Book Review

Moon Reads: The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow

The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow by Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch

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

Read before: No

Ownership: I had ordered a signed copy from Waterstones, plus a copy came in Book Box Club Secret Societies

Spoiler free review: Yes

Series: The Magpie Society, Book 1.

Content warnings: Some adult grooming and relationship between adult and underage girl implied.

Obviously this one caught my interest a lot initially because I wanted to read it and got two copies. However I have to say the lower rating is partly because I really struggled to get on with the main characters up until probably the very end.

The mystery, the murder, I was loving that and the whole Illumen Hall atmosphere alongside the rules and you know, the feeling of it being a boarding school and how the students interact and have ways around rules but also how they follow certain rules to a specific point, it was fasicnating and that part I loved, alongside the interview/podcast we get in some chapters which added to the mystery and also moved the story along with new insights.

But as much as I could understand a bit where Ivy was coming from, she had been working super hard to achieve a single person room, and to achieve so many things, and then Lola’s death crumbled some of those plans, and obviously, she’s also grieving. Like a lot has happened to her and is out of her control and also, Audrey doesn’t make it easy to fit in, but rather easy to not get along too much. However, despite understanding her, I wasn’t initially too much into her character and struggled to connect, the writing just wasn’t doing it for me. I did get there once we get more into the action and less just for the sake of, and I have to say, what happens at the boat was pretty fun and helped me like the characters more.

And we have Audrey, who was too American, too meh and just a bit self centered and trying too hard to keep her mystery to herself. Once again, I kept reading the chapters of her and just could not be interested in her except to go “oh you poor dear who is trying so hard to not fit and be trendy and fit at the same time”. Maybe I could not relate because I have never been the popular girl demoted from popularity and seeking it again, but given that I was struggling to get along with both of them, I assumed it was more to do with how the story was being presented rather than specifically the characters.

It does get a lot better as the story goes, but I was sad that barely anything happens in the book, and I think partly it was those starting chapters that could have made it much bette rif they had been trimmed down and maybe had less of them. But overall, I want to know more, want to see who the Magpie Society are and how you join them, and we still don’t know who killed Lola or why or anything.

As I said, overall, it was a good boarding school read but could have been a lot better.

Book Review

Moon Reads: How It All Blew Up

How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Christmas gift from my husband

Spoiler free review: Yes

As someone who has been stopped at the border simply because my residence permit is unusual, this was a book that caught my eye and also, a little bit of contemporary can be fun every now and then. As a disclaimer, reading contemporary is not my thing and I am picky about it.

Our story starts at the airport as Amir and his family had a confrontation on the airplane back from Italy. So we get the story told in an interesting format which is probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Basically you get a round robin of Amir and his family talking to the interrogators about what happened during the flight and what led them to that point in time.

The story is basically about Amir impuslvely moving to Italy and living his best gay life, but it isn’t just about figuring out his sexuality and experimenting, but it is a huge step in his own independence and trying to figure out what he wants from his life, and if italy maybe is a permanent thing rather than just a phase.

Now, overall, I enjoyed the stroy as it is a coming out and growing up story, but I was a bit put off by how easily Amir just manages to make hisi life in Italy, rent a flat and you know, set his new life, because my own experiences of moving to the UK I know, not italy, but still) were very different and it was a bit weird how lackadaisy he was about it.

Otherwise it was interesting to see him explore the city, and find other people who slowly teach him new things and how he encounters different personalities and has to decide what he will risk and who he wants to keep around and not, while at the same time we are learning about his own home life and how much his family cares for him but they do it in their very own way rather than the “American” way and therefore Amir doesn’t realise how much they love him.

Still, I enjoyed it. It was a quick read due to the format plus the adventures in Italy felt decadent and just nice to read for the most part of it. I’d say it is worth reading if you’re into stories that break the usual format of novel telling and you are into love stories and coming out stories.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Wolf and the Water

The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

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

Read before: No

Ownership: A free review copy was provided by the author. I have read two of her series previously so I knew I wanted to read this book regardless. This doesn’t change the review of influence it at all.

