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: Fireheart Tiger

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Preordered because how could I resist?

Spoiler free review: Probably, will try not to spoiler.

Content warnings: abuse, attempted rape (not graphic, implicit, trauma is dealt with but it’s still there), violence, colonialism

I really like Aliette’s writing, her way with words is like no other, as you can see from my review of In the Vanishers’ Palace and the F/F February exclusive interview for Beyond a Bookshelf. And then you comp this book with The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle.

I’ll start this review with my biggest complaint. It is not long enough. I mean by novella standards it is perfect, but I do wish this was a bigger book. That is in itself I guess also a compliment? Because I’d read a much longer book with Thanh and mischievous fires.

Now, this is a book about a negotiation, of Thanh trying to be a diplomat and help save their country as it is being colonised, seen as an exotic cute small country being fought over by other countries. It reminds me of various countries that had different colonisers and how that went on in actual history, so it was interesting to see the little signs, which I suspect some might miss if you’re not from a background that pays attention to those signs. And then there’s the whole relationship with Eldris, who is very interested in Thanh, but the question is why? It is a fun romance but is it worth becoming more?

In such a small book it packs a massive punch and I highly recommend reading it, since you can not only see Thanh trying to navigate the diplomacy task and knowing that in a way they are doomed and have to find a way out and choose the lesser evil. It is a tricky situation. Plus the slight magic touches and fire that seems to stick to Thanh no matter what is causing her to question her sanity, which is absolutely a delight and also a curious little thing opening up new choices to Thanh.

We also see Thanh navigate her relationship with her mother and in a way, how she sees herself and her abilities to navigate the world and find her own place in it. I am trying to avoid spoilers, so will stop here, but I do recommend you read it.

One last thing I do have to note is that for survivors and those of us who have lived through some of the things Thanh does, the red flags are extremely obvious, but for others they may not be, and my point to that is that yes, it is easy to overlook them if you don’t know. Do not judge without knowing.

Finally, as I said, as a survivor, the power in the words behind this book was inmense, and I felt extremely emotional as I read and as I saw the story develop, my heart soared, and hoped and hurt and it was intense, but so worth it. Hope you find it as good as I did or even better.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: A Legacy to Protect Illumicrate

Subscription box: Illumicrate

Theme/Month: A Legacy to Protect, December 2020

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.

Decembers theme was anything but festive but it was still a box packed full of goodies I do admit to feeling nostalgic about the boxes that used to be actually crammed full with items and had way more items than we tend to get nowadays). But let’s unbox it and see starting on the top left and going clockwise:

  • The Cousins by Karen McManus, so far I have enjoyed her books a lot and this one has black sprayed edges, excited to read.
  • The monthly collectable pin inspired by The Ravens.
  • No Peak Clan photo magnets, the idea is interesting the problem is that I don’t see a huge appeal to have these around on my fridge.
  • A Daevabad inspired mug which is super exciting to see as I don’t have a lot of items form this fandom and I like it.
  • Yip Yip nail file, my husband needed one so this was perfect timing and he’s a happy man.
  • Destiny is a myth notepad inspired by Poppy War and I like the feel of it.
  • The Ravens with pink sprayed edges, another exciting read!
  • And finally a print album. I like the idea behind this as I sometimes don’t know what to do with prints but I was confused by it initially and also it’ll depend on having a standard size for all the prints preferably or not too big ones.

Overall I liked the box, it felt a tiny bit disjointed in the contents and not as theme focused as others have been and I was less excited by the items but I have learned that boxes with mugs usually aren’t that exciting otherwise and to be fair this had two books and a mug which is like double nice bonus. Those are my favourite things from it!

Book Review

Moon Reads: Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales

Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales by Jen Campbell and Katie Harnett

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Christmas gift from a lovely friend (Zoe)

Spoiler free review: No

Series: Franklin and Luna #3, you can read my review for the the first and second adventure if you want to know about them.

