Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2020!

Okay, we’re moving into the final month of the year… and I’m ready to move on already. I ended up doing a project for work in November that just ate and ate and ate into my free time. Which means I don’t have a lot to report (other than I’m clearly stuttering through blogging right now). My plan at the moment is to end the year on a high… most likely just a sugar high 😉 Let’s not mince pies words, I’ve no idea what the last month of 2020 has in store, so I’m not going to promise anything! My only strategy is to keep calm and have a cookie…

Anyhoo, time to gorge ourselves on the great TV I’ve been watching…

The Queen’s Gambit this was the star of the month for me in TV! Like everyone with a Netflix account, I saw the advert, but didn’t think a drama about chess could hold my interest… shows what I know! I’m really glad I gave it a go, because this completely took me by surprise. Because it wasn’t just about chess (though that part was surprisingly amazing) it was an intense character study, focusing on the topic of obsession and addiction. All of which was captured in a way that made it feel like a real story. I loved the sumptuous setting, thought the lead’s performance was incredible and was impressed with the gripping storyline. I really recommend checking it out! (And all I want to know is whether the book is as good?!)

The Crown– well, I felt incredibly voyeuristic watching the Crown in season 4… which is my way of saying that, for all the inaccuracies, it was a strong season. Not just because the history around this is so fascinating, emotional and dramatic- but because there were some really good performances this year. I liked the take they had on Thatcher, thought showing Charles aging was a good idea and thought Diana was especially believable. The only episode I wasn’t keen on was the one about Fagan. I’m never a fan of turn-to-the-camera-and-preach moments, but this was made worse by the knowledge that the real Fagan couldn’t possibly have said all that since he was high on mushrooms, which messed with my suspension of disbelief. Other than that, it felt so realistic that a lot of the scenes this season made for uncomfortable watching. Yet, I can’t deny it was very addictive television.

The Plague– oof the subject matter for this one felt all too familiar. Okay, okay, we’re not dealing with the literal plague, but this was still pretty close to home. It’s incredible how this story not only crossed borders and has such depth of meaning in translation, but has also stood the test of time. It felt very universal. Trouble is, because of the current crisis, I did struggle to see the line between fiction and reality. I think I took a lot of this more literally than it was intended and lost (the probably considerable) metaphorical meaning. I’ll have to reread this again one day, when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Station Eleven– well, here was another book that was creepily like reality. So much so that I think the media used this book as their official guide on how to write about a pandemic. Anyway, I don’t know what made me pick this up in November, but I thought this was an impressive book. Again, I think this book might have been better if I’d read it before or after Covid. That said, there was a lot to appreciate about this book. I particularly liked how it flicked back and forth through time. And the story flew by at an alarming rate.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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I Know Who You Are- ugh this is one of those books I really wanted to praise… and can’t. Because the twist made me feel a bit sick to be honest. I’m going to spoil it in one word for those that want to know: incest. I mean, I should’ve seen it coming, but also why would I have seen that coming?! Yet, despite the stellar writing, there were some serious flaws in the narrative early on. Cracks that appeared out of nowhere and stretched any semblance of believability. There was just so much happening that it got really far-fetched. I kept thinking “surely this can’t all happen to one person?” And yet, it did keep happening. And happening. And happening. It was less like being kept on my toes and more like being forced to do a dance over hot coals. I could barely keep up with this crazy conga of ideas-smashed-together. And then there was that ending… and goddamn. No.

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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Loveless– I wasn’t in love with Loveless I’m afraid. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I have a love-hate relationship with Oseman, but I do enjoy some of her books more than others and this one wasn’t for me. The biggest barrier to my enjoyment is that Georgia is a *horrible* character. I can’t speak for things like authenticity, but I can say that I don’t really like people that use their friends the way she did. Experimenting on the bestie she knew had a crush on her was a big no-no. And just in case that didn’t leave enough of a sour taste, she’s also the kind of person that doesn’t know the *VERY BIG RED LINE* between someone saying something you don’t like and physical assault. Call me old fashioned, but assaulting a stranger doesn’t make you brave (*unless you think bravery is faceless jackboots). At the same time, she’s the kind of cowardly hyper-agreeable individual that can’t tell a girl sobbing in her arms that maybe just maybe she’s not happy and should make some changes. Another issue for me was that, while the voice sounded authentically teen, it did grate on me as immature, because they were supposed to be uni-aged. That said, it could just be that I’m old and aging out of the category, so take that with a pinch of salt 😉 The only reason I didn’t DNF this was cos I had to read on for Rooney and Pip’s relationship. Their relationship was worth every bit of page time (and should’ve had more). If that would’ve been the whole book, I’d have loved it.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Majesty– I don’t have a great deal to say that I haven’t mentioned in my review for American Royals. This was just as fun, dramatic and entertaining as its predecessor! Picking up from where we left off, with a new American Queen, this launches straight into the action. And while this had some predictable elements, it still managed to surprise me! I loved that it didn’t go in the direction I expected and had plenty of exciting turns- particularly in the romance department. I enjoyed getting to know the characters even more than in the first one, as I was pleased with how far they’d come! Plus, I really like that this gives us the main antagonist’s perspective as well!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Labyrinth of the Spirits– I think like many people, I was sad to hear of Zafon’s passing this year. It made reading this all the more bittersweet. And it was already an emotional journey through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. As you will know, I love this story, so it was wonderful to see its conclusion. While it has a slow start, the building tension made it feel pacey. Slowly but surely, it weaves the mysteries from the previous stories together, drawing us into a labyrinth of secrets. It’s such a complex and dark story that you could easily get lost- and yet, incredibly, there is a light showing the way. Zafon gives us answers to questions launched in Shadow of the Wind. I realised by the end that we had the string to find our way through all along in the palm of our hands. I’m just so glad this story ended on such a strong note. I can now say that, even though each book acts as a standalone, it also really works as a complete series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Winterwood- this was the very *definition* of atmospheric, autumnal reads. A witchy story that winds through a wooded path. Intricately plotted, it has a mystery that uncurls like a forest fire and must be devoured… before it devours you! It was so compulsive, I had to keep reading and reading and reading. I loved the stylistic originality of the writing as well- a few too many authors miss the mark trying to be unique with their imagery, but Ernshaw knows how to hang a single word on a sentence to give it a breadth of beauty. The multi povs were done well and the spells added a touch of charm to the characterisation. My one minor issue was that the romance was a tad fast- I felt like it needed more chemistry and a deeper connection. And yet, I also found the broad strokes of it lovely enough that it didn’t detract from the pleasure. I also saw one of the twists coming, yet it was the kind of story I can appreciate if it’s done well. And this was the kind of story that was done well.  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

