Blog Tour | The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1) by Ashia Monet

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ARC provided by the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

“The magic wakes at midnight. It arrives in the form of a song.”

The Black Veins is a YA debut that you are not going to want to miss. This story is set in an alternate version of our world, where a young girl and her family have planted secure roots to protect themselves, their home, and their magic. They run a magical coffee shop that only other magic wielders can see, because if you speak about magic to Common people, the Erasers will come and… erase you. You will never be heard from again, and they are always watching. But the world seems relatively safe.

That is, until one night when Blythe, our main character, is dreaming about a voice in her head, one that is also trying to get her to do something that she does not want to do. Blythe has always known that she was destined to do great things with her magic, even if she doesn’t harness that magic yet. But after her family is attacked and kidnapped, she is forced to get any and all help that she can.

And in this world, there are two magical governments, and a war is beginning:

Black Veins – Old government, who rules the majority, and they have a city called Frost Glade which is supposed to be the safest city of them all, where the Sages’ castle sits.

Trident Republic – New government, the rebels, and they only have one city: Electric City.

And there are seven types of magic that magicians can harness. Yet, when Blythe and six others were little, their families ensured that they would do great things with their magic, but setting them on the path to one day be the Seven Guardians:

Blythe – Ether Guardian. Black, bisexual, and willing to do anything to get her family back.

Cordelia – Mind Guardian. Chinese, great at hacking and coding, and has always worked extremely too hard at being perfect.

Daniel – Nature Guardian. Very sheltered, because his parents have kept him exclusively on their property for most of his life. Oh, and something may be following him.

Antonio – Animal Guardian. Puerto Rican, queer, and the sweetest cinnamon roll and bright light. Oh, and he has wings!

Storm – Time Guardian. Black, and has a secret mission of her own and she is always on rollerblades. And she was probably my favorite character besides Blythe.

Caspian – Death Guardian. Trans, asexual, and who has many secrets and much more story to be told.

Jay – Body Guardian. Black, bisexual, and very charming. Also, he comes from a very famous and prestigious family.

And…

Katia – Lead Imperial Advisor for the Sages, and she is supposed to locate and transport all seven kids to Frost Glade safely, even if they would rather go to Electric City.

And Blythe feels like if she can get this group together, she just might stand a chance at being able to rescue her family from this rebelling government. And we are whisked away on the adventure alongside her, where she will travel all over the country via the Tempore, which is a magical forest that folds time and space and can teleport you quickly around the world, but it is temporarily shut down and a huge risk to use.

I promise you that you will fall in love with ALL of these characters. And I truly think that it’s a testament to Ashia Monet’s talent and craft that they were able to evoke so much emotion and empathy from me over every single one of their characters.

This is obviously a very inclusive story, and it is ownvoices for the Black, queer, and nonbinary rep. There is a side character who you meet (and will also fall in love with) named Jamie, who is Black, nonbinary, and adopted. This book truly just has so much good in it, I wish I could put it into so many hands, and it was nothing short of a joy to read.

I really do think that the heart of this first installment is family, both blood and found, and the things one is willing to do to protect that family. There is no stronger force in this universe than unconditional love, and Blythe proves that from the first to the last page. Throughout the entire novel Blythe proves that her family is her world, but we also get to see this ragtag group somehow also find room inside her heart.

Yet, I also think this is a story about being brave, and how bravery can take so many shapes and forms. Sometimes the only way to feel like you’re brave is to try your best, sometimes it’s to feel safe, sometimes its to not let anyone in, and sometimes it’s to magically travel across the country to recuse your family. There is no right way to be brave and I really loved seeing all these teens truly be some of the bravest characters I’ve ever read.

“Once upon a time, a young girl lost her family and discovered a new one.”

Overall, I just loved this. I loved the story, being on a magical road-trip adventure was everything, I loved the characters, and was rooting so hard for Blythe and her hockey stick, I loved the twists and turns that occurred throughout, I loved the magic system and how it was complex but familiar at the same time, and I obviously loved how inclusionary this book was, too. Oh, and I’m biased, and I loved spending a little time in Vegas as well. But I just recommend this story with my whole heart and soul, and I really hope you all will give it a try, because it truly is such a magical debut and a bright shining star in 2019 releases.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and Trigger Warnings:
(This is all from the author at the start of the book and… what a blessing!)

