Moon reads: The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

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

Disclaimer: I received a proof copy for free fromt he publisher in the hopes I’d review it, which I mean I have done and wanted to do anyway, so I would’ve got to it one way or another. The fact it was gifted does not affect my views at all.

What happens when you mix suffragettes, fairy tales and witches into a book? I’ll tell you what, great magical things happen with a pinch of trouble, a lot of adventure, and feminism.

Once and Future Witches is all about what defines us as women and how we stand tall and havethat fire inside us, the magic, the witchcraft that makes us persevere (in some places they’d call it grit or mother nature, or many other things).

Getting into the actual story we meet three young women, the Eastwood sisters, who inexplicably end up coming together at a suffragist meeting in New Salem after being apart and following their own path for a while.

One of the things I liked a lot here was that the relationships between the sisters and their internal struggles are not exactly fairy tale stories, but could be any of us today. Each of them carries some heavy trauma, heavy burdens and things to be worried or anxious about, and each has to figure them out in part on their own but also as they figure out where they stand as sisters.

It has a lot on sisterhood both as a family and born into it look, but also as a we’re all coming together, strangers and found family, into this. Alongside dealing with what happens when you make certain choices and act on resentment, fear, anger, etc. To me, it is those parts that shine the most in this book alongside the “retellings” and reworkings of fairy tales and “new tales” that are peppered through the book.

Probably the one part that this struggles is sometimes some odd choices on plot and behaviour of the characters (I had a proof copy so it may be different in the final version) and that the worldbuilding relies heavily on a lot of gaps to be filled by us or to be inferred meaning sometimes it is hard to remember what you thought x should be. Probably part of the problem was I read it through a long period of time due to different life interruptions and coming back to it I’d have to leaf back a few pages or just skim read back to try to place myself. This is probably the place it can do a lot better in.

Overall, if you are looking for a feminist book with lots of witchcraft, a fairy tale but not the Disney vibe and more the true Grimm brothers style, and sisterhood, this is the book for you. It was a wild ride and one that left me wondering what comes next.

Moon Reads: Splinters of Scarlet

Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

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

This book was part of Book Box Club’s box a few months back and even though had had the book on my want to read list, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond a bit of a fairytale feeling.

I think Splinters of Scarlet definitely hits the spot on having a fairy tale feeling and vibe all over it, but at the same time it is like a modern fairytale. And yet it feels lost in time. I’d say it has a more “The Girl and the Bear” kind of feel than “A Curse so Dark and Lonely”, like a happy middle between those two kinds of fairytale.

I think my most favourite thing was the magic system, the fact that you get a very unique way of using your magic and that it is literally in your blood so using it too much “freezes” your veins and kills you. From things like being good at glass blowing, or being able to sew perfectly and so fast, or just being able to detect lies, it has a lot of fun ways of being used and it was fascinating to see the interaction of those that have it and those that don’t, since as much as it is a blessing it is also a curse. Sadly, this part wasn’t explored as much as it could’ve but it was still fascinating.

The second best thing was that it touches on both dance and clothes making, and it was delightful to see those woven through the whole story. It gave it that extra magical fairy tale feeling for me even if technically none of those things are specific to fairytales.

And I really liked how the characters develop and interact. To be fair at the beginning it wasn’t as interesting because it is just before we move to where the main story happens, but it gives a precedent setting. It gets so much better when we meet the full cast and start interacting with more and more people. I liked the interactions, the resentment, the ways of living contrasting between them, and the hidden story plotline feels (though for me there was little guesswork almost from the very first chapter of what the “aha moment” would be).

Given that I knew what the main revelation would be I still enjoyed the book a lot and it didn’t annoy me. So I can say that if you want a fairytale kind of story with an interesting magic system, this is one to read for sure!

Moon Reads: Once Upon A Dragon’s Fire

Once Upon A Dragon’s Fire by Beatrice Blue

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

I reviewed a while ago Beatrice’s other book, Once Upon A Unicorn Horn, so when I saw this one was coming, I preordered it. It is easy, make a book I enjoyed, I will almost always preorder your next books.

The artwork was top class, but that was no surprise given I enjoy Beatrice’s art a lot. And as per the previous book, this is a book giving things a new “origin” so in this case it is centered around a dragon and fire.

This is about two children that made up adventures and were obsessed with dragon stories so they decide to go search the dragon and thanks to them “fire” is invented.

Look it is way better than I am describing!

In all honesty the story is a great read out loud or act out one, the artowkr and pictures are full of detail and cuteness, and the story is reaffirming and all about tenderness and warmth (and some dragon fire too).

