The Enigma Game Blog Tour

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

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

A few disclaimers before I launch into my review of The Enigma Game. I was provided a free copy of the book for reviewing purposes, however this doesn’t influence my review at all.

The second disclaimer is that that I have most of Elizabeth’s books (including non fiction) and as you can guess from the picture, have a soft spot for World War II bombers and cryptography (yes, I was at those Turing events). So be aware that this makes this book a quick runner for a good review due to contents.

The Enigma Game is another winner by Elizabeth Wein. It depicts so many things about how life during World War II was back then and does so with her unique way that makes you want to know more of the world and how it came to be.

We get a few points of view from different characters as they each give us a little of their world to see. We start with James (Jamie, Scotty) who is the one in charge of a B-flight squadron of Blenheims in Scotland and he is feeling hit in all places by the disadvantages they have (starting with old bombers, and just not great decisions on tactics). He is technically a character that appears in some ways in other of the books so he was familiar (and it kept nagging at me why I felt like I knew who he was but couldn’t place him at the same time, obviously now I want to reread The Pearl Thief and Code Name Verity).

Then we have Louisa, who is mixed race and struggling to find a place in London as she is too young, alone and not the right skin colour. But she finds a job helping Aunt Jane in Scotland and makes the most of it. With her point of view we get Aunt Jane who is a character as is and I absolutely adored the old woman. She’s old but she’s so cunning and so full of ideas and fight, it was wonderful to read her and she reminded me of other old ladies I’ve known (none as mysterious and interesting as her but still).

And we have Ellen who is part of the WAAF as a driver for the RAF airfield but who is hiding the fact she is a traveller. Her point of view was a refreshing sight and a connection between two pieces of the story at first.

Our story centers around them coming unto an Enigma machine (the only one) and due to circumstances, they are able to decode messages and give Jamie’s squadron a secret advantage, but with doing so, they put themselves at risk and potentially everyone.

I adored the story, the characters were so unique and the ambience and setting of the world is done beautifully with tiny details that help put you right there and then with them. It is not just a story about courage but about perceptions, about wanting to be brave and how rules soemtimes are meant to be broken, or in most of the case in the book, just bent rather than broken. I am actually having a hard time writing a very coherent review due to this book hooking me in and making me feel so much and be so invested into the characters and what happened.

As for historical accuracy, at the end you get a note regarding what it is based on and what is “real” and not which it still feels wonderfully well painted and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the author’s gift for writing fiction and making it feel like it is non-fiction.

If you enjoy historical fantasy, are an aircraft nerd or just curious about cryptography or the Enigma, this is a wonderful read. Or if you just want a good story about World War II and friendship, then this is also for you.

There Will Come A Darkness Review

There Will Come A Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

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

A little disclaimer, I have had this book on preorder for ages (1st of August 2019 apparently) but I also got a review copy from the publisher. Given how far back I preordered, it is pretty obvious they can’t really influence my review at all because I was already hyped for it.

And it was good and worth it. It did take me ages to read but it was mostly because it was the book I had with me while waiting in the queue for going into the shop weekly. It was a good read that kept me engrossed and made the wait not that difficult and helped it not feel like it was long or dragging. (I mean not what you want on your cover, but a book that helps pass a stressful moment and long wait much faster is always a good win).

Our story follows several POV from different characters who are linked by a Prophecy (and some in ways you didn’t expect at all, there’s definitely a few surprises that kept coming). This is a setup and build up book and not in a tell way. It is a book to know each of the characters, their personal stakes and why they are part of this end of times prophecy that isn’t even very clear.

One of the things I liked was that the characters are so varied but they each have something unique and something to move towards (or to run away from, right?). This means we have several subplots going on for the characters and as they start to intersect the stakes get higher and higher.

The concept of Graces at first I was like “meh, whatever” it felt like any other concept but as I read, the more I understood how entrenched, how much they defined the world yet at the same time, you didn’t feel like they were alien or odd in it. Probably the moment to sayt he worldbuilding was great. There’s so many places, and each has their thing but as you move through it in the eyes of the different POVs you start to see all the parts that make it what it is and why it definitely feels like the end of times.

Ephyra, Beru and Anton were my favourites out of them all (and technically Beru doesn’t really get a POV, but I am sure she will be getting one later in the next book, she has to!) even if they are completely different. Gosh, it is hard to explain why without ruining the plot much.

