Book Review

Moon Reads: The Raven Heir

The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bid for the proof copy in aid as it was annotated.

As a fan of Stephanie’s books, and knowing the Raven Heir was in the making a few years ago, it was inevitable I’d bid and bid until I got this proof. Which then I promptly devoured and enjoyed thoroughly.

In the same delightful fun fantasy adventure style as The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, The Girl with the Dragon Heart and, The Princess who Flew with Dragons, The Raven Heir explores the power of the character’s internal magic and what makes them be unique and therefore magical or the heroine that is needed.

We meet Cordelia and her triplets, Giles and Rosalind, who are much more well-behaved than she is, and a lot less wild. She can feel it in her bones, in her being, that the woods call her, the shape-shifting is ever so tempting and it is hard to obey the rules. But Cordelia tries hard and does her best, even if sometimes this doesn’t work out.

But when the safety of her home is at stake and the triplets are suddenly in the run for their lives, it is Cordelia who seems to know more than her triplets and who will have to make very tough decisions.

Overall the book explores the power of being siblings, friendship and the weight of responsibility and knowing something. But it also has a lot of animals, and nature involved, and all the elements of a perfect Disney/Pixar film, or a good animated series that will stay with you for years to come. Actually, if it was to be made as a film, I’d say give it to the studio behind The Secret of Kells, or Wolfwalkers, because it would fit so beautifully in that style. If you have watched either film or any of their films, The Raven Heir has that magical quality and fantasy epic that is also heavily tied with nature and living and the power and weight of choices made.

As per usual, the author has made an amazing book and there is layers and layers of it to look into, starting with the world and then coming to Cordelia, her magic and the magic of her triplets, alongside her identity and the adventure they have to set off to save the kingdom.

Highly recommended to readers of all ages, anyone that loves a good story, one that will stick with you forever, this is the one to pick.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for my personal collection

Lily Hu has questions, particularly about herself and why the idea of two women falling in love makes her heart race, or why she clips certain butch female looks, but she is Chinese-American in the 1950s where it is dangerous to seem a little too different and to risk her father’s deportation.

So Lily keeps her questions quiet until she starts hanging out with Kathleen Miller, who is not afraid to go to the Telegraph Club with Lily and hang out there to watch a show. As her world and friendships shift, and priorities change, Lily suddenly is asking more and more questions and saying no to things she might have just shrugged away, and yes to things she would have just wished she did say yes to before.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, is a trip through the US at the time of red-scare paranoia, and particularly what it means to be defining your sexuality alongside your identity and how you fit in this world and country. The story is written with that everyday type of writing that makes you go through the day of Lily and through things as they happen and it all feels luscious and mundane at the same time.

There are so many details about what being in a country that sees you as different in not only one way feels, and what finding the deep secrets you didn’t even dare admit you kept suddenly are more accept or have somewhere to be not a secret anymore and how liberating that can be but also the risks of letting the truth show.

Wonderful read, and highly recommended overall. It is a very different feel to Malinda Lo’s fantasy books but it still ahs the beauty of being an easy read and yet telling a big story, like an epic poem that everyone knows the lines to and can recite as if it was what everyone does.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Hokkaido Summer SakuraCo

Hokkaido Summer SakuraCo

Subscription box: SakuraCo

Theme/Month: Hokkaido Summer, July 2021

Ownership: Subscribed on their 3 boxes option. If you are interested in purchasing a Sakura Co subscription, you can do it on their website.

SakuraCo is a new box that focuses on Japanese tea, sweets and snacks from local makers for you to enjoy. And the idea is that you take a unique snack journey around Japan with the contents of the box. I’ve been subscribed since the first box and so far enjoyed the journey.