It has a dragon, fire, and a great story, so this is a definite win and I am eagerly awaiting what else we may get as an origin of this thing type of book from Beatrice Blue.

Moon Reads: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

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

This book is loads of fun, action and crazy shenanigans! Genie Lo is a young woman with a bit of a temper and an overachiever that is dedicated to trying to get into an Ivy league university. She is even using her height advantage to totally get a win in volleyball.

But when the yaoguai of lore suddenly aren’t lore anymore and seem to be hellbent on causing mayhem for Genie, what is she to do? Add on top of that the gorgeous new student, Quentin Sun, who is adamant that Genie has to help him sort this weirdness as it is part of her destiny.

Best part is that Quentin isn’t just a student, but actually Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.

Look, I throughly enjoyed this book, the pacing is great and you get both action and quieter moments, plus a lot of humour There were many times when I just giggled thorugh it or laughed out loud to something going on, but I was also concerned. The chemistry of Quentin and Genie is brilliant and their at odds view of the world also was amusing.

And the lore, it’s very well woven into this story.

Honestly, everyone who has been a student, dreamt of being one, and or likes lore, should read this book. It pack s agreat punch!

Moon Reads: Silver in the Wood

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

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

I remember reading about this book, preordering it and then somehow forgetting about it (look, that is the story of my whole TBR, I get excited, watn to read it now, the book doesn’t come out until months later and by the time it arrives I am pining for a different book that will come out in the future).

But given that my life has been a bit chaotic and I have had to steal time to read and do my own things, I put aside a few short stories and books I felt I could tackle with ease, so one Saturday morning I grabbed this lovely book, sat down to read a few pages, maybe a chapter or so. By the time I looked up from the book, I had finished it.

I immediately felt transported to the wood and the mansion and just in this world and knew I was going to stay there for as long as there was a story to tell. And it reminded me of why I love this type of books and how I sorely wish there were more green magic with lore and more, books that can take you into their own “fairy ring” world without even requiring fairies. I wanted to go and read more urban fantasy, or go travel back to Scotland and into the forest, get lost somewhere.

Silver in the Wood weaves a masterful tale and I don’t want to spoil it but honestly, make yourself a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, cuddle up with a blanket and get ready to go visit this particular woods that is rich in fantastical beings that weave into the very fabric of it.

My only complaint is that this was too short and I’d like a longer novel. Or a series, or just more. Which I guess is not a bad thing all in all, right?

Moon Reads: Notes from Small Planets – Blogtour

Notes from Small Splanets by Nate Crowley

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

Well, I was selected to be part of the blog tour of this tour oriented book, and as such I need to make it clear I received a copy of the book so i could participate in it, but this doesn’t affect my review/post about it.

Now that that is out of the way I have to say that Notes from Small Planets is a great humour book. It is meant to give that vibe of a travel guide of “how to get the most out of your trip to X”, but the trick here is that X is a bunch of small planets, each with quirky interesting settings.

In itself, each world is an exploration of fantasy and scifi world tropes, and the usual cliches and expectations we have of them (you know, people expect elves to be good, orcs to be bad, etc). Each planet/world that we visit or rather that we are suggested to visit has their own flaovur and we’re seeing everything from the “eyes” and voice of Floyd, who more or less embodies the white privileged coloniser, but we get the margin notes and foot notes from Eliza, who is adamant on setting things right.

The notes on each planet are fantastic and poke so much fun at books and other stories and yet they are they very own unique thing, that I kept trying to match them to the book they may be inpired by and then wondering if it wasn’t just a bunch of trope books.

And the other shining star is the notes, all those little quips between Eliza and Floyd. They help set the why and how and mood of the travel guide and put you on a “look at what is being written as a travel guide vs what may actually have happened”. The further along in the book the more you realise the planets and travelling may be more than meets the eye, and by the end, well, let’s just say I was a mix of giggling and exclamations on it.

Thoroughly enjoyable guide that has a lot of humour, a bit of sobering truth (maybe more than we’d like at times) and just a very original “welcome to this world, this is your intro the videogame and world” kind of feel.

