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.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Out in the Wilderness Tales by Mail

Subscription box: Tales by Mail

Theme/Month: Out in the Wilderness for April 2021

Ownership: Subscribed on their 6 boxes option. If you are interested in purchasing a Tales by Mail subscription, you can do it on their website.

Tales by Mail is a bi-monthly middle grade book box that comes with two books, some activity pages you can collect, or copy or use in various ways, a pin and one or two items.

This one had an extra book which was a lovely surprise, so lets unbox it and see what I thought of it, starting on the top right and going clockwise:

  • I rarely ever take pictures with the box, but somehow decided to add it this time. I love that it is not bulky and it basically looks like a book.
  • Out in the Wilderness activity pages, with space for reviews fo rhte book and some fun activities related to them and the theme. They fit in with the rest of the pages into the binder.
  • The Weather Weaver bookmark.
  • The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori, I had been looking forward to this book for a while and squealed a little seeing it in the box.
  • Melt by Ele Fountain, sounds interesting.
  • Melt bookmark.
  • A multiuse scarf with some gorgeous matching print to the theme. You can use it as a scarf, a headband, etc, pretty useful.
  • A third book, were totally spoiled! Hope Jones Saves the World.
  • It is very very tiny but there is a little collectible monthly pin just there in front of Umbreon’s nose

Overall it was a box full of books and I felt spoiled by opening it! Very very excited by the contents of it and highly recommended still.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House by Annabelle Sami. Illustrated by Daniela Sosa

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Spoiler free review: Yes

Series: Agent Zaiba Investigates

The third book in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series, and this time the copy I have came from the publisher, but if you have read my reviews for The Missing Diamonds and The Poison Plot you know I am already sold on this story and would’ve bought my own copy anyway.

As I had predicted on my first review, this series has all the thigns to make it a modern classic for children along the lines of Fantastic Five and Baby Sitters Club. There is intrigued and drama, there is friendship and fun adventures, and on top of that a diverse set of main characters which makes it even better!

Our third detective adventure with Zaiba is when we meet a new family that moved into an old “mansion” kind of house that seems to give all the vibes that it is haunted. Zaiba has an open mind on the possibility of ghosts, but Ali and Poppy arent so sure, and when a housewarming party makes things go bump in the dark, the Snow Leopard Agency UK branch is ready to find out if it is a supernatural cause or not.

Of course the key in the books is the foreshadowing that is done subtly but effectively and therefore when Zaiba starts gathering more clues or finding new ones, piecing together things becomes easier for the reader if they recall what was discussed before the incident. And on this third book the foreshadowing is subtle and there is less of the “Zaiba took notes” kind of vibe that was seen more on the two previous ones. You can see she is starting to get more and more confident but also implementing the detective ways shes learned form her aunt and the Eden Lockett books.

What actually happens with the supernatural haunting mystery is something I wont spoil but I liked the way they get along with it and how there is a lot of building a good community alongside the finding the cause of the issue and who dunnit.

Highly recommended for young readers and middle grade and also adults because it is fun to read, the illustrations are cute and fitting and it is just a nice book to read. Your modern diverse Nancy Drew!

Book Review

Moon Reads: Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot by Annabelle Sami. Illustrated by Daniela Sosa

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Preordered.

Spoiler free review: Yes

Series: Agent Zaiba Investigates

The second book in the Agent Zaiba series, you can read the review for The Missing Diamonds here, and now that we have the Snow Leopard Agency UK branch setup, Zaiba is ready for more things to be resolved and any mystery or good investigation that may come up.

The best part is that is the sumer fete time and Zaiba has a detective “murder mystery” course setup as one of the features of it. But things turn interesting when in the middle of a baking competition, there appears to be poison added to the cupcakes and causing one of the judges to be ill.

Zaiba, Poppy and Ali waste no time in trying to find out who put the poison in the cupcake and why.

One of the things I like a lot in the book is how the foreshadowing puts the clues and items nicely there for the reader to find if they are paying enough attention but they are also not screaming “I am the clue”. It is just done well through the story, so little hints of “hey this may be what the poison was made of” that show up early in the book, help and show that sometimes data you get before the actual incident happens can be quite useful. As Zaiba and her aunt put it, powers of observation.

Overall, another good mystery for Zaiba and her friends to solve, more development on the relationships of the family, and a better view into the world Zaiba inhabits and the story of her ammi, which is nice to see. You get continuity but you could also read each on their own and it would be alright without needing to read the previous one.

Highly recommended diverse detectiving classic to be!

