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: 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.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Review

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

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

This was a gift from the lovely Justine on one of those wishlist shares, and I had heard a lot of good things about the book.

It was tempting me since it has a fox in it, it is ink drawings and just a positive type of book, so it felt like a book to have at hand when sadness hits and when life just feels a bit not great.

I have to say, it is an easy soothing read with heavy pages and a lot of care, so I can see a lot of care in making it. As it says, you can technically read without an order and I didn’t try it this time round but as I read I noticed it does lend to an orderly or disorderly reading.

I think what got me the most was that the art is simple and yet so emotive and there’s a lot of detail and care. I was fascinated by it and the words go along well.

For some reason it reminded me a lot of Winnie the Pooh and old artwork in the books but also that kind of timeless quotes about life and friendships and just everything. It has a poetic way to it and I just found it soothing, a bit short if anything.

If you want a book that is art, coffee table material but also will make you feel good for reading it, then this is the one for you. Plus it has cute animals, particularly a fox…

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!

Hotel Dare Review

Hotel Dare by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre

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

Not entirely sure how this book got under my radar, but the amazing Bec sent it as a gift form my wishlist and I couldn’t wait long to get into it and read through. (She also sent an awesome super soft fox eye mask and I love it!)

Three adoptive siblings are sent to visit their grandmother at her hotel, who is slightly enstranged for their father (her son). The siblings each ahve their own personal things to work through and it doesn’t help that grandma Lupe seems to be just giving them chores and not much more.

But one day while cleaning, they discover that the rooms are portals to other worlds! Each of them ends in a differnet world and when grandma finds out, chaos ensues.

I like the mysticism in the book and the idea of the different portals and how they came to be. However as much as I enjoyed it, at the beginning it was too confusing and wasn’t grasing my attention enough and instead it just felt like it was trying hard to be mysterious and not saying things just to have a plot (which to be fair, given the actual plot and what happens, was a little unnecessary and I wish it had been approached differently).

However I liked the way things slowly fall inot place for each of the siblings and their own personal issues, plus the secrets grandma Lupe keeps and why there are portals in the old hotel. It places family at the core of the story, not just blood/biological but family that is found or made through life, which sometimes isn’t valued at the same value in books and I felt like this did it justice.

A fun graphic novel to read and have a crazy adventure with portals and family at the core of it.

Five Midnights Review

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moon and Me: The Little Seed Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favourite page!

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

Blog Tour: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

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

Just to clarify, that a copy of the book was provided to me for free so I could be part of the blogtour and read it by the time this was happening. I still had one copy on the way, so this is a case of “still in my list, having it for free does nothing”.

I tried to read Sabriel a few years back, but I just couldn’t get to it and was sad to have missed on that bandwagon, because it sounded like a good one. Angel Mage intrigued me, would this be the right book for me?

The answer is yes. I enjoyed it a lot and wanted to keep on reading and even after I finished reading it, it stuck in my head for a few days afterward.

I enjoyed the characters a lot and how you learn more of each as you go, but also, they are not perfect. They are fully human and they each have their quirks, which make them endearing and annoying at times. At moments you just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them, other times you think “go, go, you’ve got this!”.

And of course I had a soft spot for Dorothea, who I felt closer to and could identify better with than the rest of the cast (though for each of them I could think of someone like them).

Avoiding spoilers but this is like a magical rethinking of Three Musketeers, with names even being close to some fo the ones in Dumas’ original. And the world even though named differently is basically a fantastical Europe (I do wish this hadn’t been the case, as it made it odd. At times it felt fully independent and new world, and then it would be too European, too French).

Now, on to the magic, which is part of what left this book in my head for longer than I expected. I know that to many this magic is pretty new but to me it was a magic that felt too familiar, too close to home. It took me a while to figure out why.