Another thing I liked was that gender isn’t as defining or limiting on how characters act and react. It is a corrupt world and with it a lot fo stuff is wrong and not great, but I didn’t feel like the male characters were stronger/had more agency than the female ones (given the circumstances) which was nice to see.

So in summary, I enjoyed it a lot and want to read the second book now because I need to know what will happen with each of them and also what now? The stakes were high enough as it was and now they are even higher. It is a really well written book with wonderful worldbuilding and great characters, so go read it!

Beneath the Rising Review

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

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

I don’t usually read books that cross into “scary” land because I am not big on horror. But I like Premee and her twitter, and the fact that Johnny (one of the main characters) is a young female “genius” sold me to it.

One of the strengths of the book is setting the mood and the progression of the story. We start with a very “normal” (or as normal as having a genius world saving best friend can be) part of the story and Nick trying his best to figure out what comes next as Johnny goes further away and is less and less around due to all the amazing discoveries and inventions she is making, while he is the one working a bakery job to help his family.

Almost immediately I had a lot of things I wanted to quote as Johnny talks about how it is to be female, young and a scientist and have to compete against the established older male scientists. I don’t talk a lot about what I used to do for work and what I do now, but I used to be very similar to Johnny (sans the Ancient Ones). I was the one everyone expected great things. Had a big research career before I even graduated university. Doing big things, and everyone expecting great things… in Johnny’s words “everything”. So it was easy for me to engage with this book and to feel it to heart. Which made the scary a little less scary and more like “oh, that is scary but kinda interesting”.

Another strength is the relationship between Johnny and Nick. They are friends, but could they be more, and how can you keep a relationship (of whatever kind, friends or more) when the people in it are so different and understand each other’s challenges so little? Nick struggles to understand how despite Johnny being white and a genius, she still has barriers men wouldn’t have. And at the same time, Johnny fails to see what being brown and not being rich does to Nick. There are moments were they are as close as close can be and then you realise that at the same time ther eis this big chasm between them. It was masterfully done and it is proof of the craft that Premee can write an apocalypse/end of the world horror and at the same time have this intense view of a relationship as it moves and tries to define itself into adulthood.

Gosh, the Ancient Ones in themselves and the whole part of the plot that goes around it kept getting more and more interesting. The connections between cataclysms and ends of civilizations was also a bonus point for my history focused heart and just seeing all the little hints about geeky or nerdy stuff kept me smiling despite also being scared and worrying about the fate of the world and about Johnny and Nick.

And those last few chapters, well, that was magnificent and sad and intense and a big relief. A lot of emotions to be felt throughout it, and I couldn’t help but side a little with both of them and not be sure what exactly I wanted to happen because it was so hard to think what would be the best outcome for everyone involved.

Also, Ben and the genetically modified dung beetles that wouldn’t roll dung but might steal satsumas or other round objects made me giggle. The sarcams levels are great too, if you need a serving of that.

If you like history, science, geniuses and friendships put to the test with an end of the world, this is definitely your book. It gets my scarydorsement and my full endorsement as a read worth reading.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Review

Ok, I give up. I’ve typed this review so many times, several different days and it just disappears. So I am going to skip the “this is the info you can find on Goodreads that tells you what the book is about” and just go straight into the review.

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

Queen Talyien (Tali) is the combination of “strong female character” with “chosen one” with “what if it all went wrong?” and this is done masterfully.

We start the story with her explaining that she’s basically ruling alone because she kinda screwed up and her husband left her (and their son) the night before they were meant to be crowned King and Queen of a country that is factioned and fractioned and is just a lot of fighting lords for land and ruling over the others.

Then she gets a letter from her husband to come and meet him at the neighbouring country where apparently he ha been having a comfortable life for hte last 5 years without bothering to make himself known to her or you know, his son (I didn’t have much respect for the husband, despite Tali trying hard to blame herself for him leaving). She is told not to go by her counsellors but decides to try to fix her marriage, for the sake of their son.

