Book Review, Books

Picklewitch & Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin Review

Picklewitch & Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin by Claire Barker

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

This is the sequel to Picklewitch & Jack, I read both for #Februwitchy, and I have to say I enjoyed this one a little more than the first one. Maybe because Jack and Picklewitch have eased into a better interaction and relationship.

And they are getting into a pattern, despite Picklewitch being unpredictable and easily bored still. But she is fun and Jack is ahppy they are friends, and she respects his boundaries better. But then she gets a letter about her cousin visiting and she gets all excited and ready to be with the cousin.

Jack gets a little jealous and also terribly worried because if Picklewitch was enough to handle, a cousin can only mean more trouble, right? So it is a big surprise when the cousin turns out to be a very well behaved boy who is also very knowledgable and seems to fit almost perfectly at the school.

He doesn’t disrupt things like Picklewitch, barely uses magic and seems to good to be true. And that is exactly what it is, too good to be true.

It was fun to see the creative and clever plans Picklewitch and Jack devise (some on the spot) to try to fix the chaos that is happening due to the truth behind who the couisn is. And it just made their relationship more valuable to both of them as they each got jealous of the other having a better friendship with the cousin.

I can happily recommend this as a fun witchy book which made me laugh and feel happy after finishing it.

Book Review, Books

Witchy Review

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries

In the witch kingdom Hyalin, the strength of your magic is determined by the length of your hair. Those that are strong enough are conscripted by the Witch Guard, who enforce the law in peacetime and protect the land during war. However, those with hair judged too long are pronounced enemies of the kingdom, and annihilated. This is called a witch burning.

Witchy is a comic about the young witch Nyneve, who is haunted by the death of her father and the threat the Witch Guard poses to her own life. When conscription rolls around, Nyneve has a choice to make; join the institution complicit in her father’s death, or stand up for her ideals?

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

Another one that I had bought a while ago, had put aside for a rainy day and ended up brinign out for #Februwitchy. And at least in this case it is exactly perfect. The title and the main character fit well the readathon.

I started reading Witchy when it came out as a webcomic, then lost my craze for webcomics and forgot about it. But then saw the book, it caught my eye and here it is.

Witchy is set in a world where your magic is stated by how long your hair is and how long it manages to grow. Nyneve’s dad was killed because of his hair (to her understanding) and she despises the rules and the world that can have a loyal subject and kill him the next moment. So she hides the length of her hair and uses a charm to make it look shorter.

It helps that her magic is a bit unreliable and not very good, even if her hair is long enough that it shouldn’t be this bad. But when she is discovered to have great strategies and that it has all been a glamour, things come into question and she makes a terrible and hard decision.

I remember being surprised by her decision and sacrifice, and it was more or less as far as I had gotten on the webcomic, so it was nice to read some more. The artwork has an interesting colour palette that works with the world it represents and it changes to show different parts of it.

It’s hard to describe everythign that is going on in the world and there’s still a lot left pending, but one thing that defines Witchy is how “human” Nyneve is. She is not a hero, and she’s just trying her best to go forward and do what can bring her joy. She is interesting as a character as she’s not predictable and when you thnk “this is going to go this way” it turns out it isn’t.

There is LGBTQ+ representation, lots about magic and spells and a diverse cast of characters and creatures. I can only recommend this and hope for the next volume.

Book Review, Books

Mooncakes Review

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

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

You want a book about witches? You’ve got it. You want representation? This book has it in spades, not just for LGBTQ+ but also for disabilities. You want a cute love story? Mooncakes has it. And if the title sounds like there should be food in it, why yes, there is also food!

Seriously, Mooncakes is a bunch of cute. Nova and Tam are fully fleshed out with worries, individual challenges and stories that still mix together by their past, present and potential future. And the grandmothers are awesome. There is so mcuh to say about all the characters and the value they add, even if some are there you make you smile and that is all, but still.

The world sounds very intriguing and I wanted to know more of how it is, and how magic and non magic coexists, as I do want to know what else they do at the bookstore/coffee shop thing Nova’s grandmothers have.

And the artwork is wonderfully detailed and you can see the care that went into making it become more than just words in a page, but to make the story and characters real and unique. At the end there is a “how this becomes a comic” and it was awesome to see the progress of the description and then how it becomes a full page.

I cannot recommend this enough because it is incredibly cute, awesome and I just need everyone to enjoy it!

Book Review, Books

Hex Vet: Witches in Training Review

Hex Vet: Witches in Training by Sam Davies

In a world where magic is an ordinary part of daily life, two young apprentice veterinarians pursue their dreams of caring for supernatural creatures. 