Discussion of deceased parents, siblings, and potential parental and familial death Description of mild bloodshed in violent scenes
Mention of drugs and drug use, primarily marijuana
Gun use Supernatural horror in the form of monsters, primarily found in Chapters 6, 12, and 25
Car accident in Chapter 19
Discussion of anxiety disorders and panic disorders primarily found in Chapters 22, 23, and 25
Racial n-word slur, ending in-a, found in Chapter 21 (before you drag me, yes, I am Black)
Mild anxiety attack in Chapter 25.

✨ Thank you so much CW @ The Quiet Pond for putting together this blog tour. I was so very honored to be a part of it and to help celebrate this beautiful story.

✨ BONUS: Ashia is doing a really cool thread on Twitter, where they are breaking down the characters way better than I did, letting you know their astrological signs, and they are also showing off some breathtaking art, too! I really recommend checking it out!

✨ Buddy read with Fadwa ~ فدوى from Word Wonders! ❤

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Four Paths had its charms, if you could ignore the fact that it was also a monster prison she apparently had some ancestral obligation to deal with.”

This is a really hard review for me to write, because this book had some of my favorite things of all time; lyrical and beautiful writing that I could nonstop highlight, an atmosphere setting that gives me goosebumps even just thinking about, a mystery all surrounding what hides in the dark depths of the forest, and a very diverse cast of characters. Like, damn. But if this isn’t the first review of The Devouring Gray you’ve read, yes, all the Riverdale and Stranger Things comparisons are all valid. I kind of think The Raven Cycle one is a bit of stretch, but I can kind of see it. But this debut novel really impressed me, and I can’t wait to see what the author does next.

But The Devouring Gray follows four teens in upstate New York, all living in a little secluded town called Four Paths. And in this mysterious forest town, four families are held to a higher standard, because their descendants were the reason the town is protected from the Beast who hunts them. And all the descendants are able to harness the powers that should be passed down through their bloodline, but only if they survive a ritual pertaining to their ancestor. But now the town is under attack, and all hope is with four teens who are the descendants that are needed for survival, yet they might not be ready to provide protection for themselves, or anyone else, just yet.

“in eighteen forty-seven, a group of settlers seeking a new life in upstate New York decided to end their pilgrimage here. On this day, we celebrate the leaders of that group—Thomas Carlisle, Lydia Saunders, Richard Sullivan, and Hetty Hawthorne.”

Harper Carlisle – Missing one arm from the elbow down after her ritual to harness her powers went wrong, and holding a grudge over someone who used to be her best friend but wanted nothing to do with her after her accident. Also, her father is a predominant figure in the safety of the town. Also, also, a warrior babe who can wield many weapons.

Violet Saunders – Bisexual, just moving to Four Paths after the death of her sister and trying to learn to live with an astronomical amount of grief, while also learning that she has a hidden bloodline she never knew about. Also, piano playing goddess.

Isaac Sullivan – Bisexual, living on his own after the rest of his family died in an accident. He is also Justin’s best friend, a broody reader babe, and he has the best and most scary power of them all. Also, he was easily my favorite character.

Justin Hawthorne – The popular boy, who has the most powerful family in town, even though he feels like he must always do what his mother (also the sheriff of the town) wants, even though he is keeping a very big secret from her. Side note, I would die for his sister, May, my tarot card reading baby.

“Powers or not, he was still a Hawthorne. He would find a way to keep Four Paths safe.”

Yet, even though these are the four main characters, we have so many side characters, too! And this, in addition to the fact that the story jumps points of view a lot, I just feel like I never truly cared about any of the characters, even though I didn’t have a problem with any of them. I mean, it really is a strange feeling, because I can mentally break down that these are the four main characters, but while reading the chapter switching just makes me feel like I’m reading ASOIAF or something else that feels like we are given so many different points of view. I feel like this was the biggest factor that kept me from loving this book; I never truly got to know any of these characters because of the way the story jumps around.