Spoiler free review: Yes

Series: Deluge #1

Content warnings: There is a variety of abuse and violence, murder, poisoning, ableism and a few other -isms, basically this is not a cosy book but rather brutal.

It took me a while to get to this book because Josie usually builds this incredibly intricate world so I knew I had to have the brain space for it and last year was not the right time. However, I started reading before work and waking up earlier and this was one of those books read in the early hours of the day at my leisure.

I struggled to get into it a little bit because there is a lot going on and it basically starts with finding Kala’s dad dead in the library, and knowing that it means her mother will have to remarry and that due to her limp and deformity of her leg, she may be cast out.

But it looks like her father was murdered and as Kala tries her best to adjust to a very fast remarriage, a new family to share the tribe with and a “brother” that is kind and actually treats her like a “normal” person (the people in the world think she is deformed and bad luck and a variety of bad things and therefore consider Kala lesser than even if she is of nobility)., things start getting very complicated fast.

What starts in a way fast paced, slows down just a little bit to give you a panorama of what Kala’s life is like and then it picks right up coming to a festival and Kala’s life becoming more and more in danger in a bad way. Maybe the person who murdered her father is also out for her? And what about the secrets that caused her father to die, can she unravel them and leverage them for her safety before someone ensures her silence?

Overall this is like amurder mystery in a brutal society from the point of view of someone slightly in the privileged nobility but still not considered one of them because she is too different and “not right”. I liked the interesting contrasts between characters, their situations and what causes them to make certain decisions.

As you get to the last third of the book there is a lot of new reveals happening so there is a lot to keep up with but it means you will not want to let go of the book and just finish. I ended up reading the last few pages through a couple of dead “inbetween meetings” kinda five minutes or so and I was glad to do so as it was worth getting to that ending.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Illumicrate Editions

Subscription box: Illumicrate Editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: From Afar Book Box Club

This year has been challenging, but who says you can’t find other ways to travel? I do know it is hard and it is not the same, but having this box arrive and add some sunshine to my day does help. Starting from the bottom left corner and going clockwise:

  • Grown sampler, this looks like a tough but very good read and I am intrigued by it.
  • A South Korea mug which I love the artwork for and I have been using it a lot, it makes me smile.
  • A list of books to read that may give you adventures and travel feelings.
  • Once and Future Witches promotional items
  • A tea towel to match the main book. Tea towels are usually a great addition to book boxes and I end up using them a lot, plus this one is a generous size.
  • Exclsuive clubhouse invite, personalised.
  • The theme card, vibrant and showing off the world.
  • The Deep Blue Between, book of the month.
  • A Chai hot chocolate mix, which I havent tried because I have a few other hot chocolates open, but love the fact that we had a mug and a hot chocolate in it!
  • A room spray which smells very delicious and inviitng.

Overall the box makes me feel like I subscribed to one of those travel around the world in items boxes but with a bookish twist. Since I didn’t travel this year and a lot of plans got changed, it was nice to have a lot of colour and variety in it and just feel like maybe in the future things can happen again.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Truth Project

The Truth Project by Dante Medema

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

This book was provided to me as a gift from the publisher. It was one I requested since I wanted to be able to review it. The fact that the book was provided by the publisher doesn’t inform my review of the book. All views here my own.

I picked the Truth Project since I have been reading a lot of fantasy and middle grade or graphic novels, so this felt like a good palate cleanser of a read and it was the perfect book to read while in a cosy bath. If you like The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, then this is definitely a book to read as it is also in verse style.

Cordelia is aceing high school and ready to go to university, she just needs to get her project sorted which she chooses to tackle a genetic test and the concept of identity through poetry. For that, she is paired up wiht the troubled boy Kodiak. It should be an easy project writing about what makes you you and what effect genetics have on it, or at least that is what she thinks will happen. But when the test results come through, her truth isn’t exactly what she thought it was, the person she calls Father isn’t her biological father.

