Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October

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Phew- I’ve gotta admit my thoughts about this month were a bit like this for me…

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Thank goodness it’s October, the month of spookiness, pumpkins and maybe even a little controversy 😉 But, more on my blogging plans later! For now, let’s talk about the *ridiculous* amount of reading I did to get me through last month. As you’ll notice, I was not only on a MASSIVE thriller kick, but I also felt the need to talk about most books I read last month. So, strap in, it’s gonna be a long one!

death of mrs westaway

The Death of Mrs Westaway– such a strong thriller to start on! Let’s break it down:

One, the sorrowful opening had me intrigued, flying into that old magpie nursery rhyme many of us have ingrained since childhood and nesting layers of mystery.

Two, the gothic vibes and overt links to Rebecca really worked for me, especially as we journeyed into Cornwall. Yet, don’t be fooled! It’s far from a straightforward retelling…

Three, the girl is the magician figure at the heart of the story- a tarot reader upturning the perfectly ordered world of the Westaways, reading more than she should in the cards.

Four, the boys on which the clues converge caught my eye.

Five, the silvery writing kept me engaged throughout.

Six, the golden promise of the premise, leading me down one path, only to about turn down another. I suspected the outcome early on, but Ware’s nicely played sleight of hand fooled me so that I couldn’t properly foresee the outcome.

Seven, all the secrets that unfold. Each one is more satisfying to uncover than the last. The one thing holding me back from rewarding this with all the bananas is that the perp is the *usual suspect*. Still, I’d highly recommend this:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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the woman in cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10– so the pitch for this thriller is pretty straightforward: Rear Window- on a boat! It’s a fun idea and kept me absorbed throughout, but I couldn’t say it made a big splash overall. Perhaps it was cos I was drowning in thrillers this month, yet a lot of this felt like it was treading water trying to be different and still felt samey. I wasn’t hugely taken with the mc and the twists didn’t really wash. Still, I do like how Ware weaves in inspiration from other sources and will keeping a keen eye out for more of her books:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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last time I lied

Last Time I Lied– to tell the truth, this was my favourite thriller of the month. Reading this was pretty much a no brainer after Lock Every Door– and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Beginning with a powerful use of second person pov, I was instantly gripped by the descriptive prose and tragic backstory. As is the case in many thrillers, I wasn’t quite able to connect with the characters, but the plot more than made up for that. Last Time I Lied was compelling, unpredictable and led down slippery paths. Though I knew something bad would happen, I could never count on the whens, whys, hows. I was as lost as the protagonist. My attention dipped momentarily… only for the BIG TURN to pick up the pace again. The *freaky* turn of events grabbed my attention. I was practically shouting at the reveals. I had been led to believe I was in for a straightforward ending… but I was completely deceived. *WOW*- it blew my expectations right out of the water. All in all, this was a super summery thriller. Sager has now made a habit of keeping me up at night. I can’t lie: I want to read more from this author.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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final girls

Final Girls– with a cool horror-movie-themed concept and a gripping opening, I thought I was guaranteed another rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, I found the flashback scenes far more interesting than the present-day narrative. I’ve mentioned before I have difficulty making sense of thriller-characters- and the protagonist’s boyfriend and mum were the best example of this- what the eff was up with their attitudes?! I mean, they spent the entire book thinking the mc ought to be completely normal after her ordeal, even though it was completely understandable that she wasn’t! I did like the unreliable side to the protagonist, especially since it blended well with her cookie-cutter façade. Still, I did enjoy the vast majority of the plot and where a lot of the breadcrumbs led. The problem is, I just wasn’t crazy about that final twist. Once again, I thought I could guess the twist… but I got it all wrong. Yet this time it was because the lead was buried too deep. After the more intriguing premise, highlight for spoilers, I felt the *here’s another random sociopath again* disappointing. It was just another guy without a proper motive. So, the bait and switch with the baddies felt unnecessary. I did like this book, but it wasn’t the best:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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wife between us

The Wife Between Us– I’m divided on my feelings for this book. It was particularly well written, had a strong premise and a great midpoint turn, alas- it just wasn’t the mind-blowing book I was hoping for. It was a typical thriller focusing on domestic violence. Nothing about it truly shook me to my core or shocked me. I could see a lot of the story beats a mile off. This was by no means bad, but I can’t see why the hype train was so wedded to this book 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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witches of east end

Witches of East End- an atmospheric opening, a cool concept, a story I already liked from the show- what could go wrong? Well, sadly, a few things. Even though the show is a vague memory at this point, I did remember that some aspects were done better and I just preferred the TV take. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I had when I watched the show. Fortunately, the plot did keep me on my toes. Since it was so long since I’d seen the show, I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout. And the ending definitely had a strong hook to make the reader want to pick up more… if only I had been more in love with the rest of it!