Know, one thing to know is that Tali was born to be Queen. She was educated for it, she had an arranged marriage and everything, all her life has been centered around becoming the Queen her father wants/wanted her to be. She has a purpose to fulfill and any time she has strayed from it, she pays the consequence. Her whole being is trying to meet the expectations, to hold everything together while the rest blame her or praise her or even thwart her. I identified with her so much on this. When you are defined by the expectations of others, when you have been brought up to live to those expectations, and to be them, it becomes slowly clear that you will never fulfill all of them. Because you just can’t. You can’t be what others want you to be and forgo who you are for the sake of everyone else.

So when she chooses to try to make the most of this opportunity to make everything right, and to not be the only one holding it all together because her husband is off doing whatever it is he is doing. She goes. She is doing the best she can.

Of course, this ends up with an assasination attempt (and by ends I don’t mean she dies and that’s it) and she’s left alone and in a difficult position in a foreign country, having to figure it out as she goes. This is where she fully shines and the story truly becomes the best. It is once she is out on her own, having to fend for herself and do and be just herself that she shines, that both you as a reader and Tali as her own, slowly chip away at the expectations and find the real Talyien.

The restof the cast is well fleshed and have their own unique characteristics but to explain them, would be to ruin the experience of meeitng them and then finding where they fit in the story. All I can say is that I have a soft spot for Khine.

The book is gritty and has a lot of violence in it. There is also some attempted sexual assault, a lot of gaslighting and abuse. However, this doesn’t retrack from it but rather gives it more depth. And it also has humour to contrast it, at times I was so angry and then suddenly wanting to laugh.

To me, the book was a delight to read but it was also a book that made me angry. It reminded me of how men manipulate capable women for so many reasons, and undermine them. They chip away at them and do their best to destroy them and somehow we still come out alive and victorious. So I was angry and laughing and sad and joyous and I couldn’t stop reading because I needed to know what would happen and if there was hope.

So, do I recommend this book? Yes. But this is NOT a Young Adult book, Tali is an adult, she has a child, she is a Queen, not a princess. Her problems aren’t the ones a YA heroine would encounter, and the whole book is definitely more about older characters and different stages of life.

If you liked The Poppy War, then this may be feel like a great book, as it reminded me a bit fo the feeling I had after reading Poppy War (but they are not the same, this has no Academia side and is more mature, more adult). And it has that same world building magic that Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash have.

And if you follow my reviews, it has the secret ingredient that makes me love a book… grief. (This is a lot less about death of someone and more about loss of identity, about loss in general).

Chilling Effect Review

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

A hilarious, offbeat debut space opera that skewers everything from pop culture to video games and features an irresistible foul-mouthed captain and her motley crew, strange life forms, exciting twists, and a galaxy full of fun and adventure.

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

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

Full disclosure, I finished this book last year but because Orbit was publishing in the UK this month, I delayed my review to make it coincide with its birthday week! (Also, I bought my own copy, because seriously, psychic cats in space).

What I had kinda forgotten, was how much Latinx rep this book has which had me in sittches at all the nuance. If you read it not being Latinx, it will be a fun space opera, but knowing the meaning behidn the title chapters and the little phrases Eva keeps throwing when she’s angry or in a pickle, it was really fun.

Basically this book is bonkers and it is exactly the kind of crazy space opera that I haven’t seen or read in a long time and had been missing. It is the throw everything and the kitchen sink in just for good measure but instead of being a complaint about the fact there is so much going on, it is one of the strengths of the book.

Because the thing is that Eva is having so much happening and so many things going on that it is a bit hard to keep moving forward and she’s trying real hard to keep everything a bit sane rather than just unravelling into chaos (which does happen, because life and yeah, poor Eva). There is a lot of crazy, a lot of aliens, not a crazy amount of explaining the world to you (think how you go to Star Wars in a pub and there’s all the species and you have no clue about it but they’re there and you accept it at face value, that’s what it is like in this book). Things are and you just go along, and suddenly as you move through the book you go “oh wait, this thing, previously it was there and it was like part of it, but now it means something, I understand better”.

And there are the psychic cats, with the “boss” cat being called Mala which basically means Bad so it was real fun to have them in the mix (I want one).

All in all, if you like space opera with a lot of crazy, lot of drama and one thing after the other so you’re left with a “what now?” then definitely give this a go!

