Five Midnights Review

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

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This book was provided to me for free from the publisher, and the hopes I’d review it. And of course I did because it is a book about Puerto Rico and el Cuco (I know it as el Coco).

The story has many points of view due to telling us the story from each of the five friends, plus Lupe’s view and a few others that add to the whole what is going on.

We start with a murder and even though you’re reading about it, you’re not entirely sure who did it. I kinda knew but was more interested in the why that person, why there and then, and everything.

After that we meet Lupe who has been acting as her own keeper and is a big too full on (I never really got on with her, she had too much of a white saviour complex at the same time as having a “but I am from here too, therefore I must find my place”). Lupe knows how to get her way and is angry at her dad but happy she has some extra freedom and takes her chances to try to come to the crime scene and meet her uncle who is part of the police force in the area.

We also meet Javier, who is a friend of the victim and who is finding this confusing. Lupe puts her detective hat on immediately as she has watched it all in TV and of course has to solve the mystery (thankfully she gets a bit of reality slapping her in the face and that it is never like the TV shows say).

All throughout the book Lupe manages to clash or endear herself with people (which causes more clashes) but somehow everything ties up relatively nicely in the end. On the other hand Javier is on a race against time to find out why someone or something is murdering his friends and wondering if he will be next.

The book not only deals with the theme of identity (for all characters there is a lot of “how do I fit here” and “this is/isn’t my place”, as well as trying to coem to terms with choices made in the past), but with drugs and becoming part of that world (the good, the bad, the ugly) and how it affects those around you. And mostly it is about consequences and retribution on what you have done, on being responsible or paying for the things done.

The pacing was a mix of fast and good and sometimes a bit too slow and sometimes a bit too fast that you felt like you had lost part of the story in it. And this isn’t a “the murders were fast” but more of a “we take ages for 24 hours” and then bam everything happens in the next 2-3 hours and it’s weird. Which is why this didn’t make it to four foxes.

As for world setting, this was well done and very rich (or as rich as can be without going too far into detail).

TL;DR A spooky paranormal Puerto Rican story about friendship, identity, retribution, choices and consequences. Worth reading.

Jampires Review

Jampires by Srah McIntyre and David O’Connell

WATCH OUT! There’s a jam thief about! Have you ever bitten into a jammy doughnut and thought – This needs more jam? Imagine Sam’s horror when he discovers that his favourite treat has been SUCKED DRY! Who did it?!

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px Grey

This caught my eye while browsing other illustrated books and bought myself a copy.

The artwork is cute and fitting and the jampires are very sweet. Could totally see them as a plush toy or something with their little jam doughnut on the side, all puffy and soft.

We meet Sam wanting a jam doughnut but it doesn’t have any jam inside! (I’d be so disappointed, jam doughnuts without jam are sad ones.) So he sets off to try to find out what happened and why is the jam disappearing.

Sam sets a trap with some doughnuts filled with ketchup and traps the Jampires, who then take him Sam to their world.

This was a cute read and gosh, it made me very hungry so I had to go buy some jam doughnuts afterwards. I’d say this is the kind of book to read with a treat. Buy some jam doughnuts (make sure the Jampires haven’t gotten to them or do while you read), cuddle with the kiddos or just on your own, and read while enjoying the doughnut. Delicious!

Rebels on the Run Book Box Club Unboxing

Fantastic theme and I knew immediately which book it’d be and was excited for the box because I seriously enjoyed it a lot, so let’s unbox starting from the top left corner and going clockwise:

  • Theme card, very wild West like.
  • Underneath a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets tea towel which I loved because it has a huge moon and is really beautiful art.
  • Favour stickers, it is book related and I instantly knew what they were and thought it was awesome.
  • Two promotional bookmarks.
  • Chocolate “Pixie Dust” covered pretzels. I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, so I had one but the rest were scoffed by my husband. He first was like “what is this, meh, funny pretzels” and then was like “need more, delicious!”
  • Desert sticky “bookmarks”, made my work colleagues smile and me too. I found it amusing.
  • Verify promotional postcard, intriguing book indeed.
  • The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis. I enjoyed it a lot and reviewed it here.
  • A Bookish Rebel mason jar, I was just sad it didn’t come with a lid but still, liked this.