As per usual, the box is crammed full of snacks and delicious treats, so let’s start unboxing from the top left and skipping the repeated snacks that ended away from their twin:

  • Melon Soft Sand, crispy crunchy wafer with a very thin layer of melon cream, but still very flavourful.
  • Butter Mochi Senbei, crunchy and slightly honey sweet mochi
  • Hokkaido Grilled Corn Senbei, sweet and full of corn flavour but not the way you expect.
  • Yubari Melon Jelly, a fresh summer melon, sweet and extremely pleasant, almost like biting the real thing.
  • Okina Dorayaki, just a nice fluffy dorayaki.
  • Hearty Age mochi, savoury mochi with a sea like taste.
  • Yubari Melon Cream Sandwich Cookies, the cookie kept confusing me but the cream was delicious.
  • Postcard
  • Yawaraka Rum Raisin, boozy and delicious, a contrast to the rest of the box for sure but a good one.
  • Hokkaido Milk Cheesecake, I prefer this type of cheesecake so much more. Absolutely delicious.
  • Milk Mochi, sticky and chewy and delicious.
  • Melon Mochi, I love these bags of mochi, absolute pleasure and last long enough even if I have to stop myself from eating them all at once.
  • Peach Matcha Tea
  • Kibi Dango, another mochi with chewy and sweet flavour.
  • Hangetsu side plate. It matches a tray in a previous box and fits nicely to present food.
  • The monthly leaflet with details fo each snack, ingredients, allergens and a bit of history of some of the choices or why focusing on melon and the region.

This box definitely gave me a summer vibe feel to it and I have enjoyed my way through it. It also had some familiar types of snacks but other new ones that surprised me, and I am slowly still figuring out what type of things I like the most. That cheesecake felt risky to eat at first but each bite made it just a favourite more and more.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance

Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Received a copy from the publisher after requesting it.

As per usual, just because a copy was provided by the publisher, it doesn’t influence my review and all thoughts here are my own.

Want a wholesome romance that you can actually wish you had and it is healthy rather than pining for the bad boy in the story? Add dancing and food to it and you have got Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance.

As I read this book, I kept loving it more and more with each new thing. We meet Radha first as she is in the finals for dancing and she finds out her mom is sleeping with one of the judges which then affects her confidence and means everyone thinks she’s made it by cheating rather than her own talent. Talk about a punch in the gut.

This destroys her love for dancing and causes her huge anxiety, as she has lost her dance joy. She moves schools and agrees with her mum that she will dance for one year only and then she is free to do whatever career she wants, as she is sure she doesn’t want to dance anymore.

Introduce Jai, who also likes dancing and suddenly desperately needs Radha’s help to make it to the Nationals of dancing.

This is a fun romance, with a lot of dancing, food making, negotiating boundaries and life, and a relationship. But it is also about having a healthy relationship where both sides are part of it and it isn’t just the bad boy and the girl pining after him. Honestly, one of the best and healthiest couples of YA I have read in a long time.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Goodbye, my Rose Garden (Full Series)

Goodbye, my Rose Garden by Dr. Pepperco (Full Series)

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for my personal collection

Series: Goodbye, my Rose Garden, 3 volumes total.

I have been reading a lot of series, particularly graphic novels and manga, and sometimes it is hard to review a single book without adding spoilers, so now I will be adding some Full Series reviews.

Today I will talk about Goodbye, my Rose Garden. It is a female to female (F/F) series set in semi Victorian era England and focuses on Hanako, who dreams of becoming a novelist. Of course, this is not an easy path so she finds a job as a personal maid to a young noblewoman/lady. This seems to be a wonderful job since the lady, Alice Douglas, likes reading and encourages Hanako’s dream until she makes a very unusual request. Hanako has to kill Alice and end her suffering as she doesn’t deserve to be alive.

Initially, Hanako refuses but agrees to consider it if necessary. And so the story develops into a slow burn romance where Hanako feels it is not suitable to fall for her employer and therefore should tread lightly, but also, she is her personal maid and as such should do her best to help her lady. Alongside this, she has to figure out if she can convince Alice to bail out of the request to kill her, or why she thinks she should be killed. Add to that the path of attempting to become a novelist, Alice’s jealous fiance, and Hanako’s own past, and it is a soft romance with some high stakes.