Also, if I’m being honest the Beast and the Gray felt too much like Stranger Things to me, but also with not enough explanation. I obviously am here for a good mystery, but I think seeing more of this parallel world, the mysterious creature and its powers, would have really benefited the story by filling in some much-needed gaps and made the situation feel scarier and more high-risk. Like, I was honestly convinced that some type of humans or other beings were going to reside in this world! Or we were going to fully understand the powers and what this thing was capable and not capable of! I don’t know, the concept is just so amazing, but I felt really let down by the biggest risk factor of the story.

But I still loved watching all these teens learn how to find their powers and learn how to use their powers. I loved seeing them grow, both apart and together. I loved seeing all the different friendship roots; both brand new and old ones healing. I loved seeing how these four handled grief and trauma all very differently but still all very validly. And I loved to see all of these teens realize they are worth a hell of a lot more than the past mistakes of the ancestors they are forced to live up to.

“Something inside Violet had cracked the day Rosie died. There was an abscess in her chest, a gaping hole in the back of her skull. A place for evil things to slip right in.”

Overall, I really loved the ownvoices queer rep, and the atmosphere and setting were truly nothing short of amazing. I do want to mention that the main relationships in this are not f/f, but there are lots of hints at side f/f relationships! Also, even though I could never truly connect with the story, I still think there is so much good here. And I think many readers will still really enjoy this one upon release. But that epilogue ending made me audibly gasp that made my cat give me angry eyes for waking her! Is this the start of a series? Because I am totally down with reading whatever Christine Lynn Herman comes up with next, but especially with this setting as a backdrop.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for loss of a loved one, a lot of talk of death, murder, grief and trauma depictions, violence, abandonment, talk of rituals and self-sacrifice, and assault.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

“Is it possible you willfully forgot about the biggest international event of the year because you don’t want to see your arch nemesis?”

I honestly do not think that any book has made me happier than Red, White & Royal Blue, ever. I laughed, I swooned, I cried, but, most importantly, I finished the last page and felt such a powerful amount of hope that transcends any amount of words that I could possibly string together for this review. This is easily the best debut novel I’ve ever read, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it ends up being my favorite book of the entire year.

First off, in this story, the characters are living in a world where the President of the United States is a democratic woman who was elected after Obama, and her 2020 reelection is quickly approaching. And I just need to take a minute to… *cries forever*! But this book really focuses on two young men, who happen to be very much in the media’s spotlight 24/7, because of the families they were born into. Oh, and one of them happens to be the First Son of the President, and up until this point he thought he was straight, that is until he finally is forced to spend time with his arch nemesis. And I’ll be damned, but this book made me simultaneously believe in love and believe in America.

Alexander Gabriel Claremont-Diaz – The First Son, who is quickly realizing that he is bisexual, but slowly coming out to those he feels safe with. Alex is also biracial (Mexican and white) and (thanks to my beautiful friend Alienor) confirmed to have ADHD!

“Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.”

Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor – A Prince of England, who is closeted gay to many in his family (and to all media), because he constantly feels the weight of the expectations placed on him by his family and his country.

“O, fathers of my bloodline! O, ye kings of olde! Take this crown from me, bury me in my ancestral soil. If only you had known the mighty work of thine loins would be undone by a gay heir who likes it when American boys with chin dimples are mean to him.”

Alex has followed Henry and his fame long before his mother became president. But at the start of this novel, both men officially meet, but quickly get into a very messy predicament at a royal wedding they were both attending, which ends up being a PR nightmare for both countries, but especially for Alex’s mom, who is up for reelection. So, they are both kind of forced to fake a friendship to appease the press to save face. But a fake friendship quickly turns to a romance, that leaves both men questioning what they are willing to risk, while the press is always watching.

“First, you’ve been, like, Draco Malfoy–level obsessed with Henry for years—do not interrupt me—and since the royal wedding, you’ve gotten his phone number and used it not to set up any appearances but instead to long-distance flirt with him all day every day.”

I also wanted to make sure that I stated in my review that the author is queer (I believe they ID as bisexual, like Alex!) And even though Alex and Henry are obviously queer in their m/m relationship, this book also has such a beautiful and full cast of diverse side characters! I’m completely willing to give my life for June, Nora, Pez, and Bea, right this very second.

