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.

Book Review

Moon Reads: This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Gifted by a good friend for Christmas

Spoiler free review: Yes

This is one of those books that you hear a lot about but then you wonder if the hype is worth it. And for me it definitely was.

The story starts with Red and a mission being completed, and we meet Blue through a letter written for Red which is kind the next chapter). Overall the story intersects a chapter of Red, a letter, one of Blue and then a letter to respond to the previous one.

There is very little background on who they are or why they do what they do initially so it is one of those books that are character driven and the banter and interactions between alongside the slight dose of mytery of “what is exactly going on, and why is all this relevant?” keeps you going, and as things slowly, ever so slowly, in a delicious way, a mix of desperately wanting to win against time and also at the same time slowly unravelling their relationship that spans alongside enemy sides and missions through space and time, this book packs a big punch into a small set of pages.

Because this is one of those books you need to read at least once without being spoiled, I am skipping around the whole plot because to say more than what already has been said, is to deprive you the next reader of the discovery and the good of it. I was unsure at first, but after the first few chapters and once I got used to the pace of the story, I was absolutely hooked and didn’t want to stop reading.

And as soon as I finshed I felt like I had to read it again because I knew that there were clues, so many clues and Easter eggs and little details hidden in each chapter, in each letter that I had probably glossed over and missed thinking them irrelevant or just quirky and suddenly finding them interesting. For the sake of actually reading more of my ever growing collection of books, I did not re-read it as soon as I finished, but I think that will come as my mind remembers, mulls and ponders the story through and decides maybe it needs to read it once again.

Recommended for readers that like a mystery that isnt fully a mystery, books that challenge you in concept and that are out of the ordinary and yet that hold through time and space and that will leave their mark on you. And if you like a bit of action, adventure, time travel and romance.

Book Review

Moon reads: The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

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

Disclaimer: I received a proof copy for free fromt he publisher in the hopes I’d review it, which I mean I have done and wanted to do anyway, so I would’ve got to it one way or another. The fact it was gifted does not affect my views at all.

What happens when you mix suffragettes, fairy tales and witches into a book? I’ll tell you what, great magical things happen with a pinch of trouble, a lot of adventure, and feminism.

Once and Future Witches is all about what defines us as women and how we stand tall and havethat fire inside us, the magic, the witchcraft that makes us persevere (in some places they’d call it grit or mother nature, or many other things).

Getting into the actual story we meet three young women, the Eastwood sisters, who inexplicably end up coming together at a suffragist meeting in New Salem after being apart and following their own path for a while.

One of the things I liked a lot here was that the relationships between the sisters and their internal struggles are not exactly fairy tale stories, but could be any of us today. Each of them carries some heavy trauma, heavy burdens and things to be worried or anxious about, and each has to figure them out in part on their own but also as they figure out where they stand as sisters.

It has a lot on sisterhood both as a family and born into it look, but also as a we’re all coming together, strangers and found family, into this. Alongside dealing with what happens when you make certain choices and act on resentment, fear, anger, etc. To me, it is those parts that shine the most in this book alongside the “retellings” and reworkings of fairy tales and “new tales” that are peppered through the book.

Probably the one part that this struggles is sometimes some odd choices on plot and behaviour of the characters (I had a proof copy so it may be different in the final version) and that the worldbuilding relies heavily on a lot of gaps to be filled by us or to be inferred meaning sometimes it is hard to remember what you thought x should be. Probably part of the problem was I read it through a long period of time due to different life interruptions and coming back to it I’d have to leaf back a few pages or just skim read back to try to place myself. This is probably the place it can do a lot better in.

Overall, if you are looking for a feminist book with lots of witchcraft, a fairy tale but not the Disney vibe and more the true Grimm brothers style, and sisterhood, this is the book for you. It was a wild ride and one that left me wondering what comes next.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Silver in the Wood

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

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

I remember reading about this book, preordering it and then somehow forgetting about it (look, that is the story of my whole TBR, I get excited, watn to read it now, the book doesn’t come out until months later and by the time it arrives I am pining for a different book that will come out in the future).

But given that my life has been a bit chaotic and I have had to steal time to read and do my own things, I put aside a few short stories and books I felt I could tackle with ease, so one Saturday morning I grabbed this lovely book, sat down to read a few pages, maybe a chapter or so. By the time I looked up from the book, I had finished it.