I usually try the first volume of a series and decide, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but honestly, as I read I knew I had to get the rest. Goodbye, my Rose Garden packs a lot in very little space and it also does a good job of keeping all the plot lines and subplots going rather than abandoning them or half forgetting they are there, which was part fo what made it much dearer for me.

If you want a soft F/F manga set in early twentieth-century England, that focuses on the love of reading and on roses and just being dedicated to living life, this is the one for you.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: WhoDunnIt? Book Box Club

Subscription box: Book Box Club

Theme/Month: WHODUNNIT, May 2021

Ownership: Subscribed on their 12 boxes option. If you are interested in purchasing a Book Box Club subscription, you can do it on their website.

Book Box Club is a young adult subscription box, the unique thing is the Clubhouse where you can chat to the author a month (or so) after the box was shipped and ask questions and just chat around. It also includes several goodies and usually the choice of book is one that is unique and not in other book boxes so very few chances of duplicate books and a lot of new reads discovery power.

This box was all about solving the mystery and our favourite cases or detectives, so let’s see what was inside, starting from the bottom right corner and going clockwise:

  • Clubhouse invite, still personalised.
  • A Moustache you a question? bath bomb which I thought was in part kudos to detectives and also it is a fun word game.
  • A set of Detective Notes
  • Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, an interesting little murder mystery book.
  • Professor Plum candle, which is absolutely glorious
  • Theme card
  • A “labyrinth” type of pen with a quote which I always forget which it is but it is a fun pen.
  • An a little enamel pin

Overall I totally felt all the points to detectives and solving the mystery, plus the adding a Professor Plum and clue reference was cute and the colours fo the items kinda kept in theme of an old era vibe, really nice box.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Incredible Doom [vol 1]

Incredible Doom [vol 1] by Matthe Bogart and Jesse Holden

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for myself

Content warnings: Violence, domestic abuse, drugs, alcohol, gaslighting, manipulation, bullying, the list is quite long

Accidentally I am doing a theme for the past few weeks of the choice of books to review, and Incredible Doom fits well as a graphic novel counterpart to Run Rebel.

Incredible Doom focuses on four teenagers discovering the power of the internet, old-style forums, and friendship in a harsh world.

If you wonder why a lot of people connected through the internet and it boomed quickly, or if you yourself used to spend your nights messaging virtual friends in forums and finding connections to them, this is a graphic novel for you.

We have Allison who has a manipulative abusive father that tries to keep her as a child and unable to leave, so she finds friends through the internet and her computer while complying with the demand of her father, until ti becomes too much and her new online friend agrees to run away with her, trying to escape her father.

On the other side of the story, we have Richard who has just joined a new school and makes friends with Tina, who is small but fierce and punk, and this will shake his whole world, the place he fits and potentially even more, but in turn, he will shake the world he’s been introduced to back.

A story that is in a way about old times but also that lives through time in the internet and may still apply even if it isn’t now forums but other apps and means to communicate, you may still find the connections that keep you alive while your world falls apart.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Run Rebel

Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Purchased to read

Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, violence, gaslighting, arranged marriage, racism, bullying, mental health, drinking/alcoholism

I don’t always start a review by comparing the book to others, but due to the huge amount of content warnings, I want to place it right. Rub Rebel is powerful, but it is as if you had mixed Poet X with Monday’s Not Coming or Fight Like a Girl.

Now, if you have read any of those books, you will know they are gritty intense books about the not so pretty side of being a girl and trying to live life in a complicated family situation. And Run Rebel is about a girl who loves running and is good at it but her dad expects her to marry and not go on studying and she struggles to keep rising through the world when she keeps feeling the punches coming down.

It is a story about reacting and then acting, being reactive to proactive, but also about appreciating the things you have, the small respites, the little things sometimes you don’t consider or how opportunities may come.

I had to take some time as I read this as it is intense and you really feel for the characters, so please read it carefully, but the poetry approach is intense and also good at conveying the story quickly, in a way that makes it understandable. In the poem form of the story, the verses take away the fluff and give the narrator a voice unique to them that is as if they are writing the poems to tell their story, to vent and to breathe, like bleeding on the page.

