Book Review

Moon Reads: The Wood Bee Queen Blogtour

The Wood Bee Queen by Edward Cox

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Provided by the publisher to participate in the blog tour. This does not affect what I say in the review.

Spoilers: None

As mentoned above, I am part of the blog tour and thankful to Gollancz for the copy provided, but my review is still my own thoughts and not affected by this. Now unto the actual review.

The Wood Bee Queen reads as a tale told by someone who lived it or was a descendant of someone who lived through it. This is great in a way since you get a very intimate feeling at times, in certain parts of the plot, as if you could hear your grandma recalling the story and see her eyes get all watery or emotional. I really enjoyed this part of the intimacy of the tale and the magic and folklore of it. However, due to that particular feeling, it was also at times quite slow, particularly at the start of the book felt to just be setting up forever and not really saying much or doing much.

The story goes through parts of a town that has a dual aspect, under and over the Sea, and as much as they are parallel places, there seems to have been some characters moving from one side to the other. Ebbie is a librarian who likes his routine, is struggling to come up with a plan for his future and is actually kind and gentle. His life up until the library is sold seems to be the right kind of gentle life one could live forever, but then events are set in motion and Ebbie gets dragged into fulfilling the will of someone and help save Wood Bee House. Then we have Bek, who is a thief and trying to get out of the area, that accidentally keeps stumbling upon things she shouldn’t and getting into trouble. Also an unsuspecting piece in the game.

Oh, I do want to add that if the title wasnt meant as a pun, I still love it.

Now back to the sensible review. Wood Bee Queen is a story about petty gods playing with the world and trying to one-up the other, and the mortals playing along and “helping” them or placing themselves in the path of the gods. It gave me slight vibes of reading Trudi Canavan and her Age of the Five books, not as epic as those but the same kind of gods and interactions. But that is as far as it goes, the rest is a tale of its own that has a feel of being familiar and also new.

I enjoyed it but I did wish it was not as slow in parts and that it had a bit more something special since, in the end, it did not stand out enough from other fantasy tales for me to scream excitedly about it. It was good, and it was like a comfort read, and if that is what you are looking for then it is absolutely perfect.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Jasmine Throne

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Proof copy provided by Orbit, but also got a signed edition and a bookbox edition. I like Tasha’s work, a lot.

Series: Bruning Kingdoms

Spoilers: None.

Just in case you didn’t know, I really like Tasha’s books so my opinion is biased in that I came to this book knowing I would really enjoy it. If my buying several editions of it wasn’t hint enough, this is the neon sign that says I love her writing.

With that out of the way, we get into the main review of this book. I love it. That’s it. That is the review.

Ok, fine, you want more? This is a book about being a region that had power and their own traditions and lost it, alongside trying to fight a tyrant emperor that has deep religious belief. But it isn’t just that, you also get a delicious slow burn lesbian romance, an interesting take on the different sides of religious extremisms, a powerful book about identity, what being a mosnter or not is, and what your wants are.

Honestly, that part of the book reminded me of a frined who keeps asking, “yes, I understand what you’re saying but none of those things are a Moon want, they are a want about the environment you’re in, about the community you live in but none of them are about you specifically, what do you want?” And heck, Priya needs a friend exactly like that, because she has such a soft heart and yet has to wear masks and has forgotten herself and her wants because she’s living for others in a way.

Each of the characters in the story are a wonderful interesting point of view on different things, including Bhumika which I wanted to quote over and over on the motherhood aspect of her life which I thought was such a refreshing thing to read in a book.

No really, this book is an epic fantasy, it could finish here, or it could go into more books and I love that, alongside the fact that there are morally grey characters. They are ALL trying to do what is best, or rather, what they think is best, it just happens to be that no one knows entirely for sure what is exactly the best outcome and if it is genuinely the best outcome, it is just what their imaginations can provide as the best outcome.

The magic in itself was beautiful and I LOVE the botanical and natural elements of it alongside the concpet of the nameless god. The way religion is woven into this tale was for me beautiful and just a lovely breath of fresh air.

