Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Delighted it’s December 2022!

Hello all! Hope you’re all starting to feel festive… I know I am!

Now that we’re all warmed up, we can get cosy talking about the books I read last month… which isn’t that many since I had a bit of a slumpy month. Oh well, there were still some gems in there! Starting with…

Toymakers– ah here was a delightfully crafted fairytale-esque fantasy. Set in a magical toyshop, from the 20s and beyond, this tells the story of a young runaway and the family (and enemies!) she finds within the shop walls. As it transpires, there is a whole world secreted away in the heart of London, holding mysteries and mischief and a smidgen of mayhem in store. Like a Russian doll, this was full of hidden histories and stories within stories, tucked within the plot. These links with real world events brought the tale to life and made for a more powerful narrative. This isn’t a story of a children’s game after all- but the very real tragedy of world wars and man’s inhumanity to man. At the same time, it is a delightful parable of invention and being different and the enchantment of being different. So gloriously written it made me hold my breath at times, it truly transported me back to the wonder of childhood, seeing magic in all the little places. A little overlong, yet the charm was enough to hold my attention to the end. Just perfect for first frost!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Psychopaths Anonymous– a tongue in cheek take on what it’s like to be inside the head of a psychopathic killer, this was remarkably fun considering the subject matter. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously… which is why it works! I will say this is largely character-driven, with the plot happening much later into the book, but when the plot is directed by a murderer it’s at least eventful enough to keep interest. Admittedly, I did have to suspend my disbelief when it came to said murders, since I felt like there were SO MANY times she would have been caught (there are cameras everywhere! And witnesses!) I also found parts a tad repetitive and it’s a struggle to care for people who do not care themselves! That said, I had a (surprisingly) enjoyable time with this. If you’re a fan of thrillers, I think you’d be crazy not to try it 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Book Eaters– well this filled a craving I didn’t know I had. As much as I normally shy away from fantasy that verges on horror, I’m glad this book caught me in its snare. A monstrous, inventive and twisty debut that gobbled me up and swallowed me whole. I felt submerged in its dark and disturbing world. I was taken in by this story of how love makes monsters of us all. I devoured every page with relish.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Kingdom of the Feared– moving onto the frightfully disappointing 😉 This has been an interesting series for me. I loved the first book, but the second book left me unconvinced about the new direction it was headed. Sadly, my fears were well-founded. I was left disappointed with a lot of decisions with this book. While I liked the fiery fury and there were some cool new elements, I this was a bit of damp ending to a promising idea. Like a TV show that keeps raising the stakes (now there are goddesses! And the devil! Oh my!) I missed the earlier simplicity of the story that appealed to me in the first place. It basically dismantled the original concept in favour of the NEW and SPECTACULAR (that didn’t seem quite so spectacular to me). And, as much as it tried to return to the concept of a murder mystery, it was hard (if not impossible) to be invested in a character who wasn’t in the previous books and had so little bearing on the current plot. I found so much of it anti-climactic and a little cliché. Plus, the marital drama and erotic scenes made it feel far from its YA origins. I seriously question how much a 14-year-old would relate to this?! Having discussions with parents and teens in person, it doesn’t seem like it. It seems like yet another miss-marketed adult fantasy. Now, after all my moaning, I have to admit this wasn’t a terrible book. Just not one that was worthy of its promise.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Wolfsong– I was also expecting this to be a howling success- but sadly it left me feeling a little grizzly. As much as I enjoy Klune’s style, I couldn’t get over the romance centring on a TEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD mating with an adult. It seemed like the author took all the wrong inspiration from Breaking Dawn. This book just gave me the icks way too often. I don’t need to read some weird, overlong sex fantasy.

Rating 2½/5 bananas

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World– finally, I finished off the month with a tough book to read, yet a necessary one. Advertised as a thriller, I still had to read it in small increments, because the subject matter is so heavy. A forgotten history that seems to have been ignored due to the uncomfortable questions it raised, this was no easy read. What struck me most was how, even after the escape, it was so difficult to actually do anything about the mass murder of Jews. The warning signs were there and the alarm bells were rung- but no one listened before it was too late. It’s a terrible indictment against humanity and makes me think about the atrocities currently happening around the world that people are turning a blind eye to.

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!

Hope you all had a good month and enjoy the upcoming holidays!

Historical Fiction That Stayed With Me

I used to think I wasn’t a fan of historical fiction and that I never could become one (largely I blame Phillippa Gregory’s ridiculous books). BUT then I realised there was so much astounding historical fiction out there that I was really doing it a disservice and limiting myself far too much. In the last few years, the number of historical fiction books I’ve read has skyrocketed and I’ve discovered some shiny new favourites. Today, I wanted to share with you just some of the most memorable historical fiction I’ve read in recent years:

Code Name Verity– this female-led WW2 novel is guaranteed to shoot you down and hit you in the *FEELS*!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky– the imagery in this WW2 historical fiction (based on real events) is so strong I can’t get them out of my head! There are so many scenes that I have replaying in my head. It is a story that cannot be forgotten. 