Like, I absolutely loved the side characters in this book. Also, you all know that I am always here for strong sibling relationships, and this book has that in spades! Alex’s family in general was everything to me; both of his parents being so supportive and always putting him (and his pace) first really meant a lot to me and makes me so soft just thinking about it. Seriously, this book is found family and blood family goals.

The banter and one-liners were perfection. This author completely understands what it is like to speak and text in your twenties, and they have mastered the craft to perfection. I was either cackling like a banshee or clutching my pearls with heart eyes during all of Alex and Henry’s exchanges. Also, since there is an ocean in-between these two, they correspond a lot of the time through emails, all of which added five years to my life.

Speaking of those emails, the romance in this is just truly a tier above the rest! The dynamic that Henry and Alex are forced into, and then the new dynamics they are forced to overcome, makes for something that you can’t help but root for with everything in your soul. Also, they are truly polar opposites with their personalities, but seeing them together truly feels like you are witnessing soulmates interact. I hate to say this but, your OTP could never.

And obviously because of the setup of this novel, this book does not shy away from US politics, and you should for sure know that going in. But the most tears I shed in this book was when Alex talked about what he felt like to be a biracial kid, and how America truly is a melting pot of immigrants and how that is something beautiful, and should be celebrated, not shamed and something that people consider to be a crime.

This is a book about two men, both in their early- twenties, discovering what they want for their lives and for their countries. Both for themselves and together. In a world that is cruelly unaccepting to anyone who isn’t white and straight, or who are just deemed different. They find friendship, they find love, and they find their voices. And to this Filipino American, pansexual, whose grandparents are both immigrants, who a lot of times really struggles to find their own voice, it meant the world to me. I’ll carry this book with me forever and always.

Overall, this book was just everything I’ve ever wanted. Put your library holds and preorders in now, because I know that so many readers are not only going to fall in love with this tale, but it is going to be one of their favorites for the rest of their lives. I promise you, it is truly that good, and this truly feels like a once in a lifetime book. Casey McQuiston has created something that is going to mean so much to so many readers, and this book is going to bring so much joy to our much-needed world. I’m just forever thankful that I was able to escape into it for a little while, while doing everything I can to make my country’s 2020 and on just as hopeful.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and Trigger Warnings for homophobia (always in a negative light), talk of racism in media, anxiety depiction, talk of cancer (pancreatic) in the past, talk of past loss of a loved one, talk of past drug use, talk of attempted sexual assault (very briefly) in the past from a very minor side character, and (in my opinion) outing. Also, this is a New Adult novel, so there are many sexual scenes throughout this book, even though they are fade to black for the most part!

❤ I also gush about this in my February Wrap Up on BookTube!

Buddy Read with Kerri from Kerri The Book Belle! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

Song of the Dead (Reign of the Fallen #2) by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Reign of the Fallen ★★★★

“I’m Odessa of Grenwyr, and the dead answer to me.”

If you’re looking for a f/f relationship to swoon over, with ownvoices bisexuality representation, and story that focuses on found family and unconditional love within healthy friendships, in a book that also has the cutest little dragon companion and filled with undead and necromancers, then please look no further than Song of the Dead

Seriously, friends, I loved this with my entire heart and soul. This is the concluding novel in this duology, the first book being Reign of the Fallen, but I am still not ready to say goodbye. Sarah has crafted something so beautiful, so powerful, and so important, that I truly hope we get to see more of these characters in the future. Especially since most of them have already stolen pieces of my heart.

In this second installment, the kingdom of Karthia is in a very different place than we originally saw it in Reign of the Fallen. Without going into spoilers, there may be new royalty, there may be new laws, and there may be new dangers that are now completely risking everything these characters have done to keep their kingdom safe.

Our main character, Odessa, is traveling the uncharted waters, discovering places she never knew, while also discovering herself and relearning what is important to her. Odessa is also trying to chart her heart and her relationship with Meredy, when they are both grieving the same person, but very differently.

This series very much touches on grief and trauma and learning to live with those two things. And how those two things may never ever go away, and that’s okay, but how you need to learn how to live with them, and how to live with a loss that may feel like it is currently impossible to live without. This is truly such a beautiful depiction, and it really meant a lot to me.

