Confessions of a Library Assistant

Working in a library for a couple of years now has been a real eyeopener. There are so many things that I’ve learnt and really enjoyed doing- so I thought I’d share some of my trade “secrets” with you today 😉 Let’s take a peek behind the scenes and I’ll tell you some of the things I love (and don’t like so much) about working in a library.

#1 Whenever someone takes out a book like A Thousand Splendid Suns, my heart gives a little squeeze and I think “good choice”. I just love seeing great books go out and always think how lucky the person is to get to experience them for the first time!

#2 I love the process of suggesting a book, putting it on display and seeing it go out! The most recent “victim” of this was Ivies by Alexa Donne- it just made me so happy to see that teens are actually taking it out 😊  

#3 Of course, as much as I am inclined to promote books I like, I do (shocker) put books on display that I don’t like because I know other people will like them (I may be biased but I’m not that biased). The blog is where I show my personal taste.

#4 Let’s be real though- a lot of the time books just end up on displays cos they have a pretty cover 😉

#5 I have not read all the books. Ergo I cannot actually help you with all your super specific requests 😂 Especially if it’s horror- I’m gonna struggle to find you a recommendation there! Honestly, I think that the reader is the expert in their own taste, so I’m not keen in pushing people to read things they probably won’t like. And on that note…

#6 Please for the love of god be more specific when you ask for suggestions. Saying you like “anything” is never actually true- and I can tell when you wrinkle your nose at what I then suggest that you didn’t actually mean it.  

#7 As much as I enjoy conversations with readers, sometimes it is hard to be diplomatic! Often they can suggest things to me that I already know I didn’t like… and it’s hard not to tell them so (particularly when they’ve just told me they hate a personal fave). I (hope) I have mastered the art of smiling and nodding (though I doubt it 😂).

#8 Literally every job involving books is dangerous to bookworms. I am tempted by the new books. I am tempted by the returns. I am particularly tempted by the long waiting lists. So yes, even if I never thought I’d read a book, seeing a long queue of people reading it will pique my curiosity. The great thing is that I’ve found many great (and unusual) books this way… the only problem is my book addiction is getting out of hand!!

#9 Weeding (the process of deleting books) is simultaneously the saddest and most interesting jobs. I still haven’t quite been able to come to terms with saying goodbye to tatty, old books- even if it does help to know that this means making way for new books! Still, there are perks! Not only do you come across all kinds of weird and wonderful books that you might never have read (think Crap Days Out), but you get to put on your detective hat and find out what people are actually checking out over the years. Oh, and in my down time, I have read an entire book I wasn’t sure about deleting, before inevitably deciding that it totally made sense no one wanted to read it.

#10 Most of us prefer the bustle of a busy library and do not spend our days shushing people! Times have moved on a little bit 😉

#11 If you don’t have OCD before working in a library, let’s just say there’s a strong chance you will develop it… annnd I’m just gonna leave that statement at that 😂

#12 Annnd this one is just a “me” thing- but I like looking at people’s names. I won’t put any examples here (for obvious reasons) just know that if you have a cool name, I’ve probably clocked it 😉

#13 Picture books are the best. Obviously new books are one of the greatest joys of working in a library- you get to discover what’s new and of course borrow a ridiculous amount of them. What I didn’t expect, though, was the secret delight of finding colourful and playful new picture books in the pile. Because of this, it really opened up my eyes to what a delight picture books really are. Just look at these bad boys:

And that’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed that little insight into the inner-thoughts of library staff!  

Do I stand by my old reviews? Looking back on SEVEN YEARS of book blogging!    

Hello all! This is a post that’s been a long time coming- not least because today is my 7th BLOGGIVERSARY!!!! Can you believe I’ve been doing this for SEVEN YEARS ALREADY?!?! I certainly can’t!! And of course, that’s got me being all retrospective about my old reviews. Because written a HELLUVA LOT of them in that time!