Book Review

Moon Reads: Agent Zaiba Investigates The Missing Diamonds

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami. Illustrated by Daniela Sosa

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

Read before: Yes

Ownership: Preordered.

Spoiler free review: Yes

Series: Agent Zaiba Investigates

First book in the Agent Zaiba series! I have been meaning to review it for ages, and then packed the house, got the second one, then got the third and ended up rereading it so I could do a review of each of them consecutively.

I would class the whole series as something to become a classic, like Baby Sitters Club, or Fantastic Five. But with a more diverse cast! We have Zaiba, her little brother and her best friend, Poppy. All of them really into detectives and investigating, so when at the engagement party for the wedding of a cousin of Zaiba, some diamonds go missing from a famous actress,,,,, alongside the dog that had the diamong collar, Zaiba takes it into her hands to find out the truth and maybe just maybe crack the case fo who stole the diamonds.

Overall, it had a lot of culture, but adventure wrapped in one, and I loved just following the trio of friends around the hotel while they find clues and make notes and figure things out, some by accident and luck and some by using the powers of observation and memory.

Highly recommend it if mystery is the game and you want something with adorable drawings and cute notes and just something that makes you feel like you are part fot he fun and the adventure.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Matcha Moments Sakura Co

Subscription box: SakuraCo

Theme/Month: Matcha Moments, April 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.

A matcha focused box sounded awesome, so of course happy to have it and also, it is the second box so curious about how well it will keep on performing and making me feel for it. So let’s unbox, starting at the bottom right corner and going clockwise:

  • Strawberry and cream cake, it was absolutely delicious. Not too sweet, not too bland, just right.
  • Postcard, which I am enjoying as an extra treat, they are gorgeous and delicate.
  • Gold plum tea, which is very much a sweet and sour mix. Probably my least favourite item, surprisingly.
  • Match Kinsuba, delicious red bean jelly which was a nice surprise.
  • Match pudding, also nice but not much to write home about except it was like a gelatin pudding and nice.
  • YamechaMonaka, I find the whole something inside fragile wafer fascinating.
  • Plum Yokan, one of my favourites with a soft crumbly buttery feel and delicate plum flavour.
  • Matcha Mochi, which was super sticky and hard to eat but delicious nonetheless.
  • Matcha waffle, toasted slightly and absolutely perfect!
  • Matcha Senbei, these surprised me with a delicate wafer like but also biscuit quality.
  • Sakura Yunomi, a cup for your tea. to match the plate on the previous box.
  • Sakura Karinto, like fried dough bits and I don’t know why but utterly loved them, could eat bags and bags of them.
  • Sakura Sugar Cube, it mixes agar jelly and sugar foamy mousse and loved them. Very delicate
  • More monaka cuteness.
  • And finally a matcha roll, I expected them to be bigger but they were lovely, again, not too sweet, not bitter.

Overall really enjoyed the contents of the box and finding my way around the flavours a little better. Some real gems here that I would absolutely keep as staples if I could keep getting them, like the karinto, the waffle and the yokan. I had been worried it would be too boring just everything matcha, but I had still an explosion of flavours, textures and choices. Still very worth it for me.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Zatanna and the House of Secrets

Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Preordered

Spoiler free review: Yes

I don’t know how I had slept on Zatanna for so long as superhero kinda thing and I love her.

This little lovely graphic novel is all about her house which is an interesting house full of secrets. Zatanna is a big upset that her magician dad is tired, and suddenly when she comes back form school, Dad has disappeared in the house and been taken by evil lady.

But the house has a personality and mind of its own, so Zatanna has to team up with some interesting “allies” so she can try to save her dad and maybe find out more about all the secrets the house keeps, and maybe, just maybe something about her mum.

Look, I loved the art, Yoshi does amazing work and basically, I can’t say no to anything done by her so I had to preorder this and also it looked really cool. Then the plot reminded me of my dad when he had his magician performer streak/mid-life crisis and had me as an assistant and just how much I enjoyed it and at the same time felt very embarrassed by it, but I still can perform some tricks and things stuck to me and have helped me through life, so you know, win-win. Basically, it was a fun read, which on top of that brought back memories and made it even more significant for me to read and enjoy.

Recommended for children, magician parents, superhero lovers, and just anyone that needs a magic house and some magic in their life, oh plus a cute bunny companion.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

I had no werewolves at hand but puppy was happy to pose for book pictures in exchange for belly rubs.

