My Quaratbr!

Aww what a cutesie title… for something that’s gonna get dark pretty fast 😉

trelawney fortune telling

My fortune– I must consult the stars to find out my fate! (I’d say I’ll be looking at tea leaves, but let’s be real, those are in short supply 😉 ) Oh you thought this post would be serious? Okay then, I can do serious…

scary news*THE NEWS*- cos we need regular updates on how we’re all DOOMED- okay maybe too serious. How about something a little more upbeat? I know, thinking about food usually cheers me up, but oh wait

 

All those recipes for things I can’t cook because people have been stockpiling and there’s no food left (people have even gone for the bananas!!!)

watch tvThe TV guide– because even if you can’t plan your next meal, you can plan your next TV marathon!

 

 

bad writing gigUnfinished drafts– yes, I did write this one while staring at the page for a good ten minutes trying to figure out what to say next 😉

 

 

wash your handsInstructions on how to WASH YOUR FILTHY GERMRIDDEN HANDS (turn on tap, lather up soap, rub for 20 secs while singing happy birthday… see, now you’ve ticked one item off your TBR 😉)

 

confused dogsThe government’s lockdown guidelines– which you will need to read over and over and over again to make head or tail of… annnd still be stuck on (both physically and metaphorically) days later.

 

ralph helloMessages from loved ones– partly because we love them, mostly cos there’s sod else to do 😉 But on the positive side, mine tend to send me…

 

 

 

ALL THE MEMES! Frankly, the one good thing to come out of this situation!

Annnd I wish I could say this is an April Fool’s Joke- but it seems like this year, the joke’s on us! Also, clearly after a few days of being a cooped-up monkey, I’ve completely lost the plot! Hope you enjoyed this! Now go wash your hands!

Night of the Dragon Left Me Starry-Eyed

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the light enthusiasm is all me 😉 *

night of the dragonHappily, I’m returning to the world of Iwagoto today, to talk about the finale in the Shadow of the Fox series. With a strong opening and the promise of plenty of emotional turns to come, I settled down for a night or two of wild reading 😉. Granted, I will admit there was a bit more telling at the start in order to recap the events of the last book, but it didn’t take long for the action to get going.

As with the previous instalments, the characterisation is a massive bright spot in the story. Yumeko is as likeable as ever; Tatsumi is broodingly conflicted. I liked the touch of having Tatsumi have a slightly different tone from the last book, though it was (understandably) a little more distant at times. Both of the main characters undergo serious character development- which I particularly liked in Yumeko’s case. The reveals about her history cut deeper than a samurai sword. Most of all, however, I liked Kagawa’s execution of the slow burn romance, with its ups and downs, giving the narrative hints of darkness and delight.

Once again, the adventure aspect was strong too. Not only was the writing sharp, the action was non-stop and on point. Even better, there was a tricksy ending that I wasn’t quite expecting! Kagawa doesn’t go for the straightforward happily ever after and yet still manages to deliver something sweet- which makes for a very satisfying conclusion to the saga!

Ultimately, while it took me a little longer to get into this book, I can’t fault this series for sheer entertainment, gorgeous characters and transporting me to a fantastic fantasy land. It was a very welcome distraction and I’m tempted to reread the entire thing! 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Fun, frothy and fantastical reads for when you’re in need of a distraction!

orangutan list

Granted, that title has doubtless got you thinking about *that thing going on outside*. A bit like playing “the game” (we’ve all just lost the game!) Even so, I think we could all do with a break from impending doom life at the moment- which is why I wrote this list of the ultimate distracting reads! No way you can focus on anything other than turning these pages…

crown of feathers

Crown of Feathers– a book about phoenixes, because WE WILL RISE FROM THE ASHES! (or all go down in flames… 😉)