I immediately felt transported to the wood and the mansion and just in this world and knew I was going to stay there for as long as there was a story to tell. And it reminded me of why I love this type of books and how I sorely wish there were more green magic with lore and more, books that can take you into their own “fairy ring” world without even requiring fairies. I wanted to go and read more urban fantasy, or go travel back to Scotland and into the forest, get lost somewhere.

Silver in the Wood weaves a masterful tale and I don’t want to spoil it but honestly, make yourself a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, cuddle up with a blanket and get ready to go visit this particular woods that is rich in fantastical beings that weave into the very fabric of it.

My only complaint is that this was too short and I’d like a longer novel. Or a series, or just more. Which I guess is not a bad thing all in all, right?

Book Review

Moon Reads: Notes from Small Planets – Blogtour

Notes from Small Splanets by Nate Crowley

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

Well, I was selected to be part of the blog tour of this tour oriented book, and as such I need to make it clear I received a copy of the book so i could participate in it, but this doesn’t affect my review/post about it.

Now that that is out of the way I have to say that Notes from Small Planets is a great humour book. It is meant to give that vibe of a travel guide of “how to get the most out of your trip to X”, but the trick here is that X is a bunch of small planets, each with quirky interesting settings.

In itself, each world is an exploration of fantasy and scifi world tropes, and the usual cliches and expectations we have of them (you know, people expect elves to be good, orcs to be bad, etc). Each planet/world that we visit or rather that we are suggested to visit has their own flaovur and we’re seeing everything from the “eyes” and voice of Floyd, who more or less embodies the white privileged coloniser, but we get the margin notes and foot notes from Eliza, who is adamant on setting things right.

The notes on each planet are fantastic and poke so much fun at books and other stories and yet they are they very own unique thing, that I kept trying to match them to the book they may be inpired by and then wondering if it wasn’t just a bunch of trope books.

And the other shining star is the notes, all those little quips between Eliza and Floyd. They help set the why and how and mood of the travel guide and put you on a “look at what is being written as a travel guide vs what may actually have happened”. The further along in the book the more you realise the planets and travelling may be more than meets the eye, and by the end, well, let’s just say I was a mix of giggling and exclamations on it.

Thoroughly enjoyable guide that has a lot of humour, a bit of sobering truth (maybe more than we’d like at times) and just a very original “welcome to this world, this is your intro the videogame and world” kind of feel.

Book Review, Books

The Enigma Game Blog Tour

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

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

A few disclaimers before I launch into my review of The Enigma Game. I was provided a free copy of the book for reviewing purposes, however this doesn’t influence my review at all.

The second disclaimer is that that I have most of Elizabeth’s books (including non fiction) and as you can guess from the picture, have a soft spot for World War II bombers and cryptography (yes, I was at those Turing events). So be aware that this makes this book a quick runner for a good review due to contents.

The Enigma Game is another winner by Elizabeth Wein. It depicts so many things about how life during World War II was back then and does so with her unique way that makes you want to know more of the world and how it came to be.

We get a few points of view from different characters as they each give us a little of their world to see. We start with James (Jamie, Scotty) who is the one in charge of a B-flight squadron of Blenheims in Scotland and he is feeling hit in all places by the disadvantages they have (starting with old bombers, and just not great decisions on tactics). He is technically a character that appears in some ways in other of the books so he was familiar (and it kept nagging at me why I felt like I knew who he was but couldn’t place him at the same time, obviously now I want to reread The Pearl Thief and Code Name Verity).

Then we have Louisa, who is mixed race and struggling to find a place in London as she is too young, alone and not the right skin colour. But she finds a job helping Aunt Jane in Scotland and makes the most of it. With her point of view we get Aunt Jane who is a character as is and I absolutely adored the old woman. She’s old but she’s so cunning and so full of ideas and fight, it was wonderful to read her and she reminded me of other old ladies I’ve known (none as mysterious and interesting as her but still).

And we have Ellen who is part of the WAAF as a driver for the RAF airfield but who is hiding the fact she is a traveller. Her point of view was a refreshing sight and a connection between two pieces of the story at first.

Our story centers around them coming unto an Enigma machine (the only one) and due to circumstances, they are able to decode messages and give Jamie’s squadron a secret advantage, but with doing so, they put themselves at risk and potentially everyone.

