Book Review, Books

Roller Girl Review

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

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

When I was a teenager I went from artistic rollerblading to inline hockey and loved it. Derby sounded fun but it just wasn’t an option so I did the ones I had available and loved them. This meant that when I saw this book pop up in suggested reads I got curious and bought it because it sounded fun.

We start with Astrid being bullied a little about the fact she’s rollerblaidng and that it is something for little kids rather than teens/older kids (she’s 12 years old) by someone she doesn’t like and her used to be best friend.

Their friendship soured over summer camp as Astrid had fallen starry eyed for roller derby and wanted to do a roller derby summer camp whereas Nicole (the ex best friend) is a ballet dancer and didn’t tell Nicole she wasn’t going to go with her, just kinda let her assume she would join and then told her she was actually going to ballet camp. (Is there a camp for everything?)

Astrid sees this as a betrayal and this adds up to the fact that roller derby isn’t as easy as she thought it’d be and the camp is hard work.

The story is very much a “becoming a teen and dealing with confusion, new emotions and changes in your whole social life” which I got so well as it went along. Astrid has to navigate making new friends, evaluating who she is and what type of friend she wants to be versus what she used to be and relationship dynamics (not just friends but what about her relationship with her mother?).

It is a lovely graphic novel dealing with a lot of interesting topics, particularly bases of changes as you slowly turn into a teenager and hormones start making you a bundle of confusion (plus how we all do things at a different pace, and how some do it due to peer pressure whereas others just do their thing and become outcasts).

I’d happily give this book to teen me as she struggled to comprehend and deal with all the sudden changes, it would’ve made it a little easier. As Astrid did, I found skating was a wonderful activity and gave new friendships and new things to do outside of school.

All in all, it kept me in the story, I felt for Astrid but also wanted at times to shake some sense into her but at the end felt very proud of where she got to. And now I want to do some rollerblading too…

Book Review, Books

Bookish and the Beast Review

Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

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

First, I got a review copy for free from the publisher in hope of a review. And it doesn’t influence my review of it at all.

So this is the third book of the Once upon a Con series. And I will admit I did not enjoy Geekerella very much because all I could picture in my head was Hilary Duff as a ginger and “A Cinderella Story”. It was a little too close to the film for me to be able to enjoy it fully. However, I enjoyed The Princess and the Fangirl more, and so I had to give Bookish and the Beast a fair go.

And it was a fun read, it definitely follows the Beauty and the Beast plot, but in a very unique way, and I had fun identifying key moments throughout the plot. It felt less like something else I’ve read/seen and more standing on its own. Some of it may be that the universe already exists and that there’s returning characters (not as main characters but they’re around), so it has the chance to stand on its own more and less of trying to be too familiar.

Still, I liked the way it was written and the bookish aspect. And Rosie’s dad had won a soft spot for me all the way through this book. Absolutely won it. In general, the spin on characters was well done and it was quite fun to read and see it develop.

And of course, the ending really got to me, it was sweet and it made me think “awwww” and feel good after I finished it. A happy ending indeed. The character growth was interesting and the miscommunications made it feel more contemporary and real than a fairytale (so I guess that helps? there’s no magic, just money that kinda helped things be where they needed to be but in truth it was the characters and chance, no magic). Makes you believe that maybe a fairy tale can happen to you too.

I’d recommend this is Beauty and the Beast is one of your favourite stories and you enjoy a good retelling with its own spin on it. Plus it has a feel good vibe that is very welcome in the current times.

Book Review, Books

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).

Book Review, Books

The Upside of Falling Review

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

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

This book came as part of February’s Book Box Club. I am not big on contemporary reads and romance (if I am reading romance, I usually go full romancelandia), so I wasn’t hoping for much here (not that the book would be bad, more that I may not enjoy it much because it is just not my type of book).

However, it surprised me. It was easy to read, just quick, light reading. I could be reading, drop the book and come back to it and not have to read back a little to make sure I was in place. And it was fast to read.

The story is cute and predictable but still, easy to read, fluffy romance. A fake relationship that may not be fake after a while, which was nice to read and see them discover that they aren’t so different after all and how good each is and their strengths (and weaknesses).

Also, this book made me want to bake and eat cake a lot. Becca’s mother owns a bakery, so there’s always some kind of baked goods in there and gosh, you will be hungry!

All in all, it was a nice read for a romance and not too bothersome or over complicated just for the sake of. It kept the cuteness and the happy ever after, and all that making you want out of romance.

Book Review, Books

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.

Book Review, Books

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.

Book Review, Books

A Girl Like That Review

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

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

I can’t remember the exact reason why this book caught my eye but it had been a preorder that ended up in my too big pending to be read book list. And I felt like reading it and wow.

