Hello everyone, and welcome back! I hope you’re all enjoying your April so far and had a beautiful Easter yesterday!🌻 Before anything, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for all the support you showed me on my previous post. Reading your comments and responding to them warmed my heart, brightened my day, and thoroughly renewed my love for this incredible community. So thank you ❤️
But why am I back today, you ask? To share some long-overdue mini-reviews of three of my recent reads! This is a pretty varied bunch — we have a poetry collection, a hard-hitting contemporary, and the most recent book from a hugely popular YA author. So hopefully there’ll be something for everyone here! Fair warning that these so-called “mini” reviews do get a bit lengthy, so you might want to brace yourselves 😅
Without further ado, let’s get started!
AUTHOR: Daniel Ståhl
PUBLICATION: December 2020, self-published
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ½
Through its 211 interwoven poems, this double-tiered recursive crown of sonnets takes the reader on an epic journey to the heart of mankind’s would-be nemesis – herself – and back again. Does her destiny await in the unexplored depths of the cosmos, or in a toxic wasteland of her own making? Does she have the will to shape her own future, or is she a slave to her myopic wants and impulses? (via Goodreads)
Trigger warnings: N/A.
- Sex: N/A.
- Violence: 1.5, on a scale from 1 to 5. Discussion of warfare.
- Language: 1, on a scale from 1 to 5. No profanity, and if I’m recalling correctly, one or two vulgar terms scattered throughout.
- Other things to note: Some of the poems depict (excessive) religious zeal as a waste of time. Additionally, as you might imagine from the blurb, this entire collection is rather somber. It talks about world destruction, nuclear holocaust, and loss of loved ones, among other things, so if that sounds disturbing, you might want to proceed with caution.
Thank you so much to the author for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Requiem is a compilation of 200+ interwoven Shakespearean sonnets that reflects on the dire state of humankind and its future. It discusses a variety of different topics, including but not limited to environmental destruction, armed conflict, the refugee situation, screen addiction, nuclear war, and the legacy we’ll be leaving behind to our descendants. When the author first reached out to me about reading and reviewing this book, I jumped at the chance to explore a form of poetry different from what I was used to — and for the most part, Requiem did not disappoint. Ståhl tackles difficult topics with tact and manages to express his ideas in more or less consistent iambic pentameter, an ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme, and powerful imagery, all of which I found incredibly impressive. The subject matter was also very thought-provoking. This is definitely a rather depressing collection, but the glimpses of hope that the poet gives us kept me afloat through all 211 poems, some of which got really dark and nihilistic.
However — and this is maybe a it’s not you, it’s me thing — I did feel like the collection was just really… long? It took me over a month to finish the whole thing and the reason it didn’t take longer is just because I forced myself to binge-read once I got to day 40 😅 Poetry is not a genre that I often venture into, so that may have been why I wasn’t really feeling the chemistry. But objectively, I can say with confidence this is a remarkable piece of art that Ståhl has created, and I have a feeling the message of these poems will remain with me for a long, long time.
Our ark will founder, though we know not howCrown IX, Requiem
The light will darken, though we know not when
Our questions all in vain — sometime, somehow
But one remains: Will we regret it, then?
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”Matthew 24:36 NIV
The quote I included above really got me thinking as I was reading this book, especially because it echoes Jesus’s teachings about the end times. In the end, we have no idea of knowing how or when everything will end. All we can do is continue to live our best lives so that we can stand in front of God’s throne without shame when the time comes.
TITLE: When We Were Infinite
AUTHOR: Kelly Loy Gilbert
GENRE: Contemporary (YA)
PUBLICATION: March 2021, Simon & Schuster
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ½
All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends — Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou — to stay together. With her family splintered and her future a question mark, these friends are all she has — even if she sometimes wonders if she truly fits in with them. Besides, she’s certain she’ll never be able to tell Jason how she really feels about him, so friendship will have to be enough.
Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. Beth and her friends make a pact to do whatever it takes to protect Jason, no matter the sacrifice. But when even their fierce loyalty isn’t enough to stop Jason from making a life-altering choice, Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.
