Book Review

Moon Reads: Under the Whispering Door

Under The Whispering Door by TJ Klune

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Read Before: No

Ownership: Received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a review but also preordered.

Disclaimer: Receiving a review copy from the publisher does not affect my opinion of the book. If you think I review it highly it is due to me knowing my taste well and therefore not requesting books I won’t enjoy. And I am not obligated to review the book if I do not like it, so you may not see bad reviews due to me preferring not to hype down a particular book. I only do reviews of books I disagreed with if I think it is worth bringing a topic or warning to light.

Welcome to my blog tour post, but also my review, but also where I say I wish I could rate something over 5 foxes.

Under the Whispering Door is my absolute kind of book. It is about death and dying and about what comes next, but it is also about grief which is something that attracts me to books a lot [if you have been reading my reviews for a while, books with any of the themes around death and grief are huge for me]. And it is a book about a tea shop, yes, about tea, and cakes. And there is also a cosy and soft gentle aspect, but there is also fierceness and a touch of weird and I love it.

Wallace Price dies after having lived a corporate job life to the point that his job consumed and defined his life. So when he realizes he is dead and needs to move on, he isn’t quite ready for that. The book focuses on him coming to terms with the fact that maybe his life wasn’t what he thought it was or that maybe there was more to life than a job. But this means he doesn’t have much motivation to move on as he arrives at a cute tea shop where Hugo, the ferryman is there to help him be ready to move on.

There was a lot of focus on the fact that Wallace gets an ultimatum of seven days to move on, but this only really comes later in the book, and therefore it kept me guessing which took a bit off my enjoyment. However, overall the book is a little bit about Wallace learning to see himself in a different light but also to consider the privilege and also the lack of things he had in his life. But I also thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the main cast of characters and the reasons why they’re there.

If grief, death and wholesome but also intense self-review and considering what kind of human you may be, with a point to self-reflecting is not for you, then this book will miss the mark, but if you are open to this type of emotions and reflections, it is a wonderful read and it might bring tears to some readers. Not me but I have a very unusual perspective on grief and death so this was a nice read and some of the views were interesting to read, particularly because it leaves a lot open to fit various beliefs on what comes next in the afterlife, and that was nice to see that it didn’t try to pigeon hole into a single one.

One of the things I want to highlight it that obviously it is centered on death and therefore it touches on a variety of deaths and what brings them on, alongside mental health and other circumstances that may cause anxiety in some readers, or be sensitive subjects to them, so read with care, but if you can dip your toes into this book I recommend doing so.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

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Read before: No

Ownership: Preordered Waterstones paperback edition

I had heard a lot of good things about this book, but I am also wary of “hype” because it is usually not my thing. However, the premise of the story sounded like my kind of thing, wholesome but with a tinge of sadness, melancholia and grief. And it was exactly that, but softer and much better.

Linus has a predictable life, he has stuck to his job, he cares about doing his job well but only to complete his task. As a caseworker for magical children in government orphanages, he investigates incidents and helps to oversee their wellbeing. He is almost clinical about this, but he also cares and doesn’t want to be swayed by the adults. So when he is asked to report to the most high level of management, he is terrified.

They give him a very special assignment with little information since everything is classified, but the main thing is to go visit this particular orphanage that has extremely dangerous magical children: a female gnome, a powerful sprite, a wyvern, a green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and finally the AntiChrist.

But what ends up surprising Linus the most is Arthur, the caretaker of the children who works hard on helping them grow to the best of their magical capabilities while retaining dreams and their “humanity”.

Overall the story is about Linus finding what happens when your dreams suddenly fall onto your lap with some interesting strings attached and you have a choice. But it is also about equality and that being magical is not something to be afraid of just because it is different. And there are also a myriad of secrets kept in this house and in the surroundings, which Linus slowly starts finding out.

Overall, it was a feel-good story with some interesting social and cultural commentary about our times, with the help of magic it touches some intense aspects about what it is to be different and rejected, or to be labelled something and therefore dealing with prejudice, but also, about being allowed to dream even if it seems impossible.

