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: Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance

Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Received a copy from the publisher after requesting it.

As per usual, just because a copy was provided by the publisher, it doesn’t influence my review and all thoughts here are my own.

Want a wholesome romance that you can actually wish you had and it is healthy rather than pining for the bad boy in the story? Add dancing and food to it and you have got Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance.

As I read this book, I kept loving it more and more with each new thing. We meet Radha first as she is in the finals for dancing and she finds out her mom is sleeping with one of the judges which then affects her confidence and means everyone thinks she’s made it by cheating rather than her own talent. Talk about a punch in the gut.

This destroys her love for dancing and causes her huge anxiety, as she has lost her dance joy. She moves schools and agrees with her mum that she will dance for one year only and then she is free to do whatever career she wants, as she is sure she doesn’t want to dance anymore.

Introduce Jai, who also likes dancing and suddenly desperately needs Radha’s help to make it to the Nationals of dancing.

This is a fun romance, with a lot of dancing, food making, negotiating boundaries and life, and a relationship. But it is also about having a healthy relationship where both sides are part of it and it isn’t just the bad boy and the girl pining after him. Honestly, one of the best and healthiest couples of YA I have read in a long time.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Incredible Doom [vol 1]

Incredible Doom [vol 1] by Matthe Bogart and Jesse Holden

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Bought for myself

Content warnings: Violence, domestic abuse, drugs, alcohol, gaslighting, manipulation, bullying, the list is quite long

Accidentally I am doing a theme for the past few weeks of the choice of books to review, and Incredible Doom fits well as a graphic novel counterpart to Run Rebel.

Incredible Doom focuses on four teenagers discovering the power of the internet, old-style forums, and friendship in a harsh world.

If you wonder why a lot of people connected through the internet and it boomed quickly, or if you yourself used to spend your nights messaging virtual friends in forums and finding connections to them, this is a graphic novel for you.

We have Allison who has a manipulative abusive father that tries to keep her as a child and unable to leave, so she finds friends through the internet and her computer while complying with the demand of her father, until ti becomes too much and her new online friend agrees to run away with her, trying to escape her father.

On the other side of the story, we have Richard who has just joined a new school and makes friends with Tina, who is small but fierce and punk, and this will shake his whole world, the place he fits and potentially even more, but in turn, he will shake the world he’s been introduced to back.

A story that is in a way about old times but also that lives through time in the internet and may still apply even if it isn’t now forums but other apps and means to communicate, you may still find the connections that keep you alive while your world falls apart.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Run Rebel

Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Purchased to read

Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, violence, gaslighting, arranged marriage, racism, bullying, mental health, drinking/alcoholism

I don’t always start a review by comparing the book to others, but due to the huge amount of content warnings, I want to place it right. Rub Rebel is powerful, but it is as if you had mixed Poet X with Monday’s Not Coming or Fight Like a Girl.

Now, if you have read any of those books, you will know they are gritty intense books about the not so pretty side of being a girl and trying to live life in a complicated family situation. And Run Rebel is about a girl who loves running and is good at it but her dad expects her to marry and not go on studying and she struggles to keep rising through the world when she keeps feeling the punches coming down.

It is a story about reacting and then acting, being reactive to proactive, but also about appreciating the things you have, the small respites, the little things sometimes you don’t consider or how opportunities may come.

I had to take some time as I read this as it is intense and you really feel for the characters, so please read it carefully, but the poetry approach is intense and also good at conveying the story quickly, in a way that makes it understandable. In the poem form of the story, the verses take away the fluff and give the narrator a voice unique to them that is as if they are writing the poems to tell their story, to vent and to breathe, like bleeding on the page.

Recommended for readers of intense stories, fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and any for the titles mentioned above or the authors.

Book Review

Moon Reads: All Our Hidden Gifts

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

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

Ownership: Came in a Book Box club box.

Spoiler Free: Mostly, there may be plot points discussed.

When we first meet Maeve, she’s having a hard itme and has to help clean a cupboard forgotten behind in school, so when she finds some tarot cards, and they keep coming back to her, she decides to do some readings for fun. All she feels is that she doesn’t belong in her family and that she doesn’t belong in school, and even then she has become slight enemies with the person that used to be her best friend.

And hey, reading tarot in school is suddenly making her popular and having friends, so why not? And if they decide to push for a reading for Lily, her ex best friend, it isn’ther fault Lily it ends in screams and ebign upset. So when Lily disappears, Maeve feels slightly responsible and puzzled, she is sure the cards have something to do with it, and the city is becoming a bit odd.