Moon Hauls: Written in the Stars Owlcrate

The theme for this box was a good one so I had hopes for this box and I have to say I was quite pleased. I had another box that did the same book and similar theme and prefer the items of this one a lot more. So what was inside? Let’s start on the far left and going clockwise:

  • A booksleeve, look it is gorgeous, very celestial and just gorgeous. It is discreet and yet elegant and perfect.
  • The pin of the month, I usually really like them and this is a nice one.
  • I thought the fact they sent push pins in a cute star jar all of them silver was a great thing and also I have my own cork board and this was a perfect little thing that will not only look nice on my desk but be super useful!
  • Theme card, the Owlcrate resident illustrator has a very particular style and I love it.
  • A tie down scarf, this is like the fancy silk scarf version and I love it, it is stunning and came super well presented.
  • A star pen. I felt like a magical girl with it and thought this was just a cute and perfect little thing (the only thing that’d make this better is if it was a fountain pen, I can gleefully imagine a book box including fountain pens and a little pot of ink and I would be super happy!)
  • An A6 (?) clipboard which also super useful for desk notes and very in theme.
  • Star Daughter which is the main book and this edition of the cover is stunning!

All in all the items matched the theme really well, made me feel like I was getting my life in order with powerful stationery and a power scarf and a great book. It isn’t a super “flashy” box and there’s not really any paper items which makes it a great one in my books as I don’t feel like my money was wasted or wasn’t worth it. Every item will be gleefully usef many times.

Moon Hauls: A Darker Shade of Magic Illumicrate Collections

Any Illumicrate Collections box tends to be really good, so when they announced A Darker Shade of Magic being a box, I jumped at it and got it. And of course, as per usual, it was packed full of goodies (so much I struggled to fit it all on my usual table), so let’s see what it had starting at the bottom right and going clockwise:

  • Contents booklet, mostly it lists what each item is and who the artist/companies behind it are.
  • Underneath most of the goodies is a Four Londons blanket by Yoshi Yoshitani, which I like a lot (usually the blankets are gorgeous)
  • Then we have a booksleeve inspired by Lila’s and Kell “dance”, it’s a good size and slightly plastified so really nice. The artwork is by Laia Lopez and the quote typography design on the other side is by Chatty Nora.
  • Essen Tasch hanging poster, this makes me feel like I’ve been to it and got a memento poster to hang on my wall. Normally I am not crazy about posters but I somehow really like this one. Design by Sylvia Bi
  • On top are some acrylic figures of the characters and one of the author too, which I thought was a cute idea and they’ll look good on a shelf to decorate. Design by Monolime
  • There was also a set of dust jackets for all three books if you’re not that into the naked look. Those were hard to display as they had come rolled in to be protected but difficult to quickly lay flat (they’ll be flat after a few days under some books). Artwork by Rosie Thorns.
  • A pin of Lila’s mask designed by Stacey McEvoy-Caunt.
  • In the middle is a microfibre cloth to clean glasses and gadgets with a design by Victoria Ying.
  • And finally the hardcover book with a foiled naked cover, silver sprayed edges and front endpapers with artwork by Em Allen. It is gorgeous, honestly!

All in all it was a great box, the item I will probably love the least is the dust jackets because I am not normally fond of them in books and prefer naked covers. But they are still gorgeous. And of course all the contents are so well tailored for the trilogy that it is like magic!

Moon Reads: All the Stars and Teeth

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

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

I received a review copy from the publishers in exchange of a fair review, however I also had purchased a book box that had the book included, so as much as it is a book given by the publisher, it is also one of my own too. Nothing changes my opinion of it regardless.

The premise of All the Stars and Teeth is that we have several islands each witha different type of magic, and if you learn one type of magic you gotta live in the island of your magic and only use one type because otherwise your soul will be corrupt and your body won’t be able to use all the magics. And obviously, there is a ruling class, a fine line of magic that can kill and can see into your soul, which makes them the rulers.

Amora is the only daughter of the king. She has been preparing her whole life to show off that she can control her magic and will use it for the good of the Kingdom her whole life. But things go wrong in her ceremony, and all her plans to finally see the rest of the islands beyond the one where soul magic is performed goes a bit pear shaped. Instead she ends helping a pirate save an island of rebels and his stolen magic.

And as she sails throught the different islands, she starts to ahve her eyes opened to the fact that maybe she wasn’t allowed to see more of the world because it had all been lies her father had told her. This doesn’t put her on a revenge quest against her father but it only cements the fact she wants to help her kingdom, which I found a refreshing change. It wasn’t a “well I was chosen, lost it, found it and I am still chosen”, it is more of a “oh well, I will still do it even if I screwed up and things aren’t what I was told they were, I still love my kingdom and want the best for it”.

Amora does think quite high of herself and it is interesting to see the relationships in the book unfold as she discovers more fo her herself and how to interact with others, plus the fact that multiple magics are happening and there’s nothing to stop it.

