Day 115 on an Alien World Review

Day 115 on an Alien World by Jeannette Bedard

Someone needs to be alive to call for help.

A dishonourable discharge left Margo unable to find honest work on Earth. Signing onto a colonizing mission heading to a new world promised a fresh start. Or at least that’s what she’d thought.
Strapped into a crashing colony ship, she realized how wrong she’d been.
They hit the ground and the straight forward colonizing mission becomes a scramble for survival. Accidents keep happening—too many to blame on random bad luck. A trail of evidence leads Margo to a startling conclusion—one of her fellow colonists is a saboteur.
Tomorrow is the colony’s first communications window with Earth and their only chance to send a message home.

Will Margo stop the saboteur before it’s too late?

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

I was approached by Jeannette a while ago about this book because my twitter header made her think of her heroine. This immediately made me want to read the book, so she sent me a copy (very thankful for it).

I took my sweet time to read through this book and I am so sorry for this! (Sometimes I pause books and struggle to get back to them, not that I have a problem with the book but my mind kinda thinks I should start over and at the same time, not).

Anyway, to the actual review. Day 115 on an alien world introduces us to Margo who is definitely an interesting and nuanced character (I really liked her, the more she explores around and meets the rest of the “crew” the more I liked her). And I ended up having this image of her just as my drawing did, which made her feel even more real.

It is a nice space opera with a well paced who dunnit mystery that keeps you wondering who is behind all the things happening and why. But there is also the element of being somewhere that isn’t home.

To me it was a little bit of Prey (the Bethesda game), with some Elizabeth Moon space adventure (less political) and other interesting elements. I liked the interesting aspect of them needing to be a “married” couple to be able to populate the new world (but also, there seems to be this “wanting it to fail” undercurrent in it). And I liked how Gary understands that the arranged marriage with Margo is for both, their ticket into the program, but that it may suit both of them to do their own thing and just keep appearances.

There was a lot of science in this book too (some adapted, but also, some interesting approaches) which is part of why I kept pausing the book. I kept getting distracted by the ideas in it, and it reminded me a little of the mix of science int fiction that Anne McCaffrey does and I have loved so much.

The book relies on having good characters to move the plot along (because it is a small space and there defintiely seems to be a saboteur in the program), which it did well, as the characters have layers and depth.

All in all an interesting space opera mystery. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Smoke and Key Review

Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

A sound awakens her. There’s darkness all around. And then she’s falling…

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she’s dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn’t utter a word. There’s Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key’s instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can’t remember why.

Then the murders start; bodies that are burnt to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she becomes the next victim…

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

Smoke and Key was one of those “this book sounds interesting, could be a total flop, but it may also be good”. So I bought it at YALC. And for some odd reason I decided it’d be a good variety to the rest of the books I took with me for our honeymoon.

It was a quick read, easy to read, doesn’t require much thinking even though there’s a lot Key doesn’t know and a lot to try to puzzle out in this Under world. But the story takes you along, not in a condescending way but just with Key to learn as she does.

The world of Under got interesting and then it gets a little bit weird, specially as Key keeps remembering more and more and things start to connect between Under and Key’s life before she died.

I liked the concept that an item you were buried with was the thing that “defined” you and how “Under” had adapted to this odd fate, until Key arrives and can’t adapt or rather her memories won’t really her do so.

The rest of the characters are somewhat fleshed out and at first feel very bare bones but as memories come back and things get slowly revealed, they become better fleshed out (some never do, but oh well, the main ones kind of do).

Coming to the ending was interesting as I had no clue what to expect from this book. And it somehow left me feeling like it had ended well, despite being a bit of a “how did this all happen? Magic? Magic!” but it was exactly the type of book I kinda expected it to be in the good way. It passed the time, didn’t require a lot of thought and engagement to keep up with it, and it was interesting with an ending that left me pleased and not angry at the book.

All the Bad Apples Review

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

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

This is a very Irish book. (To me that is neither a good or bad thing, just a defining quality). I would say this is the more melancholic, less scary (because it isn’t meant to be slightly horror) sister of Other Words for Smoke.

Why would I say that? Because this is about a sibling relationship, but at the same time it is about generational “curses” or things carried down. Both of them touch on the Magdalene Laundries (which ran into the 90s) and some of the effect that had and still has on Ireland and the Irish. And there is in a way, some magic involved, some mysticism that envelops the story and makes it twist around trying to wrap you in it, but also in a way trap you.

However, those are the similarities. All the Bad Apples is more about who you are and what makes you a “bad apple” in the eyes of your family, and of society. Why are certain women considered bad apples? And are the good ones actually that good? It is a quest to try to figure out why there was a curse on Deena’s family and why it seems to affect only the women and the “bad ones”.