As she slowly tries to confront her own ghosts, what caused the rift between her and Lily, her growing feelings for Roe, who is Lily’s sibling, and her overall place in the world, will they find a way to bring Lily back and find out what happened to her?

At times this went a bit too intense but it was interesting to navigate it frm the point of view of Maeve, who I didn’t really vibe on initially, but as the story develops I understood it better and it made sense. I like how it touches on unusual ways and the characters aren’t the out of the box kind but have very particular quirks and elements to each of them touching on diversity in various ways.

If you like tarot, a bit of the mystical and also some queer representation this is a book for you.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Séance Tea Party

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Owned

Spoiler Free: Not entirely, major plot points will be mentioned or touched on but not the ending.

I have a fondness for graphic novels, and one about ghosts and tea parties sounded right up my street! Plus just look at the artwork and it becomes clear it was irresistible.

Séance Tea Party is in broad strokes about friendship, identity and that awkward stage between still being a child and becoming a teenager.

Lora is slowly seeing her circle of friends disappear as their interests just do not coincide. She prefers playing on the swings and using her imagination, while her friends suddenly are interested in romance and looks and other things she has no interest in. Tea parties are better, so why not host one for ghosts and maybe try to invite one to the tea party?

When this actually works and Lora discovers Alexa, the ghost of a young girl, her friendship problems are solved, or at least that’s what Lora thinks, but is a ghost that will not be able to grow up ever the kind of friend Lora really needs, or is there maybe more to just tea parties that make up a friendship?

As Lora and Alexa explore their identity, their past, present and future together and on their own, the story takes us through finding our place in that stage of growing up when we don’t want to grow up and yet we also want very much to be a grown up, and such contradictions can wreak havoc.

It is a sweet story with a hint of magic, ghosts and a lot of tea and imagination, which makes it an adorable read that will make you want to bake a cake and invite your friends over for a cup of tea.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Love and Other Natural Disasters

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura

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

Read before: No

Spoiler free: Yes

Let’s start this by saying that when Harper had this on their list I had to request it because it had been on my preorders list for ages. So I got a free review copy in the hopes of a review from the publisher and thats all. It doesn’t affect my review at all.

So now unto the true review. We start with Nozomi, who despite being rejected by her crush, she is taking a positive spin and trying to make the most of having to go to San Francisco and spend time with her uncle and brother helping at an art gallery. So when she meets the cutest girl, willow, who has just had a breakup and consoles her, then fate means she is close to her almost daily, she is ready to turn her life into a room com and there is a lot of positive vibes.

And come on Willow is the “ideal perfect girl” Nozomi wants, so when Willow proposes fake dating to make her ex jealous, Nozomi says yes hoping that the fake dating makes her fall for her, but life isn’t a rom-com at all and Nozomi is about to learn a lot of lessons about life, trying to make fake dating work out and that sometimes things may be different than what we think.

I enjoyed this interesting spin on a rom-com and happy go lucky girls. Nozomi tries SO hard to be positive and hope and she gets so wrapped up in her made up world that sometimes it is harsh when the real one comes breaking up all her plans including her family barging in. But it was also refreshing to see a family involved in her life and trying to make it easier or help cushion the fall.

The book made me laugh, and then it made me cry a little, and in the end I liked how it ended because it felt right and it fit what the book was trying to say.

If you like rom-coms and you like romances, this is a good book for you. It does have mentions of dementia, and family issues, alongside slight homophobia, and some mention of death, but it deals with things as a challenge and a growing forward rather than just staying, choices matter.

Subscription Boxes

Moon Hauls: Against the Dark Book Box Club

Subscription box: Book Box Club

Theme/Month: Against the Dark, March 2021

Ownership: Subscribed on their 12 boxes option. If you are interested in purchasing a Book Box Club subscription, you can do it on their website.

Book Box Club is a young adult subscription box, the unique thing is the Clubhouse where you can chat to the author a month (or so) after the box was shipped and ask questions and just chat around. It also includes several goodies and usually the choice of book is one that is unique and not in other book boxes so very few chances of duplicate books and a lot of new reads discovery power.