I adored the story, the characters were so unique and the ambience and setting of the world is done beautifully with tiny details that help put you right there and then with them. It is not just a story about courage but about perceptions, about wanting to be brave and how rules soemtimes are meant to be broken, or in most of the case in the book, just bent rather than broken. I am actually having a hard time writing a very coherent review due to this book hooking me in and making me feel so much and be so invested into the characters and what happened.

As for historical accuracy, at the end you get a note regarding what it is based on and what is “real” and not which it still feels wonderfully well painted and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the author’s gift for writing fiction and making it feel like it is non-fiction.

If you enjoy historical fantasy, are an aircraft nerd or just curious about cryptography or the Enigma, this is a wonderful read. Or if you just want a good story about World War II and friendship, then this is also for you.

Book Review, Books

There Will Come A Darkness Review

There Will Come A Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

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

A little disclaimer, I have had this book on preorder for ages (1st of August 2019 apparently) but I also got a review copy from the publisher. Given how far back I preordered, it is pretty obvious they can’t really influence my review at all because I was already hyped for it.

And it was good and worth it. It did take me ages to read but it was mostly because it was the book I had with me while waiting in the queue for going into the shop weekly. It was a good read that kept me engrossed and made the wait not that difficult and helped it not feel like it was long or dragging. (I mean not what you want on your cover, but a book that helps pass a stressful moment and long wait much faster is always a good win).

Our story follows several POV from different characters who are linked by a Prophecy (and some in ways you didn’t expect at all, there’s definitely a few surprises that kept coming). This is a setup and build up book and not in a tell way. It is a book to know each of the characters, their personal stakes and why they are part of this end of times prophecy that isn’t even very clear.

One of the things I liked was that the characters are so varied but they each have something unique and something to move towards (or to run away from, right?). This means we have several subplots going on for the characters and as they start to intersect the stakes get higher and higher.

The concept of Graces at first I was like “meh, whatever” it felt like any other concept but as I read, the more I understood how entrenched, how much they defined the world yet at the same time, you didn’t feel like they were alien or odd in it. Probably the moment to sayt he worldbuilding was great. There’s so many places, and each has their thing but as you move through it in the eyes of the different POVs you start to see all the parts that make it what it is and why it definitely feels like the end of times.

Ephyra, Beru and Anton were my favourites out of them all (and technically Beru doesn’t really get a POV, but I am sure she will be getting one later in the next book, she has to!) even if they are completely different. Gosh, it is hard to explain why without ruining the plot much.

Another thing I liked was that gender isn’t as defining or limiting on how characters act and react. It is a corrupt world and with it a lot fo stuff is wrong and not great, but I didn’t feel like the male characters were stronger/had more agency than the female ones (given the circumstances) which was nice to see.

So in summary, I enjoyed it a lot and want to read the second book now because I need to know what will happen with each of them and also what now? The stakes were high enough as it was and now they are even higher. It is a really well written book with wonderful worldbuilding and great characters, so go read it!

Book Review, Books

Beneath the Rising Review

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

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

I don’t usually read books that cross into “scary” land because I am not big on horror. But I like Premee and her twitter, and the fact that Johnny (one of the main characters) is a young female “genius” sold me to it.

One of the strengths of the book is setting the mood and the progression of the story. We start with a very “normal” (or as normal as having a genius world saving best friend can be) part of the story and Nick trying his best to figure out what comes next as Johnny goes further away and is less and less around due to all the amazing discoveries and inventions she is making, while he is the one working a bakery job to help his family.

Almost immediately I had a lot of things I wanted to quote as Johnny talks about how it is to be female, young and a scientist and have to compete against the established older male scientists. I don’t talk a lot about what I used to do for work and what I do now, but I used to be very similar to Johnny (sans the Ancient Ones). I was the one everyone expected great things. Had a big research career before I even graduated university. Doing big things, and everyone expecting great things… in Johnny’s words “everything”. So it was easy for me to engage with this book and to feel it to heart. Which made the scary a little less scary and more like “oh, that is scary but kinda interesting”.

Another strength is the relationship between Johnny and Nick. They are friends, but could they be more, and how can you keep a relationship (of whatever kind, friends or more) when the people in it are so different and understand each other’s challenges so little? Nick struggles to understand how despite Johnny being white and a genius, she still has barriers men wouldn’t have. And at the same time, Johnny fails to see what being brown and not being rich does to Nick. There are moments were they are as close as close can be and then you realise that at the same time ther eis this big chasm between them. It was masterfully done and it is proof of the craft that Premee can write an apocalypse/end of the world horror and at the same time have this intense view of a relationship as it moves and tries to define itself into adulthood.