A Girl Like That packs a punch and a half. Seriously, this was a very powerful read.

We start with Zarin and Porius hovering over the car accident that has cost them their lives. I’ve only really ever seen this type of narrative of the spirit/soul witnessing something happening or that happened to their body and helping with the narrative work well once (in Gayle Foreman’s books) but it works here too.

That first chapter of the accident and the scene and just setting up the key players and our main cast of zarin and Porus gives you a glimpse into them and who they are. We then get a few points of view telling us how they either see Zarin, why they see her that way, or of Zarin or Porus telling us about hoe they came to be in the car that night.

For a very long time I had a theory about the car accident and kinda didn’t want to be right, and I weasn’t, which made this even better. Anyway, it is interesting to see Zarin trying hard to make herself be what she needs to be, but at the same time rebelling and wanting to be herself, to not ahve to hide so many things. She finds that letting others have an opinion of her gives her space to breathe, they are already judging her, so it means they pry less, they assume more and she has a little bit more freedom.

Because even though they say she is a girl like that, the kind mothers tell you to avoid being, the kind boys talk about; there’s is way more to Zarin than just being a pretty girl that goes out with boys despite the fact that they shouldn’t. And Porus can see somehow beyond that.

The relationship between Porus and Zarin was an interesting part to see develop and how it was developing from each side, there were points when I wanted to just grab them and go “now kiss” and times when I just wanted them to go on their own path or felt bad for one or both of them. I had so many feelings going on while reading this.

It explores a lot how subtle power can be, as the form of gossip and knowledge, as a way of knowing you are attractive and using that as power to get things you wouldnt otherwise, as reputation, and sometimes how manipulation can be power. It also poises the fact that men have more power in a society like that and what can entail. There is a lot of questioning why choices are made and what the consequences may be.

I enjoyed this book a lot, learned a lot from it and it made me question things a little more. I do recommend reading and expect some intense moments throughout the book, this isn’t a soft book but a gritty book about abuse, about reputation, about love, about friendship and beliefs.

Book Review, Books

The Place Between Breaths Review

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The Place Between Breaths by An Na

From master storyteller and Printz Award–winning author An Na comes a dark, intensely moving story of a girl desperately determined to find a cure for the illness that swept her mother away, and could possibly destroy her own life as well.

Sixteen-year-old Grace is in a race against time—and in a race for her life—even if she doesn’t realize it yet…

She is smart, responsible, and contending with more than what most teens ever should. Her mother struggled with schizophrenia for years until, one day, she simply disappeared—fleeing in fear that she was going to hurt those she cared about most. Ever since, Grace’s father has worked as a recruiter at one of the leading labs dedicated to studying the disease, trying to lure the world’s top scientists to the faculty to find a cure, hoping against hope it can happen in time to help his wife if she is ever found. But this makes him distant. Consumed.

Grace, in turn, does her part, interning at the lab in the gene sequencing department daring to believe that one day they might make a breakthrough…and one day they do. Grace stumbles upon a string of code that could be the key. But something inside of Grace has started to unravel. Could her discovery just be a cruel side effect of the disease that might be taking hold of her? And can she even tell the difference?

Unflinchingly brave, An Na has created a mesmerizing story with twists and turns that reveal jaw-dropping insights into the mind of someone struggling with schizophrenia.

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This little book packs a punch. However, there’s a few things to consider before you read it. It is a book about mental health and schizophrenia. It is not a fluffy cuddly book. This one bites, and confuses.

The second thing is that the author has South Korean origins. Meaning that the Eastern (because “not Western sounds meh”) influences are heavy in the writing style of the book. Think Murakami, Yoshimoto, etc, who have a particular style of wiriting that isn’t what most Western authors do.

And why do I say both things before I even review the book? Because if you’re expecting a perfectly “coherent” fluffy book, this book is not it and it definitely isn’t a Western view of the world even if it is set in the US.

The author writes this book in seasons, in cycles. The book does its best to show you how schizophrenia entangles you and all the “ripples” it has. Your main character is Grace King who believes in logic and is fighting against her genes, while trying to work and help find a cure or something for schizophrenia. The story shifts between “season” chapters, that show slightly different things but they do make a cohesive whole. (I don’t want to spoil the book too much).

There are a lot of twists and intriguing bits in the story where at first you aren’t sure but as the story progresses you begin to realise how much Grace is fighting and what “enemy” she’s fighting.

In my opinion it was a very clever book with the way it sets thing and how it leaves you guessing. You need to be in the right midnset for it though, and it is worth (only after reading it) to go check Goodreads reviews, the author explains her purpose in writing it the way she did and a little better what is and isn’t in a reply to a reviewer.