The Nightingale– considering I don’t read a lot of WW2 books, this list is full of them! But Hannah’s take on the French resistance and occupation is one of the most powerful portrayal’s I’ve ever picked up and well worth checking out (if you haven’t done so already!)

What the Wind Knows– I’m not always one for time-traveling books, but this one set in Ireland during the troubles swept me away. I lost myself in this unusual stand-out romance and can happily recommend you do the same!

Kindred– speaking of books that blend time travel with history, I would be remiss not to mention Butler’s brilliant novel on the American slave trade. Insightful and harrowing, it’s an unforgettable read.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo– one of the things I admire most about Reid’s new books is her sense of time and place. And a big bonus is her unusual choice of time periods and characters- like in this showstopping historical fic set in the golden age of Hollywood. 

The Familiars– if you really want to forget the familiar, then getting lost in Halls’ witchy historical fiction could be for you. With more heart than I was expecting, this gets to the heart of witch trials in the darkest corners of Northern England.

Wolf Hall– okay yes, the Tudors have been done to death… but what about a take on Cromwell plotting all those deaths?! Mantel’s masterful series

The Huntress– it’s hard to choose between this and Quinn’s Alice Network (following female spies in WW1)- but I had to go with this cross between a thriller and historical fiction because this post WW2 Nazi hunt kept me on the edge of my seat for every turn of the page.

Alias Grace– and for something a bit different, this historic murder mystery is a slightly supernatural thriller that will take you on a very unexpected journey. Crossing continents and into deadly realms, you may get more than you bargain for if you pick this up 😉

And that’s all I’ve got… for now! I definitely want to build on this list- so what books do you recommend?? What are your favourite historical fiction novels? Let me know in the comments!

The Constant Princess Gave Me A Constant Headache

Oh dear. I’ve done it again. I picked up a Philippa Gregory “historical” novel and only have myself to blame for reading it.

As usual, Gregory’s gifted us with a book that’s historical nonsense (unless you count being based on an account from the 1960s as accurate). Other than having a hilariously bad scene where Catherine of Aragorn craves “salad”, Gregory decided to make her first marriage to Arthur far more significant. Which could have been potentially interesting- except that it muddied her motivations and was poorly executed. In attempt to make things interesting, Gregory decided to shorten the lifespan of an already short-lived romance by squeezing in a badly done enemies-to-lovers subplot. Since they are only together for such a short time, it’s hard to be invested in this supposedly great love affair that overshadows the rest of Catherine’s life. It’s even more daft that this motivates her want to be queen, because Arthur’s dying wish is for her to marry his 10-year-old brother?! Aside from how unbelievable this all is, it actually takes away the sting of Henry’s later betrayal, since it’s repeatedly made clear she never loved him anyway and was only using him to be queen. It would have been far more powerful for her to be telling the truth- but then we wouldn’t have had a trademark terrible heroine to despise throughout the course of the book.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how *utterly awful* Catherine is as a character. I’m not saying the historical figure was particularly likeable, but jeez. When she’s not praying to her lost love for guidance, she’s harping on about how she deserves power because it’s “god’s will”. There’s no actual reason beyond that, no depth and nothing to root for. She is simply a power hungry, warmongering coloniser with an appetite for spilling Moorish blood.

Which, incidentally, brings me to Gregory’s brand of feminism: the kind where the best kind of woman is the worst kind of man. To use the woke phrase, as it’s rather fitting for a change, all she displays is toxic masculinity. Catherine is a meddlesome bore begging for holy wars, with a violent streak a mile long, seeking to dominate anyone and everyone. There is not a single trait that makes her likeable. It’s astounding to me that Mantell could take a historical figure like Cromwell and make you love him- and yet Gregory could do the inverse to Catherine of Aragorn (but then Gregory is no Mantell).

If all this isn’t enough to put you off, there’s also the problem of the plot being all over the place. Again, to use an unfavourable comparison, Mantell managed to beautifully craft a story that spanned decades, cleverly building to a deliciously clever destination. With this, you get a plot that’s got no focus, feels disjointed and fails to come together. This book manages to make one of the most famous divorces of all time duller than dishwater. It’s a sloppy structure not worthy of the story it’s telling.  

And naturally there’s also some vomit-inducing scenes with the king lusting after his daughter-in-law. Because this is history with the icky bits added in. Whatever would make the grossest version of events has to be there- this is a Philippa Gregory book after all. 

It’s no wonder Gregory put me off historical fic for so long. I don’t know why she has it in for history and must make up the worst possible versions of it- but there you go. This was not remotely enjoyable- but on the plus side it’s not her worst book- and that’s saying something!

Rating: 1/5 bananas 

Oof- dare I ask- have you read this book? Did you like it? Were you as bored as me? Let me know in the comments!


