Books, Subscription Boxes

Rebels on the Run Book Box Club Unboxing

Fantastic theme and I knew immediately which book it’d be and was excited for the box because I seriously enjoyed it a lot, so let’s unbox starting from the top left corner and going clockwise:

  • Theme card, very wild West like.
  • Underneath a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets tea towel which I loved because it has a huge moon and is really beautiful art.
  • Favour stickers, it is book related and I instantly knew what they were and thought it was awesome.
  • Two promotional bookmarks.
  • Chocolate “Pixie Dust” covered pretzels. I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, so I had one but the rest were scoffed by my husband. He first was like “what is this, meh, funny pretzels” and then was like “need more, delicious!”
  • Desert sticky “bookmarks”, made my work colleagues smile and me too. I found it amusing.
  • Verify promotional postcard, intriguing book indeed.
  • The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis. I enjoyed it a lot and reviewed it here.
  • A Bookish Rebel mason jar, I was just sad it didn’t come with a lid but still, liked this.

All in all strong box and had lots of great items, probably the only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the promoitonal stuff, which to be fair is nothing bad at all or anything to complain about. Also the cover for Good Luck Girls is like someone poured liquid gold on it and wow. Absolutely stunning! Really blew me away.

Book Review, Books

The Grief Keeper Review

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee. Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.

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

The title of the book was what caught my eye first, then it was the plot and I just had to preorder it and read it. And boy, this book packed its punches and hit close to home (I was going to put a disclaimer to clarify which parts did and didn’t, but then realised I was saying way more than I felt comfortable with and therefore I just want to say I haven’t experienced everything in the book, but it isn’t something far removed in some areas for me).

Being bilingual, I usually do not like much books that throw words in a different language just for the sake of (I don’t mean calling a particular item of clothing or a dish by their name in that language, we call a taco a taco. I mean the adding foreign words for the sake of making it feel exotic, and it really peeves me off when it is a story including Spanish words), so I was wary about that happening here. It also breaks the continuity for me since the switch between Spanish/English breaks as I read sometimes if there’s that gap. However, as I read this, the way it uses Spanish was right. It was the perfect way of how my brain fills in gaps of language, how it processes, it didn’t disrupt or break continuity or annoy me. Instead it just reminded me how much I still have preference for some words in Spanish or how certain words don’t really translate well one way or the other.

As for the characters and the plot, I am the older sister and have a younger sister who did some of the things Gabi did (some almost to the T. *sigh*), and Marisol felt raw, protective, real. It was also like discovering myself as I read this. Because a lot of how Marisol copes with the world and her not breaking and not falling whereas Rey does, it was exactly how I work, how you’re brought up. And the contrast I feel in the UK, Marisol was feeling in her own experience in the US. I felt seen in this book, and as if it was revealing deeper parts of what it is to be Latinx.

The concept of Grief Keeper was mesmerising in itself and Rey’s story was also very nteresting, the dynamics, the way it all worked out was delightful to read. Slow burn, slow build up, intense feelings, “translation” and cultural differences making it more interesting.

Yes, I know Marisol isn’t from Mexico, but a lot of what she experienced was familiar and I could easily fill in gaps. The book wasn’t a shock to my system or a surprise, it was just “the truth” (a sad one sometimes) but it did so in a good way. I didn’t feel like the truth was just for plot or entretainment, it felt raw, it felt like it was being written from the heart, or close to it.

Beautiful melancholic book, with good Latinx representation, a lot of pondering on grief (yes, apparently I like books that touch on grief, sorry, I do, it has always been something that interests me, something that pulls me close) and working out that grief. Great use of language and wording and all the elements that make the characters. Highly recommended.

Book Review, Books

A Danger to Herself and Others Review

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Gold has always been treated like a grown up. As the only child of two New York professionals, she’s been traveling the world and functioning as a miniature adult since the day she was born. But that was then. Now, Hannah has been checked into a remote treatment facility, stripped of all autonomy and confined to a single room.

Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. What happened to her roommate that summer was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can get back to her life of promise and start her final year at school. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.

But then she’s assigned a new roommate. At first, Lucy is the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can make Hannah confront the secrets she’s avoiding – and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

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

I have a soft spot for unreliable narrators done well, and for psychological narratives that keep you on your toes. This book ticks everything quite well in those aspects.

We meet Hannah as she’s starting to tell us her story. She’s in a mental facilty as she has been labelled “a danger to herself and others”, after what Hannah insists was an accident that put her best friend in a comma.