All in all strong box and had lots of great items, probably the only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the promoitonal stuff, which to be fair is nothing bad at all or anything to complain about. Also the cover for Good Luck Girls is like someone poured liquid gold on it and wow. Absolutely stunning! Really blew me away.

Moon and Me: The Little Seed Review

Moon and Me: The Little Seed by Andrew Davenport. Illustrated by Mariko Umeda

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This book was gifted to me by the publisher, because we both liked the idea of having “Moon”(me) talk about it. All opinions are my own.

It is a super cute little book, and sturdy. Plus it is very blue, all the tones of blue and it has shiny silver on the title (I am easily satisfied sometimes)

Inside it includes a series of read out loud friendly, that can be read doing voices (I kinda did the voices in my head as I read). They are centered around sleep and friendship. Obviously they feature a little seed that will grow, and all the friends contributing something.

And of course, Moon and Moon baby which was cute to find. I just found this book to be a good bed time story. The book can be read all in one go (for older children) or in small chunks that appear as mini chapters/stories (for younger children).

Artwork is cute and colourful but not crazy bright, just a lot of blue tones and a sense of happy feelings in it. Very cute, and the moon is so pretty!

My favourite page!

A story is always a good idea (or at the very least almost always). Moon recommends stories to soothe souls, encourage little ones to sleep or just make you feel good as an adult when you read a cute book.

Cheshire Crossing Review

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen

The three meet here, at Cheshire Crossing–a boarding school where girls like them learn how to cope with their supernatural experiences and harness their magical world-crossing powers.

But the trio–now teenagers, who’ve had their fill of meddling authority figures–aren’t content to sit still in a classroom. Soon they’re dashing from one universe to the next, leaving havoc in their wake–and, inadvertently, bringing the Wicked Witch and Hook together in a deadly supervillain love match.

To stop them, the girls will have to draw on all of their powers . . . and marshal a team of unlikely allies from across the magical multiverse.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px Grey

I was intrigued by the fact that this was written by Andy Weir, and then it is illustrated by sarah Andersen, so I bought it and decided to plunge in. Review are mixed so I went in carefully.

For starters, it is a graphic novel and it appears to be directed to younger teens. Alice, Dorothy and Wendy have been “dumped” into this boarding school due to their odd behaviours. They have been labeled many things, so it is is a slightly refreshing take to find that this school is more lenient even if it involves a “nanny” that is on the ball.

The Alice of this book reminded me a lot of the Alice in American McGees games. She is dark and Wonderland is a friend and foe, all in her head in a way. Wendy and Dorothy are a lot less familiar to me, not that I haven’t read the books but rather I have less fondness for a “beyond the original story” version of them.

However, they didn’t seem too out of character, just a “now what do we do with ourselves?”. There’s a lot of shenanigans and Alice definitely doesn’t help much make it easier, but regardless, I found it a relatively easy read.

If you haven’t read the stories behind the three girls, then you miss a lot of the “nuance” of the story, which adds references to their original stories over and over (the red poppy field from Oz, the melting “witches”, all of Neverland, Tinkerbell, Cheshire cat, etc) I don’t want to say all of them as some are subtle and some not so much, and I enjoyed the subtle ones.

At some point I read The Martian but that’s all I remember and so I didn’t have expectations exactly for this book. I think this helped me enjoy it more, it is a simple tale in that it jumps, does a lot of plot holes and continuity but it is all about the fun, the adventure and adding as much as possible into it as I think there wasn’t really a “sure, there will be more” but more of a “one and if we’re super ultra lucky, more?”