From award-winning author Kelly Loy Gilbert comes a powerful, achingly romantic drama about the secrets we keep, from each other and from ourselves, perfect for fans of Permanent Record and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. (via Goodreads)
Trigger warnings: Suicide attempt, conversations about suicide, instances of suicidal ideation (thank you to the author for listing these out at the beginning of the book!); child abuse, panic attacks, microaggressions, racism.
- Sex: 2, on a scale from 1 to 5. Discussion of sex and consent, as well as some kissing.
- Violence: 3, on a scale from 1 to 5. One of the main characters is physically assaulted by his father. A suicide attempt by one of the characters plays a large role in the storyline.
- Language: 3, on a scale from 1 to 5. Scattered instances of swear words/profanity (including a variety of four-letter words), as well as taking of God’s name in vain.
- Other things to note: One of the main characters identifies as pansexual, and there are a few discussions about sexuality and the LGBTQ community.
When I finished When We Were Infinite, I put my Kindle down in front of me and thought to myself, This book was not for me. And I don’t mean it in a critical way, like the writing style and I didn’t mesh (the writing style was gorgeous) or the characters felt two-dimensional (absolutely not). What I mean is that this book literally wasn’t written for me; I’m not this book’s intended audience. It was written for the non-white young women who’ve ever felt like they’ll never be enough, who cut away pieces of themselves so that people won’t look at them weird or leave them. Who hold desperately onto the people they love and try to forget all their hurts in the warm glow of reciprocation. It was written to tell those girls that it’s okay to be angry, and that it’s okay to want more for themselves.
While I am an Asian-American teenage girl, I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with an incredibly supportive network of loved ones, and by nature, I’m somebody who doesn’t accept less than what I’m due. So taking that all into account, I’m not exactly the right person to be tearing this book apart for feeling “unrelatable” or “unrealistic.” I will say, though, that the plot felt unbearably slow at times and the constant onslaught of heavy subject matter did get a bit exhausting after a while. Also, this is very rarely a problem for me, but my eyes were dry as a desert for like 99% of the book, which is never a good thing by my standards. But again, I attribute this to not being the intended audience, since I’ve been reading a lot of really emotional reviews. On the positive side, I loved the messages about friendship and second chances, as well as the relationships between the different characters. And the ending was absolute perfection. (Beth and Jason aghhhhhh)
As you might be able to tell by my very conflicted thoughts, I’m afraid I won’t have a clear-cut answer for you if you’re making up your mind about whether or not you should read this book. You should definitely go check out May @ Forever and Everly’s review for another perspective.
[…] Maybe in a long friendship everyone is an infinite number of different versions of themselves, and all those selves of you that you shed or grow out of, the ones you’re glad you’ve evolved from and the ones you miss—in a long friendship there’s someone who was witness to all of them, and so all those different people you were along the way, no matter what else you may have been, you were never alone.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Psalm 139:14 NIV
When you are grappling with low self-esteem or doubting the worth of your existence, like various characters do in When We Were Infinite, remember this: God created you, and He says that you are good in His sight. Don’t let anything else define you.
TITLE: Concrete Rose
AUTHOR: Angie Thomas
GENRE: Contemporary (YA)
PUBLICATION: January 2021, HarperCollins
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.
If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.
Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.
Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.
Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.
When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. (via Goodreads)
Trigger warnings: Gang life, cheating, depression (postpartum), gun violence, racism, imprisonment, murder & attempted murder, death of a close family member (on-page), grief & loss depiction, sex (fade-to-black), smoking & drug use, teen pregnancies, abortion (mentioned, considered), substance addiction, toxic masculinity (general theme, challenged).
- Sex: 4, on a scale from 1 to 5. Teen characters have sex (fade-to-black), both with and without protection; several teen pregnancies; discussions of birth control and abortion.
- Violence: 4, on a scale from 1 to 5. Multiple characters are shot to death; discussions of gang violence and murder.