God, I am trying to not spoiler this so I can’t say much more because hoenslty there were particular scenes that I adored, and Priya had my heart, completely, but I also loved the fact that most of the female characters show strength in a very varied way, each in such a completely different way and each using that strength, the tools they had to fit their purposes and goals.

Ok, now I am writing an essay in which I will tell you that you need to read this book, and Tasha’s writing is just getting better and better with each book. If you are curious, you can read my reviews for Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash. Also full of nonsensical “I adore this book” ramblings. Forgive someone who has found the perfect combination of slow-burn romance, fantasy, magic, colonialism critique and diverse reads ever.

I can only end this review by urging you to read this book, it has morally grey lesbians with nature magic and strength in many ways.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Art of Big Hero 6

The Art of Big Hero 6 by Jessica Julius

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for myself.

As you may know, if you follow this blog, I have a soft spot for Art of books, and I treat myself to them because someone somewhere was saying that basically, once an art of book for a film or game comes out they don’t usually do any reprints, so the ones that are out there are what you get and they will only go up on price, so it is a worthy investment if you really want to keep the books. So I started slowly growing my collection and I have to say that I am learning new things on storytelling with each one alongside finding new inspirations on each of them.

The review, in this case, is for Big Hero 6 and basically, as an Art of book, it does extremely well giving you various areas of exploring what the content is. One of my favourite things is the tidbits of trivia they throw about a character design or maybe about how they started with an idea for a plot to go here and after some random doodles that were just for fun, the story took a fun turn or they included a specific element and changed something. I find these fascinating and Disneys overall books in this style tend to be rich in little trivia.

Like for example in the above, you can see the ideas of how Mochi would end up going around the room and why the little paw rockets, etc, and the fact that they would have a cute pet, which obviously adds to the story. And you can see from really cute simple sketches to more complex and developed pieces.

Obviously, the story is super cute so I had a good time going through the book and there is a very soft sketch and watercolour vibe throughout the book which adds to the charm.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue by Paula Harrison and Illustrated by Jenny Lovlie

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

Read before: No

Ownership: A gift by the lovely Asha

Series: Kitty, Book 1

Minor hiatus while the internet has been dodgy and making uploading images difficult. Meanwhile I read and read and this is one not to miss.

Kitty is the daughter of a superhero mum who goes out and helps people at night with her cat powers. So of course Kitty wants to be like mum and help others but she doesnt feel too brave and she should be in bed.

That is, until a handsome tomcat pokes through her window in search of her mum and suggests Kitty help them. At first she isnt sure but then decides to go have an adventure and find the cause of the scary sounds they can hear.

The book is then a setup story of Kitty and her “crew” of cats and how she meets each of them alongside using her little talents and powers, and of course as she finds the cause of the terrible scary sounds and ends up using the moonlight to light her way and not be so afraid.

Honestly the book was an adorable wholesome superhero kind of book with a very cat like hero who is learning the ropes and trying her claws out in the world, and with the super cute illustrations it is even mmore enjoyable.

Great for read out loud, or maybe small readers into superheroes or cats or both. Or adults like me that love cosy stories and being able to lose yourself in an adorable adventure.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Against the Dark Book Box Club

Subscription box: Book Box Club

Theme/Month: Against the Dark, March 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.

I am just here noticing that I am posting unboxings two months behind, it’s all fine. Mostly because I try to avoid spoiling people but then sometimes to fit it around my schedule, I end up waiting longer. Oh well, March was still a “dark” theme for Book Box Club, so let us see what was inside, starting at the top right corner and going clockwise:

  • Dark Stars promo card, which I think had a code or something since the first book was one from a previous box.
  • Clubhouse invite, love the personalised touch.
  • Theme card.
  • A Oh Panda Eyes very cute and dainty necklace.
  • Print with a botanical vibe I like.
  • A notebook inspired by Stranger Things
  • A bookend in wood with a gorgeous painting on it, reminding me of the times I have stayed up very late wanting to keep on reading.
  • The Shadow War, an intriguing historical book.
  • A tiny lipbalm that accidentally blends in too well with the puzzle underneath.
  • And to go with the bookend and reject darkness, a book flashlight so you can read and attach it to the book.