Have you ever wondered where witches’ cats go when they pull a claw? Or what you do with a pygmy phoenix with a case of bird flu? Nan and Clarion have you covered. They’re the best veterinarian witches of all time—at least they’re trying to be. But when an injured spectral wolf beast from another realm stumbles into their lives, Nan and Clarion have to put down their enchanted potions and face the biggest test of their magical, medical careers…outside of the clinic. 

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

This was the first book I read for #Februwitchy. And of course didn’t add it to my TBR because completely forgot. I thoguht it’d be a good start to get me wanting to read more. Start easy so I pick up and feel like I can do it.

So far that tactic has worked.

I found this book while browsing for other graphic novels and thought the premise was cute, veterinarian withces for mythical and fantastic creatures, yes please.

It did not disappoint, I want a bugbear and I just really enjoyed seeing all the critters they have in the clinic. The artwork was fitting to the story, it felt magical and cute and just a tinge scary when it needed to be. I can see that there’s a lot of more story to come and that there is potential for many plots and things alongside the already revealed interesting personal plot points of the two apprentices.

The only thing I had issues was that some panels and bubbles have grammatical errors which kept breaking the immersion that had happened. And it was short, I wish it had been longer because I was enjoying it too much and wanted to know more of the world, of the creatures, of their worlds and who they are.

All in all, a cute enjoyable graphic novel about magic, friendship, teamwork and critters.

Book Review, Books

The Midwinter Witch Review

The Midwinter Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag

The acclaimed graphic novel world of The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch comes to a thrilling conclusion in this story of friendship, family, and finding your true power.
Magic has a dark side . . .

Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting. This year, he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament-as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition.

Ariel has darker things on her mind than the Festival-like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her. But Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs.

The Festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel, nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?

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

I was very excited to read this and had it on preorder. The two previous books had me hooked and I wondered where this one was going to take us and what interesting adventures were coming.

The focus of it is Ariel, and the internal fight she has on being a good with rather than just evil and ruining everything. I wanted to enjoy it as much as the other two, but there was a lot of making the adults do things that didn’t go very well with their characters for the sake of making the plot a bit more intense and more confusing. I didn’t want to try to rethink my whole view of a character that I thought was good for the last two books and is now giving bad vibes (worse part, the reason for the shifty behaviour is silly, something a child might do not an adult and not the character that does). So I guess, that made it less good to me.

I still liked seeing their friendship finding new spaces and figuring out what is best and how to go along with having a new witch that is adept next to Aster. Good competition. There is still a lot of Aster having to prove himself which detracted a little from Ariel’s story. I can see the reason behind wanting to explore that part, but it meant you split the story too much between Ariel and Aster and their conflicts and tried to pack it all one book. Maybe it would’ve been better to have it be a set of four books rather than a trilogy. That way there’ll be more space to explore both things, including Ariel’s past and family and all that.

The big reveal about Ariel’s family is too short and rushed, which felt like a shame. However, their friendship between the three of them is still strong and they’re a good team of friends.

The art is still good, the world was nice to go back to, I just wished it had been done a little better, as it left me feeling like “oh, it finished already? This is the end of this story/trilogy? Really? That’s it?” rather than with a bang or at the very least some internal satisfaction of seieng htem grow into themselves (which they kinda do, but it is rushed and it feels a little forced).

Still, the trilogy itself is fun, I enjoyed it and it was an interesting concept. Wish there were more to come.

Book Review, Books

The Okay Witch Review

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

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

This book that I sadly haven’t seen anyone raving about is a hidden gem. It’s a graphic novel with cute artwork, and lots of coming into your magic, plus small town vibes and school shenanigans!

Moth loves everything that is magical and witchy, but that means she’s a little out of the main circle in school. However as she makes a new friend because she is friendly, she accidentally comes into magic powers. And boy, they are interesting and scary and also, magic is hard!

Not to spoil anythign but Moth lives in a small town that was really against witches, there is a talking cat, and there is a school play, Moth’s friend trying to impress his father (mysterious character that the father is), and then Moth’s own mother is keeping some really interesting secrets of her own.

But none of that will stop Moth from trying to learn how to do magic and use it better than by accident! She is one determined girl and this is a fun read full of joy, adventure, crazy stuff and bucketfuls of magic and history.

Highly recommended if you like empowering books about preteens/teens coming of age and finding powers, if you like magic, and friendship and family. It’s a really lovely book.

Book Review, Books

Sanctuary Review

Sanctuary by V. V. James

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching

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

I read Sanctuary a while back but had a backlog of reviews, so only doing it now. My bad! Because this book was a wild ride and it kept surprising.