Now, naturally, when I look back on my old posts, I have to admit I don’t enjoy it. Perhaps it goes without saying, they don’t ever seem as polished as my newer reviews. So, broadly speaking, I won’t be addressing that side of things (just know I’m *internally cringing* the whole time). I’m gonna be looking at the content and whether or not I still agree with what I said about the books. Wish me luck- I’m gonna need it!

(NB: The pictures will all link to the original reviews, so feel free to check them out for reference).

As I Lay Dying– I don’t care how many times a random stranger tells me that I “didn’t get” how genius this book is, I still think it’s shit and I stand by my review. It’s plotless, stuffed with uninteresting characters and pretentiously written. I do not think this book was “ruined for me” by bad teaching or whatever nonsense someone wants to throw at me- I just think it’s bad.

The Fault in Our Stars– I was almost too kind in my review… and I didn’t say anything positive about it 😉 Maybe I’d be more forgiving if this book didn’t exploit Anne Frank for clout… but it does, so I’m never gonna forget how pretentious this book is. Also, I once saw Green state in a video that he only believes in positive reviews, so I’m never taking this down 😉

Bronze Horseman– yeah this book still sucks. I definitely could have been more concise in my review- but I stand by the gist of it.

Throne of Glass– okay, now we’re getting into some juicy stuff, because we’re talking about books I liked at the time, yet no longer care for. Reading back these positive reviews feels a bit cringey. While I still stand by some parts- like the fact it was cool to have a protagonist who wasn’t a stereotypically “nice” girl- it’s hard not to think about where said character ended up (being a really bland “chosen one” stand in). I essentially stand by what I said, because it’s how I felt at the time, and I don’t think it’s fair for my current perspective to taint that.

Eye of the World– ahhh now this one is curious, because in an unbelievable turn of events, I ended up rereading this book recently. Annnnd I still had the same trouble with the writing and desperately thinking that the story needed editing. BUT there was clearly enough intrigue in the story for me to want to give the Wheel of Time series a second try. So, I guess I’ve softened with this one, recognising that I can see why other people like it.

Lonely Hearts Hotel– oh dear- this is one of those books I wish I’d never read. I don’t want to have written a negative review about it, because I feel like I was miss-marketed the story. That said, there’s enough objectionable content in the book that I have to stand by everything I said about it.

Woman in the Window– ehh, really hard one to talk about! I try to judge a book separate from the author as much as humanly possible… however I’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about what was going on behind the scenes! Aside from that, while I still think the writing was stellar, watching the movie and reading/seeing other reviews has made me rethink how well I rated this book. Despite the fact that I like the motifs, the story is just not that great. This is probably the closest I’ve come to fully wanting to retract an old review!

Maidens– still, there are plenty of times when I see negative reviews and don’t change my mind! Although this is a more recent read, I’ve included this because I’ve seen *a lot* of criticisms of this book and I just don’t agree. I find it a very richly written thriller with a dark edge, elevated by its mythological references.

Beartown– when I was planning to do this post, I was thinking about this review as one I regretted. After feedback, I felt like I was perhaps too harsh on the book and the way it handled sensitive topics. And then I read Night Swim. Unfortunately, I had much the same critiques, being frustrated with its take on the legal system and its desire to overturn judicial principles like “innocent until proven guilty”. So while I wish I’d handled the topic with more sensitivity… I still haven’t changed my mind about the actual book.

The Queen’s Thief Series– it’s not all bad news though! While I had mixed feelings about this series, looking back on my review, I found it to be pretty nuanced. It’s safe to say, I had a *strong* reaction to this series- and I think the review I wrote covers that! (in spite of my rather misleading title for the review 😉 )

Sadie– if anything, I wish I could have hyped this book more! Looking back on my super positive reviews like this, I TOTALLY stand by everything I said. My only issue is that I can’t do stories like this justice! They deserve more hype!!