I didn’t put down this book, just read thriough it all. We go between memories Hannah has of the time before the accident, some memories around the accident (just little hints, little bits, for some reason Hannah seems to only do bits and pieces around it) and her time at the facility.

The book leaves enough hints so that when the twists come, you don’t feel sucker punched, just punched in the gut. And it does so very well. I kept having a slight idea of “this doesn’t sound right” but I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason or anything beyond that.

However, as the time in the facility lengthens, the more we learn, the more it makes sense and at the same time, the more it unrabbles. It was a delight to read and I was hooked. And once I finished, I went back to find those parts where hints had been dropped to read them with fresh eyes.

I’d say it is the type of book you need to read twice. Once to get the full shock and to savour that surprise, the second time to find all the hints and see the “oh, so that’s it/why”.

All in all, an ejoyable thrilling read that kept me guessing and pondering and trying to figure out what was the truth and how many secrets hannah was keeping.

Book Review, Books

To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.

There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her …

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

Late to the party for this book, but it was an interesting one. The premise is technically a bit of The Little Mermaid (the original story rather than Disney version), with the fact that mermaids here also turn to foam when they die. But it is also its own thing and nothing like it.

I highly enjoyed the wordlbuilding, and this view of why the mermaids/sirens are evil was a refreshing take on the “sea witch”. The whole needing to take a heart on your birthday is super creepy but also quite interesting because it forces the sirens to be cruel and to loose that innocence quickly, your mother will only “hunt” hearts for you for so long and the sooner that you can get one, well, the better in this world.

On the other hand we have a human world full of politics and a prince that doesn’t want to be a prince but enjoys more being a kind of swashbuckler pirate that only goes against sirens.

Lira and Elian collide and it is interesting to see the shift between them as things happen to force them to make choices and actually think them through rather than just obey. The character growth on Lira was way better than Elian and I could have done without him at times.

My biggest complaint was that after the intense start, there’s a slow dragging middle of attempts at worldbuilding with a lot of “show” and little tell that was in part not necessary and I kept pondering if I should skip the book or not because I was just not into it. This in turn meant that the pace towards the ending felt more rushed and like it was all suddenly happening and why?

But despite that, I enjoyed it. It was an interesting take on sirens and mermaids and on what could be a different world.

Book Review, Books

Jelly Review

Jelly by Clare Rees

After a traumatic event that no one can talk about or even quite remember, they’re stuck on a giant killer jellyfish, tantalisingly close to the shore and safety. They’ve had enough of it. They’ve decided that they’re either going to escape, or die trying.

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

This book was a wild ride. I got my copy as an early copy at YALC but only read it recently. Woops!

The premise is that there was a devastating event that caused giant jellyfish to spawn near land, water levels raised, and some odd creatures have taken to land chasing humanity to potentially almost extintion.

Our main cast is a bunch of ragtag people, with some crazy ones, some daring ones, some older ones and a few teenagers. Main character is Martha, who is bored and tired of living on top of a giant jellyfish. And it isn’t that they haven’t tried jumping off the edge of the jellyfish and swim. Somehow the jellyifhs just grabs them with a tentacle and puts them back on the top.

The book takes you through them finding some hope that maybe there is another way of escaping or at least a way of stopping the jellyfish from catching them and returning them to it. At the same time you learn about their normal “routine” (or as normal as can be given the circumstances).

The book to me was divided itno two parts, one ont he jellyfish and one off it. The second part felt quite rushed and confusing compared to the first, which is why it didn’t rate as well for me. It felt choppy and less worked on. But the premise of maybe being stuck in the ocean/sea and having to cope with strange circumstances and the world changing due to climate change, is quite interesting though I certainly hope we do not get giant jellyfish that like keeping us as pets on top of them.

Book Review, Books

What She Found in the Woods Review

What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Running from a scandal at her New York private school, Magdalena heads to her family home to recover under the radar.

Over-medicated and under-confident, she’s fearful she’ll never escape her past.

Until she meets Bo out hiking. Wild, gorgeous and free, he makes her believe she might finally be able to move on.

But when a mutilated body is discovered in the woods, Magdalena realises she can’t trust anyone.

Not even herself.

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

I enjoyed Josephine’s Worldwalker series a lot, and therefore this seemed like a no brainer on getitng it. And I wasn’t wrong.

Lena is just trying to move through life, and stop things going a bit awry. Just a clean slate, nothing like what happened in New York and the scandal that seems to follow her around.