This was a book that once I got going, I had to stay up until 2 am to finish it because I could not put it down and also because it felt like a balm to my soul. It was the exact right amount of sad, heartwarming and cosy I needed.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Far From the Light of Heaven

Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

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Read before: No

Ownership: Review copy provided by the publisher and preordered too.

Spoilers: No, but will talk about the plot vaguely.

Disclaimer: Receiving a review copy from the publisher does not affect my opinion of the book. If you think I review it highly it is due to me knowing my taste well and therefore not requesting books I won’t enjoy. And I am not obligated to review the book if I do not like it, so you may not see bad reviews due to me preferring not to hype down a particular book. I only do reviews of books I disagreed with if I think it is worth bringing a topic or warning to light.

Far From the Light of Heaven is a heavy hitter in the space opera, thriller and murder mystery categories. And it has stuck to me, even months after having read it initially. I want everyone to read it because it is brilliant and like a good dish, it has layers upon layers of flavour that you slowly discover as you turn the pages and keep reading.

One of my favourite things in the book was the way Tade made the existence in space so real. It isn’t a perfect idea like Star Wars and Star Trek where somehow the only times there are technical issues it is for the plot. In this case, you can see the training, the pressure, the many things that may go wrong, and the inconvenience of doing long journeys (the characters don’t get a magic pass at how to go into deep sleep and wake up the same age as they went to sleep as if nothing had happened, for example). The best way to summarise is to say that he asked the question of “this is where we are now with space travel, how would it be to deal with a bunch of stuff going wrong, with a murder mystery, with AI and just have to deal with it?” and honestly, the answer to it is fascinating.

Ragtime as the AI and spaceship is an interesting and nuanced exploration of what AI can be and is at the same time, like a present and future all in one. And that is all I will say about the AI in the book even though I honestly could write an essay on it because it was also another favourite part (yes, apparently this is a review full of favourite parts, ok? the five foxes should have given you a hint).

Finally, I will say that the cast is relatively small even though there is a wider cast of secondary characters that mostly help place the main cast, but even they seem to have a life of their own even if we are not privy to it through the main story. The book also touches on what identity may be and what it is to be alien, or a foreigner, and the way you may be perceived by different groups of people. And finally, it touches on religious beliefs, not in a religious way but more as an exploration of what it is to believe or not and what you believe in.

This is probably Tade’s best work to date and my engineering heart is satisfied.

If you haven’t preordered or ordered it yet, it is coming out on the 29th of October so make sure you grab a copy and maybe read it for a wonderfully spooky and atmospheric horror/thriller feel.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Raven Heir

The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis

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Read before: No

Ownership: Bid for the proof copy in aid as it was annotated.

As a fan of Stephanie’s books, and knowing the Raven Heir was in the making a few years ago, it was inevitable I’d bid and bid until I got this proof. Which then I promptly devoured and enjoyed thoroughly.

In the same delightful fun fantasy adventure style as The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, The Girl with the Dragon Heart and, The Princess who Flew with Dragons, The Raven Heir explores the power of the character’s internal magic and what makes them be unique and therefore magical or the heroine that is needed.

We meet Cordelia and her triplets, Giles and Rosalind, who are much more well-behaved than she is, and a lot less wild. She can feel it in her bones, in her being, that the woods call her, the shape-shifting is ever so tempting and it is hard to obey the rules. But Cordelia tries hard and does her best, even if sometimes this doesn’t work out.

But when the safety of her home is at stake and the triplets are suddenly in the run for their lives, it is Cordelia who seems to know more than her triplets and who will have to make very tough decisions.

Overall the book explores the power of being siblings, friendship and the weight of responsibility and knowing something. But it also has a lot of animals, and nature involved, and all the elements of a perfect Disney/Pixar film, or a good animated series that will stay with you for years to come. Actually, if it was to be made as a film, I’d say give it to the studio behind The Secret of Kells, or Wolfwalkers, because it would fit so beautifully in that style. If you have watched either film or any of their films, The Raven Heir has that magical quality and fantasy epic that is also heavily tied with nature and living and the power and weight of choices made.