 

Book Review, Books

The Burning Review

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The Burning by Laura Bates

A rumour is like a fire. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames

New school.
Tick.
New town.
Tick.
New surname.
Tick.
Social media profiles?
Erased.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks … until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…

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This book sounded like the kind of grippy gritty books I have recently been into, so I grabbed it. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (not to say it really wasn’t at all).

I expected the thing that Anna is trying to forget to be something else, so when it finally surfaces I was more like “oh, it’s that? meh” rather than “oh wow!”. Won’t spoil what it is, but this book certainly touches on topics like abortion, torture, abuse, bullying and the kind.

The witchy part was my favourite of it all. When they move to the new house Anna notices some odd marks scratched into the beams of the house and things like that, and turns out they’re witches marks, to try to disuade the spirit of the witch to come back and haunt the people that bought the house.

All the story of the “witch” was quite interesting, and it was intense. I was so angry for her, and I really liked that Thomas had an opinion and the part he “played” in it (yes, I wish it was different, but hey, this was way far back in time).

Another thing I really enjoyed was the friendships developed here. Partly it touches on how friends can turn on you and fall to peer pressure, which is something I had happen a lot during high school when I used to be bullied. My “best friend” would bully me in public then outside of school treat me completely different. Go figure! Regardless, it is interesting to see how each of the old and new friendships Anna slowly biulds develop, and that they are unique, most of the characters involved didn’t feel bland which was lovely because they were part of Anna’s world and not just plot props. Kudos for that.

The topic and the thing Anna deals with is important, I just imagined something else and it then fell under my expectations, but it hooked me so I read it before dinner the other day.

I guess you’d say my overall rating comes from having different expectations (my fault a little, part the blurbs fault) but it was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading.

Book Review, Books

Four Three Two One Review

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Four Three Two One by Courtney C. Stevens

In this contemporary YA novel, a girl reunites with the three other survivors of a bus bombing that killed nineteen people, and together they face the secrets, struggles, and emotional warfare that each has been enduring.

Golden “Go” Jennings wasn’t supposed to be on Bus 21 the day it blew up in New York City. Neither was her boyfriend, Chandler. But they were. And so was Rudy, a cute stranger whom Go shared a connection with the night before. And Caroline, a girl whose silence ended up costing nineteen people their lives.

Though it’s been a year since the bombing, Go isn’t any closer to getting over what happened. Since Chan shuts down every time Go brings that day up, she decides to reach out to Rudy. Just like that, the two fall right back into their easy, deep connection. Facing the past head-on with Rudy has opened up a small window of healing Go never thought was possible. So she makes an impulsive decision: Round up the rest of the survivors and head to New York City. There they will board an art installation made of the charred remnants of Bus 21.

But things are never easy when it comes to rehashing the past. Uniting the four stirs up conflicting feelings of anger and forgiveness and shows them that, although they all survived, they may still need saving.

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This was a free proof provided by the publisher but the review is all my own, not paid or whatever.

Now that that is out of the way… When I saw this as a book blurb before it was even published I was intrigued. Four people survive a bombing, each has secrets they keep and they are all building up to going back into a remade Bus that exploded, that is now an exhibition.

I don’t usually read books about terrorism (domestic or otherwise), but I found the clashing of lives something I wanted to read. And Four Three Two One was very powerful. At the beginnign we get the “bus explodes” chapter, then we meet our characters months after the explosion and days before the exhibition opens.

There a lot of concepts happening here. There is the whole “what is love” question in there, and if the things that happen to us make us, defines us, or how they affect us. But there is also the survivors guilt being explored and how that redefines us, and how much it can affect not the survivor’s life but the lives of those around that person.

As all five main characters come closer and closer to getting to Accelerant Orange and to facing Bus 21, things get more and more tense. The first question that should probably be answered is, can they step inside the bus? It is known that people that had an aircrash may never fly again, or in this case never get on a bus again. So can they? (I won’t say if they can or can’t, that’d be a spoiler, but it is a question that sticks around). But it isn’t the only question to answer. There is a why are you (each survivor) going to the exhibition? What are you holding back? What is that “secret” you’re trying to protect everyone else from?

We know the “secret” one of them holds from early on, but that doesn’t prepare you for the other secrets that come up to the surface as they share a ride towards New York, and towards the exhibition of Bus 21.

No, this isn’t a popular book, sadly it is overlooked. But it is interesting and powerful and worth reading (it is also a relatively light read, in that it is easy to read, the writing flows easily but the topic is intense, there is talk about suicide, and well, terrorism). However, I enjoyed the execution of it, and how much feeling there was in it (and I’m not always fond of adding too much feeling to stories).

Go read it, give it a chance.