The Last Paper Crane Review

The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

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

I was sent a copy of this book by Hot Key Books, but as tends to be the case, it was already on my preorders list. So the fact that this came from the publishers in the hopes of a review, doesn’t affect the review at all.

We start with Mizuki, the granddaughter of a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb. She is meant to take care of her grandfather who is old and doesn’t believe that words can be of hope or help anymore, so to her he seems cranky, but he sits down and starts telling her his story.

Ichiro was a young man on a day off, spending it with his friend Hiro, when suddenly the world changed in a drastic way. He starts telling us about how he woke up after the bomb dropped and the disorientation, the chaos, everything feels so intense as you read about it. Then he manages to find Hiro, and they set off to look for Hiro’s little sister Keiko.

Thankfully Keiko is still alive, but they can see the destruction and devastation while they search for her, and Hiro is in really bad shape. However, Hiro makes a choice that leaves Ichiro with Keiko and a promise to take care of her. And he tries, but again, hard choices have to be made and he becomes separated from her.

He sets off on a desperate search for her, getting the hospital staff in Hiroshima and then in Tokyo to try to help him, however, it seems hopeless. Every place he visits, he leaves a paper crane with his details, since that was the last thing he left with Keiko before he lost her.

Ichiro, as an older man now, is still distraught that he couldn’t keep his promise and save Keiko. All he has is a note saying there are no records of her.

I have to say, while I read this, the combination of poetry and verse made it interesting and also set a clear difference between past and present and personality and the changes time has done to Ichiro. It was powerful and beautiful and amde me tear up a few times as I could feel as if I was with Ichiro through his journey, rather than reading an account of someone that this is happening to.

I even had to share with my husband because it just stuck with me so much and it left hope and wanting to be able to believe in hope and not giving up.

I can only recommend this story, and now I am myself intrigued about Kerry’s other works so may go check those out because the writing made this book work really well (the artwork was also a great help at the points where it was, which were minimal but they were well chosen).

Fight like a Girl Review

Fight like a Girl by Sheena Kamal

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

I received this book from the publisher for free in the hopes I’d review. Now, this sounded intriguing, so I had to read it, but it coming from the publisher doesn’t influence my opinions of it.

Let’s start with the fact this book packs a punch and it will hit hard. As such, it requires a few content warnings: abuse (in various forms and dynamics: parent-child, between partners, as a social construct; emotional, financial, physical), manipulation, gaslighting, murder, fighting.

I did say it packs a punch. We meet Trisha who is shaken due to the fact she accidentally ran over her father, after he wandered in front of her car and he died. She’s not really emotional about it since he was a bit of an enstranged father and it is her mother who she loves.

But love in her world is translated into violence. Her mother will hit her because she loves her and the next moment make her a nice meal. And Trisha is doing the best to try to be better, do better, so she channels all that into Muay Thai kickboxing.

The book is short, and mostly shows two parts of Trisha’s world. The one where she is trying to become a good fighter and do more, get everything out of her system and make the gym and her teacher/mentor proud. But she’s just not very “lucky” and keeps losing her fights.

The other side is her family, the dynamics of the friendship between her mother, aunt and neighbour, and then how her mother very quickly seems to replace her father after the accident. At first Trisha accepts things as they are, but as time goes by she starts questioning how things really happened and why they are happening.

There is a lot of anger in Trisha, so this is a very “emotional” book where she is trying to make sense of the whole I love you and hit you at the same time, and also trying to understand where she belongs and what she can do. And she feels slightly unbalanced, should she be asking questions and does she want to know the answers behind what her mother does, what happened to her dad and the past?

The only part that didn’t really work for me was the soucoyant stories, as they are woven in a way that they may be bordering the line of realism and not, but then the thread of that is lost and kind not followed through. There a few loose threads left that had a lot of attention and then suddenly they aren’t there anymore, as if it wasn’t important or it never mattered, yet they take a few chapters and keep being mentioned for a while. I wish more had been done to follow on that particular thread or that it hadn’t really appeared as all it did was distract and detract fromthe story since it went nowhere (it peaked my curiosity, mad eme wonder and then I was like “but what about the whole soucoyant thing? what was the point?”).

I’d say, that if you plan on reading this to be prepared for how gritt and brutal it is. The only other similar book I can think of, is Monday is not coming, which was very intense too.

A Pocketful of Stars Review

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby

Safiya and her mum have never seen eye to eye. Her mum doesn’t understand Safiya’s love of gaming and Safiya doesn’t think they have anything in common. As Safiya struggles to fit in at school she wonders if her mum wishes she was more like her confident best friend Elle. But then her mum falls into a coma and, when Safiya waits by her bedside, she finds herself in a strange alternative world that looks a bit like one of her games. And there’s a rebellious teenage girl, with a secret, who looks suspiciously familiar . . .