Chaotic Good Review

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

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

Nikki recommended this book to me and somehow that turned out well for her because she joined out DnD gorup! (I am definitely chaotic good, I used to think I was lawful good but I struggle with the lawful part, woops).

Also kudos to only having dice that camouflage in the picture when you’re trying to use them as props.

The book was fun and made me want to go play another session with our group (best part is that it includes some “comic” pages about their campaigns), but it also shows some of the elitism and preconceptions from nerds to outsiders.

For starters, it tackles the whole “if you wear dresses and take care of your image and worry about makeup, you’re not a legit nerd” thought. But it also shows how trying to keep a persona can be costly and it is hard keeping up with what you said and didn’t say and to whom you said it.

There is, obviously, a lot of DnD fun, a lot of talk about cosplay and making of the items (dresses, props, etc), and about blogging and just general interactions online with communities that are fans of something.

I enjoyed reading it but it isn’t really the style of book for me and I just didn’t feel it deeply to say to everyone to go read it. But if you like Geekerella and/or like DnD, you should give this a go and enjoy the fun and shenanigans!

Realm of Ash Review

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.

Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed…including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

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

How do you write a review for a book like this? Realm of Ash is the follow up (not exactly a sequel, but it does happen after) of Empire of Sand which I loved so much that it got me to draw again and do some fan art, into which I have spent countless hours because it needs to be as good as what I felt reading the book.

In Realm we follow Arwa as she joins a house for widows who do not want or can’t be a burden to their families. She is young and has survived a massacre. But she is also smart, conflicted and full of anger.

This book starts with strong women making the most in a society that doesn’t alway realise their value. And despite them having a limited way of doing things, the resourcefulness is amazing.

However, the main thing for me was how much Arwa fights against her Amithri blood and heritage, because she has been brought up to think it is tainted and foul. And the deeper she delves into this secret heritage and uses it as she attempts to help Zahir and the “heir” side they are meant to be helping, the more she realises that it was just convenient lies to trap her, and limit her, to rob her of who she is and could be.

That was a stunning thing to read as she moves through her anger and then fear and everything that comes as they desperately want to save the Empire (and how much she is conflicted internally as she finds that what the Imperial family wants isn’t the same as what is best for the Empire).

It is also a book full of court (empire in this case) politics, the complexity of families and relationships in general, and the power of hope. It is about identity, and about loss and grief (we already established books with grief in them are kinda my thing). And it is incredibly powerful.

As such, the book is hard to review without spoilers because it is so good but also to explain it in detail would be to rob those of the discovery and delight of it. All I can do is let you know that I loved it, and I will read anything Tasha writes because I need to, she has my readership through and through.

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.

Getting Lost and Finding Oneself

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The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

Bri and Mari are cousins, and growing up, also best friends and soul mates. But over the teenage years they lose touch, and their lives develop in somewhat opposite directions. While Bri travels the world, hikes crazy mountains and make new friends, Mari chooses a more shallow path; that of a social media influencer. Cooking pretend (photo suitable) meals, dating a pretend (social media hot-shot) boyfriend, she’s lost touch not only with Bri, but also with their common dreams of future adventures. But then suddenly, everything changes. Bri loosing her step on a steep climb, and Mari receiving her diary and backpack on what would’ve been their shared eighteenth birthday, sets Mari off in a new direction. One of hiking, exploring, and in a way recapturing the relationship with her now gone cousin. This is a story about getting lost on trails, and finding oneself when trying to get on the right way back.

Rating 🐖🐖🐖

Starting this book, I really thought I was going to love it. The cousin friendship, the growing apart, the mountain climbing and cute illustrations and handwritten passages from Bri’s diary – I just knew I was in for a treat. The story set off well, with Mari taking on the erratic landscape, while leaving everything she knew behind.

Then, however, nothing much happened. Sure, she climbed some more mountains. Made some friends (and there’s a love story in there too). Found out some things about Bri. But pretty fast, there was nothing more to the story than depictions of blisters, beautiful sunsets and quotes about finding oneself.

I really liked the concept of this book, but ironically enough, Mari’s journey towards finding her true self is plotted with the typical kind of shallow quotes that she wanted to get away from when leaving the influencer life behind. It is however a cute, easy read and pleasant feel good story, and if that’s what you’re looking for, The Other Side of Lost is a good option.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more wild life adventures, Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer might be your next read.