“I could never outrun myself. Without the pin, without even my name, I’d still be a fighter. I’d still be a commander of the dead. I’d still be a girl too in love with life to commit to death, even when it’s calling to me more strongly than ever before.”

Besides the mental health representation, there are many different sexual representations (including the word aromantic on page!), there are also characters of color, and disability representation (main side character who uses a cane) that I think is very well done, but I do not have any physical disabilities, so my voice doesn’t really matter on the subject! But I also feel like this book talks heavily about how important it is to not be closed off from other cultures and how detrimental the reality of that really can be. (You know, coming from a citizen whose president believes a wall will solve all their problems.)

This entire story just has so much good in it! And it is so fast paced and completely enthralling. I could read a million more books about these characters, set all over this world that Sarah has created. Hell, I could read a million more set in the Deadlands alone. I feel like this story just has so many elements and I had such a smile on my face while consuming this entire book.

Overall, this duology just means so much to me and I would literally die for the happiness of the sapphic ship in this! But from the amazing characters, to the important themes, to the beautiful prose; Sarah and these books are just a gift to the world. I truly hope you all pick up Reign of the Fallen for yourselves, and I hope you fall just as hard as I did.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for addiction, talk of loss of a loved one, mention of a plague, and heavy grief depiction.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“You may be born into a family, but you walk into friendships. Some you’ll discover you should put behind you. Others are worth every risk.”

Hey, friends! I’m so sorry! I really wanted to love this, but this just wasn’t a book for me. I think some of the lines were so beautiful, and I love the overall message of living your life, every day, to the fullest, but I just could never connect with this story the way that I know so many of my friends have.

They Both Die at the End is a story about two boys, who live in a world where technology will let you know when you will die within twenty-four hours. And sadly, two boys just received the call that informed them. And throughout the book we get to see how their lives intertwine and come together for their last day.

Trigger and content warnings for loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a friend, depictions of grief and trauma, violence, abuse, talk of animal death, a terrorist attack/murder suicide, suicide attempt, talk of suicide, and a whole lot of talk about death.

“Death is inevitable for everyone and it’s absolute for me today.”

Things that may have been a factor of why I didn’t like this book:

➽ I don’t like “magic systems” that aren’t explained. I never have, and I never will. This reads exactly like a contemporary with one unknown fantasy element. Also, I think it’s kind of cruel that they don’t give people the option of not knowing. Even if medical staff always knew, I think that a person should be able to pick if they want to know when they are going to die. But yeah, I needed to know how or why they were able to predict these deaths. Even if the answer was “oh my gosh, an alien came down and gave us this machine” because even that would have been enough for me.

➽ I honestly hated the ending with Mateo. And, again, I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough that a boy that has been living his life in a paranoid state would do that. I just, I just can’t believe it. I know it is a beautiful message about how we all don’t know how we are going to die, and it could be something easy or something we would never expect. But, like, it just felt really unpleasant to read.

➽ I really didn’t like reading about how people use Death-Cast to try to hook up with people they know are dying, probably because then they don’t have to come out. I get that itthat would totally happen in our world, but it still made my stomach sick to think about. Especially towards super young adults like Mateo and Rufus.

➽ I do not read a lot of contemporary. But right before this book I read Radio Silence and Autoboyography, both of which I gave five glowing stars to. That would hurt any book that I had to read after them, and I feel so bad that TBDATE had to be that book.

➽ A booktuber did a vlog of them upset after reading because the title was real. Which, like, I’m probably being all kinds of petty, but the title was always most likely going to be real. But because of the way this book is told kind of questioning Death-Cast and seeing all the people it is impacting, I think I might have been hopeful and enjoyed this more, if I didn’t have it *spoiled* for me.

What I did really like about this book:

➽ The writing. Adam’s writing is lyrical, but also very fast paced. Even though I didn’t love this book, it never felt like a chore to read. And there were so many quotable lines throughout this novel.

➽ I also really liked the cute romance that started to brew between these boys. And I’m always here for LGBTQIAP romances! I loved that Mateo was gay and that Rufus was bisexual. I also loved that both boys were people of color; Rufus being Cuban-American and Mateo being Puerto Rican.