- Language: 4.5, on a scale from 1 to 5. You can always count on Angie Thomas to (1) make you cry, and (2) use LOTS of profanity. A variety of four-letter words and vulgar terms are used, as well as the n-word.
- Other things to note: The author identifies as a Christian. There is one major side character who is revealed to be a bisexual. Additionally, Catholic opposition to abortion is portrayed negatively at a certain point. Drugs are sold, used, and dealt as a gang activity.
In this prequel to The Hate U Give, Maverick Carter is a seventeen-year-old who’s trying to live up to his father’s legacy as a gang legend, when he suddenly finds out that he’s a father himself. Anybody in this situation would be shocked and stressed, but even more so for Maverick, because his baby’s mother has upped and ghosted, his girlfriend isn’t talking to him, and on top of that, the drug-dealing operation he’s part of isn’t going to run itself.
So, yeah. Maverick isn’t exactly in the best place when we meet him. But somehow he’s still managed to cement himself in my heart as one of my all-time favorite characters. He’s flawed and definitely messes up a lot during this book, but the way he tries so hard to hide his vulnerability is just so heartbreaking and lovable. He’s overwhelmed by all the mistakes he’s made and there’s obviously the fact that he’s practically been given sole custody of a months-old baby… and I just *asdfghj* love him okay?? 😭 And his character arc is amazing. He’s been taught all his life that he has to “man up” and repress his emotions in order to survive systems that weren’t made with Black young men in mind. The way he grows into himself and learns that his emotions are just as valid as anybody else’s are — okay I should stop before I actually make myself cry.
Angie Thomas’s writing is incredible, as always. I had tears in my eyes for at least 70% of the book, especially after the “brutal murder of a loved one” that’s hinted at in the blurb. And omg Mav’s love for baby Seven. The pure sweetness of it all made me tear up on more than one occasion.
Can’t lie, I’m as scared as I was that first day I held him. Don’t know if that feeling gon’ ever go away. Forget the world; he should have the sun, the moon, and all the stars, and they wouldn’t be enough. I’m definitely not. I’m a gangbanging, high school [redacted] who only seventeen. But you can bet that I’m gon’ do my best to be whatever he need.
I dare you to say that didn’t put a smile on your face. I dare you.
A few last points in this hot mess of a review — in bullet points, because I’m just too far gone to make coherent paragraphs:
- My admiration of Lisa’s strength and tenacity only grew in this book. I have to say though, I was not a fan of how she never seemed to cut Maverick some slack?? Mav was obviously in the wrong in certain situations (like the fact he literally had a baby with another girl), but in others, it felt like she had some really unrealistic expectations. But then again, this may just be my Mav-obsessed heart speaking.
- Also, I sort of detest Carlos?? He was okay in THUG, but wow. He’s not even trying in this book.
- Mav’s relationship with Mr. Wyatt and his father 🥰
- THAT DEAR MARTIN CAMEO. JUSTYCE WITH A Y. I SEE YOU, ANGIE THOMAS.
- Cameos from baby versions of the THUG cast of characters. And the story behind Seven and Starr’s names 😍
- This is probably never going to happen but now I really want a book from Seven’s POV 🥺
“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.”
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18 NIV
Mav experiences a really tough time in Concrete Rose when one of his closest loved ones is killed. If you’re going through a similar period of grief, I hope this verse can comfort you in some way. Sending you love 💕
Well, that’s it for today! I’d love to know what you think of this post in the comments! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Or if you haven’t, are any of them on your TBR?
Before I close, I have a quick announcement. My one-year blogiversary is fast approaching (!!!) and I also recently reached 300 followers (!!!) 🥳 Thank you so, so much to all of you for the love you’ve shown me — joining this community is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made ❤️ I didn’t want to pass over this *momentous occasion* without doing something for my readers, so I’m thinking of doing a Q&A-style thing sometime soon (hopefully in time for my actual blogiversary, but knowing me, that’s a bit of a stretch 😅)! If you have any questions you’d like me to answer, please leave them in this Google form (let me know if the link doesn’t work) or feel free to comment them down below!
Thank you so much for reading 💖