The writing was flowing and comfortable to read, however it was a very twisty thread of plot, going back and forth and then two steps back again just in case. While at the same time trying really hard to add extra mystery and mysticism (that’s what broke it for me, it became more of a drag on the story and kept breaking it for me rather than moving it forward).

There are enough “mysteries” as is without the need for new ones, but they still happen. They are foreshadowed well through the story and you can guess almost form the first sentence that introduces a character where they are going to end and some of their mysteries. (One of the big ones was easy for me to guess, however another of the big ones wasn’t something I would’ve guessed).

All in all, it was an interesting book that kept me wanting to know more and the connecting of the family story flowing forward was nice, as where the clues, but some parts of it felt overworked and that they were trying too hard. However, the important parts were very well conveyed, and it left me with a pondering mood after I finished. (I also summarised it to my husband, which isn’t something I do with every book, it means it made me think and/or feel).

Cookies and Clairvoyance Review

Cookies and Clairvoyance by Bailey Cates

Baker Katie Lightfoot serves up enchanted delicacies and tracks down a malicious murderer in the newest installment of this New York Times bestselling series…

Hedgewitch Katie Lightfoot is juggling wedding preparations, a visit from her father, and home renovations on top of her long hours at the Honeybee Bakery, where she and her aunt Lucy imbue their yummy cookies and pastries with beneficial magic. But when firefighter Randy Post is accused of murdering a collector of rarities, and his prints are on the statue that was used to kill the man, Katie steps in.

Randy is not only Katie’s fiancé’s coworker, but also the boyfriend of fellow spellbook club member and witch Bianca Devereaux. Bianca and Declan are both sure Randy is innocent, and so is Katie. However, to prove it she’ll have to work with ornery detective Peter Quinn again–and this time around he knows she’s more than your everyday baker.

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

I stumbled upon this book while wandering around Forbidden Planet. It caught my eye because it was a mass market paperback, it has a cat and some food on the cover and it implies magic or something. I tried to find the first ones (this is the 8th book in the series) but Forbidden Planet didn’t have them in the store. [I have bought them all now]

I enjoyed it a lot and it was exactly what I wanted. Plus it comes with two recipes at the back fo the book for two of the many pastries/cakes/muffins/cookies featured in the book. I haven’t tried baking either of them, but they read well (as in, they seem to be solid recipes with delicious results).

Of course, as you can guess, this book talks a lot about many foods. And I ended up craving some of them. It also explains why they choose certain combinations and what they are attempting to achieve with them as a “magical boost”. Calming ingredients to help calm nerves, things like that.

Which brings me to the magic. One of the things I liked is that this isn’t a “magic solves it all” kind of book. It is more of a “magic can boost things and help, but it isn’t the holy grail”. It places magic as part of your daily life, as a small boost rather than this impossible thing far far away.

Despite missing the backstory worth of seven books, I didn’t feel too lost reading the book. It feeds you enough “reminders” of backstory without being annoying or too much.

Now to plot, this was a cute story with many mini plots. Like Katie trying to solve and right a murder, clearing the name of someone innocent (or not?). But also there is the story of getting her home rebuilt and ready for her wedding (I enjoyed this part even more considering I had just had my wedding when I read it), and it is the story of the murder victim and his family/social circle. There’s a few other plot points that were interesting but they’d be considered spoilers and are worth not spoiling them.

All in all, for a cute witchy easy read, with loads of food and a murder mystery all wrapped in one, this book does well and it was a good read for a long flight (and airport time).

The Undoing of Arlo Knott

The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

What if your life had an ‘undo’ button?

Arlo Knott discovers he can rewind time – just by a minute or two – enough to undo any mistake, say the right thing or impress his friends with his uncanny predictions…

But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing is too much to resist.

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

I got a review copy from the publisher, but the views here are my own.

The book starts off with a relatively normal part of life, until a big accident happens and changes Arlo’s life (but also, after it, he experiences the ability to turn back time for the first time). And we go through Arlo’s life seeing him first come to terms with the “power” he has and then on how he uses it.

As with many “multiple planes/alternative universes” theories, there’s a few “constants” and too many variables after altering things. (There is always a lighthouse, there’s always a man, there’s always a city. – Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite) Of course, at first Arlo finds it just a neat trick and uses it for his own benefit. This means we get to see him turn form a normal human to one that has the power to change things to suit him and that is definitely not nice to see or read (but very interesting to read at the same time, because usually alternate universes are treated on a “new universe that’s it” or on a “butterfly effect”, but with Arlo we are not sure).

As the story moves “forward” we start seeing a lot of what the moving back and “rewinding” to have another go does and potential consequences. I found this intriguing and I felt bad for all the main characters at one point or another but also at times I really disliked Arlo.

My overall feeling with this was that it was pretty well done but sadly I just couldn’t cope with Arlo. He was extremely annoying and I mean, it sounds more realistic to ahve someone like him do stuff like he did than a “hero” ro “Villain” as he is a bit of both. Still, when I finished I was like “neat, that is very interesting, wish we knew more” but at the same time I was like “oh, I just wish he’d stop!”.