➽ I loved every scene with Mateo’s dad. Call me a masochist, what can I say? Those scenes were one of two that made me cry. (The other being with Rufus talked about what happened to his family.) And I am actually hard pressed to think of anything sadder than waking up and finding out your child is no longer with you. But these scenes were so beautiful and gave me all the feels in the world.

➽ I liked seeing the random people that were just living their day along side Mateo and Rufus. When I look back, I feel like it might have been a tiny bit pointless, but I still really enjoyed the glimpses and thought they were so unique. And it really helps enforce that everyone has so much going on inside them, and that you’ll never know what crosses a person is bearing merely by sitting next to them in a subway.

➽ The message about how we really should be living our lives to the fullest and try to not live it being scared to die. I feel really impacted by both of these themes. Probably TMI (like always), but my father had a really bad heart attack (STEMI) a few years ago where they didn’t think he was going to make it. I immediately flew home, and I still feel a little bad at how much of an uncontrollable, weeping, hot mess I was all through LAS, but he was awake by the time I landed in Flint. And I ended up taking off work and staying an entire month to help take care of him, just spend time with my dad and not take it for granted. And I will never forget how thankful I was, or that feeling, for the rest of my life. But I also developed really bad panic attacks and anxiety where I feel like I’m having a heart attack at least once a week, still, a few years later. I don’t even know what I’m trying to stay, other than I connected with both of these boys, the one thankful for even twenty-four more hours, and the one that is scared to leave his bedroom.

➽ And since I just told you all the worst moment of my life, I will tell you another story about why this book did resonate with me. I’ve played World of Warcraft for over a decade, and a friend that I raided with for many, many years knew that he was dying because of cancer. We all had a little guild celebration for him before he quit, and after he (in game) mailed us so many of his prized wow possessions and wrote very kind letters attached. His wife let us know via Facebook when he passed away, and it broke me so very hard. But I will cherish that letter for the rest of my life, and my Darkmoon Rabbit that I named Davien (after him)!

Damn, friends, I think I got way too personal with those last paragraphs. Why am I like this? But overall, I am sad I didn’t love my first Adam Silvera book! But I’m going to keep reading his work(s) and hopefully fall in love. Again, I truly do connect with his writing style, so I have high hopes. I also just feel bad that I didn’t love this beloved book of so many of my friends. Also, you should check out their reviews, because I love them and this book meant a lot to them: May, Courtney, Lilly, Emma, Em, Sana, & Elise! You all know I hate writing “negative” reviews! So, I hope you all check out their reviews and celebrate them! Happy reading, loves!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Courtney at Curly Book Owl, May at Forever and Everly, & Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams! ❤

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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“…please just call me Radio. Radio Silence. I am, after all, only a voice on a radio, and there may not be anyone listening.”

Radio Silence is the best contemporary book I’ve ever read. Full stop. So, buckle in, because this is going to be a full-gush review, because this book was everything. And holy shit did it blow all my expectations out of the water.

I normally give a brief synopsis about the book I’m reviewing here, but Radio Silence almost feels too personal for me to even type this review, to be completely honest. But this is a book about a boy and girl and the different stages of their completely platonic friendship. We get to see them bond over a fandom, and we get to see them discover who they wish they could be.

Frances – Bisexual, biracial (Ethiopian and white), head girl at her high school, and an artist.
Aled – Gay, demisexual, creator of a up-and-coming podcast and Youtube channel.
Daniel – Gay, Korean immigrant, head boy at his high school.
Carys – Lesbian, Aled’s twin sister who has been missing for a while now.
Raine – Indian, selfless angel, who is probably queer, too.

And these five characters come together in this book and create something so beautiful that I don’t even have words for it. But this book can get pretty dark in certain places, so please use caution. Trigger and content warnings for talk of mental illness, implied depression, implied suicidal thinking, parental abuse, physical abuse, extreme invasions of privacy on social media and the internet, very hateful comments to a creator on the internet, and death of a pet.

“This hardly qualifies as a distress call anymore—by gods, if anyone was listening, I would have heard from you by now.”