Overall, a lovely box, very in theme with useful lovely items and I was super pleased with the fun approach of having a flashlight/booklight to go against the dark, so I do like it a lot and intrigued by the book whcih sounds right up my street.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Quarantine Comix

Quarantine Comix by Rachael Smith

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Preordered since it sounded interesting and I was ina comic/graphic novel mood.

Quarantine Comix was born out of the dread created by the pandemic and being put into quarantine/lockdown, so Rachael started drawing. The first few comics are more or less about how the pandemic hit her and her life and how much she misses her boyfriend, and to be honest those first few pages weren’t that good or entertaining, but I could understand the feeling behind them and therefore I kept going.

The comics and panels get more relatable and you can see she starts looking back and making it a bit more fun and interesting rather than just staying in bed and being filled with existensial dread. Whcih meant I ended up taking pictures of the pages and sharing them with friends because I found them relatable but also amusing and I could sympatise.

Like for example the above made me laugh, in all honesty I didn’t feel I had to go back to bookshops and have not gone back to one just yet because I do not deem it essential. I do deem essential having books, so I kept well stocked. But I did completely relate with the “what am I meant to read?” and then being surrounded by books. At times nothing I owned seemd to do the trcik but slowly that is getting easier as life becomes its own new normal.

And I think that is what makes the comics work, they shift to a new normal, and you can relate to them in one way or they remind you of a friend or family member and a situation experienced in the last year or so, and therefore I feel like this would be a fun gift to give to some friends as a “meet up after the quarantine” in a share the feelings way, but it is also a nice little graphic novel about how normal has changed and we adapt.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Yolk

Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought myself.

As you may know, I am not huge on contemporary and I tend to be very picky, but Mary H. K. Choi is an instant buy author for me after Emergency Contact, and I have to say that Yolk doesn’t disappoint at all. I think the best way of describing her books is that they are the perfect new adult contemporary.

In Yolk we’re exploring family relationships, particularly of sisters, June and Jayne, who have grown to not interact much until June gets diagnosed with cancer and reaches out to Jayne. But where June has the “perfect” life and a good job, good place and money, Jayne is still barely managing to live on her own, pay rent, keep a job and go to school. But as the sisters clash on trying to come to terms first with the fact June has cancer and this means certain things they may not want to talk about or even share with their parents, then on how their lives are anything but perfect and the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

And going back to the new adult contemporary term, this is a book about figuring out what comes next. It isn’t a “and then I went to college, graduated and landed the perfect job, married the perfect person and life is wonderful”. Yolk has all the not so fun parts of learning to live on your own, and of sometimes just not managing to do things. And that faking it til you make it doesn’t always work.

On top fo that, I had been in a reading slump for ages and Yolk broke the slump, I also liked that as much as it has romance as part fo the story, romance isn’t the be all and end all of the story. It doesn’t get all tied neatly in a bow with a perfect relationship and a happily ever after, instead it leaves it a “this could be, but we don’t know and there is nothing instant about it, we have to be intentional” and I liked that, that some of the romance is more intentional and more about admitting the mistakes or coming to terms with your own internal issues that colour what you do or why. Honestly, June and Jayne are such great characters for exploring so much growth and also lack of it at some places, but it was a great read, full of reality and yet also with a lovely feel at the end. I had just so mcuh to feel and hold inside as the book came to an end.

I recommend it this book if you want to find a new adult book in contemporary, like romance and contemporary books that are less formulaic and exploring new territory. But if you liked Emergency Contact or similar books, then definitely read Yolk.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Fighting Spirit Illumicrate

Subscription box: Illumicrate

Theme/Month: Fighting Spirit, March 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.