If you like alternate universes, butterfly effects, and what ifs panning out and a rewind, this is an interesting read for sure.

The Housekeeper and the Professor Review

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

He is a brilliant maths professor with a peculiar problem – ever since a traumatic head injury seventeen years ago, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is a sensitive but astute young housekeeper who is entrusted to take care of him.

Each morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are reintroduced to one another, a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms between them. The Professor may not remember what he had for breakfast, but his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. He devises clever maths riddles – based on her shoe size or her birthday – and the numbers reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her ten-year-old son. With each new equation, the three lost souls forge an affection more mysterious than imaginary numbers, and a bond that runs deeper than memory.

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

I saw someone talking about this book on Twitter saying that the hours had gone by while reading it. And so I bought it (for those wondering if you talking about books on Twitter actually influences others, yes, it does).

Books like this one used ot be my bread and butter and I would indulge in them, but then I stopped reading them. I think I had a disenchantment with Kazuo Ishiguro that was a little too much.

Regardless, back to this book here. I really enjoyed it. It was a delight to read. Since I’ve read books like this one, I knew that setting expectations of grandeur wasn’t going to match it and instead it would be a book that stays with you and just ponders alongside.

The book is about ahousekeeper who gets sent to work at the home of a mathematics professor that had an accident and now can only remember up to 80 minutes. This makes other housekeepers leave, but our narrator doesn’t and she finds the professor fascinating, as he talks numbers and numbers to her.

There is no romance, there is only the exploration of humanity, of how we can establish friendships even through hardships and how we can connect with other human beings. I just genuinely felt that the book was gently taking you through a journey of finding out how to help others, how to accept better, while giving you lots of mathematical lessons (I was super happy about this bit because they never felt annoying or unnatural, instead they were perfectly part of the story, not to boast or distract or teach, just to talk for the professor).

If you want a soft book that is gentle and is about a housekeepr working for a professor who can only remember so long and how they connect despite this, this is the book to read.

Lord of Secrets Review

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Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze

Magic is poison. Secrets are power. Death is . . . complicated.

Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray has enough problems. He’s friendless, penniless and on the run from the tyrannical Mages’ Guild – and with the search for his imprisoned grandfather looking hopeless, his situation can’t get much worse.

So when a fugitive drops into his lap – literally – and gets them both arrested, it’s the last straw – until Gray realises that runaway slave Brix could be the key to his grandfather’s release. All he has to do is break out of prison, break into an ancient underground temple and avoid killing himself with his own magic in the process.

In theory, it’s simple enough. But as secrets unfold and loyalties shift, Gray discovers something with the power to change the nature of life and death itself.

Now Gray must find a way to protect the people he loves, but it could cost him everything, even his soul . . .

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

Jo Fletcher books kindly accepted my begging for a copy of this and this is a free copy (I will be buying this because yeah it is good and I need more books!)

This has been pitched as a bit of Schwab, Trudie Canavan, Novik and a few others. It feels like a high ask for this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love the books from all three ladies.

However, reading this, neither of those names popped into my mind (say what?!). Instead, what came into mind was Terry Pratchett. I know, I am comparing high. And this is not a Discworld book. But Lord of Secrets has a lot of humour and it is reminescent of Pratchett’s.

It is that dark, gritty, life is hard but let’s make the best/worst of it, nevermind kind of humour. The book had me laughing a lot, and also made me want to read more fantasy books like Canavan’s or Pratchett’s and go into another world.

Gray is an intriguing character, and actually, all the characters are interesting and have a lot of layers. There’s very few “plot” characters (the ones that have names but that only really move plot and have no other purpose), and the plot is mostly carried by the characters and a little by the mystery.

Also, the actual Lord of Secrets and what all that implies was a fun take on necromancy and magic. Oh! Talking of magic! The magic system is wonderful! Write the spells and then say them. Oh but lo and behold, they have a price, they are in a way poisonous and each one has a different effect on you. Makes you consider using magic a little bit more (not that this seems to stop Gray, but then again, he just seems to be frequently in trouble so spells it has to be).

After reading this, I felt refreshed and almost like a “faith restored” feeling for fantasy. This was different to most of what I have recently read, and also in a way familiar enough, which made it cosy read.

Do note that this is not a young adult fantasy book, but properly just Fantasy (saying it is for adults doesn’t mean it is full of erotica, which it isn’t, or that only adults can read it). It deals with topics of family, death, and even slavery and abuse of the self. All with an interesting sense of humour, but still, it touches on topics that are a little bit less in the front of a younger adult/teenager than they would be for an adult. This is hard to explain without revealing important plot points which are good to come to rather than be spoiled.