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– but if you want to throw yourself into even more mythological, why not take a trip to Iwagoto? See if you can spot some tricksy kitsune along the way…

six of crows

Six of Crows– on the note of tricksters, the dregs will look after you if you’re looking to score (and doubtless pick your pocket on the way 😉)

to kill a kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom– if you need something else with a bit of an edge, then I always recommend deep-diving into this Little Mermaid retelling. No doubt this book siren song is calling to you right now 😉

the young elites

Young Elites– of course, talking of dark YA fantasy, I can scarcely neglect this beauty. Sharp and a little different, it has one of my favourite heroines in the genre.

thief

The Thief– on the note of protagonists I love, Gen’s perspective makes this book a real hidden gem. Personally, I do only recommend the first one, but fortunately it works as a standalone, so you can’t go wrong!

vicious

Vicious– ahh this is my *go to* book if you need something you absolutely cannot put down. This supervillains story is guaranteed to keep you on your toes.

renegades

Renegades– take flight into a world of heroes and villains! With great characters and a riveting romance, I was gripped from the start (incidentally I’m going to be taking my own advice with this one, cos I’ve just ordered the third in the series and will be jumping into the action again soon 😉)

Red Rising Pierce Browns

Red Rising– for something a bit gutsier and adult, you could try this take on Romans in space! (which I am recommending for the millionth time because it’s amazing!)

scythe

Scythe– now I don’t know about you, but beyond entertainment, I’m also craving some depth, and this high concept dystopia is cutting edge in that regard. There are ideas here I’ve not seen in YA before- or dare I say- even in adult!

one word kill

One Word Kill– and if you want mind-blowing, mathematically inspired time travel, then I have the series for you. Dramatic and character-driven, you can whizz through this at the speed of light!

And that’s all for now! Do you agree with my choices? And- more than ever I need your advice- what fantastical books would you recommend for distraction? Let me know in the comments

Hyped Books I’ll Never Read – Spring Cleaning My TBR

orangutan list

Usually I’d never say never, but we are in the End Times- JK! JK! This is a promise to myself- life’s too short- let’s see if I can keep to it.

cursed child

Cursed Child– starting with a book that needs no introduction! When this came out, I picked this up in a book shop and I was pretty unimpressed. I then went and spoiled myself for the plot… annnd I’m glad I didn’t try to read it. Apart from graverobbing the original series, it’s just doesn’t sound like a good story to me.

testaments

Testaments– in case you didn’t see my ranty unpopular opinions post on books I don’t like that everyone loves, I’m no fan of Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not opposed to reading more Atwood- she’s an impressive writer- but I’m not giving this series another try- sorry!

go set a watchman

Go Set a Watchman– this was another BIG RELEASE that I was cautious about and then decided to just read a plot synopsis in advance… and it sounds worse than Cursed Child!! I cannot fully express my fury that this book ruined Atticus Finch’s character- but let’s just say it made me go bananas! To Kill a Mockingbird is a personal favourite and I don’t care how this monstrosity came about- I’m not reading it.

normal people

Normal People– this is the toughest one so far, because while I didn’t like Conversations with Friends, I’ve heard that people usually like one and not the other. So, I am tempted to see if I can find out what the fuss is about this author… and yet, something about her writing style just didn’t gel with me last time and I don’t want to risk it.

raven king

The Raven King– I’ll admit, I was weak and read the first Foxhole Court book after I was to avoid it. I’ve not heard from anyone that shares my views on the first one that it gets better- I’ve got to stay strong and not read it (as much as my eye is drawn to it like watching a car crash…)

chain of gold

Chain of Gold– this is less about the specific book and more that I just don’t plan to read any new Cassandra Clare book. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just outgrown her world and stories that always end up being exactly the same (okay, maybe it is a little personal 😉)

lady's guide to petticoats and piracy

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy– as you may know I was pretty disappointed with Gentleman’s Guide, so as much as the title appeals to me, I just don’t see any reason to continue the series. Plus I wasn’t a fan of Felicity’s character in the first one- I doubt I want to read an entire book about her!

infinity son

Infinity Son– when Silvera announced he was publishing a fantasy book, I was intrigued and a little excited. I’ve enjoyed his books and I’m always up for some fun fantasy. Alas- when I read the blurb, I wasn’t enamoured. The premise just doesn’t light my fire and I could see the twists a mile off (something that reviews have since confirmed). I think it might leave me a bit heated, so I’m gonna give it a miss.