Sorry for the random backgorund changes to come since I have no puzzle due to moving house and will get to it when I can unpack and have the time for them, in the meantime let’s enjoy this unboxing, starting with the book and going clockwise:

  • The Unbroken with gorgeous sprayed edges.
  • A Winter Night tote bage with utterly stunning artwork.
  • Take What You Will pin embroidery hoop art, not entirely sure which of the many options it actually is but there it is.
  • Dark Artifices mug, I admit I love the mug but I am not a fan of the fandom so let a friend have it instead.
  • A heartglass necklace, which made me squeal a little when I saw it as I immediately knew what it was and which fandom!
  • The monthly pin, which is an intriguing design.
  • A wordmark, which is cool but I am not huge on any wooden bookmark overall as they tend to be just not right for using as an actual bookmark.

Overall the box had an interesting mix of fandoms and someinteresting items, I was really pleased with the design of the tote and the Bone Witch item but I was also a bit meh about the pin emrboidery hoop and woodmark, so a mixed opinion on it… Hopefully the next month and forward are better.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Book Love

Book Love by Debbie Tung

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Gifted by a friend for Christmas <3

As you well know I am partial to graphic novels, comics and illustrated books as much as I am partial for young adult and science fiction and fantasy, so getting Book Love as a Christmas gift fom my frined Kayden was a lovely touch. I had set it aside as I knew it would end up being a soothing encouraging book to make me smile when needed, and I was definitely right on it.

This is a collection fo comics about being a book lover and the good things that come out fo it like living many lives and feeling like part of a story and just all the fun or reading, but also the slight challenges, for example finding where to store all the books or getting an edition of one. As I read I took pictures of it to show and share with friends becuase I could identify with a particular comic or identify someone in one of them and thought they’d enjoy seeing it.

Overall this was utterly enjoyable and a great bookish gift, just amke sure the bookworm you’re gifting it to, doesn’t already have it since duplicates take book real estate in the shelves! But honestly, I recommend this as a fun little gift to cheer someone up and remind them of the joys of loving books and being a reader.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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

Read before: No

Spoiler free review: For the most part yes

Content warnings: Rape, child abuse, substance abuse, various types of sexual abuse, murder, gaslighting, faecal matter consumption, heavy violence, gore, overdosing, death, suicide, blackmail, self-harm.

I like dark academia, I like magic, and this book sounded very interesting being setup in Yale. But I will start by saying that it is extremely slow burn and full of noise. It is also full of shock causing scenes that were unnecessary (there’s the rape of a 12 year old, and someone is made to eat shit, literally) and that could have been handled better.

The main story is about Alex, Galaxy Stern, going to Yale and finding that her ticket to Yale has conditions on her being able to see grays. Grays are basically ghosts. So she gets put into a society that oversees a few other societies that deal with differnet kinds of magic. The system sounds in theory really interesting and I ahve to say that the magic system was one of the most itneresting things in the story.

On top of that we have a murder mystery and the mystery of Alex’s past and why she ended up being found by the society. All of these should point to a really good intense book. And yet mostly it is a book that shows how ridiculous the society system for universities is in the US and that power is too tempting and therefore people will do anything for it.

I liked quite a bit of the story, including Dawes and Darlington and the actual reason behind the murder of Tara. That was well buitl and very intersting, alongside what happened to Darlington and what happened to Alex in the past. All came ot show what each character was made of, their motives, etc.

What I didn’t enjoy is that it was trying hard to glamourise Yale and the societies and at the same time you could see no love lost for it and it was slow and boring at times, which it then seemed to compensate by being too over the top on violence and abuse and the bad things. Like it was trying to show how bad things were but it started being a bit like “yeah, we get it, it is bad, can you just move on to the actual story instead of trying to shock me with this bit of violence?”.

I ended up warming to Alex, and to the story so at least that is good, and I will read the next one, but it was a little too hyped and trying too hard to be dark and gritty that it got itself lost in it and took a while to find the story and the heart of it.

So, I don’t recommend it overall, but if you like the components of it, and Leigh’s writing, then this may be the book for you, but you have to be warned it is dark and has a long list fo things for it to be triggers.