And that’s all for now! There are so many more reviews I could’ve talked about, but hopefully I covered a good range! What do you think? Do you think my assessment of these reviews was fair? And do you ever change your mind about old reviews? Let me know in the comments! I’m dying to hear your thoughts on this!

Deliciously Dark Thrillers

As the sun comes out, I can’t help looking for darker books 😉 Psychological thrillers and sunshine are an odd delight. Of course, it’s hard to talk about these without spoilers, so I’m going to be light with my descriptions. Just know that if you’re looking for a good thriller to read this summer, then look no further.

What Lies Between Us– a locked in thriller, featuring a mother and daughter relationship gone *really* wrong. The warped perspectives and endless twists had me on the edge of my seat. I actually walked away from this one a little bit disturbed- you have been warned!  

The Family Upstairs– Jewell knows how to delve into the truly disturbing- and this one is the creepiest by far. Honestly, the family dynamic gets a little sick and twisted. I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart.

The Maidens– this takes dark academia to another level. The secrets in this one leave you feeling the cold.

The Ice Twins– it’s not just the location of this one that’s moody- but themes of loss that will chill you to the bone.

Sharp Objects– frankly, this one is graphic to the point where I felt queasy. This small town secrets story has a dark edge.

Home Before Dark– exploring the bleak truths of childhood trauma, this book won’t let you rest easy. It’ll keep you up long after dark.

Rock Paper Scissors– sometimes marriage is made in heaven… other times it’s made in hell. This one is the latter. If you’re looking for a romance that’s all sunshine and rainbows, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Sometimes I Lie– I didn’t know where I stood with this book. Getting stuck inside the narrator’s brain took me to a very dark place indeed. 

Exquisite– there’s something so intense about this book that made me obsessed… much like the stalker in this book 😉

You– speaking of stalkers, this unsettling read freaked me out all the more because the set up reminded me more of a rom com than a typical thriller… and that’s just horrifying!

What do you think of these books? Do you plan to read any of them? And what deliciously dark thrillers can you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May 2022!

I had a really good time with family and going out 😊 Shoutout to Macka B who I saw at the Jazz Café- I had an absolute blast!

And in other news, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the SUPER TALENTED SARAH for sending me this *gorgeous* Easter Bunny card! You have to check her out on her blog and Instagram because she is such an incredible artist!

Though I’ve been busier this month, I did manage to read more and I have lots to share 😀 So let’s jump into it!

Free Guy– what a fun, joyous experience this movie was! It’s kind of Lego Movie meets Truman Show- but not as dark as either of those 😉 I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m just gonna say go watch it if you want to see a movie that’s funny, action-packed and heartfelt all at the same time! I enjoyed every minute of this!

Short and Sweet: 101 poems– here’s a very quick recommendation! I loved this small collection of poetry. Starting off short and getting sweeter, every poem in here lives up to the promise. Even to the last, which is the shortest and sweetest of them all 😉 Definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for a tasty, little morsel of poetry to tide you over.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Island of the Missing Tree- I’ve found it! A literary fiction masterpiece I actually loved! It’s been such a long time since I discovered a literary fiction author I can get on board with- and Elif Shafak is certainly someone I want to read more from. If you told me before reading this that I’d love a book featuring the perspective of a tree, I’d have thought you were barking up the wrong, well, tree. BUT the power of this writer is such that she could enchant me from any angle. Her writing was so lyrical and stunning that I was transported through time. It took me beneath the surface, to the very roots of the Cypriot civilisation, intertwining current affairs and personal histories with ancient mythology. I could practically taste every description and feel every moment as if I was there. And, like waiting for the seasons to change, the story bears fruit with a most beautiful ending. It really was a remarkable book.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