First off, I want to talk about how people always hail Fangirl as the book they related to going into college, but I think Radio Silence does everything Fangirl does, but a million times better and more relatable. Both of these stories are about kids going into college, unsure of what they want out of life, both feeling like outcasts that can never truly be themselves. Both of these books even focus on fandoms and hidden identities. Hell, they even break up the mainstream story with stories from the fandom they love. The parallels are endless, and I’m not here to be negative about Fangirl, but I only thought that story was okay, where Radio Silence touched my heart and spoke to my soul.

We live in a world where our society puts so much pressure on kids to go to college. And I’m going to be really real with you all for a minute. My college? My parents picked. They knew before I was born I’d go to that college. My degree? My parents picked because science degrees get you jobs. The job I currently have? Because of that degree, not because of my wishes or wants. And I’m very privileged to have the education I have had, to go the college I went to, and to have the job that I currently have. But those core parts of my life were picked for me, and they have and will continue to impact my life forever. And that’s not just a reality for me, that’s a reality for so many people I know. And I’ve never read a book that confronts that the way Radio Silence does.

Radio Silence is a book about living your life for you. It’s okay to not know what you want, or who you even are, but you have to live your life for you. Society’s expectations, your parent’s expectations, your academic leader’s expectations, all of this can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. And it can be so heavy. Like, I promise, it feels so heavy sometimes still. But this is a love letter about making the weight not feel so heavy. And I swear to God, I turned the last page of this book and felt lighter. I truly believe books can have healing powers, and Radio Silence healed some of my wounds that I thought stopped bleeding years ago.

“I was going to be happy. Wasn’t I? I was. Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula. Everyone knows that. I knew that.”

I do think that Radio Silence is a story about becoming who you want to be, even if you don’t know who that person is yet, but I also think it’s a story about living with mental illness. Obviously, I’m not going to pretend that my experience is the end all be all, but mental illnesses are something you have to live with and fight with constantly. Aled is such a realistic character, and his mental illness is something that I think is so relatable to so many younger people (I want to say millennials so badly) and this book is going to mean so much to so many people. I honestly wish I could put this book into every single high school senior’s hands. Because school isn’t for everyone, and college isn’t for everyone, but validity and acceptance are for everyone.

This book also shines a spotlight on how fucking toxic the internet, fandoms, and just human beings in general can be. The things people say to other people, especially the people they claim to idolize, not even thinking twice about how that’s another breathing, living, human being on the other side of the screen that is reading your hurtful words. You all, I could write an entire review on this part of Radio Silence alone. But instead I’m just going to encourage you to read this masterpiece of a book that realistically depicts it better than I ever could.

But my favorite thing about Radio Silence is probably how it is one, gigantic, love letter to art. All kinds of art, all mediums of art, but this book is truly a celebration of art everywhere. The world we live in constantly tells us how art should be a hobby, not a career, but when I sit back and think about the people who I admire most in the entire universe? Well, they are all artists. Instead of constantly belittling art and not encouraging ourselves to pursue it as a mainstream dream, Radio Silence comes along and makes you feel so hyped and excited to celebrate art and creators everywhere. This book is an honest to God gift to the world, I swear it.

My second favorite thing about Radio Silence was the depiction of friendships. The beautiful and light parts, the really ugly and dark parts, the comfortable parts, the hard parts, the selfish parts, the selfless parts, all the realistic parts. When I got a few percent into this book, I knew the author had to be around my age, because this book feels so real. I mean, every element of this book feels really real, but the friendship between France and Aled specifically felt really real to me. Frances and Aled’s friendship felt so much like me and a person I miss with all my heart’s friendship. But I wasn’t as good of a friend, like Frances was, but this book really made me wish that I would have been.

“People move on quicker than I can comprehend. People forget you within days, they take new pictures to put on Facebook and they don’t read your messages. They keep on moving forward and shove you to the side because you make more mistakes than you should.”

My third favorite thing about this book was Frances’ mother. Holy shit, talk about mom goals. Just thinking about how much better of a place this world would be if more parents were like Frances’! Especially when she is contrasted to Aled and Carys’ mom in this story. Unconditional love, support, and acceptance is such a powerful force, especially being wielded by a parent who has a child unsure of who they are. But that force can be just as powerful in the hands of good friends, too.

Overall, I don’t feel like I’m the same person after reading this book. And I know I will cherish it forever. This is easily the best book I’ve read for Pride this year, and easily one of the best books I’ve read in all of 2018. This book literally took a piece of my heart and I will never ask for it back. I can’t wait to read everything else that Alice Oseman creates.