This defintiely throws Cordelia in for a spin and her perfect record suddenly doesn’t matter as much, when it feels like everything she knws is a lie. We get the story shown as she grapples with her identity, trying to decide if she wants to meet her biological father and figuring out what she thinks about who she is and who her family is. Through her poetry, text conversations with her best friend and Kodiak, and a few email exchanges, we get a very dynamic story.

I really liked the format this was being worked with, it isnt just poetry/verse but also texts and emails, with different language depending on who Cordelia is talking to. And it was interesting to see how she tries to navigate her new truth and what it means for her, and the lies she wants to believe or the ones she starts making up to cope with the truth.

As you may know, I am not big on contemporary, usually quite picky on it, but this one won a space in my reading due to how it explores identity, family, being troubled, making mistakes and the concept of what is true and what lies one can believe or deal with.

Also, bonus points because her family is there and not just thrown around conveniently. I also could see glimpses of what her parents are actually discussing but that she doesn’t realise where things are going or how they are happening and instead interprets differently. But it was fascinating to see the layers of thigns even through her verses.

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Key To Fear

The Key To Fear by Kristin Cast

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

Short disclaimer first, I received a copy of the book for free from the publisher so I could be part of the blog tour and provide a review (I only read hard copies). This doesn’t change or influence my opinion except maybe it adds a book I may not have considered if it hadn’t been brought up to me for consideration.

Now to the actual blog tour review, because apparently I have lived under a rock and hadn’t read any of Kristin’s books before so this a new author to me and new stories to read.

This is a book a little outside of my usual books but not something I wouldn’t have read when I was younger. It is a dystopia with romance and a lot of finding yourself, being a rebel and just figuring things out. When I heard the premise I immediately was of two minds, it could be quite interesting to read or too close to the present (this is basically post-pandemic semi dystopia where the Key control the areas and have brought technology to help combat this ugly virus, plus genetic modifications, so it isn’t fully dystopia but really close and touching is a no-no). Thankfully, it was done well and it only barely reminded me of the present situation (needing that escape sometimes is key and I didn’t want to try and enjoy a story that was too close to real life and therefore not a different place).

We meet our main characters, Elodie and Aiden, and Blair. I have to say that Elodie at first frustrated me a little, but as the story goes, I warmed up to her and she provided a good panorama to a relatively cushioned life under the Key even if she isn’t aware of how protected she has been up to now by not questioning the rules and having family in the right places (but also, she doesn’t know how fragile the balance is).

Then we have Aiden, who is not fitting in well with how the Key want him to integrate into society and is on the last chance to be able to do something with his life (because in this world you’re matched to your partner, and you have your career chosen after taking some tests, nothing or barely anything is left to chance, and even old books and stories are banned). And then Blair who is the side that wants to move up the ranks inside the Key and to do more, achieve and not lose power are her intense desires.

I have to say that overall I enjoyed the story and was curious as to what would come. I think it dragged a little to try to make it into more than one book (I didn’t realise it wasn’t a standalone until I saw how much of the book was left and how little actual action ahd happened). But the dragging of the plot does provide a good setting and background. However, I do think the plot could’ve gone further if we had skipped the story bits Elodie reads (those I definitely did not like and would skim read).

Still, it was interesting to see how touch had been banned, the webs of lies and how people manipulate or rise through ranks and amke their place by “following rules” without ever questioning and calling themselves loyal. Yet at the same time, that position is always so fragile even if the players do not know it.

So, what’s the prospect? If you are a fan of the young adult fiction from 5-10 years ago, this is the book for you. It has that vibe with a fresher look, like when a trend comes back, and it ha some interesting concepts of technology, power and characters, and now I am very curious as to what actually happens next and what is in Zone Seven.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Splinters of Scarlet

Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

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

This book was part of Book Box Club’s box a few months back and even though had had the book on my want to read list, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond a bit of a fairytale feeling.

I think Splinters of Scarlet definitely hits the spot on having a fairy tale feeling and vibe all over it, but at the same time it is like a modern fairytale. And yet it feels lost in time. I’d say it has a more “The Girl and the Bear” kind of feel than “A Curse so Dark and Lonely”, like a happy middle between those two kinds of fairytale.