But her grandparents want her to have a social “normal” life, even if she is here to try to fly under the radar, so she does and ends up volunteering at a drug rehab center kinda thing.

But also, she just really enjoys walking in the woods (with them being next door to her grandparent’s house, why not?). But very soon after she arrives, bodies start to be discovered in the woods, and there are rumours flying around.

Who can Lena trust? Who is going around on a killing spree? Could it be Bo, the young man she met in the woods that seems to know his way around too well? Or could it be something more sinister?

This book takes you for a ride, and with Lena being the main point of view and the one telling us about her past and why she is where she is, but also, with her wanting to find out why someone is murdering people and who the murderer is, you keep wondering and asking yourself, could it be x?

I had an inkling of a theory about who the killer was and refused to believe one of the hints to another potential killer, but in general the book kept me guessing and wanting to understand and learn better. Lots of “maybe? what if?” and I didn’t want to put the book down. Raced through it and at the end, the hints had slowly been there all along so you don’t feel hit int he face by the revelations, but also, they are so subtle you can easily miss it all and end up being quite surprised at them.

Highly recommend for an intense fast paced murder thriller kind of book.

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

All the Bad Apples Review

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

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

This is a very Irish book. (To me that is neither a good or bad thing, just a defining quality). I would say this is the more melancholic, less scary (because it isn’t meant to be slightly horror) sister of Other Words for Smoke.

Why would I say that? Because this is about a sibling relationship, but at the same time it is about generational “curses” or things carried down. Both of them touch on the Magdalene Laundries (which ran into the 90s) and some of the effect that had and still has on Ireland and the Irish. And there is in a way, some magic involved, some mysticism that envelops the story and makes it twist around trying to wrap you in it, but also in a way trap you.

However, those are the similarities. All the Bad Apples is more about who you are and what makes you a “bad apple” in the eyes of your family, and of society. Why are certain women considered bad apples? And are the good ones actually that good? It is a quest to try to figure out why there was a curse on Deena’s family and why it seems to affect only the women and the “bad ones”.

The writing was flowing and comfortable to read, however it was a very twisty thread of plot, going back and forth and then two steps back again just in case. While at the same time trying really hard to add extra mystery and mysticism (that’s what broke it for me, it became more of a drag on the story and kept breaking it for me rather than moving it forward).

There are enough “mysteries” as is without the need for new ones, but they still happen. They are foreshadowed well through the story and you can guess almost form the first sentence that introduces a character where they are going to end and some of their mysteries. (One of the big ones was easy for me to guess, however another of the big ones wasn’t something I would’ve guessed).

All in all, it was an interesting book that kept me wanting to know more and the connecting of the family story flowing forward was nice, as where the clues, but some parts of it felt overworked and that they were trying too hard. However, the important parts were very well conveyed, and it left me with a pondering mood after I finished. (I also summarised it to my husband, which isn’t something I do with every book, it means it made me think and/or feel).

Book Review, Books

The Good Luck Girls Review

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.

Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.

When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

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

I was provided a free review copy from HotKeyBooks, but it’s also on preorder. So I would’ve still reviewed it and read it. My views are my own and haven’t been influenced by having a proof copy.

This is a tough book. But it is like one of those biscuits that are hard on the outside and have a soft gooey chocolate center. So let’s start with some content/trigger warnings. This book touches on: rape, sexual abuse, child labour, prostitutes (coherced/forced), child grooming (implied), violence and murder, some psycological and emotional torture/abuse.

Big list, right? But it is a book about five young women (girls?) who have been sold to a “good luck” house (a prostibule) as children to pay off debts or similar reasons. There they are groomed to accept their new job and how “lucky” they are to have a home, and a relatively “easy” job. (The story doesn’t imply it is an “easy” job, but some of the society in it does).

Considering the content, I wasn’t uncomfortable or icked by the book. Instead I wanted to keep reading and know what was happening next. The world is very much a “western” (as in cowboy type, somewhere I saw it described as Westworld type and yes, that fits). But our five heroines test their luck when a chance to escape comes up.

The high stakes, the quest and the characters really make this book. And I highly enjoyed it. Didn’t want to put it down. There is a lot of asking what to do when you are just protecting and full of anger, and not only that but what to do with emotions you have had to hide.

The tattoos that mark them as good luck girls was an interesting element, same as how having a shadow or not kinda defines your status and “class”. Interesting world building.

If you like spunky heroines, westerns or cowboys, high stakes and lots of adrenaline, definitely recommend this.

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.