“I wonder—if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?”

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Buddy read with Alexis at The Sloth Reader, May at Forever and Everly, & Lily at Sprinkles of Dreams! ❤

Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1) by Bree Barton

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”

Hello, friends! This is going to be a hard one to review. I honestly feel like this is a solid 2.5 star read, but some aspects make me want to raise that rating and others make me want to lower it. I will say the end of this book is phenomenal. Like, easily the best part. And it was so good that I want to continue on. But the rest, especially the earlier sections, were some of the most predictable reading I’ve ever read.

Again, I’m super torn on this one. This book does tackle a lot of important themes, and I would say that the heart of this novel is honestly feminism. This book shines a spotlight on inequality between men and women, and how women in this world basically developed magic because it was the only way to somewhat counterbalance it.

“…men have found ever-new ways of oppressing women. Our bodies have been receptacles, both container and contained; our wombs soft and pliant for the children we were meant to bear our husbands, whether we wanted to or not. We have been restricted, silenced, and confined. This has been called many things—‘protection,’ ‘progress,’ even ‘love.’”

This book stars a young girl named Mia, who is getting ready to celebrate a marriage that her father has chosen for her. Mia is contemplating running away, so she won’t be forced to marry a prince that she barely knows. But Mia has a sick sister who she has to take into account, because she can’t bear to leave her. But her sister wants nothing more than to stay, safely tucked away in the castle, while hoping for her chance at love.

Mia’s father is a renowned hunter of Gwyrach, which are woman who are believed to be witches, who are said to be able to stop a man’s heart just by laying their hands on their skin. They are also said to have powers to enthrall those around them and make them do their bidding. So, in this world, all women are forced to wear gloves, and it is considered unthinkable to be seen without them.

But this story is truly about Mia’s mother, who was killed when Mia was very young, and found dead with not a mark upon her skin. Heart of Thorns truly centers on Mia trying to figure out who killed her mother, and why they chose to do so. And Mia is able to finally leave the castle and hope to search for clues once her wedding day ends with a murder attempt.

Together, Mia, and the promised prince that she knew barely anything about, go on an adventure where they find out a lot not only about Mia’s mother, but about the entire corrupt world they live in. And Mia finds out who she really is, and what she can really become, only if she chooses to embrace and love what she is, instead of hating it because of what she’s grown up learning.

Trigger and content warnings for talk of illness, graphic depictions of dead bodies and parts from those dead bodies, physical abuse, assault, sexual assault (unwanted touching), war themes, torture, violence in general, cruel death of an animal, a lot of blood visuals, murder, and too many rape attempts and talk of past rape attempts.

“We were hunted and killed for thousands of years, long before we had magic. We are magicians because of our suffering. A woman’s body can survive only so much abuse before our very blood and bones rise up in revolt.”

So, the promised prince’s name is Quin, and he honestly was my favorite character in the entire book. Not only is he bisexual, he is just kind, and caring, and thoughtful, and empathic. He also really loves dogs, and this is another very important quality that I personally look for in people. And speaking about more sexual representation, Mia’s mom was for sure not straight and was in a relationship with another woman. There is also a big side character that is gay. There is also a little bit of disability representation in this book, from another character that I really liked. Again, this book does have a lot of good, it just also has a lot of predictability.

Sometimes while reading, I felt like this was maybe a middle grade book. Because the writing is well done, but the clues are so glaringly obvious it makes for a poor reading experience. Hence why the end was so amazing, because it actually has twist after twist that I didn’t see coming. But I’ll be honest, the first 75% of this book is somewhat boring to read. At least, it was for me.

“Magic is born in the margins. It is nurtured among the vulnerable and broken. It is our bodies crying out for justice, seeking to right centuries of wrongs.”

Again, I still think this is a really good start to something that could be amazing. Between the feministic themes, to the bonds of sisterhood, to the lengths we are willing to go for the ones we love, I want more from this world, these characters, and this author. Also, this is Bree Barton’s debut novel, so I’m going to cut her a little slack for the predictability. And I honestly am excited to continue on with this series.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside! ❤