46 thoughts on “Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2020!

  1. The Husband and I visited my parents over the weekend and we put Queen’s Gambit on thinking we would only watch an episode or two… yeah, we all went to bed at 4 in the morning having watched all of it in one go. If it kept me and my mum up for that long it must have been Brillliant!

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  2. Station Eleven is great! I picked it up not knowing it revolved around a pandemic, and I share your sentiment that I would have found greater enjoyment in such a read a year ago. The flow of the book really is remarkable.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. i only read the plage by camus from your list, and i really liked it too. i studied it in school and it was truly one of the most interesting school book we worked on!

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  4. Winterwood sounds like such ab atmospheric book that I could definitely get my teeth sunk into on these cold nights.

    I’ve still not seen The Queen’s Gambit, but I am here for it. It amazes me that a show about chess, on the surface, has taken the world by storm.
    I’m also one of those rare individuals that is not interested in The Crown. I know for a fact that the performances are epic, but it’s just not a show I’ve ever been drawn to.

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  5. “Let’s not mince pies.” No, actually … let’s!

    I read Station Eleven a few years ago and I loved it. I love the way it moves back and forth through time, and the death scene. It’s too bad that you had to pick it up during Covid (of course we could say that about everything we do these days, no?).

    I have not watched the shows you mention. But just this week, I did really enjoy Hillbilly Elegy. I feel like the characters are people that I know. Their dialect feels spot-on. The plot reminds me a little of my 2nd novel, even though my book is happening in 10,000 BC and Hillbilly Elegy is happening in 1990s Ohio.

    I have also been enjoying Gotham, which is like a series that’s a prequel to the whole Batman world. I’m not a huge comics/comic universe person, but I do know enough characters from Batman that I can enjoy spotting them about 20 years before, in the prequel. I also like how the show is basically modern (Gotham is based on Chicago, I found out), but visually, they give it a very 1930s noir feel. (Actually they mix fashions from 30s, 40s, 50s, and today.) I could go on about it but I guess it’s time to move this party over to a post on my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s true! I think if I’d known it was about a pandemic, I’d have left it (especially since I read the plague just before).
      Ooh interesting! I’ve not heard of that!
      I absolutely love batman and have considered watching gotham- I especially like the sound of it having a 30s noir feel!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yay, someone else who loved Winterwood! I really enjoyed Station Eleven too, although I read it pre-pandemic, and might find it a little too creepy to read right now. I really like season 4 of The Crown — although I agree that sometimes it felt like more of an inside view of Diana’s suffering than I really felt we’re entitled to (if that makes any sense). I haven’t watched The Queen’s Gambit because I have no interest in chess and assumed I wouldn’t be interested — but you do make it sound like I should give it a chance. Thanks for all these great reviews!

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    1. Ah yes!! I’m loving how many people enjoyed it too!! Ahh yes! Wish I hadn’t read it this year tbh. Ah yes- I do agree with that. Oh I don’t have any interest in chess either… and still loved it! Definitely recommend!! Thank you for reading!!

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  7. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Winterwood, I’m looking forward to reading that one! Though I’ll admit, I’m glad I’ve been procrastinating Station Eleven so that I can hopefully read it after this Covid stuff is under better control. (That’s not *why* I’ve been procrastinating it, but I’m glad it seems to have worked out for the best.)

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  8. Ugh, Winterwood is just SO GOOD! It is so atmospheric, and now that the cold is creeping in again where I live, I desperately want to reread it and just dive into that bitter cold that Ernshaw so perfectly depicts.

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  9. I think I might be the only person alive who didn’t love The Queen’s Gambit. I didn’t dislike it. It was well done all around! But ultimately, it was a character study about a character that I didn’t have much feeling for.

    I’m about 2/3 of the way through season 4 of The Crown. My issue there is that they’re getting closer to recent history. Yes they’re still 30 something years ago, but it feels less like a period drama and more “ripped from the headlines” thing. I think the period costumes and setting made it feel more fictional to me (Yes, I’m aware that this whole show is largely fictional) . Whereas now, it feels more voyeuristic (as you say). I’m still enjoying it, and the production quality is fantastic. I’m just not getting into it as much as I did in previous seasons.

    I’ve got Majesty on my TBR and will be reading it soon because American Royals was a fun guilty pleasure, and I could use more of the same. Winterwood is also one I plan to get to at some point.

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  10. I adored Queen’s Gambit too!! I already have the book on my eReader but I haven’t started it yet. Should I do so anytime soon, I will 100% let you know what my thoughts are on it.
    As for the books … I got Station 11 at the beginning of the pandemic and then thought “nah, that’s too close to home right now” and then I see it on your list haha I commend you for picking that topic considering the times we live in.

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