I think my most favourite thing was the magic system, the fact that you get a very unique way of using your magic and that it is literally in your blood so using it too much “freezes” your veins and kills you. From things like being good at glass blowing, or being able to sew perfectly and so fast, or just being able to detect lies, it has a lot of fun ways of being used and it was fascinating to see the interaction of those that have it and those that don’t, since as much as it is a blessing it is also a curse. Sadly, this part wasn’t explored as much as it could’ve but it was still fascinating.

The second best thing was that it touches on both dance and clothes making, and it was delightful to see those woven through the whole story. It gave it that extra magical fairy tale feeling for me even if technically none of those things are specific to fairytales.

And I really liked how the characters develop and interact. To be fair at the beginning it wasn’t as interesting because it is just before we move to where the main story happens, but it gives a precedent setting. It gets so much better when we meet the full cast and start interacting with more and more people. I liked the interactions, the resentment, the ways of living contrasting between them, and the hidden story plotline feels (though for me there was little guesswork almost from the very first chapter of what the “aha moment” would be).

Given that I knew what the main revelation would be I still enjoyed the book a lot and it didn’t annoy me. So I can say that if you want a fairytale kind of story with an interesting magic system, this is one to read for sure!

Book Review

Moon Reads: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

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

This book is loads of fun, action and crazy shenanigans! Genie Lo is a young woman with a bit of a temper and an overachiever that is dedicated to trying to get into an Ivy league university. She is even using her height advantage to totally get a win in volleyball.

But when the yaoguai of lore suddenly aren’t lore anymore and seem to be hellbent on causing mayhem for Genie, what is she to do? Add on top of that the gorgeous new student, Quentin Sun, who is adamant that Genie has to help him sort this weirdness as it is part of her destiny.

Best part is that Quentin isn’t just a student, but actually Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.

Look, I throughly enjoyed this book, the pacing is great and you get both action and quieter moments, plus a lot of humour There were many times when I just giggled thorugh it or laughed out loud to something going on, but I was also concerned. The chemistry of Quentin and Genie is brilliant and their at odds view of the world also was amusing.

And the lore, it’s very well woven into this story.

Honestly, everyone who has been a student, dreamt of being one, and or likes lore, should read this book. It pack s agreat punch!

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: A Darker Shade of Magic Illumicrate Collections

Any Illumicrate Collections box tends to be really good, so when they announced A Darker Shade of Magic being a box, I jumped at it and got it. And of course, as per usual, it was packed full of goodies (so much I struggled to fit it all on my usual table), so let’s see what it had starting at the bottom right and going clockwise:

  • Contents booklet, mostly it lists what each item is and who the artist/companies behind it are.
  • Underneath most of the goodies is a Four Londons blanket by Yoshi Yoshitani, which I like a lot (usually the blankets are gorgeous)
  • Then we have a booksleeve inspired by Lila’s and Kell “dance”, it’s a good size and slightly plastified so really nice. The artwork is by Laia Lopez and the quote typography design on the other side is by Chatty Nora.
  • Essen Tasch hanging poster, this makes me feel like I’ve been to it and got a memento poster to hang on my wall. Normally I am not crazy about posters but I somehow really like this one. Design by Sylvia Bi
  • On top are some acrylic figures of the characters and one of the author too, which I thought was a cute idea and they’ll look good on a shelf to decorate. Design by Monolime
  • There was also a set of dust jackets for all three books if you’re not that into the naked look. Those were hard to display as they had come rolled in to be protected but difficult to quickly lay flat (they’ll be flat after a few days under some books). Artwork by Rosie Thorns.
  • A pin of Lila’s mask designed by Stacey McEvoy-Caunt.
  • In the middle is a microfibre cloth to clean glasses and gadgets with a design by Victoria Ying.
  • And finally the hardcover book with a foiled naked cover, silver sprayed edges and front endpapers with artwork by Em Allen. It is gorgeous, honestly!

All in all it was a great box, the item I will probably love the least is the dust jackets because I am not normally fond of them in books and prefer naked covers. But they are still gorgeous. And of course all the contents are so well tailored for the trilogy that it is like magic!