Gosh, the Ancient Ones in themselves and the whole part of the plot that goes around it kept getting more and more interesting. The connections between cataclysms and ends of civilizations was also a bonus point for my history focused heart and just seeing all the little hints about geeky or nerdy stuff kept me smiling despite also being scared and worrying about the fate of the world and about Johnny and Nick.

And those last few chapters, well, that was magnificent and sad and intense and a big relief. A lot of emotions to be felt throughout it, and I couldn’t help but side a little with both of them and not be sure what exactly I wanted to happen because it was so hard to think what would be the best outcome for everyone involved.

Also, Ben and the genetically modified dung beetles that wouldn’t roll dung but might steal satsumas or other round objects made me giggle. The sarcams levels are great too, if you need a serving of that.

If you like history, science, geniuses and friendships put to the test with an end of the world, this is definitely your book. It gets my scarydorsement and my full endorsement as a read worth reading.

Book Review, Books

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro Review

Ok, I give up. I’ve typed this review so many times, several different days and it just disappears. So I am going to skip the “this is the info you can find on Goodreads that tells you what the book is about” and just go straight into the review.

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

Queen Talyien (Tali) is the combination of “strong female character” with “chosen one” with “what if it all went wrong?” and this is done masterfully.

We start the story with her explaining that she’s basically ruling alone because she kinda screwed up and her husband left her (and their son) the night before they were meant to be crowned King and Queen of a country that is factioned and fractioned and is just a lot of fighting lords for land and ruling over the others.

Then she gets a letter from her husband to come and meet him at the neighbouring country where apparently he ha been having a comfortable life for hte last 5 years without bothering to make himself known to her or you know, his son (I didn’t have much respect for the husband, despite Tali trying hard to blame herself for him leaving). She is told not to go by her counsellors but decides to try to fix her marriage, for the sake of their son.

Know, one thing to know is that Tali was born to be Queen. She was educated for it, she had an arranged marriage and everything, all her life has been centered around becoming the Queen her father wants/wanted her to be. She has a purpose to fulfill and any time she has strayed from it, she pays the consequence. Her whole being is trying to meet the expectations, to hold everything together while the rest blame her or praise her or even thwart her. I identified with her so much on this. When you are defined by the expectations of others, when you have been brought up to live to those expectations, and to be them, it becomes slowly clear that you will never fulfill all of them. Because you just can’t. You can’t be what others want you to be and forgo who you are for the sake of everyone else.

So when she chooses to try to make the most of this opportunity to make everything right, and to not be the only one holding it all together because her husband is off doing whatever it is he is doing. She goes. She is doing the best she can.

Of course, this ends up with an assasination attempt (and by ends I don’t mean she dies and that’s it) and she’s left alone and in a difficult position in a foreign country, having to figure it out as she goes. This is where she fully shines and the story truly becomes the best. It is once she is out on her own, having to fend for herself and do and be just herself that she shines, that both you as a reader and Tali as her own, slowly chip away at the expectations and find the real Talyien.

The restof the cast is well fleshed and have their own unique characteristics but to explain them, would be to ruin the experience of meeitng them and then finding where they fit in the story. All I can say is that I have a soft spot for Khine.

The book is gritty and has a lot of violence in it. There is also some attempted sexual assault, a lot of gaslighting and abuse. However, this doesn’t retrack from it but rather gives it more depth. And it also has humour to contrast it, at times I was so angry and then suddenly wanting to laugh.

To me, the book was a delight to read but it was also a book that made me angry. It reminded me of how men manipulate capable women for so many reasons, and undermine them. They chip away at them and do their best to destroy them and somehow we still come out alive and victorious. So I was angry and laughing and sad and joyous and I couldn’t stop reading because I needed to know what would happen and if there was hope.

So, do I recommend this book? Yes. But this is NOT a Young Adult book, Tali is an adult, she has a child, she is a Queen, not a princess. Her problems aren’t the ones a YA heroine would encounter, and the whole book is definitely more about older characters and different stages of life.

If you liked The Poppy War, then this may be feel like a great book, as it reminded me a bit fo the feeling I had after reading Poppy War (but they are not the same, this has no Academia side and is more mature, more adult). And it has that same world building magic that Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash have.

And if you follow my reviews, it has the secret ingredient that makes me love a book… grief. (This is a lot less about death of someone and more about loss of identity, about loss in general).