One True Loves- I just loved this book. Very different to Reid’s more recent releases in (delightfully unusual) historical fic, this contemporary still captures the heart and emotionality and complex characters she is famous for. Like so many of her books, it has a melancholic beauty. Years after losing her husband in a tragic accident, Emma Blair is engaged again- the only problem is her husband has just been found alive and well. As you might expect from a premise like that, it’s emotionally very messy. And yet, appropriately so. It allows us to explore the question of soulmates in an unexpected way. For me, this is so intriguing as I’ve always believed in more than one “true love”. And I really like how this shows that every love is different and we are different in every love. There truly are many paths in life we can take- and they can all be right for different reasons. Using flashbacks, this also delves into the subject of grief, switching to second tense, which made me feel even more in tune with the emotions. In so many ways, this book is about fissures in the fabric of life and how we navigate when things get rough. Books like this show us that we don’t need to have all the answers. Oh, and that books always help 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Sword of Kaigen– books like this are why I keep giving out all the bananas. Heck, books like this are why I keep reading. This is easily the best book I’ve read so far this year. And I wish I’d taken more note so I could give it the full review it deserves- but I was too busy crying for most of the story. Because oof- Sword of Kaigen cuts deep. More than a story about magic, this is a fundamentally human story. Set in a fictionalised version of East Asia, this saga explores the Matsuda family as try to defend an empire. And what may seem like a straightforward story soon turns out to have unforeseen intricacies and waves of emotion. Though it is a sharp fantasy, with a cool magic system, it is the characters who shine. Their relationships and actions carry the story to epic heights and (evidently) produced a storm of feelings. It made me gasp, it made me sob (a lot) and it somehow it also made me smile. I do not have words to do this book justice- read it if you haven’t already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Win Lose Kill Die– for some reason there’s quite a few YA books about teens who would kill to get to the top… I wonder why? 😉 With its ultra-competitive academic environment, I couldn’t help but compare this to the Ivies. But where that is a more satirical take, this one had more of a slasher vibe with a HUGE body count. And while I don’t always go in for that, I did think this pulled it off. I didn’t love the writing, with its references to pop culture (and Riverdale of all things), but there were some parts I thought were cleverly done (which I can’t directly mention for spoilery reasons). I did guess the twist very early on- but the red herrings definitely threw me off the scent! All I can say then is: well played!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

Traitor King– So, this was a rather telling book. This biography tells the story of King Edward VI- but unusually focuses on after he abdicated. And while I can give this credit for being fair and balanced, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be fair and balanced about such an evil, racist, anti-Semite. So I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one: I’m not here for the “he gave it all up for love” narrative. And I am sick of people like Netflix posthumously doing his PR. He was a selfish evil traitor, who supported the Nazis and blamed Jews for the war. He would have sold England down the river if the Nazis had won. He was openly racist, writing for instance:

“Those with experience of regions where the population is predominantly coloured, realise that negroes in the mass are still children both mentally and morally and that while these liberal socialistic ideas of freedom and equality regardless of race or colour may sound fine theoretically, the forcing of these theories are to my way of thinking, both premature and dangerous so far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned…”

This is the person the Crown chose to venerate as “inclusive” (somehow having a black servant makes you “inclusive”… incidentally Wallis fired Johnson for wanting time to look after his kids). It’s sickening to me that the Duke of Windsor was given such a sympathetic portrayal by Netflix. And that it completely ignored any mention of how messy their relationship was- prone to fits of jealousy and rage and affairs. Not to mention the fact that, politically, he thought England was behind the times for not already having a dictatorship. Reading this confirmed what I already knew: this was not the greatest love affair of the 20th century. It was the lucky escape from a despotic king.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The No Show– this was a delight. Three women + one missing date = a recipe for another brilliant Beth O’Leary book! I felt like I connected with each of the women’s stories and fell in love in turn. Written with so much heart, this had me laughing through tears and hugging the book. I only wish I didn’t have to wait for the next Beth O’Leary book to be released- because this was her best yet!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Love Hypothesis– I theorised I would like this book… and I was right! This ticked so many boxes for me. Tropes like fake dating and secretly a sweetheart? Yes please! And I really liked the interesting setting and the fact that the female protagonist had *a lot* more going on than just her floundering love life. That said, there were a few things that kept this from fulfilling the perfect romcom formula. From a clinical standpoint, I never entirely warmed to Dr Carlsen and wasn’t convinced of his niceness. He was a bit of a cold fish and doesn’t do anything kind for anyone unless his (fake) girlfriend is involved (unless you count the car scene, which I don’t, because he came off as a showoff there). I don’t really love when a character’s only redeeming feature is that they’re nice to the person they want to sleep with. Speaking of which, I also didn’t buy the chemistry in the sex scene- it was weirdly chatty and went into odd anatomical detail… Not my thing! I wasn’t a big fan of the meta moments and wokisms either. Even so, my final hypothesis is: it was an enjoyable enough read and I’d happily read more from the author (if only that I might be able to work on my science puns some more 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

