Book Review

Moon Reads: A Marvellous Light

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Proof copy provided by publisher upon request

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.

A Marvellous Light has an intense start about the circumstances that place our pair of main characters into the plot. Robin has been given a new job and has to make the most of it, even if it appears to be the wrong job and he is way out of his depth. He seems to have a lot of family drama and the book in this sense feels like a very Downton Abbey kinda thing but make it gay.

Then we have Edwin Courcey who is the liaison for the magical world and therefore has to work with Robin. Edwin is prickly and a bit not amused by how little Robin knows but slowly warms up to him. He gives the impression that he has better things to do than his actual role and therefore is just doing it out of politeness.

The plot centres mostly on the romance developing between Edwin and robin, which is probably where I went wrong with this book. I was looking forward to a historical kinda fantasy with romance, whereas the best way to describe A Marvellous Light is that it is a romance with some historical fantasy happening around it.

The magic system and the world are interesting and being dropped in as Robin does was also quite a good way to learn. We also have Miss Morrisey and her sister who are probably the best characters in the book and are the most developed secondary characters of this book outside of the main characters, which again is a shame because, given the development of the characters, it could’ve been something I liked more.

Overall, if you want a sweeping romance with plot and magic happening around it, with a lot of angst and romance and things to force the characters to make quick decisions and maybe have to put their lives on the line, that may read a little like good Downtown Abbey fan fiction with magic and gay, this is the absolute book for you. If instead, you’d like a magical fantasy set in a historical world with some romance in it that is gay, then this may not be exactly for you. You end up getting less of the plot as the book goes and more romance, which I felt sad about because the magic sounded very interesting and I would’ve liked more of that.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for my personal collection

Lily Hu has questions, particularly about herself and why the idea of two women falling in love makes her heart race, or why she clips certain butch female looks, but she is Chinese-American in the 1950s where it is dangerous to seem a little too different and to risk her father’s deportation.

So Lily keeps her questions quiet until she starts hanging out with Kathleen Miller, who is not afraid to go to the Telegraph Club with Lily and hang out there to watch a show. As her world and friendships shift, and priorities change, Lily suddenly is asking more and more questions and saying no to things she might have just shrugged away, and yes to things she would have just wished she did say yes to before.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club, is a trip through the US at the time of red-scare paranoia, and particularly what it means to be defining your sexuality alongside your identity and how you fit in this world and country. The story is written with that everyday type of writing that makes you go through the day of Lily and through things as they happen and it all feels luscious and mundane at the same time.

There are so many details about what being in a country that sees you as different in not only one way feels, and what finding the deep secrets you didn’t even dare admit you kept suddenly are more accept or have somewhere to be not a secret anymore and how liberating that can be but also the risks of letting the truth show.

Wonderful read, and highly recommended overall. It is a very different feel to Malinda Lo’s fantasy books but it still ahs the beauty of being an easy read and yet telling a big story, like an epic poem that everyone knows the lines to and can recite as if it was what everyone does.

Book Review

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

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

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for myself since it sparked my curiosity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review, Books

Blogtour: The Great Revolt Review

The Great Revolt by Paul Dowswell

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

Due to some technical issues (aka, my husband was in hospital) no pretty jigsaw picture this time! And as a disclaimer I was provided a free copy by the publishers so I could review the book for this tour. This doesn’t affect my review or views on it.

The Great Revolt made my reenactor and history buff heart all happy inside. We get to meet Matilda (usually goes by Tilda in the book) and her father Thomas. And let me start by saying that this is a book where both the father and the child are part of the story and it is done well. I found this refreshing to read since normally the parents get killed or out of the picture, but Thomas is part of the story as much as Tilda is.

And both have their own motives, personalities and ideas, which makes this a book with well fleshed characters, several interesting points of view and conflicting ideas and just a lot to read about in a relatively short book.

At first I felt like I wanted desperately to get to teh juicy parts of the revolt but then I just wanted to learn more and more about the characters and their world, so bonus points on making this a world I can feel I am a part of. It was also good to read Thomas being okay with his life and seeing it as “better than what other options could be”. Yes, maybe it could be better but he is content, and again, usually everyone is unhappy or if they aren’t, they’re the villain, but that is not the case here and the dynamics of interactions and relationships are a lot more grey than just black and white.

Obviously, revolution comes at a cost and Tilda gets in some interesting adventures and makes some new friends. I kinda felt happy to read all the variety of the book and to feel part of that revolt and march to London to talk to the king.

I’d say if you are into history, into sweeping tales and wonderfully interesting books this is one for you. It has a lot of interesting points I don’t see often executed this well in a book. (If you want anything to compare to, I’d say it reminded me of Sally Nichols books or that style of historical but putting in the middle of the action but not from the safe point).

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

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

All Fall Down Review

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

A deadly contagion races through England…

Isabel and her family have nowhere to run from a disease that has killed half of Europe. When the world she knows and loves ends for ever, her only weapon is courage.

The Black Death of 1349 was the deadliest plague in human history. All Fall Down is a powerful and inspiring story of survival in the face of real-life horror.

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

I haven’t read much historical fiction around the Black Death, so I decided to give this a go. And I’ve read another of Sally’s books before, so at least I kinda knew what to expect.