Recommended for readers of intense stories, fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and any for the titles mentioned above or the authors.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Change Your Stars Illumicrate

Subscription box: Illumicrate

Theme/Month: Change Your Stars, May 2021

Ownership: Subscribed on their 6 boxes option. If you are interested in purchasing an Illumicrate subscription, you can do it on their website.

Illumicrate is a book subscription box, it usually features fantasy and sci-fi but not exclusively young adult, sometimes it features adult too. It usually contains a new release, a pin and several bookish goodies.

This is probably the one box I was looking out for the most because I love Tasha’s books but of course, this would be the one box that got lost in the post and therefore I had to wait for a replacement for a whole month, but now I have it and I am a very happy critter, so what was in the special box?

  • The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, you can find my review here, but this one has edges that have a botanical motif and are gorgeous.
  • The monthly pin is inspired by it and it is basically the building where a lot of the story happens.
  • A weird Illumicrate key that is probably my least favourite part of the box.
  • A gorgeous book sleeve which I think is inspired by the Winterwood series.
  • A dress pin, it is cute but not entirely sure I want it as a pin.
  • A notebook inspired by V. E. Schwab and probably Addie LaRue, but I like the botanical style and the quote overall.
  • The theme leaflet
  • And finally a tea caddy which is now holding some Earl Grey I got gifted for my birthday.

Overall I really enjoyed the box except for the weird key, however I have to say I am not particularly sold on the fact we had a monthly pin, another pin and the key taking space as items in the same box, it feels a little bit like the same type of item, but otherwise it was good and quite nice, and the book wins over everything.

Book Review

Moon Reads: For the Wolf

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

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

Series: Wilderwood

Ownership: Proof provided by Orbit but also preordered since like last year.

Spoilers: No, however, may allude to some events in the book.

As per usual, disclaimer that a book provided by the publisher doesn’t influence my opinion or review of it, and normally I only ask for books I know I will read which is why the rating is usually high for those.

For the Wolf is a very interesting book, but it may not be for everyone. For starters, the premise was initially a little misleading to me, as it felt like it was aiming more for a Red Riding Hood vibe and overall the story is more about an empowering take on Beauty on the Beast with influences from other tales and folklore.

Once you come to it with the understanding of what tale it focuses more on, then you can immerse yourself in the world of the Wilderwood and enjoy the ride. It does have a good interesting start, then a bit of a slow post start where it tries hard to set the character of the twins and their lives, and particularly how Redarys is leaving things behind and Neve doesn’t want her to be sacrificed and she is her world. This is key long term to the story, but initially, it is a bit too full on your face and I think there would’ve been subtler ways to make it click.

The lore of the Wilderwood and why Red has to be sacrificed, alongside how the world functions and what each region provides and why the religion is predominant is fascinating and I enjoyed some of the magic systems and learning more about it all.

The romance is a very slow burn and this is definitely adult fantasy rather than a young adult, and therefore completely shows that side of itself with the development of plot and subplots and it is delightful in doing so.

Overall the curses, sentient woods, and everything in the Wilderwood were what won me.

The not so fun parts for me were the Neve chapters and the views into the religion and what was happening you could see what it was and wanted to stop it but knew it would not stop and it just was frustrating to know where things were going on Neve’s side. This almost made me stop reading a few times but I basically raced through those chapters and returned to the Wilderwood wanting to understand it better and know more about it.

The main cast of characters is relatively small for each twin sister and therefore it relies a lot on the characters and what they bring to the story and how they help move it forward, and definitely, my favourite character was the Wilderoowd, as it was seeing Red develop some agency in her own life. That was probably the best part, the change from “I am doomed to this” to more of a “I can do this and more”.

Recommending it to fans of fairytale retellings in the style of Naomi Novik or Robin McKinley, and for those that like botanical/forest curses and magic systems, as that was a huge win for me and part of what made me enjoy it a lot, alongside the mix fo a good slow-burn romance.