As per usual, the author has made an amazing book and there is layers and layers of it to look into, starting with the world and then coming to Cordelia, her magic and the magic of her triplets, alongside her identity and the adventure they have to set off to save the kingdom.

Highly recommended to readers of all ages, anyone that loves a good story, one that will stick with you forever, this is the one to pick.

Book Review, Books

Mexican Gothic Review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-García

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After reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, I knew Silvia was an author I would keep loving in future books, and Mexican Gothic just settles that even more.

If you are interested, I did a live tweeting thread as I read it with all my opinions, and the memories it brought back as I read.

If you’re feeling lazy and your question is “is this a legit Mexican Gothic novel?” then the answer is ABSOLUTELY! As a Mexican with family from nearby the area that inspired the book and that lived for a third of my life or so near abandoned mining towns, this book struck deep in my memories of Mexico, of my childhood and teenage years and the stories my family would tell. Yes, there aren’t really any tacos, sombreros or anything that screams Mexican to a foreigner, but from a subtle mention of a Zote bar of soap to other elements in the story, it was as Mexican as can be and even better.

This is how you do great own voices representation, and how you write a POC book. You don’t need to go guns blazing stamp in your face that this is indeed about Mexico, you just subtly reveal the depth of Mexico by the small hints, by the story. The gentle hints at a life lived in a country both by someone of Mazatec origin (one of the many native people of Mexico) and by colonist (English) attempting to make money out of cheap labour and taking away our silver, are superb.

Now for the actual story, we start with Noemí having her socialite life disrupted by an odd letter from her cousin and she’s suddenly thrown into this gothic decript house where things are just a bit too odd and she can’t seem to understand fully well what’s going on.

We kow something is dodgy with the Doyle and the way they are treating her cousing and her too, and yet, what is wrong exactly because you can’t just say “they’re dodgy” as grounds for say a divorce or for sending your cousin to a psychiatrist.

If you need to compare to something this is like a wonderfully modern lavish Rebecca but 10 times better, with the horror part of it developing gently around you until suddenly you’re overcome by it and you need to read until the end because how can you not find out what is exactly going on.

Now, for sanity and to warn other readers, one trigger warning I HAVE to give is sexual assault, attempted many times, but the main attempt was quite intense (extremely well written) and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Which it is absolutely meant to. And given the context and the way it was written, it had a powerful effect on me but not as badly as such scenes would have in other books. Other items to consider into your content/trigger warnings: gaslighting, manipulation, colonialims, heavy racism, eugenics.

So now I will take about the racism/eugenics and hard topics part. As I read Mexican Gothic I had moments of anger due to the view the Doyles have on race and the superior vs inferior being (this becomes a major plot point and it is done with a masterful weaving of threads to form a spectacularly spooky rebozo) but I also cheered for the intensity that Noemí mustered and how she had a way of speak her mind. She did not stay quiet. And I loved her for it.

I keep praising Silvia’s writing but you can see she has honed her craft. The writing is that of someone with experience and knowledge, she can weave that tale and have you deeply wrapped in it. And the story can be brutal, it can hurt you deeply and yet, you will love it because it does exactly what it needs to do and even more. It is a credit to her mastery of words that despite how much anger I mustered about the topics in the book, I came out of my reading it satisfied.

All I can say from here is that everyone should read this book. Even if you aren’t into Gothic books, or horror, or Mexico, honestly, you need to read this because it is absolutely a master book worth every word in it.

PS. that mouse in the picture came from Tequisquapan, México. It’s a nice little reminder of my country without it being too in your face.

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

Witch for a Week Review

Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Ashley King

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More #Februwitchy books, and this oen was definitely one I saw Asha talk about and bought the first two, forgot about them in my middle grade shelf and dug them out for the readathon.