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

This wasn’t a gift from a publisher, but rather a hand me down from Stephanie Burgis, which I ended up lending around before I read it.

I seem to have a penchant for stories about grief. And of hope. A Pocketful of Stars is a bit of both (or rather quite a lot). Safiya is struggling to get along with her mum, who to her doesn’t seem to understand what she likes, and instead is pushing her to do what ehr mum wants.

But after a bad argument, a week later her mum is in a coma and Safiya is double guessing herself. The classic “if I hadn’t done x, this wouldn’t have happened and if I had done y it would’ve been okay”. And part of it is because her being the daughter may not know what medical condition her mum has or anything.

Somehow, this whole if this and that starts a “game”. Into a quest of dinign items that trigger memories of a young woman in a similar mind space and situation as Safiya and her mum. It becomes a race for Safiya, a lot of superstition and a lot of gaming, of trying to find the best, as maybe it will revert what happened to her mum and wake her from the coma.

At the same time, Safiya’s best friend “grows” up a little quicker than Safiya is comfortable with. Not in the sense of her not wanting to grow up, but rahter her friend being immature and calling it “growing up” (when you’re an adult you cringe about this type of attittude but we all did some kind of thing attempting to be more grown up and actually acting very childish).

It was an interesting story, I was intrigued, however it is a story laced with grief and emotional growth. And as such it talks about death, illness and a coma. So read when you’re in a mood that you can cope with the theme of it.

The Never Tilting World Review

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

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

This is my first book from Rin but the premise sounded amazing and when Harper360 sent the email for proof requests I couldn’t help myself. (This is a proof provided by Harper for free, though they would prefer if I can review it but that definitely doesn’t shape my views)

I am very glad I chose it. This felt like a fairytale plus meet cute plus crazy epic adventure and mystical touches. In my head this was like a darker grown up sibling of The Spinner of Dreams (like the teenage sibling of it).

We get the story from four viewpoints, which would usually drive me MAD. But because the voices are telling two stories that will merge into one, this was easier (and probably it was due to the voices being distintc enough but not too much to break continuity). At the beginning I was totally team Odessa and Lan over Haidee and Arjun. But as the story progressed I ended up switching who my favourite couple was. (And to be fair I could see myself more in Haidee than I did in Odessa).

The middle of the book is a bit slow and feels like filling to add worldbuilding and a bit of extra intrigue, and the other thing that reduced it’s rating was that the ending isn’t a good ending (and I don’t mean I was expecting a Happy Ever After one, I know it’s a duology(?)). What I mean is that there is a LOT of mysteries they are working on finding and solving once they arrive at the Great Abyss, and most of it doesn’t get an answer and instead you end up with even more questions (plus I couldn’t believe much on Odessa’s reactions on the end, Haidee had a good build up to the what/why, whereas Odessa had no reason/motive or anything to do what she did).

Obviously, this is a proof so the final copy may have this better (also to note, there are grammar errors but I don’t usually mark those as 99% of the time they get picked up before final print). I just wish that the next book was complete because I wanted to read it after I had finished this one.

Outside Review

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

The Proof of the Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives.

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

I got a proff for this book, and just ahdn’t felt like reading it for a while. I am glad I waited as it is a heavy themed book.

But before I start on the review of the book, content warnings: rape, child abuse, sexual assault, disassociation…

Ele knows that there is an Outside, she has collected a set of “proofs” like the fact that He comes to the Inside and sometimes brings scents and other times gifts from it. She’s been trying to collect proofs and this seems like her life’s purpose.

It takes a while to set the scene and all the details that will become important later in the story, and that start was brutal and also confusing. Then Ele escapes the Inside and stays with a reclusive man and his son who is more than happy to welcome someone other than his father.

And Ele starts to figure out the Outside and the “rules” that make it, like never talking about Inside. And at the same time, her hosts are trying to figure her out and in a way help her. I know some reviews asked why the father takes his sweet time to get help from others or to question Ele further, but I can see why he wouldn’t want to pry (those who don’t want people to pry into their business tend to leave others alone, kin knows kin, not that they are related in this story). But also, if he doesn’t pry, he can build trust, and it is obvious to him that she is vulnerable. Trust is a big thing here, so he does do things in the best way he can given the circumstances.

Anyway, to tell the rest of the story would be to spoil it, but the reveals suddenly pile up, and the whole “a first person narrator is unreliable at least in one way” works beautifully with this intense story.

The reasons I gave it a low rating was that it is very brutal and the content warnings weren’t fully there (the scene set up kinda warns you where this is going, but still), and that despite the brilliant work done with an unreliable narrator, the story is slow and it kjust feels like it keeps tripping on itself a little too much. (But it may be due to my copy being an ARC, so the finished version may be better).

It was a well done book but I didn’t enjoy the story, it was a little too brutal, too intense for me.