This time the story is about Luna and the town people preparing a party for Franklin, but they’ve to distract him on his birthday so they go on an adventure.

Accidentally, while browsing books, Luna’s pet turtle goes into a locked book so they follow. Inside the book they start finding the characters of various fairy tales (I think this is the perfect opportunity to “queue” each fairy tale to be read for the next few nights after this book if you’re reading this aloud or if it is a young reader on their own and testing their wings) and as they explain that they’re searching for their turtle friend.

No one has seen the turtle until they find the right fariytale (I’ll let you guess which one, though I’d classify it is a fable rather than a tale). And then they make it to the party with some extra friends tagging along.

I like the concpet of it and that characters keep showing up but new ones come through each new book and the artwork is stunning and fun so I can highly recommend it still. It makes me happy to just read the books and chill.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Winter Tales

Winter Tales by Dawn Casey and Zanna Goldhawk

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

Read before: No

Ownership: A Christmas gift via wishlist

Spoiler free review: No

This book is a collection of short “fairy tales” from different countries around the world. Each of the tales comes with an introduction of which country the story comes from and some background on it.

The book starts with The White Bear King which is the tale of the bear prince and the princess who goes with him and then sees him at night and has to go rescue him, from Norway.

Tanuki‘s Gold is a tale from Japan about a monk and a tanuki that visits him every winter instead of hibernating which I found very sweet.

The Mitten is short and sweet and feels like the kind of story that is a verse rather than a long tale, about a boy who loses one mitten in the snow and the creatures that find it ot be a cosy home.

A Cloak for the Moon is about the moon wanting a nice cloak but being unable to find cloth for herself until a brave tailor goes around on a quest for the Moon.

The Nutcracker is a familiar tale about a young girl, and an enchanted nutcracker gifted to her.

The Poinsettia is a tale from Mexico about why the poinsettias are called “Noche Buena” which is “Holy Night/the good night” as it was a gift during Christmas season.

Wee Robin Red Breast and The Little Black Cat are both are animals and winter and finding companionship and in similar sense feel shorter tales or verse tales.

The Snow Maiden is about a child made from snow by a couple and blessed by Winter to become a snow child.

The Silver Pinecones explains the tradition of painting silver pine cones thanks to a gnome king.

The Apple Tree Man is all about wassailing and blessings by taking care of what is given to you and nature.

Sister and Brother is about a pair of siblings that dont help their mother and end up having her taken away by Blizzard so they embark on a quest to rescue her and learn to be more helpful and kind.

The Mother of the Sea is about why winter nights become shorter and we get a nicer seaosn after ward.

The Snow Queen is a traditional tale of a queen that has inspired many other tales.

Rabbit’s Gift is a fun take on how what you give comes back to you in a way.

The Children and the Sun is a Southern African tale that I hadnt read before.

The Twelve Months is a tale about two young girls and how they see the world. I know this tale as the “Seven Days of the Week” but the actual results is the same on how the one girl is blessed and the other isn’t due to how they treat others.

Brigit and the Cailleach is the tale of the origin of Brigit.

Overall it is a lovely delightful collection of wintery and seasonal tales with stunnign illustrations and as I read it I felt like I was going back in time to sitting in my grandparents living room ont he floor reading the various treasuries of tales from different countries, and it was just a really nice read. I think you could also read this one tale each night to children and itd be a nice tradition for December for example.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Illumicrate Editions

Subscription box: Illumicrate Editions

Theme/Month: Special Edition for Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Ownership: Preordered the special edition box when it was available in the presale. If you are interested in purchasing an Illumicrate subscription, you can do it on their website.

I enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone a long time ago and the whole trilogy was fun to read so when they announced a special edition box I decided to buy it and also the rest of the trilogy. But what was in the box? Starting on the bottom right and going clockwise:

  • A gorgeous booksleeve with a scene on one side and a quote on the other.
  • A gold foiled print with all the characters of the series.
  • A wishbone enamel pin (I am unsure about this trend of two part/chained enamel pins, why?)
  • The hardcover edition with blue sprayed edges, special reversible jacket (another thing I genuinely do not understand the hype for, I am not going to flip the cover around to see the reversible one, plus it’ll just damage it if I keep flipping one way or the other and it’s not like you can see the full picture if you have the book facing anyway unless you had it on a rotating platform) and signed.
  • A gorgeous book tin (also it is huge, you can almost fit the book inside it, I haven’t tried, an experiment for another time) with a “stained glass” feel to the artwork which is cool.
  • A soul thurible replica from the book, which is cool but sadly for me it is a dust catcher and nothing more? (I do like the idea of making a replica, it is cool but it just sits there, I can’t do much with it and I don’t think it is safe to burn incense in it anyway…)
  • My favourite item which was the mug, the artwork is stunning!
  • Angel and Demon bookends. I get the concept behind them the cool idea but they feel a bit flimsy (not due to material more on the design being so cut out and delicate, makes them easy to catch on things and not as durable as one would wish). 100% to the concpet, not so keen on final product.

Sadly, I was kinda expecting more and didn’t really click with the box as much as I have clicked with previous ones, which is sad because the items where awesome, just not for me. I am not one to go crazy about prints (I am bad at seeing the characters unless I am making fanart myself, and I struggle to remember names so it is a bit like “cool art but means very little to me unless I make a massive effort to remember everything”), however the book is cool and I like it is a tin, unsure about the size of it but otherwise really cool and I am always happy for a good mug.

My takeaway is that I need to be more conscious of the special editions I chose as in the end the items may not be my cup of tea and I have to make sure it is worth it for me. If I displayed prints and decorative items on my shelves I probably would’ve totally loved this box.

Book Review

Moon Reads: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Included in Illumicrate box.

Spoiler free review: For the most part, key plot points may be touched on.

Content warnings: Violence in many ways, murder, gore, etc; several character deaths (it is a school that is trying to kill the students, it is part of the plot, if this is an issue, this is definitely NOT the book for you); black magic and use of others life force; suicide mentioned; parental deaths mentioned.

Starting this review with a few disclaimers: I am aware of the whole drama about the dreadlocks mentioned and as much as yes, probably not the best choice, context is absolutely key here and in the context it fits the character, the world and the story. Which brings me to my second point that this is a book that is probably not going to be one for everyone, it is particular in how it presents a twist on magical schools and it is all about the contradictions held within, so it requires in a way a critical view to enjoy it at its fullest.

Now on to the proper review. I really enjoyed A Deadly Education. As mcuh as Harry Potter was formative to my teenage years, I was happier in my alternative universe based on it than with the actual original story, it felt too removed from my reality and too white and British, so it was a fun “hey how would life be in the UK with magic but still class and all that stuff?” [the fact that I ended up living in the UK is another story] but it wasn’t as special as it could have been.

Enter A Deadly Education. El is holding universes in her, and I loved her flawed conflicted being. She has planned how to survive, is desperately fighting against her “nature” and what the Scholomance wants her to become while everybody around her assumes she is exactly what the appearances say she is and should be. And yet, she doesn’t want to prove that she isnt what they think of her, because in a way it is an advantage to her.

On top of that, the “white savior” comes in to save her and she just can’t seem to get rid of him which starts ruining her plans and carefully crafted status.

And then theres the whole Scholomance, a school that is trying to kill the students and eat them up and their magic while the students learn by surviving through the school. And as much as I probably wouldnt want to have to attend it, I loved the concept of this world where magic is a complicated thing.

A Deadly Education is also a full critique of magical schools, the trope of the chosen one and villains having it in their nature to be bad, but not only that. It touches on privilege and private schools and how those with money have power and aren’t even aware of the cost of the power because it is what they know and it is so natural they don’t even consider beyond their reality. Honestly, the layers of critique and poking at tropes in this book are half of the reason I loved it and then El’s constant fight to try to be more than the expectations and contradictions she is, was the other part.

