Wilder Girls Review

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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

I had seen very varying reviews of the book, but the premise had caught my eye a couple of years ago so I got it. I don’t regret it.

The book straddles the line of horror slightly and makes for a difficult one to place in a neat category. We meet Hetty, who is doing her best to survive in Raxter and to not succumb to despair. And she only really has two friends, Byatt and Reese.

Even before Byatt disappears, the panorama of how the girls are “infected” by the Tox and have this odd changes in their bodies, and they get ill and some die (and some have already died). Plus, it is hard to know who to trust out of the limited adults left taking care of them. As much as they still live in a school, there’s little of the school as a system left and it is all about survival.

There are a lot of secrets, a lot to learn about the Tox and as Hetty ends up being able to see odd things ahppening that are harder and harder to explain each day and to make sense fo them given their cirucmstances, tough choices have to be made.

And then Byatt disappears. This opens the point of view of Byatt, who shows us where she has been taken and what is going on in her world.

I found there was a lot left as secret but if you look back it slowly makes sense as you discover the truth. The idea is to make you feel as lost as Hetty and Byatt do when they’re going through. Which I did.

I did not like the ending being a bit open and not really getting much anywhere, it felt at first like it had ended and then suddenyl not sure. Are there more books to come? I don’t like having books play the “maybe a next book at some point” game.

But still, it was a good read and interesting concept.

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.

Hideous Beauty Review

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought?

But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown.

Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.

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

I won this book out of a lotery during YALC, however that doesn’t change my review or do anything for or against it.

To start this review, at least one of the foxes given is purely due to the fact that I usually cringe at books that center on romance/a relationship and somehow this one didn’t annoy me, or make me frustrated or anything like that. I enjoyed the romance,so kudos to the author because somehow a 4 fox review has come out of a contemporary romance book. Someone save this one for posterity.

Maybe that should be the whole review, this book made me like contemporary romance. (But I am not going to go test the waters and ruin the experience I got out of this one book).

Now on to an actual review of it. It is a very interesting book, with a coming out, a high school dance where they are officially out, and then disaster. Both Ellis and Dylan were fleshed out as full characters and neither was just a ploy or just there, you could see and feel what they were going through. There are several parts of the story to follow. One is Dylan’s best friend and their friendship, which I enjoyed but also boy, was that intense (and no, no filthy thoughts).

Another part is what made Ellis to elusive and what was he keeping from Dylan? Why is Dylan suddenly getting pages from the sketchbook Ellis had? The mystery is there ever present but it is also something that is keeping Dylan going and in some ways keeing him from plunging deeper into his grief, but at the same time, he’s not letting go of that grief because he wants to keep searching for answers.

And of course, the last one, is grief (another grief book, definitely my type of book). It is on how his family and the rest of the world interacts with him, and it is about him reacting or interacting in return. On processing the grief, and trying to find a way in and out and somehow untangle the big tangle that grief is.

The book in general does well exploring the three points and the final discovery both surprised me in one of the things and was not that surprising in another. But it didn’t feel too far away from what could possibly be.

This is not a happy book, it is a book that is steeped in sadness an in discovery and just finding your place in the world and learning who you are and who your boyfriend was/is.

Still, definitely worth a read.

All Fall Down Review

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

A deadly contagion races through England…

Isabel and her family have nowhere to run from a disease that has killed half of Europe. When the world she knows and loves ends for ever, her only weapon is courage.

The Black Death of 1349 was the deadliest plague in human history. All Fall Down is a powerful and inspiring story of survival in the face of real-life horror.

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

I haven’t read much historical fiction around the Black Death, so I decided to give this a go. And I’ve read another of Sally’s books before, so at least I kinda knew what to expect.

It was a very interesting book as you’re introduced to Isabel, and her world. And how it is so “natural” to just be part of it, you can see which parts they question and which ones they don’t. As a way to plunge into the world and setitng, this book does a good job at that but without feeling like you’re just reading a history book with just facts. Isabel and her family make the history become alive.