The magic system works on “icons” of the angels and their various levels. You need an icon/image of said angel and then if you need what their scope covers, you may summon them and depending on level/icon quality you can summon for long. Of course, depending on level and use, this also costs you time. Summoning a powerful one means giving at the very least months of your life and ageing instantly. So cost of magic is an important consideration, and in a way, a personal one. How much do you need the magic and is it worth the cost?

What made it familiar is that in Mexico there is a big angel and saints belief system. The magic may or may not be real, but the system is very similar to the one used in Angel Mage. Certain saints can make smaller “miracles” whereas others can make bigger ones (Archangel Gabriel or say, Saint Peter are on the BIG side of the scale). And people carry icons of the entity, either in small stamps or cards, mini gold or silver coins with the likelihood of the saint, or even set up an “altar” to the entity in a room in their home. And you elevate a prayer (similar to the invocation you may have to do for the angels on Angel Mage) to request your miracle. You may even offer something in exchange and usually you are told that there is a cost to it even if you’re unaware of it.

I don’t know if it was the familiarty of the many things in this book that made it a nice read, one I didn’t want to put down, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

However, as a note, it is a stand alone but it doesn’t feel like one. There is a LOT left out and this makes it feel incomplete, so as a stand alone it doesn’t stand too well and leaves you thinking this was meant to be a duology at the very least.

All in all, an interesting familiar mixed with the new kind of book that was worth reading!

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.

The Good Luck Girls Review

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.

Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.

When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

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

I was provided a free review copy from HotKeyBooks, but it’s also on preorder. So I would’ve still reviewed it and read it. My views are my own and haven’t been influenced by having a proof copy.

This is a tough book. But it is like one of those biscuits that are hard on the outside and have a soft gooey chocolate center. So let’s start with some content/trigger warnings. This book touches on: rape, sexual abuse, child labour, prostitutes (coherced/forced), child grooming (implied), violence and murder, some psycological and emotional torture/abuse.

Big list, right? But it is a book about five young women (girls?) who have been sold to a “good luck” house (a prostibule) as children to pay off debts or similar reasons. There they are groomed to accept their new job and how “lucky” they are to have a home, and a relatively “easy” job. (The story doesn’t imply it is an “easy” job, but some of the society in it does).

Considering the content, I wasn’t uncomfortable or icked by the book. Instead I wanted to keep reading and know what was happening next. The world is very much a “western” (as in cowboy type, somewhere I saw it described as Westworld type and yes, that fits). But our five heroines test their luck when a chance to escape comes up.

The high stakes, the quest and the characters really make this book. And I highly enjoyed it. Didn’t want to put it down. There is a lot of asking what to do when you are just protecting and full of anger, and not only that but what to do with emotions you have had to hide.

The tattoos that mark them as good luck girls was an interesting element, same as how having a shadow or not kinda defines your status and “class”. Interesting world building.

If you like spunky heroines, westerns or cowboys, high stakes and lots of adrenaline, definitely recommend this.

Magic for Liars Review

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

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

I received this book in a book blogger event from the publisher. There was no ties or anything to review it but I read it and so now I am reviewing it.

Magic for Liars had my hopes up. And sadly it deflated them. I’ll start by saying it is not a bad book, but if you come to it with high hopes, it will go wrong.

For starters Ivy is a bit bland and very maleable to the plot. And we don’t get to learn a lot about the magic and world because of it being too complex (you’re freaking investigating a potentially magical murder and somehow you can’t be explained or learn how the magic works, so why do they actually want you to solve this thing?!).

Some parts of the book where good and the writing at times really got me imagining it, but then it gets generic and that was a bit sad because it could’ve been much better.

And that whole chase and play and investigate, it finally comes to the big reveal (which if you paid attention the clues where there and I kinda knew the who but not the how/why from the first few chapters), and it just falls flat and flops. The big reveal is underwhelming, and the follow up to an ending is just sad.

I think the book was trying too hard to do magic school, and murder, and mystery, and politics, and intrigue, and romance and all the things and it was too much to juggle… Which is sad because it could’ve been much better if it had stuck to less things and focused on those more.