Being a “Bad Art Friend” – An Unpleasant New Writing Trend or a Tale as Old as Time?

Recently, I went to a writing group, where a fellow writer told me how she got her inspiration. She was writing the story of a friend of a friend losing her virginity at 28. “When my friend told me the story, I just found it so funny, I had to write it into a novel,” she told me. And I cringed. The idea of such a personal story being relayed to the world is a lot of people’s worst nightmare. And the fact that the person poaching the plot was a complete stranger (thereby obviously not having permission to tell it) didn’t make me feel better about it.  

But it did get me thinking… how bad is it to pinch parts of someone else’s life story? Is it ever okay?

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the “Bad Art Friend”- a complicated tale of a personal story being plagiarised (and consequent law suits). A lot of people cannot decide who exactly the “Bad Art Friend” was in that situation (since this certainly seems to be a case of writers behaving badly). Nonetheless- whichever side I am on- there’s something deeply uncomfortable about taking someone else’s story in order to mock them. I cannot help but be reminded of Music and Lyrics, where Drew Barrimore’s character has been traumatised by such an event. Naturally, as the audience it is impossible not to empathise- for who would want to be the laughing stock of the world?

Which makes this seem like a cut and dry case- except it’s clearly not. Because isn’t this just something writers and artists do? Drawing from real life is quite possibly the oldest tradition in writing. We all have poets and singers we admire who openly write about real life people. And while artists like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran may have been criticised in recent years for this practice… it’s not like it’s a new phenomenon. People scour Shakespeare’s sonnets for evidence of the real people they were about. Thomas Hardy knowingly took details from real life cases he read about in newspapers to add realism to his stories. And what of historical fiction, cannibalising the lives of real figures in history and reproducing them for our entertainment. Indeed, even I am engaging in this practice by sharing my anecdote at the start of this piece!

Sadly, I don’t think there is an easy answer here. If you argue that you should obscure the references, keeping identities secret like Carly Simons did with “You’re So Vain”, you underestimate the innumerable fan sites dedicated to decoding songwriter’s every word. And if you suggest only writing nice things your victims subjects, then you ignore the likes of Christopher Robin, the star of Winnie the Pooh, who famously complained about being foisted into the spotlight against his will. And retribution for those whose stories are stolen seems out of the question- lawsuits don’t help you win allies and plotting murder like in the (hopefully entirely fictional) Plot seems a bit extreme 😉

It seems to me that there is no way around absorbing parts of our lives into our stories and art. There is no obvious dividing line where truth becomes fiction after all. But perhaps we can still endeavour to treat people with basic dignity and respect. Perhaps there are some stories that we ought to leave well enough alone. Perhaps the only conclusive advice I can offer is this: don’t be a dick. Which is sound advice in general 😉

For more on this discussion (and somewhat different takes) check out these videos:

All of this leaves me in quite the conundrum- so I’d like to hear what you think! Is it ever okay to fictionalise someone else’s story? Can you entirely avoid drawing from real life? Let me know in the comments!