There’s not much that can’t be spoiled since we know Black Death killed a lot of people. And as the small village Isabel lives in slowly gets affected by it, and then it hits her family, tough choices have to be made, but also some questions arise about roles, responsibiltiies and status quo.

When everyone is dying around you, do the rules that kept you in that place still stand?

I didn’t love the book but it was a quick read, easy to consume without bogging down in facts, the plot was a bit broken into odd parts which is why it isn’t getting more stars, but it still got to somewhere and gave a good “ending” (or as good as you can have given the topic and circumstances).

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.

Rebels on the Run Book Box Club Unboxing

Fantastic theme and I knew immediately which book it’d be and was excited for the box because I seriously enjoyed it a lot, so let’s unbox starting from the top left corner and going clockwise:

  • Theme card, very wild West like.
  • Underneath a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets tea towel which I loved because it has a huge moon and is really beautiful art.
  • Favour stickers, it is book related and I instantly knew what they were and thought it was awesome.
  • Two promotional bookmarks.
  • Chocolate “Pixie Dust” covered pretzels. I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, so I had one but the rest were scoffed by my husband. He first was like “what is this, meh, funny pretzels” and then was like “need more, delicious!”
  • Desert sticky “bookmarks”, made my work colleagues smile and me too. I found it amusing.
  • Verify promotional postcard, intriguing book indeed.
  • The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis. I enjoyed it a lot and reviewed it here.
  • A Bookish Rebel mason jar, I was just sad it didn’t come with a lid but still, liked this.

All in all strong box and had lots of great items, probably the only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the promoitonal stuff, which to be fair is nothing bad at all or anything to complain about. Also the cover for Good Luck Girls is like someone poured liquid gold on it and wow. Absolutely stunning! Really blew me away.

The Grief Keeper Review

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee. Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.

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

The title of the book was what caught my eye first, then it was the plot and I just had to preorder it and read it. And boy, this book packed its punches and hit close to home (I was going to put a disclaimer to clarify which parts did and didn’t, but then realised I was saying way more than I felt comfortable with and therefore I just want to say I haven’t experienced everything in the book, but it isn’t something far removed in some areas for me).

Being bilingual, I usually do not like much books that throw words in a different language just for the sake of (I don’t mean calling a particular item of clothing or a dish by their name in that language, we call a taco a taco. I mean the adding foreign words for the sake of making it feel exotic, and it really peeves me off when it is a story including Spanish words), so I was wary about that happening here. It also breaks the continuity for me since the switch between Spanish/English breaks as I read sometimes if there’s that gap. However, as I read this, the way it uses Spanish was right. It was the perfect way of how my brain fills in gaps of language, how it processes, it didn’t disrupt or break continuity or annoy me. Instead it just reminded me how much I still have preference for some words in Spanish or how certain words don’t really translate well one way or the other.

As for the characters and the plot, I am the older sister and have a younger sister who did some of the things Gabi did (some almost to the T. *sigh*), and Marisol felt raw, protective, real. It was also like discovering myself as I read this. Because a lot of how Marisol copes with the world and her not breaking and not falling whereas Rey does, it was exactly how I work, how you’re brought up. And the contrast I feel in the UK, Marisol was feeling in her own experience in the US. I felt seen in this book, and as if it was revealing deeper parts of what it is to be Latinx.

The concept of Grief Keeper was mesmerising in itself and Rey’s story was also very nteresting, the dynamics, the way it all worked out was delightful to read. Slow burn, slow build up, intense feelings, “translation” and cultural differences making it more interesting.

Yes, I know Marisol isn’t from Mexico, but a lot of what she experienced was familiar and I could easily fill in gaps. The book wasn’t a shock to my system or a surprise, it was just “the truth” (a sad one sometimes) but it did so in a good way. I didn’t feel like the truth was just for plot or entretainment, it felt raw, it felt like it was being written from the heart, or close to it.

Beautiful melancholic book, with good Latinx representation, a lot of pondering on grief (yes, apparently I like books that touch on grief, sorry, I do, it has always been something that interests me, something that pulls me close) and working out that grief. Great use of language and wording and all the elements that make the characters. Highly recommended.