Still, it is enjoyable, fun references. Quick read of a graphic novel and probably ticks a lot of boxes for readathons.

The Grief Keeper Review

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee. Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.

Rating: MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px MoonKestrel Logo2 20px Grey

The title of the book was what caught my eye first, then it was the plot and I just had to preorder it and read it. And boy, this book packed its punches and hit close to home (I was going to put a disclaimer to clarify which parts did and didn’t, but then realised I was saying way more than I felt comfortable with and therefore I just want to say I haven’t experienced everything in the book, but it isn’t something far removed in some areas for me).

Being bilingual, I usually do not like much books that throw words in a different language just for the sake of (I don’t mean calling a particular item of clothing or a dish by their name in that language, we call a taco a taco. I mean the adding foreign words for the sake of making it feel exotic, and it really peeves me off when it is a story including Spanish words), so I was wary about that happening here. It also breaks the continuity for me since the switch between Spanish/English breaks as I read sometimes if there’s that gap. However, as I read this, the way it uses Spanish was right. It was the perfect way of how my brain fills in gaps of language, how it processes, it didn’t disrupt or break continuity or annoy me. Instead it just reminded me how much I still have preference for some words in Spanish or how certain words don’t really translate well one way or the other.

As for the characters and the plot, I am the older sister and have a younger sister who did some of the things Gabi did (some almost to the T. *sigh*), and Marisol felt raw, protective, real. It was also like discovering myself as I read this. Because a lot of how Marisol copes with the world and her not breaking and not falling whereas Rey does, it was exactly how I work, how you’re brought up. And the contrast I feel in the UK, Marisol was feeling in her own experience in the US. I felt seen in this book, and as if it was revealing deeper parts of what it is to be Latinx.

The concept of Grief Keeper was mesmerising in itself and Rey’s story was also very nteresting, the dynamics, the way it all worked out was delightful to read. Slow burn, slow build up, intense feelings, “translation” and cultural differences making it more interesting.

Yes, I know Marisol isn’t from Mexico, but a lot of what she experienced was familiar and I could easily fill in gaps. The book wasn’t a shock to my system or a surprise, it was just “the truth” (a sad one sometimes) but it did so in a good way. I didn’t feel like the truth was just for plot or entretainment, it felt raw, it felt like it was being written from the heart, or close to it.

Beautiful melancholic book, with good Latinx representation, a lot of pondering on grief (yes, apparently I like books that touch on grief, sorry, I do, it has always been something that interests me, something that pulls me close) and working out that grief. Great use of language and wording and all the elements that make the characters. Highly recommended.

Amina’s Voice Review

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

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This is a middle grade book, and it feels exactly like I think a middle grade book should. There’s the trying to define who you are and the slow tentative of “am I becoming a teenager, or not?”.

Amina has a beautiful voice and loves singing but her anxiety and shyness mean that she doesn’t participate and sing to others. Even with the encouraging of her teacher.

There’s a lot of pondering about her identity and her family, what are the expectations and who is she. But there is the contrast of her best friend too and other friends joining in to the team and what being the outcasts or the odd ones in school can mean.

There are so many things explore through the book that as I write the review I think “Oh, this one too”. For example, it touches on not letting preconceptions on who is your friend or your enemy stop you from finding good friends.

It also touches on Amina’s identity as a Muslim-Pakistani and the contrast between living in America and the expectations of how they ought to behave form family in Pakistan (and a visit from her Uncle, who shakes her world a little).

There is also the fact that there is a community in the mosque and how that works. I felt for Amina at times because I used to have to go to church and that same feeling she’d have at times about going to the mosque I have had regarding church.

In general, this is a wonderful little book that highlights being confident and using your gifts/talents and abilities, how community is what matters and in bad times it is what helps move forward in so many ways. It is also about friendship, and identity, when you are not one or the other (not American, not Pakistani? Both?). Very intriguing and a thought provoking book.