The Plot Worth Dying For…

Here’s a story that really takes the expression good artists copy, great artists steal to a new level. Washed-up writer Jacob Finch Bonner hasn’t had a good idea in years… until his student hands one to him on a plate and conveniently dies. It seems a shame to let such a good story go to waste, so he does what any *ahem* reasonable person would do in that scenario and helps himself. The only problem is someone knows and they would kill to get justice.

Naturally, reading the synopsis for this book had me instantly hooked. Because really, you can’t mess up a plot like this. Sexy and salacious, meta in an unusual way, it’s a story that comes to life right away. It’s a story many writers would kill for.

Of course, it’s one of the most unusual books about writing I’ve ever read- raising more than a few questions (and eyebrows). Wittily exposing the neediness of dejected writers, there is a humour to this dark narrative. There’s a sharp understanding of the pain that comes with failing to live up to your potential. And it stings, along with the carefully plotted out punches to the gut.

I found the voice unique enough- though with perhaps not enough differentiation from the original extract. Yet, that has little impact. This is a novel with a pulse. This is a thriller too original to beat. Even while I guessed certain outcomes, it’s quite simply a story that sells itself.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

It’s okay to collect books

She says as she unhauls a few more books…

Of course, the main reason I’m clearing out these books is to make space for even more books 😉 As many of you will doubtless agree, there’s an immense pleasure to be had from perusing and purchasing *pretty new books*. I love going into a bookshop and being hit by that beautiful new book smell, looking at all the glossy new covers and growing my tbr with books I never intended on reading before. And of course, this is not an endorsement of mass consumerism and I will always be a BIG FAN of libraries- yet I have come to see that of all the vices to have in this world, collecting books is not that bad.

To start with, books are beautiful. Inside and out. Judging by the way the market has gone, booksellers agree that making a cover as gorgeous as possible is the best way to get that book onto our shelves. And they’re not wrong! I am easily swayed by a lovely cover. Not just for books I plan to read either- I’m a big fan of collectibles, especially for my favourite books. Most recently, I was gifted this gorgeous edition of the Hobbit:

Rereads are made all that more special with a nice new edition or an old nostalgic version! As much as the words are the same, I rather enjoy a physical copy that carries some memories or creates new ones. I may never experience the same story for the first time- but I can experience it fresh eyes and a different copy 😉 And these books become so precious to me (gollum style… except no one’s throwing them into Mount Doom on my watch! 😉 )

And personally, I love exploring what books other people have on display. If people can get over how nosy I am about what they’re reading, then it’s a great conversation starter 😉 And as someone who doesn’t always like to venture outside my own habitat, seeing bookshelves usually makes me feel at ease (unless of course the only book they own is mein kampf 😉). People’s bookshelves are often a wonderful insight into their personality.

Obviously, this goes beyond mere decoration (I’m not some celebrity ordering books by the yard 😉). And as much as I do feel rather special picking up a swish edition, it’s not all that necessary (especially considering most of my books are tatty and old). Collections of books are valuable in a way that goes far beyond monetary value. Here’s a shocking revelation: it’s the words inside that matter (and the words I’ve then written above those words cos I’m all for writing in books 😉) What you’re really collecting is the stories themselves. Inside is the accumulated wisdom of the author, their weird idiosyncrasies and their most preciously held thoughts. And I just love being able to support those authors as much as humanely possible.

So, what do you think? Do you enjoy collecting books? Am I preaching to the choir here or do you have a different view? Let me know in the comments!

I Lied to You – All the Books I Promised I’d Give Away… But I Actually Kept!

Nearly two years ago I did my harshest unhaul yet and was really proud of myself for getting rid of a ton of books… Annnd then I decided to keep a bunch of them! 😅 While I was spring cleaning this year, I discovered a lot of them were still in storage and (clearly) I have little-to-no-intention of actually giving them away. I do think there are some in this secret stash I might get rid of some day… but it is not this day! 😉 Let’s discuss why I went back on my word, shall we?

