characters were meant to be, The Voting Booth’s romance is subtle, respectful of previous relationships, and realistically developed. It made for an enjoyable read unencumbered by unnecessary romantic angst.
I also especially loved Duke’s family’s relationship and how his grief over his late brother was discussed. There was one scene where Duke’s family resolved their misunderstandings in the aftermath of their loss, and I was surprised to find tears sliding down my face. Other than that, I did have trouble connecting to Marva and Duke individually and thus wasn’t quite as immersed in the story as I could have been. But overall, The Voting Booth is a lovely story perfect for those passionate about making a difference.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4 NIV
God doesn’t abandon you in your time of need. Whether you’re mourning for a loved one, like Duke’s family, or going through a difficult period in your life, God is there for you, when you call on Him.
TITLE: A Love Hate Thing
AUTHOR: Whitney D. Grandison
GENRE: Contemporary, romance, young adult
PUBLICATION: January 2020 by Harlequin
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ⭑
OFFICIAL BLURB & TRIGGER WARNINGS
When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.
When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the wealthy coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the rough streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, much less how the rest of his life will play out.
Golden girl Nandy Smith has spent most of her life building the pristine image that it takes to fit in when it comes to her hometown Pacific Hills where image is everything. After learning that her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames.
Now with Trice living under the same roof, the wall between their bedrooms feels as thin as the line between love and hate. Beneath the angst, their growing attraction won’t be denied. Through time, Trice brings Nandy out of her shell, and Nandy attempts to melt the ice that’s taken Trice’s heart and being. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.
TW: Domestic abuse, blood, loss of a loved one (parent, grandparent), murder, sex, gun violence, trauma, racial profiling
Judging by the title alone, it should be obvious that A Love Hate Thing features the enemies-to-lovers romance trope. Our players are: Trice, a hardened teen from the streets of Lindenwood, and Nandy, Pacific Hills’s it girl. They despise each other. Obviously, living in the same house poses some problems for maintaining the hostility between the two. 😉 At its heart, A Love Hate Thing is a sweet and inspirational love story. Trice’s character was thoroughly fleshed out, and I loved reading about his healing journey after the traumatic events that thrust him into Pacific Hills in the first place. I do have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to Nandy. I mean, from the moment this girl said “oh my G,” I could definitely understand Trice’s disgust for Pacific Hills. But her character showed some depth as we progressed into the middle of the book, and by the end of it all, I could at least tolerate her. The ending was another part that I really enjoyed. I definitely did not see that plot twist coming.
But the juvenile writing style as well as the overabundant amount of teen drama that moved the plot forward prevented me from loving this book as much as I could have. To illustrate my problem with the author’s writing: The phrase “causing me to” is used on virtually every single page, if not paragraph. She smiled, causing me to smile back. He almost died, causing him to stay in the hospital. I dropped a totally random tray of vanilla-flavored cupcakes, causing him to laugh at me. ARGHHHH. And what is up with these people and bowing their heads? She bowed her head. I bowed my head. He bowed his head. ASDFASD;LGKHA;ILDFJS. To sum it up: A Love Hate Thing is a classic case of plot and characters being more or less up to par, but the writing style diminishing the reading experience.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.Ephesians 2:21-22 NIV
You are precious in God’s sight. Throughout A Love Hate Thing, Trice continually puts himself in danger in the name of loyalty to his past. But our bodies are a dwelling place for God’s Spirit, and taking care of yourself is a way of honoring God’s name.
That’s it for today! Sorry if this was a bit all over the place 😅 Now, your turn! Have you read these books? What did you think of them? Chat with me in the comments!