In general I really enjoyed the story and the world at first I wasn’t convinced but it grew on me once Amora actually starts her adventure. And of course I want to read the next book because I want to know what happens next. I recommend this as a fun refreshing fantasy based on the sea but also about being a ruler and what magic is and who decides what and why.

Moon Hauls: Resilient Royals Fairyloot

All about royalty surviving (?) and being around in this box. And one of the first things I noticed as I was resizing the picture is that there is a lot of paper items in it and I am not particularly fond of this. But let’s see what is what, starting from the theme card on the top left and going clockwise:

  • Theme card for Resilient Royals, the bookmark is also just underneath
  • Tarot cards.
  • A cardholder inspired by Queen’s Rising. I do like this as I love small cardholders over big purses and I am keeping it, just sad it doesn’t have more slots.
  • Shielded as the main book. I am torn betwene the green here or the original blue because both look so good!
  • A print for Bear and the Nightingale/Winternight trilogy.
  • Candle, I lit this one the other day and it is very pleasant and sweet (not sickly, just nicely sweet).
  • Crescent moon, I think SJ Maas inspired cushion cover. I am not bothered about this one, since I don’t have that many cushions and do not need that many covers.
  • A food tray (?). I would say it is more of a trinket tray but not the jewelry kind. I like this one quite a bit andit has been used a bit around the house, more than I expected!
  • Author letter with character art.

All in all, some good items, some not as good items. But the book was on my list of books I have wanted to read/order so all good. I do like that there’s new kind of items like the tray and the cardholder, but not that invested in repeats.

What are your favourite items? Is it because of the fandom or the usability/appeal of the item?

A Different Kind of Magic Fairyloot Unboxing

A bit delayed, but this was June’s Fairyloot box which had two books and a magical vibe to it with some darkness too (or at least that’s how it felt to me). Starting from the left and going to the right:

  • Print. I think something to do with Sarah J. Maas? (you can see how little I care for prints in general, sadly)
  • The main book, Forest of Souls. I am increidbly excited to read it since I heard about it, so definitely happy to have it.
  • Also included an early copy of The Gilded Ones which has also been high on my list so all good books!
  • A Shadows Between Us pin.
  • And a gorgeous Starless Sea patch. I am just sad it isn’t a sticker or something more useful than a patch because they just go in a box to be admired when I remember they exist. Why are book boxes obsessed with sending patches?
  • A teapot tea strainer. It is a bit small and doesn’t have a lot of space for the tea to swish around so as cute as it is, it feels a bit not fit for purpose.
  • A pair of socks for the Bone Season.
  • Tarot cards as per usual.
  • The theme card.
  • And an elemental set of coasters.

Sadly the biggest most exciting items for me where the books. The rest wasn’t as great or useful to me and it made me sad because it didn’t match the theme as well as I expected and also it just didn’t make me smile the way I hoped. But maybe it hit everybody else’s themes and fandoms? (I think part of the thing is that the books I love aren’t big fandoms, like for example Mexican Gothic and Gods of Jade and Shadow, or the Spellslinger series… )

Burn Review

Burn by Patrick Ness

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

This was included in a Book Box Club box and I was cautious. I have read The Chaos Walkign trilogy and did not like it, so wasn’t sure how to go about this one but I mean it has dragons, so I had to give it a fair chance.

My best summary is that this is a conspiracy during the Cold War with a very American/US view of the world, but with magic and dragons. If you like conspiracy theories and that type of books, this is definitely up there, it has a lot of the elements for it, which is probably why I wasn’t so keen. And obviously the outlandish things can actually exist in the book because dragons and magic.

The writing style still didn’t sit too well with me as it isn’t character driven yet it requires you to be with the characters for it to move through the plot, so it’s hard as you can’t engage as much and it just the magic, dragons and cosnpiracy taking it through and it wasn’t enough for my liking.

However, the whole dragons and magic concept was fascinating and it was probably my favourite part of the book same as the whole prophecy and the little twists regarding the main character around it (without spoiling, it is not about our main character). It did take me a while to get into liking them because it starts with an obvious “it’s Russian, it’s evil or spying on us” view and that wasn’t a great start to get me liking it (I did give it the benefit of the doubt but it still kinda fell flat).

I probably would’ve enjoyed it more if this was a full fantasy, not based on the Cold War and America vs Russia and more just nations warring and the dragons caught in the middle. That would’ve been probably my favourite approach and given this a star more.

The Boy who Dreamed of Dragons Review

The Boy who Dreamed of Dragons by Andy Shepherd. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.