And that’s all for now! Do you think I’ve made any big mistakes with this list? Or do you have any books you *absolutely will not* read? Let me know in the comments!

Toy Story 4 Played Fans False

I’ve never shied away from sharing my unpopular opinions, so I figured I might as well go down swinging 😉 Considering this was a massive box office and critical success (and it just won an Oscar for whatever that’s worth) this could very well be my most controversial opinion. And I know a lot of people might think I’ve simply got my old-lady-monkey-knickers in a twist, because it wasn’t the same as the old movies in the franchise and it didn’t live up to my nostalgia-fuelled perceptions of what makes a good Toy Story movie annnnd… you may very well be right. BUT here’s the thing: I don’t just think this failed as a Toy Story movie- I think this failed as a film in general. Which is why you should beware the upcoming *harsh thoughts* and be warned for *scary spoilers lie ahead!*

A lot of you might be wondering why I bothered to watch this in the first place (and, believe me, I’m asking myself the same question now). Truth is, I wasn’t sure I would, but was persuaded- both by an incredibly enthusiastic sister and the fact that Toy Story 3 had exceeded expectations. That had miraculously turned out to be a marvellous movie. For me, it was the perfect way to end the franchise and a beautiful finale for our favourite toys. The message of toys moving on to make more children happy was a very positive one (and doubtless helped me be less of a hoarder 😉). When I heard about Toy Story 4, I wasn’t sure where they could go with it, but the question of “what makes toys sentient” seemed interesting enough…

Only that’s not what the movie was about. Despite all the marketing, the spork supposedly-at-the-centre of the narrative is merely a gimmick. Instead of an interesting next-chapter-of-the-story, what I got was a formless mess of a movie and a miserable-as-hell tale of existential despair. I kid you not. Because this is the story of how Woody loses his sense of purpose, gets really depressed about it, fails to turn things around, then goes off to live a life of meaningless “pleasure” (if you can call lying in wait for random children to toss you around in a park pleasure). If this mirrors the idea of kids going off to college and leaving their parents behind, then the message is… do nothing with your retirement, just drink mimosas till you inevitably die. It feels less like Woody is going off into the sunset and more like he’s being shoved into an old age home.

Weirdly enough, the villains get a happier ending. That’s right- the toy who does the equivalent of ripping out Woody’s kidney gets a sort-of-redemption arc (although I hesitate to call it that, since it’s more of a “you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from and forgive me” arc). I’m sorry, this felt unsatisfying, cos the writers didn’t do the work to justify her redemption. Rewarding the villains for their villainy just felt all wrong.

Now, as many will be keen to point out, there was always darkness in Toy Story movies. Yet this was different- because where there had always been exploration of insecurities and change and hardship, there was always a sense of hope at the end. Toy Story 3 is the best exemplar of this: it left us with the notion that your purpose doesn’t end with a new chapter. That you can find another kid and go on. Here, we get the argument that your life’s goal was meaningless all along, you weren’t all that important to begin with and you may as well just live for yourself until you eventually fall apart.

To me, that goes counter to all the messaging of the franchise. So much of those was about friendship and sacrifice and living for others. Toy Story 4 takes the meaning and wonder and positivity of the originals and spits it out. I know I’m in the minority- nonetheless that leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

And can we just take a moment to talk about how crap the characters are? It’s worse than that most of them get barely any lines and feel sort of neutered- they’re actively unlikeable at times. Bizarrely, the toys main goal seems to be to punish innocent humans and get the dad sent to jail?! Okay- where did that come from? I think they were trying to be funny? I guess?

Don’t worry though, the spork gets a character arc *she says sarcastically*. I mean, if you can call being suicidal and then being cured by a good talking to a character arc. Again, this is played for laughs- it’s not exactly deep. Especially since Woody doesn’t follow his advice.