The only thing to consider is that this is a book about a witch hunt, a “murder” and contains rape of a minor by another minor (slightly older). There’s a lot going on in this book.

I found this book a wild ride because the beginning is a hit in the face, and then it shifted from a muder mystery/investigation to a bit of “The Real Housewives of Sanctuary”. This was the part that took me the longest to get through, as it is exactly that type of drama and relationships that I try to keep myself away from and do not particularly appreciate in personal relationships (Vic wrote it brilliantly, which is why I struggled with it, it was too “real”).

The concept of a “small” town full of secrets was very intriguing and it was good to see the secrets reveal themselves a little through Maggie but also to get them from each of the characters involved and then seeing different sides of the same story. And seeing characters suddnely connect the dots and go “oh dear”.

Abigail and Michael drove me up the wall, but I have known people like them and yeah, wide berth. No wonder Daniel was as he was.

I liked Sarah and one part I wanted to know more of was the magic system, the Conclave, everything. It is a world where being a witch is allowed and technically not persecuted (the nuance on how it can be a useful but slightly complex skill and how to use it, plus the implications on keeping records, and what actions you can do or not, was fascinating. I could read a book on how it is meant to work, or more details of it, seriously).

To be fair, in general, the characters kept me wondering or hating them very much. For some I just wanted them to stop being so obtuse, and the ending was good, as was the explanation of the mystery and if it was a murder or not. Plus all those layers of secrets on secrets and lies on lies were very intriguing and kept connecting the story throughout. Shame that the children sometimes end up having to live through everything the parents have done and undone.

Still, if you want a good witchy scary feminist book, with a murder and a mystery, go for this book. it won’t disappoint!

Book Review, Books

Cookies and Clairvoyance Review

Cookies and Clairvoyance by Bailey Cates

Baker Katie Lightfoot serves up enchanted delicacies and tracks down a malicious murderer in the newest installment of this New York Times bestselling series…

Hedgewitch Katie Lightfoot is juggling wedding preparations, a visit from her father, and home renovations on top of her long hours at the Honeybee Bakery, where she and her aunt Lucy imbue their yummy cookies and pastries with beneficial magic. But when firefighter Randy Post is accused of murdering a collector of rarities, and his prints are on the statue that was used to kill the man, Katie steps in.

Randy is not only Katie’s fiancé’s coworker, but also the boyfriend of fellow spellbook club member and witch Bianca Devereaux. Bianca and Declan are both sure Randy is innocent, and so is Katie. However, to prove it she’ll have to work with ornery detective Peter Quinn again–and this time around he knows she’s more than your everyday baker.

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

I stumbled upon this book while wandering around Forbidden Planet. It caught my eye because it was a mass market paperback, it has a cat and some food on the cover and it implies magic or something. I tried to find the first ones (this is the 8th book in the series) but Forbidden Planet didn’t have them in the store. [I have bought them all now]

I enjoyed it a lot and it was exactly what I wanted. Plus it comes with two recipes at the back fo the book for two of the many pastries/cakes/muffins/cookies featured in the book. I haven’t tried baking either of them, but they read well (as in, they seem to be solid recipes with delicious results).

Of course, as you can guess, this book talks a lot about many foods. And I ended up craving some of them. It also explains why they choose certain combinations and what they are attempting to achieve with them as a “magical boost”. Calming ingredients to help calm nerves, things like that.

Which brings me to the magic. One of the things I liked is that this isn’t a “magic solves it all” kind of book. It is more of a “magic can boost things and help, but it isn’t the holy grail”. It places magic as part of your daily life, as a small boost rather than this impossible thing far far away.

Despite missing the backstory worth of seven books, I didn’t feel too lost reading the book. It feeds you enough “reminders” of backstory without being annoying or too much.

Now to plot, this was a cute story with many mini plots. Like Katie trying to solve and right a murder, clearing the name of someone innocent (or not?). But also there is the story of getting her home rebuilt and ready for her wedding (I enjoyed this part even more considering I had just had my wedding when I read it), and it is the story of the murder victim and his family/social circle. There’s a few other plot points that were interesting but they’d be considered spoilers and are worth not spoiling them.

All in all, for a cute witchy easy read, with loads of food and a murder mystery all wrapped in one, this book does well and it was a good read for a long flight (and airport time).

Book Review, Books

Lord of Secrets Review

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Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze

Magic is poison. Secrets are power. Death is . . . complicated.

Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray has enough problems. He’s friendless, penniless and on the run from the tyrannical Mages’ Guild – and with the search for his imprisoned grandfather looking hopeless, his situation can’t get much worse.