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

I discovered The Boy who Grew Dragons a while back and adored it so I ended up buying all three books. And then they announced there would be a fourth one and I immediately preordered it because between the cute illustrations and the adorable story, I was sold (plus, dragons, very important part).

The best way I can summarise what the book is all about is to say that it is a transition story, from what happened in the previous three to what is to come if there are more books (which I hope there are). There a lot of changes for the superhero squad, and some new characters added.

Tomas is struggling to cope with the changes and feels like things are moving too fast, but there are ways around them and change brings growth which is a lesosn he definitely has to learn in this book. Plus one of the new characters brings potentially lots of new stories to the game (and I am hoping they will come in more books for sure). We see more Flicker and more dragosn whcih was enjoyable, I just was sad that my original idea of what dreaming of dragons meant wasn’t what happened but I still liked what the title implied to (and it was more fo a “I went expecting/guessing this and something else happened but I still wish this one thing was something in this universe” maybe it will be at some point…)

One of my favourite things is the cute dragons and how unique they are which was wonderful to see here. And the relationships of family like how Tomas and his sister Lolli get along and I love that, or when he interacts with his grandfather. It is lovely to see some family around and the dynamics behind them.

As I mentioned before, the artwork is great and very enjoyable, giving the story a little bit more fun and depth. So go get the first one, or maybe the whole set, because maybe you will suddenly find an interesting fruit and need to know how to deal with the little dragon that may pop out of it!

The Shadow Glass Review

The Shadow Glass by Rin Chupeco

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

It is done! Completed. I knew this book was going to be intense as it had a lot of questions to answer, starting with what happens to Kalen (I’ve been biting my nails about it since book one!), and then there’s the whole changes in dynamics of the characters. Why is Tea doing all of what she has done? And who is traitor, maybe more than one? Will we ever find out Druj?

I kept reading and going “I am not sure how we’re going to get all the answers to everything I need to know” until suddenyl all the ribbons, hints and little things made sense. My suspicions on some characters turned out to be true (it was also fun to buddy read this and have a theory and suggest it but not be fully sure and doubt yourself and then have it confirmed) and new things kept coming that still managed to surprise me but made sense.

I think that is one of the beauties of this series. There is a LOT going on. And you get most of the answers at the end, in the last book, but they all make sense because you can remember scenes in previous books and even in the one you’re reading, and the dots connect. It takes skill to write and make all those dots connect and do so in such a way, so I can only admire Rin’s ability to write this story.

//Spoilers for content in the two previous books ahead but no spoilers for this one//

Tea and Kalen. I adored the scenes that happened between them including drunk Tea which was one of my favourite parts. And we had the relationship develop well so it felt right, it worked and the chemistry. Honestly, I was just like cooing and wanting more of them.

I also had a lot fo love for the other pairings happening in the book and how they slowly come to fruition. It was wonderful to see old characters keep up.

The one thing I would’ve loved, was a list of names and who they were plus which country they originally belong to (as at some point I had to stop and remind myself that X was actually from so and so and not the other country). But this is more due to the sheer size of the world and the amount of characters and me desperately wanting to understand it all and not miss a thing.

Honestly I can babble incoherently for a while, but all I can say is that the book shows Rin’s ability to weave a tale and bring it to completion breaking and mending your heart along the way.

Rebels with a Cause Owlcrate Unboxing

As I mentioned on ym previous unboxing, there was another box doing Incendiary and I was curious to see what was included instead for items, so let’s see what Owlcrate did (also, the theme is different). Starting on Incendiary top left corner and going clockwise:

  • Incendiary, Owlcrate edition.
  • Stickers, whcih I usually enjoy becuase stickers are fun, bonus points if they are the kind you can unstick. The ones here are less exciting as they are quotes and I prefer more image stickers than quotes.
  • The collectible pin, I think it’ll make more sense once I read the book.
  • Theme card.
  • 10 metal straws, in a cute pouch with cleaning brushes. 5 of them with a bend and 5 straight ones. I like this because it gives you enough straws to have around.
  • Witchy, which I have reviewed before but for a different press, and this cover is also gorgeous. Great choice.
  • The pouch for the straws.
  • Pot holders, probably the most boring one of the items since they are just quotes rather than something fun, but I like they’re brihgt as it makes them easier to find!
  • A gorgeous wooden magnet that immediately went on the fridge because it is so elegant and simple yet beautiful.

All in all I liked the contents of the box and was happy with it. I would’ve liked less quote items and more image ones but that’s more personal prefernece rather than thinking the items aren’t great.