On the subject of Sporky I’ve also got to say a big, fat WHAT THE HELL?!?! Cos what is wrong with those parents?!?! Why would they encourage her to hug a literal piece of trash at night?!?! It came out of the rubbish and is dirty and disgusting. When the kid falls asleep, you take it away and quietly put it back in the bin!! I’m genuinely concerned about how sanitary the people who made this movie are.

Also, just going to take a moment to get on the Bonnie-hate-train, cos she’s the worst. She was given the most amazing toy in the world, asked to take special care of it… annnnd immediately becomes infatuated with a spork. Ugh.

I know I’m focusing too much on the human characters- but that’s because this movie gives them too big of a role. Unlike all the other movies, which were so focused on the toy’s arcs, most of them don’t really do all that much. Buzz is an idiot; Bo has had a personality transplant; Woody is depressed and doggedly doing illogical things in order for the plot to work; and the rest of the gang may as well not be there.

Personally, there wasn’t a single thing I enjoyed about this movie. I thought the messages were awful and it was yet another Disney cashgrab. I wish they would stop turning (mostly children’s) franchises into nihilistic, humourless “comedies”, but here we are, I guess. Disney just can’t seem to stop raping and pillaging their old movies. I’m gonna try and do my best to turn a blind eye… until the next time I inevitably fall for this trick 😉

Rating: banana peel!

form50030

(which shouldn’t offend the creators, since they think trash is good!)

Dare I ask, have you seen it? Do you think I’m being fair or too harsh? Let me know in the comments!

Sorry, but “you read too much YA” isn’t an insult

thoughts orangutan

Sooo you know how I’ve come out swinging lately about how not everything is YA? Well, I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t matter anyway! Because, as much as I like being precise about what is and isn’t YA, I don’t really think it matters in the grand scheme of things. I love YA, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading entirely YA and it most certainly isn’t an insult to say “you read too much YA” (which incidentally is what prompted me to do these posts, so thank you kind stranger for the content!) Aside from making me wonder “how much is too much” and “what even is YA”, I also just don’t think it’s a very valid criticism- and here’s why:

meanBook snobbery ain’t cool– okay, so maybe YA just isn’t for you, maybe you don’t fit into the target demographic and maybe you don’t want to read it- but guess what? No one’s asking you to! At this point, I’m gonna come out and say it: it comes across as incredibly judgemental to tell other people off for their reading tastes. I just think WHOA to the unnecessary shaming, that this is telling of some deep feelings of inadequacy and maybe (just maybe) you’ve got a stick up your butt 😉

yayYA ROCKS! I could wax lyrical about how awesome YA is- in fact, I’ve done it before and I’m gonna do it again! YA is innovative, modern and imaginative! It’s pacey, exciting and entertaining! It’s full of youthful optimism and gives us the *feels*. If you’re looking for heightened emotions and the promise of some intense catharsis, you can’t really go wrong with YA.

that's deepIt’s also much deeper than you think– let’s be real, if you denigrate all of YA, your ignorance is showing. Children’s literature has always been an experimental gateway- from the Hobbit to Phantom Tollbooth to Alice in Wonderland to A Wrinkle in Time, we’ve understood that children’s stories can be just as important as adult novels. Likewise, YA has cracked fields of fantasy, dystopia and sci fi wide open. Books like Illuminae show us that stories can be told in an alternative format. Books like Northern Lights explore philosophy and theology. Books like Hunger Games help us explore the issues of our time. Books like One Word Kill explore maths and theoretical physics for goodness sakes! To say that it is shallow is simply daft (and, I know I said critics don’t have to read YA, but maybe if you read some, you might actually learn something 😉)

choose booksNot everything is YA– sorry to harp on, but as I discussed recently there’s a lot of misconceptions about what is and isn’t YA. Given that it’s such a broad and all-encompassing category, how could you feasibly say it’s all bad? Which brings me onto…

spaceYA is limitless– it’s not actually a genre, it’s a marketing category. That means it’s not constrained to one type of book. YA is open to readers of all ages, all interests and all personalities. And that’s why I find it so strangely amusing that people will turn their noses up at it. YA doesn’t limit itself- so why should you?