What a great gem they are! Once I finished Witch for a Week, I ordered books 3 and 4 so I could keep reading them, because I needed more. That good was it.

Elsie Pickles lives a “boring” simple life helping her dad in their shop and living by Customer Service rules. I have done customer service and I loved the rules. They were just so eprfectly encompasisng of the whole how to deal with customers. It made this book dearer to me. But then she gets to “house sit” for the local witch.

The house is actually a tower with a personality, and it comes with a snarky obnoxious raven, and some fun visitors who befriend Elsie. And then there is the fact that part of the offer meant more books for Elsie to read, and maybe some magic may happen. Even if Elsie isn’t too sure about it.

It was just very fun to read the story, meet the characters who come to the door and do some shenanigans. It was great to just escape to the tower (I want a tower that gives me cake or whatever I want when I knock on the larder/cupboard). The perfect mixture of cute and fun and magical in a book.

Book Review, Books

Realm of Ash Review

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.

Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed…including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

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How do you write a review for a book like this? Realm of Ash is the follow up (not exactly a sequel, but it does happen after) of Empire of Sand which I loved so much that it got me to draw again and do some fan art, into which I have spent countless hours because it needs to be as good as what I felt reading the book.

In Realm we follow Arwa as she joins a house for widows who do not want or can’t be a burden to their families. She is young and has survived a massacre. But she is also smart, conflicted and full of anger.

This book starts with strong women making the most in a society that doesn’t alway realise their value. And despite them having a limited way of doing things, the resourcefulness is amazing.

However, the main thing for me was how much Arwa fights against her Amithri blood and heritage, because she has been brought up to think it is tainted and foul. And the deeper she delves into this secret heritage and uses it as she attempts to help Zahir and the “heir” side they are meant to be helping, the more she realises that it was just convenient lies to trap her, and limit her, to rob her of who she is and could be.

That was a stunning thing to read as she moves through her anger and then fear and everything that comes as they desperately want to save the Empire (and how much she is conflicted internally as she finds that what the Imperial family wants isn’t the same as what is best for the Empire).

It is also a book full of court (empire in this case) politics, the complexity of families and relationships in general, and the power of hope. It is about identity, and about loss and grief (we already established books with grief in them are kinda my thing). And it is incredibly powerful.

As such, the book is hard to review without spoilers because it is so good but also to explain it in detail would be to rob those of the discovery and delight of it. All I can do is let you know that I loved it, and I will read anything Tasha writes because I need to, she has my readership through and through.

Book Review

Making Faces Review

I can’t remember why I decided to preorder this book, but I did (I definitely like supporting authors and preordering as many books as tempt me and can be afforded), and trust me, past me who preordered gets all the kudos from present me.


Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

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I started this book not expecting too much, for some reason I thought it was set in WWII times (don’t ask me why, well, somehow I put it close to the WWII books so yeah, past me had her moments). Thinking it wouldn’t hook me too much, I started as I went to bed.

Oh boy! I stayed up until 2 am just to finish it. I seriously could not put it down, my boyfriend came to bed and I barely acknowledged him, this had to be read. I needed to know what was going to happen.

There were a couple of interesting things in the book beyond the “B&B” retelling. It spoke of feeling ugly/not interesting/attractive and never really realising you’ve grown out of it, not in a crazy ugly duckling to swan but more of a “people will like you and some won’t, but it’s okay”. Then it also has a character that is in a wheelchair and that is amazing to read and I was so invested in the character. Family isn’t totally absent in this book, which was refreshing. Parents and family exist and aren’t there just to drive the plot. It also touches on guilt, beliefs, and a lot of things that I was not expecting here.

I thought this was a historic romance kinda book, and it was so much more than that.

Moon recommends

If you’re feeling up to preorders and love Beauty and the Beast, try A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Obviously Making Faces has to be recommmended. One of my other favourite B&B retellings is Hunted and Beauty.