Emily Eternal Review

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Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

So, her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome. But before her solution can be tested, her lab is brutally attacked, and Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions – college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra.

As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. But before long it becomes clear that it’s not only the species at stake, but also that which makes us most human.

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

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And this book sounded right up my street, so I said yes.

Emily is quite interesting, she is an Artificial Consciousness developed to help psychological issues in humans, therefore she has to be as “human” as can be, and the focus isn’t in her being “Intelligent” and robotic but rather to be able to develop feelings and empathy.

From the get go, this book reminded me of Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui, which I read eons ago and loved (it is a classic Japanese story, that mixes reality with something else, if you’re not really into Japanese writing style, there’s a good film you can watch). I digress.

Both Paprika and Emily have a lot of similarities, but in Paprika we go slightly into the fantastical and blurring lines between dreams and reality. Emily Eternal, is more of a dystopia, near apocalypse tale.

It doesn’t pose the question of what we do after the end of the world, but rather, what do we do when the end of the world is inevitable? And of course, leave the figuring out to smart humans, government and Emily to figure it out.

This book has a lot of science (which sadly deteriorates as the book progresses, and that was what I struggled the most with in this book, the science being less there and just fitting the narrative, whereas at the beginning the science was making it work SO well). It touches on psychology, biology (lots to do with DNA, which was fascinating), a little on computer science and related, and of course robotics.

Emily as a concept was fascinating to me, and it was very interesting the way the author tried to show how a machine trying to emulate humanity would try to do so. Probably one of my favourite things of the book was the whole “Emily is trying to be human”.

This book has a bit of everything, assassinations, end of the world, space stuff, robots, an artificial consciousness, romance, action, adventure… conspiracy theories even get a little bit and even things like cancer and sickness. And family, and relationships in general.

If you like techie science fiction that isn’t a space opera and has the end of the world in it, I can definitely recommend this one. It left me with a good feeling after finishing.

 

 

Echo Murder Review

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Echo Murder by Laura Laakso

Yannia Wilde returns to the Wild Folk conclave where she grew up, and to the deathbed of her father, the conclave’s Elderman. She is soon drawn back into the Wild Folk way of life and into a turbulent relationship with Dearon, to whom she is betrothed.

Back in London, unassuming office worker Tim Wedgebury is surprised when police appear on his doorstep with a story about how he was stabbed in the West End. His body disappeared before the paramedics’ eyes. Given that Tim is alive and well, the police chalk the first death up to a Mage prank. But when Tim “dies” a second time, Detective Inspector Jamie Manning calls Yannia and, torn between returning to the life she has built in Old London and remaining loyal to the conclave and to Dearon, she strikes a compromise with the Elderman that allows her to return temporarily to the city.

There she sets about solving the mystery of Tim’s many deaths with the help of her apprentice, Karrion. They come to realise that with every death, more of the echo becomes reality, and Yannia and Karrion find themselves in increasing danger as they try to save Tim. Who is the echo murderer? What sinister game are they playing? And what do they truly want?

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

The delightful wonderful human behind LWB sent me a copy of this book to review, because I have fallen so hard for Fallible Justice, and I couldn’t wait to read the next one. As the sticker says, I can do whatever about it. But even if I didn’t get this early copy, I am/was getting a copy anyway.

Now to the review. The book picks up just from where Fallible Justice ends. Yannia is making her way back to the Conclave and the Wild Folk with Dearon. Karion has stayed back to do his thing (whatever that is).

And we also meet Lizzie and Tim, who like to go on dates, and Tim really seems to be on the bad side of luck, because he keeps dying every time he goes out with Lizzie. Best/worst part? Tim doesn’t have a girlfriend, and  he’s very much alive. So who gets called in?

Yannia does (no ghostbusters in this one!).And this lady isn’t stepping down from investigating things, so she starts trying to find out what type of magic and who could’ve done this.

The tricky thing the “illusions” of the murders are starting to bleed in with the real Tim, and it is becoming more and more dangerous as time goes by. What is making this particular magic so powerful? How can it be?

I loved the writing and the story. However, I have to say that this book has a lot of violence, and some of it is domestic, there is abuse, and well, it is an intense book. But it is also extremely good. I opted for reading it in the morning during a flight. One of those “read it in one sitting”.

It was quite good, and it keep me wondering. Alas, because of the particular topic, it was relatively easy for me to figure out who was behind the Echo murders, and part of the motive. But not everything I guessed and the reasons unspooling as Yannia understood them and raced to catch the one behind it all before Tim actually dies. High stakes indeed.

Karion, Wishearth, Lady Bergamot and a few others still make an appearance, so all good for me. So my take is, read Fallible Justice, read this, and cry until the next one comes out because it is so far away. (You can come cry with me, I’ll share my blanket fort, and give you access to the Moon library).