So, what do you think? Would you be insulted if someone said you read too much YA? Do you like reading YA? Let me know in the comments!

No, it’s not YA

thoughts orangutan

What even is YA? The question comes up over and over- and for those of you experiencing déjà vu, yes, I have talked about this before. Yet recently it came to my attention again when Alix Harrow was talking on twitter about how her book wasn’t YA.

Now I found this interesting on many fronts. Firstly, because I understand this author’s frustration. It’s beginning to irritate me too that there’s this “assumption of YA”. On a personal level, I notice that because I read a lot of YA, somehow all the books I read are assumed to be YA, despite the numbers being closer to 60:40 adult to YA (funnily enough, I even had a list that included Austen, Dostoevsky and Frankl labelled YA!) And anecdotally speaking, I’ve seen countless adult fantasy books- like Circe– end up shelved in the YA section at libraries. Plus, plenty of authors find they have to take to twitter to tell people that no, their book is in fact not YA.

Just some examples of the kinds of books that get labelled YA, though they might not necessarily be YA, are:

  • Books written by authors who previously wrote YA (as Jay Kristoff has found).
  • Fantasy by women- especially if they’ve previously written in YA (aka Priory of the Orange Tree).
  • Fantasy in general (cos I don’t know why you’d think Tolkien is YA otherwise!)
  • Books with a female protagonist on the cover (cos that’s the only reason I think you can mistake Book of the Ancestor for YA!)
  • Books read by women- especially if said woman reads YA 😉
  • Books with teen protagonists (like the Farseer series)
  • Middle grade- especially with a hint of romance (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter)

So yeah, none of these are YA:

And that’s by no means an extensive list. I have my theories why this is- anything from genre snobbery to ignorance to misunderstandings. Assuming it’s the latter, the problem I’m increasingly finding is that the term is nebulous to begin with. To take Ten Thousand Doors of January as an example, there are more than a few reasons why people might mistake it for YA: it’s a coming of age story, with a young protagonist, has age-appropriate content, the kind of cover typical of a lot of current YA and was blurbed by some YA authors. Personally, I’d have no problem giving this to a teen. And this is not the only case- if a teen was interested in fantasy, why not give them Sanderson? Or Tolkien? Or Jordan? And I know there’s been debate around this, but regardless of what category it’s in, teens seem comfortable reading Schwab.

Thinking of YA as a marketing category, I can see why it might be expanded as much as possible. To my mind, then, if the audience is there, why not just put as many books into this group, as long as it fits the barometer of “suitable for teens”? What I am finding tricky to get my head round is how often even this isn’t taken into consideration. Because on the flipside of seeing that more books could easily be considered YA, I do still have some confusion that certain books are classed as YA (again, not that teens should be stopped from reading them, just that maybe not everything should be marketed directly to teens). Last year, Serpent and Dove was published by Harper Teen- though to my mind (as much as I enjoyed it) there’s little beyond the age of the protagonist marking it as YA. Likewise, not to sound like a broken record, but I still don’t agree with the classification of ACOTAR as YA. And just to make the point that it’s not just about sexual content, I’m not especially convinced of Queen’s Thief being YA, partly cos that has some X-Rated violence (but also cos there’s legit nothing YA about it except the ages… yet still it ends up in the YA section- someone explain this to me please!). The classification seems so arbitrary that it’s becoming an impossible game of spot-the-difference! I’m not sure, if I didn’t know the answer in advance, that I could pick the YA out of this lineup:

So, I’m finding that I have less of a comfortable answer for “what even is YA” than I did a year ago! Which is a turnout for the books 😉

What do you all think? Do you have a clear grasp of what YA is? Or are you increasingly as lost as I am? Let me know in the comments!