Kingdom of Ash– okay I’m still pretty torn about this one. On the one hand, I didn’t like the lacklustre ending in this book and have consequently fallen out of love with the series. On the other hand, I do like a nice signed copy and the memories I have of going to the book event where I got it still excite me on some level. I’m just so undecided over whether I will get rid of this one day!

Apocalypse– again, this is a case of “it’s signed and I remember getting it signed”. Even if I never loved this book (heck I don’t even like it) I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it right now. Also, as I was going through these books, I had a weird urge to reread it and see if it has any merit that my teen-self missed… Although- with that in mind- I may actually need to get rid of this book to prevent myself from doing anything stupid 😉  

Blood Bones and Body Bits– yeahhh this is definitely a case of being overly sentimental with this one. HOWEVER, in my defence, it was my first ever signed book!! And let’s face it, the Horrible History/Horrible Science series still slaps (I may just give it to my nephews).  

Deenie– I kept for sentimental reasons. I LOVED Judy Blume books as a teen and I still have so much respect for her as a YA writer, doing so much to normalise what it’s like to go through puberty as a girl in particular. I’m holding onto the fond memories I have of reading all her books, so I won’t be letting go of this book for the time being.

Nemesis– I don’t feel remotely guilty about keeping these books (okay, maybe a little bit). At the time of the Great Unhaul (That Wasn’t Quite So Great) I said I was unsure about these ones. Turns out, I didn’t want to part with this series. I LOVED these books back when I read them. And sure, I might be older (though sadly not wiser), but I can’t seem to outgrow my love for this completely underrated YA series! I just had way too much fun with it!

And that’s all for now! I’m going to go and hang my head in shame and think about what I did! But I want to hear your thoughts before I hide away from the world. Have you ever changed your mind about an unhaul? Or do you think I’m being overly sentimental here? Let me know in the comments!  

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – alrighty then, it’s April 2022!

Hello all! I hope you all had a lovely month… I somehow managed to get Covid! Because, why not?! My immune system is currently on vacation :/

I’m still not feeling great, so I can’t promise my blogging is going to pick up any time soon. I haven’t been reading much lately- but I did plonk myself in front of the TV for days, so I do have plenty to talk about on that front!

The Duke- when I was still able to leave the house, I actually went to the cinema for the first time in years! And I’m really happy with the movie I chose to see 😊 Lighthearted and full of quirky Britishisms, this movie was just the tonic I needed. With witty one liners and a stellar cast, this is the kind of old school movie that puts a smile on your face. Based around the slightly bizarre events of the stolen Duke’s portrait, it engaged with a deep (and also rather odd) history of political activism in the UK. Funnily enough, I feel like I’ve met a few Kempton Buntons in my life… even with him being a rather unique character! Definitely an enjoyable film I’d recommend 😊

Last Kingdom Season 5– and one of my favourite TV shows is back! And better than ever! Darker than its previous seasons, I did find some of this a little too upsetting for words. However, I also understood that this historical show does not lightly engage in shock value and only uses violence purposefully. And, even if it was hard to watch at times, I thought the story powerfully written. Unfortunately, this is the final season of the show… BUT at the same time as learning of this, I heard the fantastic news that its due to have a movie sequel to round off the story (which has already been filmed!!) Which is especially gratifying as the TV show was an epic conclusion to one significant storyline, while leaving another open-ended (this is very difficult to explain without spoilers- but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the show!) Regardless, I am truly satisfied to see such a well-executed finale and very much look forward to Seven Kings Must Die!