As much as there is death and violence and havoc everywhere, I also had a lot of laughter and giggles and could see the humour and takes for it, and I loved it, plus the ending leaves you wanting to read the next book immediately!

Recommended for those that were left with an itch from Harry Potter never going to classes and having everything handed to him in his heroics, this book will fill you up on the magical world and not only that but will add other countries and cultures rather than just the UK. It is also for those that like a book with lots of layers and delicious content that you can read and see one more thing and read again and get more out it each time.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Legends and Lore Owlcrate

I am slowly catching up with my backlog of book boxes and here is the Owlcrate for October with the theme of Legends and Lore, which I liked quite a bit. Starting from the bottom left and going clockwise, the contents were:

  • We Free the Stars sampler. Since they had We Hunt The Flame in a previous box this makes loads of sense and I am curious.
  • Legendborm, which I am quite excited to read as it looks interesting.
  • Theme card, as per usual, I like the style of it.
  • Solstasia Festival plant based soap, which I highly appreciate that they chose a plant based soap and that they included soap because I like having fancy soaps in book boxes, it means I don’t have to buy new ones.
  • This is probably my favourite understated item, a glass file in a case. For starters, my husband has stolen it as it has a case and it is discreet and super good as a nail file. So as much as it is a small item, its probably the one that will get the MOST use.
  • A pot holder cosy thing, I don’t know hot to describe it properly, but I like it as it is meant to go on the bottom of the pot/bowl/hot round item and also the print is awesome.
  • A celestial wind chime which I didn’t spread out as I was avoiding damaging it before I hang it (I still need to find a spot for it but I am on the hunt)
  • A tablet/phone stand. I like how easy they are to set up and then to put back flat so this is useful and will probably end up in the kitchen as “recipe on the phone” back up.
  • A free audiobook code for Raybearer, again, cool gift and fun.
  • The monthly pin.

So what did I think? I found I liked the contents of the box and ait had a lot to give, between items even my husband will use to kitchen and useful pieces and decorative things plus a great read, it just felt like bang for your buck in usefulness and decoration plus bookishness. I highly appreciate that it isn’t specific fandoms I don’t connect with and instead, they are just really nice items you can have around the house or use in your house comfortably.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Sera and the Royal Stars Vol. 1

Sera and the Royal Stars by Tsuki, Mok, Angulo & Campbell

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

I can’t remember why I chose this book at some point but it obviously caught my eye and I had it just gathering dust somewhere (I put aside my graphic novels those moments of the year when my brain just cannot engage with a novel and needs the pictures and not as many words).

Thinking for some odd reason that this was a single volume kind of graphic novel I set to read it, and I have to say I like the artwork, reminds me a lot of old, or should I say traditional, comic style, with the colouring and the artwork, in a nice way. It is like the art was given a new lease in life keeping all the good of old styles but making the art better and just nicer to read through, a good middle ground between old fashioned and modern.

As for the story, it is really interesting, with a lot of myth, a lot of heroics and great characters making this something to sink your teeth into. Not superheroes but with a grander than just you storyline, gods, constellations, big stakes and more, it has all the elements of a big saga to happen and Sera is well fleshed to be the main heroine of the story with her own personal goals, but also being swept into needing to do more for the world and trying to figure out what is right and what the right things to do are when there are many paths but technically only one that will suceed.

Now, I do admit, this didn’t make grab me so much that as soon as I finished I wanted the next volume, but I think if I found the volumes in the library I’d try to get them and read through the whole series. But I did not feel like I wanted to buy all the volumes as it was not hitting me as much as other books have. I do know I am less into grand sweeping arcs that are too close to traditional superhero stories and I think that is where the fault is for me with this book, which is more of a palate one than of the story or execution.

Still, if you like traditional comic superhero stories but want a more fantasy view with gods and other interesting items, this may be the series for you, and it has a very interesting main character, so I can recommend you to look into Sera and the Royal Stars.