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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beastly

Beastly- well this is another one where I’d seen the adaptation first, buuut I ended up preferring the book to the film! Success! Given that this is a retelling, I don’t suppose it mattered much that I already knew the story. Besides, I thought this was a spunky, modern take on the classic. While I’m not usually keen on text-speak, I did like how it was used here to spark a bit of humour. The story also felt deeper than the movie- yes, the message of inner beauty being more valuable was repetitious- but at least it made more sense than in the Hollywood version where everyone was conventionally attractive throughout. I particularly preferred the book’s ending- it had some nice, unexpected turns and was more dramatic. All in all, I didn’t go in expecting anything fresh, so was pleasantly surprised to find this blossomed into a sweet romantic YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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beowulf.jpg

Beowulf– this was *hands down* the best book I read all month. This exquisite translation by Seamus Heaney gave me a newfound respect for his work and I owe thanks to the fantastic Joelendil for recommending it to me. I absolutely adored the way the alliterative language leapt off the page and painted a vivid picture of the past. While I don’t personally know Old English, I found it fascinating to have a bilingual edition, because I could easily compare individual words and phrases. The story itself was a lot more entertaining than I thought. Every part worked in tandem to create thrilling tension and awe-inspiring drama. This took me to grim depths and dragon-soaring highs. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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eugene onegin

Eugene Onegin– there was a lot to like about this: the story, the character and Pushkin’s conversational tone all shined through in Roger Clarke’s translation. Sadly though, something does feel lost in this rather literal translation. Something of old Russia is evoked, but not as much as I’d have liked. I felt like I was only getting half the wonder, a glimpse of the beauty, a fraction of the emotion. Ah well, not every translation can all be as good as Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. It was still worth the read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas 

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So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

61 thoughts on “Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October

  1. The Death of Mrs Westaway. It seems that Brits are found of stories involving “unexpected”heritages with a fishhook attached to it.
    Last Time I Lied had something of a Stephen King blurb and I must admit it intrigued me till I saw the price of the Kindle version (12 USD).
    Pushkin should be public domain, but isn’t because translators keep asserting their copy rights over the biggest chunk of Russian literature; even when most (and the best) of it has been published more then 100 years ago.
    A good evolution is that links are provided to the publishers of the books that this post reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree 100% with almost all of these reviews. I loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I was really impressed with how the twist was pulled off.

    The Woman in Cabin 10 was OK but nothing special.

    Ditto with the Wife Between Us.

    I didn’t really like The Witches of East End but for some reason I ended up reading the sequels anyway. It doesn’t get better!

    Beastly was OK. Cute but nothing groundbreaking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah I’m glad! Yes I was really impressed, cos I guessed the ending, but then she fooled me into thinking I’d been on the wrong track- I actually love that she managed to do that!
      Yeah I agree.
      ah good to know- cos I was a little curious, but I didn’t like it enough, so I’ll skip it.
      Totally fair- I think it was also the perfect palate cleanser after a lot of thrillers!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What impressed me was that it tied into what the main character had said about reading tarot throughout the book: that what you think you see isn’t always accurate. She ended up making that same mistake, looking at something and not seeing what it really meant. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here!)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re welcome :). Now that you’ve discovered the joy of alliterative verse there are a lot more gems out there: Tolkien’s “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun,” his source material (and much more, including a cross-dressing Thor) in the Poetic Edda as translated by Lee Hollander, The Death of King Arthur as translated by Simon Armitage (though the Middle English side of the bilingual edition is fairly readable), etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you again 🙂 Oh that’s great- I really want to check out some of Tolkien’s translations 😀 And I really want to read the Poetic Edda, so that’s really useful to know about the Hollander version. I’m pretty comfortable reading Middle English, after having to do it a lot for my degree (though admittedly I still use the trick of reading it aloud to myself 😉 ) but will definitely bear in mind the Armitage version if I get stuck/am too out of practice! Thank you very much for all the recommendations!! 😀 that’s really helpful!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Good grief what a massive collection. And many of these weren’t simple, quick reading. Pushkin? Anything Russian takes a whole lot of thinking (I know because I’ve reads a lot of it, including this one). And Beowulf? I wish I’d read that!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf is my absolute favorite! He keeps to the poetic elements so well that it still reads like a classic epic poem, and it’s wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So I read Onegin in Polish translation and absolutely loved it ? My Dad swears by Nabokov’s translation of it, but it to my understanding it is literal and accompanied by pages of footnotes, so not exactly a light read either…

    Liked by 1 person

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