Bridgerton Season 2– well, here’s a complete tonal shift: because Bridgerton season 2 was certainly a return to the frothy nonsense I’ve come to expect from the show. And nonsense it really was this season. As much as I enjoyed parts of it and while I actually preferred the love interests in this season, I did suffer from some severe confusion that the couple just wouldn’t get together for no apparent reason!! I have to admit, as much as Hastings and Daphne irked me more as characters, the obstacles to their romance made a lot more sense. By contrast, Anthony and Kate were a lot more likeable (no deception and sexual assault in their romance- huzzah!), but their love affair was so drawn out that it drove me a bit bananas. Still, while their romantic entanglement was at times more painful- involving a very unfortunate love triangle- I did feel it was all the sweeter when it came to pass. I have to admit that this series did make me smile and certainly lifted my spirits. Really curious who else is caught up in the buzz of this show 😉

Okay now onto the books!

Anna K- if you’re looking for something else in the Gossip Girl vein, then this may be just the ticket. A YA retelling of Anna Karenina, this very much embraces the maddening world of kids who are too rich for their own good. Full of just the right amount of angst and sanctimony, this somehow succeeds in modernising a book that very much speaks of its time. And I’m saying this as someone who is notoriously fussy about retellings. Very romantic and with careful attention to detail that brings these new variations of the characters to life, this is an unapologetically brilliant take on the classic. Bold and scandalous in equal measure, it does a fantastic job of showing how little times (and expectations for women) have really changed. I wasn’t quite as taken with the ending, though I did understand and respect the choice the author made. I’m not sure I’d read the sequel, but I do recommend giving this a go. Big thank you to Kat’s great review for making me pick this up in the first place!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Poison for Breakfast- the best description for this book I can think of is: bewildering. I guess there’s only one way to describe this story- and that’s to say it’s about Lemony Snicket going on a journey. A journey specifically to find out about the poison he had for breakfast and (more importantly) about the process of crafting a story itself. I’m not quite sure what I got out of this story- but I do know that I fully agree on his opinions on how to perfectly prepare an egg (and that you should never trust a person who flips over a fried egg). Words of wisdom indeed. I did very much enjoy a lot of his references as well- even if I did not fully understand them. This was rather a peculiar experience of reading a book and yet being quite uncertain what I read. I suppose he moved the notes around and I came out of it somehow transformed. And that’s what I quite liked about it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Maid– fair warning, this is marketed as a murder mystery and yet I did not think it all that mysterious. As a story, I was far more interested in the character portrayals and the protagonist’s found family. As a first person narrative, the audiobook had me transfixed. The style worked so well for characterisation, building the maid’s personality page by page. In many ways, it reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, which likewise told of an unusual character finding her place. I think that, rather strangely, the actual plot was secondary to that.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

That’s all for now! Did you watch any of these shows? And have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all had a good month!

Recent Reads That Fill Me With Joy!

Because we all need a little burst of happiness sometimes!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown– this is the book that inspired me to make this post! It’s the kind of fun, funny and sweet story I will always gravitate towards (just like how I like my love interests 😉).

Tweet Cute– I don’t talk about this book enough!! This hate-to-love YA is full of friends, family, romance… And most importantly: it comes with EXTRA CHEESE!

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry– okay yes, that title doesn’t sound joyous, but it’s filled with positive messages about hope and love and being truthful. I loved the way the characters come together as a family and find their place in this messy world of ours.

Anxious People– this may seem like an antsy novel about a bank robbery- and it’s a story that speaks to the intrinsic value of humankind. Believing in the basic humanity and goodness of us all, this inherent optimism is what makes this book memorable.

House in the Cerulean Sea– quirky and fun and uplifting, this is more than just a fantastical romance. It’s about finding and creating an oasis of love in the world- and picking up this book transports you there!

The Salt Path– a memoir about homelessness is perhaps not the kind of book you think of when you want something joyful… and yet a story about finding the drive to persevere, even in the toughest circumstances, is truly awe-inspiring. This, coupled with the descriptions of nature, fill me with a quiet kind of wonder and delight. A book like this gives me such a hunger for life.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse– speaking of hunger, I’m putting this on the list just for the cake 😉 Plus, reading this book was like getting a great big hug from the universe!

And that’s all I have for today! What do you think of these books? And what books fill you with joy? Let me know in the comments!