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Review copy provided by Black Crow PR/publisher so I could be part of the blog tour but this was on my radar beforehand. (Why will make sense as I review this book)

Spoiler Free Review: Technically yes, since we know Brigid is a werewolf…

Normally I give a little introduction on why the book caught my eye, but it isn’t a secret that I suffer chronic pain due to, up to very recently, undiagnosed causes which kept moving the goalpost on why and how to fix it. I mean, I am not a werewolf or a werefox for that matter, and as much as I joke about being a vampire due to photosensitivity, I am alas not one.

But as I read this book, I couldn’t help but keep seeing myself in it a lot more than I expected.

I can’t speak for all the conditions listed in the book fully, but I do have part of one, hypermobility, and a lot of what they discuss about symptoms, trying to live a “normal” life, and making the best out of it was interesting. Then thre’s Brigid who is chaotic as hell and adorable, a bonanza of fun and intense that made me want to smush her and mother her and befriend her all at the same time! And Priya herself is trying her best to deal with her own diagnosis, her friendship and how to focus her energy and deal with feeling like she’s failed at normal life.

If I have to summarise in a few words I would say this is peak chaotic friendships of early social media teens with a little bit f urban fantasy, a lot of humour and just a book that makes you either see a side you hadn’t seen of how those with an illness that affects their daily life and is chronic may feel and manage it, or you feel a little bit seen and end up with a lot of laughs at the little hints of things that remind you of your own journey.

For me it was just fun to read, find myself in it, and feel seen. So if you like urban fantasy, friendship, family, wholesome stories and chaos, this is the book for you, also werewolves and chronic illnesses!

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: The City is Ours Illumicrate

Subscription box: Illumicrate

Theme/Month: The City is Ours, February 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.

February had an interesting theme that reminds me of several books so I was intrigued by it. Lets see what was inside starting top left:

  • A triket dish for Gilded Wolves which I think is absolutely stunning!
  • A hard shell card holder, which honestly I didn’t like the design on it so it immediately went into the “not keeping” pile. I think if it had had a different desing I might have kept it but I generally use softer card holoders.
  • A Crescent City umbrella, I still have their Laini Taylor umbrella so I can say they are good ones but this one is red and a fandom I don’t follow so I passed it on to someone who likes it.
  • A gorgeous postcard from The Last Falconer for Edinburgh.
  • The monthly pin, which was stunning!
  • Another great item, a gorgeous skull wooden coaster which is being proudly displayed in my office because it has my vibes.
  • And finally the book, with pink sprayed edges, A Dark and Hollow Star.

Overall it had some strong items and some not so strong ones, I think the biggest issue is we keep having items from the top 5-10 main fandoms, and not as many from others so I end up not being that into the SJM things etc,, as useful as they may be. I probably would have kept the umbrella if it fit a little better with the colours I like and I didn’t have the other one still, they are good umbrellas.

Book Review

Moon Reads: So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age by Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for myself since it sparked my curiosity

Series: So You Think You’ve Got It Bad?

I saw Nosy Crow talking about this book when it came out and it made me curious. If you don’t know, I am Mexican and had my education in Mexico, so I learned a lot about Aztecs in the “it is part of our history, good and bad” way, and I had a fascination with it so I even tried to learn more. So I had to check this book out.

The premise of the series overall is that it comapres a modern life of a child with what children would have as a life in a specific culture or period. This one compares schools, food, family, entertainment, sports, etc. I found it amusing, the artwork is pretty good and fits nicely, and for the most part the data matches what I know.

I can’t recall the exact details but there were some places where I felt at odds with what they said, it was too much of a joke or a little exagerated, or it didnt match anything of what I had learned on my own, so its partly why I didn’t rate it high and as much as it was interesting, it was also at times either trying hard to be funny or trying hard to give you a LOT of information, the balance could have been better on that frnt. Not that I dislike one or the other but rather there was a lot to say and not all said in the best way.

But it did pass the time well and it reminded me of my own time in school and devouring lots of extra curricular books on Aztecs and other Mexican cultures and what they did with their lifes. Oh yes, just reminded that thepart that was too clinical and tidy was the part about the conquest and what the Spanish did, because of course it would be. Conquerors don’t like to admit too much about how bad those actions were. And there is a bit of judgement on some traditions as thought more barbaric or wild, it isn’t using those words but the way it is phrased wasn’t ideal.

I mean, if it is for a kid, buy it, it is fun, it does convey a LOT of data about the Aztecs and regular life, but it may be worth finding more sources if it is a particular itnerest of the child or an adult. Still, fun little book with cute drawings.