It was a very interesting book as you’re introduced to Isabel, and her world. And how it is so “natural” to just be part of it, you can see which parts they question and which ones they don’t. As a way to plunge into the world and setitng, this book does a good job at that but without feeling like you’re just reading a history book with just facts. Isabel and her family make the history become alive.

There’s not much that can’t be spoiled since we know Black Death killed a lot of people. And as the small village Isabel lives in slowly gets affected by it, and then it hits her family, tough choices have to be made, but also some questions arise about roles, responsibiltiies and status quo.

When everyone is dying around you, do the rules that kept you in that place still stand?

I didn’t love the book but it was a quick read, easy to consume without bogging down in facts, the plot was a bit broken into odd parts which is why it isn’t getting more stars, but it still got to somewhere and gave a good “ending” (or as good as you can have given the topic and circumstances).

Book Review, Books

Smoke and Key Review

Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

A sound awakens her. There’s darkness all around. And then she’s falling…

She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she’s dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names—from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it.

She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn’t utter a word. There’s Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key’s instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can’t remember why.

Then the murders start; bodies that are burnt to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was—and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden—before she becomes the next victim…

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

Smoke and Key was one of those “this book sounds interesting, could be a total flop, but it may also be good”. So I bought it at YALC. And for some odd reason I decided it’d be a good variety to the rest of the books I took with me for our honeymoon.

It was a quick read, easy to read, doesn’t require much thinking even though there’s a lot Key doesn’t know and a lot to try to puzzle out in this Under world. But the story takes you along, not in a condescending way but just with Key to learn as she does.

The world of Under got interesting and then it gets a little bit weird, specially as Key keeps remembering more and more and things start to connect between Under and Key’s life before she died.

I liked the concept that an item you were buried with was the thing that “defined” you and how “Under” had adapted to this odd fate, until Key arrives and can’t adapt or rather her memories won’t really her do so.

The rest of the characters are somewhat fleshed out and at first feel very bare bones but as memories come back and things get slowly revealed, they become better fleshed out (some never do, but oh well, the main ones kind of do).

Coming to the ending was interesting as I had no clue what to expect from this book. And it somehow left me feeling like it had ended well, despite being a bit of a “how did this all happen? Magic? Magic!” but it was exactly the type of book I kinda expected it to be in the good way. It passed the time, didn’t require a lot of thought and engagement to keep up with it, and it was interesting with an ending that left me pleased and not angry at the book.

Book Review, Books

Under a Dancing Star Review

Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.

When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancée, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?

With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love…

A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

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

It seems to me that Laura is set on making me love her books on things I do not like. She did it first with A Sky Painted Gold, a “Gatsby” like kind of book (I do not like Gatsby at all), and now she’s done it with Under a Dancing Star for Shakespeare.

Her ideas are a different take on things, for Under a Dancing Star, she asks, “What made Bea and Ben in Much Ado About Nothing, get to that point where the play starts?” and she does it masterfully. Not only for the main two characters, but for the whole ensemble, and I loved it deeply.

There is a lot of care into the fashion part and on setting the scene and the feel for it, which is also delightful and makes you feel like you’re there chatting with the artists, sharing a lazy dinner with them.

The banter and teasing between Bea and Ben is glorious! I laughed a lot throughout the book and also giggled and smiled. Oh, if I had the guts Bea does. And maybe a younger me did have some of that. Plus it is nice to see her blossom into herself rather than stay in the shell of what her parents want for and from her.

Highly recommended alongside A Sky Painted Gold.

Book Review, Books

Among the Red Stars Review

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

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

True to form, I read this book at an RAF base while my boyfriend did pylon racing (I mean, Russia really wasn’t an option just to go read a book).

Among the Red Stars was one of those books I knew I needed to read, so I preordered it and then put it on my WWII shelf and didn’t read it for a long time. Reviews to do, books to read for x or y event, and then I wasn’t in the mood for it. I didn’t want to read it in the wrong mood because I knew it’d be a book I would love, and I wasn’t wrong.

The book takes you through two points of view. Valka as a young woman joining the one all female aviation group (who would later become known as the Night Witches, the women that gave Hitler nightmares). She takes you through the nuances of joining this force and of how training goes. And her narrative takes you through her journey as a Night Witch and what it entailed.

On the other hand, we have Pasha who is a gentle soul with a knack for radios, and who is now a soldier at the front. Both exchange letters, and through Pasha we learn a lot about the nuances of religion and what socialism meant to those born in it.

Valka talks more about what happened when you are suspected of being against the system. And she explores how the women of the aviation group were initially considered inferior by all the other regiments until they proved their worth and changed things around.

One of my favourite things is that there are all this gorgeous details about the aircraft (Po-2, which was later renamed U-2, this brought a long discussion between my boyfriend and me about why they renamed it and which one I was referring to) and the world of flying for the Soviet Union. But there are also everyday details like the women adjusting their own uniforms to fit, or Pasha learning to sign hyms through one of his fellow soldiers.

And it is also relatively “true” to the actual things that happened. I didn’t at any point feel like saying “woah, too many artistic liberties here”. Never had anything to complain, except that at first the whole “letter” and then narrative part was odd, but I got used to it quickly.

At the end there is a nice note explaining who inspired each character and which ones are based on real people that lived and fought and did the things they’re known for in the book.

If you’re a WWII enthusiast or an aircraft one, do read this, it is more than worth it!