I am just here noticing that I am posting unboxings two months behind, it’s all fine. Mostly because I try to avoid spoiling people but then sometimes to fit it around my schedule, I end up waiting longer. Oh well, March was still a “dark” theme for Book Box Club, so let us see what was inside, starting at the top right corner and going clockwise:

  • Dark Stars promo card, which I think had a code or something since the first book was one from a previous box.
  • Clubhouse invite, love the personalised touch.
  • Theme card.
  • A Oh Panda Eyes very cute and dainty necklace.
  • Print with a botanical vibe I like.
  • A notebook inspired by Stranger Things
  • A bookend in wood with a gorgeous painting on it, reminding me of the times I have stayed up very late wanting to keep on reading.
  • The Shadow War, an intriguing historical book.
  • A tiny lipbalm that accidentally blends in too well with the puzzle underneath.
  • And to go with the bookend and reject darkness, a book flashlight so you can read and attach it to the book.

Overall, a lovely box, very in theme with useful lovely items and I was super pleased with the fun approach of having a flashlight/booklight to go against the dark, so I do like it a lot and intrigued by the book whcih sounds right up my street.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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

Read before: No

Spoiler free review: For the most part yes

Content warnings: Rape, child abuse, substance abuse, various types of sexual abuse, murder, gaslighting, faecal matter consumption, heavy violence, gore, overdosing, death, suicide, blackmail, self-harm.

I like dark academia, I like magic, and this book sounded very interesting being setup in Yale. But I will start by saying that it is extremely slow burn and full of noise. It is also full of shock causing scenes that were unnecessary (there’s the rape of a 12 year old, and someone is made to eat shit, literally) and that could have been handled better.

The main story is about Alex, Galaxy Stern, going to Yale and finding that her ticket to Yale has conditions on her being able to see grays. Grays are basically ghosts. So she gets put into a society that oversees a few other societies that deal with differnet kinds of magic. The system sounds in theory really interesting and I ahve to say that the magic system was one of the most itneresting things in the story.

On top of that we have a murder mystery and the mystery of Alex’s past and why she ended up being found by the society. All of these should point to a really good intense book. And yet mostly it is a book that shows how ridiculous the society system for universities is in the US and that power is too tempting and therefore people will do anything for it.

I liked quite a bit of the story, including Dawes and Darlington and the actual reason behind the murder of Tara. That was well buitl and very intersting, alongside what happened to Darlington and what happened to Alex in the past. All came ot show what each character was made of, their motives, etc.

What I didn’t enjoy is that it was trying hard to glamourise Yale and the societies and at the same time you could see no love lost for it and it was slow and boring at times, which it then seemed to compensate by being too over the top on violence and abuse and the bad things. Like it was trying to show how bad things were but it started being a bit like “yeah, we get it, it is bad, can you just move on to the actual story instead of trying to shock me with this bit of violence?”.

I ended up warming to Alex, and to the story so at least that is good, and I will read the next one, but it was a little too hyped and trying too hard to be dark and gritty that it got itself lost in it and took a while to find the story and the heart of it.

So, I don’t recommend it overall, but if you like the components of it, and Leigh’s writing, then this may be the book for you, but you have to be warned it is dark and has a long list fo things for it to be triggers.

Book Review

Moon Reads: Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

I had no werewolves at hand but puppy was happy to pose for book pictures in exchange for belly rubs.

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

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

Read before: No

Ownership: Review copy provided by Black Crow PR/publisher so I could be part of the blog tour but this was on my radar beforehand. (Why will make sense as I review this book)

Spoiler Free Review: Technically yes, since we know Brigid is a werewolf…

Normally I give a little introduction on why the book caught my eye, but it isn’t a secret that I suffer chronic pain due to, up to very recently, undiagnosed causes which kept moving the goalpost on why and how to fix it. I mean, I am not a werewolf or a werefox for that matter, and as much as I joke about being a vampire due to photosensitivity, I am alas not one.

But as I read this book, I couldn’t help but keep seeing myself in it a lot more than I expected.

I can’t speak for all the conditions listed in the book fully, but I do have part of one, hypermobility, and a lot of what they discuss about symptoms, trying to live a “normal” life, and making the best out of it was interesting. Then thre’s Brigid who is chaotic as hell and adorable, a bonanza of fun and intense that made me want to smush her and mother her and befriend her all at the same time! And Priya herself is trying her best to deal with her own diagnosis, her friendship and how to focus her energy and deal with feeling like she’s failed at normal life.

If I have to summarise in a few words I would say this is peak chaotic friendships of early social media teens with a little bit f urban fantasy, a lot of humour and just a book that makes you either see a side you hadn’t seen of how those with an illness that affects their daily life and is chronic may feel and manage it, or you feel a little bit seen and end up with a lot of laughs at the little hints of things that remind you of your own journey.

For me it was just fun to read, find myself in it, and feel seen. So if you like urban fantasy, friendship, family, wholesome stories and chaos, this is the book for you, also werewolves and chronic illnesses!