So when a fugitive drops into his lap – literally – and gets them both arrested, it’s the last straw – until Gray realises that runaway slave Brix could be the key to his grandfather’s release. All he has to do is break out of prison, break into an ancient underground temple and avoid killing himself with his own magic in the process.

In theory, it’s simple enough. But as secrets unfold and loyalties shift, Gray discovers something with the power to change the nature of life and death itself.

Now Gray must find a way to protect the people he loves, but it could cost him everything, even his soul . . .

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Jo Fletcher books kindly accepted my begging for a copy of this and this is a free copy (I will be buying this because yeah it is good and I need more books!)

This has been pitched as a bit of Schwab, Trudie Canavan, Novik and a few others. It feels like a high ask for this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love the books from all three ladies.

However, reading this, neither of those names popped into my mind (say what?!). Instead, what came into mind was Terry Pratchett. I know, I am comparing high. And this is not a Discworld book. But Lord of Secrets has a lot of humour and it is reminescent of Pratchett’s.

It is that dark, gritty, life is hard but let’s make the best/worst of it, nevermind kind of humour. The book had me laughing a lot, and also made me want to read more fantasy books like Canavan’s or Pratchett’s and go into another world.

Gray is an intriguing character, and actually, all the characters are interesting and have a lot of layers. There’s very few “plot” characters (the ones that have names but that only really move plot and have no other purpose), and the plot is mostly carried by the characters and a little by the mystery.

Also, the actual Lord of Secrets and what all that implies was a fun take on necromancy and magic. Oh! Talking of magic! The magic system is wonderful! Write the spells and then say them. Oh but lo and behold, they have a price, they are in a way poisonous and each one has a different effect on you. Makes you consider using magic a little bit more (not that this seems to stop Gray, but then again, he just seems to be frequently in trouble so spells it has to be).

After reading this, I felt refreshed and almost like a “faith restored” feeling for fantasy. This was different to most of what I have recently read, and also in a way familiar enough, which made it cosy read.

Do note that this is not a young adult fantasy book, but properly just Fantasy (saying it is for adults doesn’t mean it is full of erotica, which it isn’t, or that only adults can read it). It deals with topics of family, death, and even slavery and abuse of the self. All with an interesting sense of humour, but still, it touches on topics that are a little bit less in the front of a younger adult/teenager than they would be for an adult. This is hard to explain without revealing important plot points which are good to come to rather than be spoiled.

Book Review, Books

Fallible Justice Review

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Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.

Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. These origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely, and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.

So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?

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

I discovered this gem of a book thanks to Louise Walter Books (who kindly provided me with a proof copy of the book and that gorgeous postcard) and Asha (who thought I’d love it because Yania, the main character has EDS, she was right, of course).

Now, if you don’t want to read the whole review, I can shorten it for you. It reminds me beautifully of the place I wish Dresden files had gone. It also evokes Patricia Briggs and Charles de Lint (making me want to read them again) and a bit of Anne Bishop.

If you are wondering who all the previous authors are, then you’ve missed out on a wonderful genre called Urban Fantasy (UF). Seriously, give it a go.

Now back to this book, and expanding on the “short version”. It is the story of a paranormal detective, and if you just go by that then it sounds a like a variety of UF books out there. However, I have to say that the writing itself is very good, the words flow and don’t get in the way of the story. There are descriptions but they aren’t shoved down your throat (thankfully) but rather you discover as you go.

The Old/New London concept was refreshing (she isn’t the first one to write communities of humans and others/magical beings coexisting) but for me, who lived in London for a bit and go there for work about once a month, it made it more “real”.

The lack of romance in the book also got bonus points for me(not that there isn’t any but rather it isn’t added as an afterthought or to attract you into it and be predictable)! And this makes the partnership between Yania and Karrion so much better.

Obviously I really appreciated the way Yania describes the pain of EDS, as someone with Hypermobility this was precious. I actually stopped after a paragraph and turned to my boyfriend and said “you should read this, it puts into words just how difficult living with this is” (he said he would if it was that important). So kudos for representation.

I could go on, which doesn’t happen a lot in my reviews because I dearly try not to spoil the story, and somehow, in this case I can skirt around the story and still praise this book a lot. I can’t wait for Echo Murder to come out (even though I haven’t even received my preorder of Fallible Justice yet, woops).

One last thing, I have a soft spot for Wishearth.

Moon recommends

Go buy Fallible Justice and read it of course. And maybe try the other authors I mentioned? Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Patricia Briggs (my favourite is The Hob’s Bargain even if her closest work to Fallible Justice is Moon Called), Charles De Lint (The Riddle of the Wren) or Anne Bishop (Written in Red)