Because who doesn’t want to write themselves into a book?! I saw this ages ago over on Life’s Fine Whine, thought it looked like such fun and so good for Nanowrimo (for the people like me who have no writing time this month)! Thanks to  Sheri Dye for creating this fab tag!

The Rules

  • Link back to the creator @ReadBetwixtWords
  • Answer each question by using your favorite (or TBR) book covers, characters, and stories
  • Tag a friend or two
  • And have fun with it!


AuthorWho’s writing your story?

If I could pick anyone, I’d choose Laini Taylor! Because she’d make even the most mundane things sound lyrical and beautiful.

WorldWhat literary world is your story part of?

Wonderland- because my life is wacky and a bit bananas.

RomanceWho will be your love-interest?

While I’d like to pick someone sweet and brilliant, the reality is I’d go for someone slightly dysfunctional. Like Wrath from Kingdom of the Wicked. This is a terrible choice- but let’s be real, I don’t always make good choices in my love life and at least this character’s hot as hell 😅

AppearanceWhat will your character look like?

Oh gosh, I feel like if you’re asking someone to describe a self-insert character the only appropriate description is a plain Jane one! 😉

Sidekick – What character/creature would you have by your side?

I’d most like someone to cheer me up- but let’s be real, I’m gonna pick Greebo from Discworld

Good, Evil, or GrayWhere does your character stand?

OOH THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO FULL ON ANTI-HERO EVIL!! I’m gonna have my character start out morally grey and then just get progressively more evil!

DesignationWhat will you be? (Human, Fairy, Pirate, Princess, etc..)

Human- let’s be real for a minute 😉

OppositionWho will be your nemesis?

Captain hook- menacing and human… which are the very best kinds of villain! Plus, he has an excellent catchphrase- it’s really good form 😉

The Ending – How does your story end? *Spoiler Alert!*

Something really weird you didn’t see coming…

I nominate Bookstooge, Zezee, Journey into Books, Kat, Marie and *YOU* to do this (if you want! It’s really fun!)

Do you want to be in a book? What kind of story would you like to be in? Let me know in the comments!

Why I like absurd stories on occasion…

Last post I talked about some weird and wonderful books I love- so today I’m talking more about why I’m consistently drawn to unusual stories. From Alice in Wonderland to Endgame, these are the stories with staying power. I’m drawn to them for some inexplicable reasons… and some reasons I’m going to try and explain right now! Here’s why I enjoy some wacky stories…

surpriseThey’re unexpected! And who doesn’t love *surprises*! (okay, I don’t always love surprises, but they can sometimes be a good thing- like a surprise puppy or a book you didn’t expect to be quite that good rocking your world).


memoryBecause they’re so different and stand out from the crowd, they’re all the more memorable. I read plenty of books I can’t place and don’t remember all that well- but unusual stories stick in my mind more (hopefully for a good reason 😉).


spaceThey take you out of this world- and isn’t that half the point of losing yourself in a book? One of the things I love about absurd or weird or strange books is how they force you to lose yourself in a truly fantastical reality. You have to forget what you know- or what you think you know- and accept the world the author is presenting you with.


new perspective doggoAnd because of that, they make you see things from an entirely new perspective. When books are different, it’s a special opportunity to see the world from a whole new angle. It’s an opportunity to think and reflect on our own reality.


lightbulb momentAll this gives us greater clarity about the world we live in. Sometimes it takes seeing our world from the strangest of viewpoints to fully understand what’s going on around us (and then we realise everything’s just a bit nuts!)

But what do you think? Do you enjoy absurd stories? Or are they not for you? Let me know in the comments!

Weird Books and Plays I Like

Cos I’m a great big weirdo 😉

Book of Hidden Things– this is easily the most unpopular book on this list and yet I absolutely love this odd story set in southern Italy. Four friends meet up every year for a pact with a dark origin. Devilish and superbly strange, I recommend this for anyone looking for a book with a bit of atmosphere and a lot of weird goings-on.

Wolf in the Whale– another book that may not be particularly well-known (and yet is totally worth checking out), this historical fiction with a magical-bent imagines what happened when the Vikings invaded Inuit land (hint: it’s grim and fascinating)

Coraline– dark as hell, this parent-swap story will give you nightmares (if you’re like me and easily scared that is 😉)

Alice in Wonderland– the classic weird book!! I’d be remiss not to mention Carroll’s masterpiece. Fun and more than a little peculiar, Alice is a delightful (and sometimes scary) vision of a mad world… but then, we’re all a little mad here 😉

Waiting for Godot– it was a toss up between this and Endgame, as both fit the bill of being exceptionally weird! Of course, it’s all a metaphor for life and god and yada yada yada… but you can’t avoid the fact it’s an odd play!! Especially thanks to Beckett’s trademark trick of having you laugh in the midst of all the dark chaos.

The Rhinosaurus– Eunesco’s theatre of the absurd isn’t all that absurd given the society we live in. When you think about the society we live in, it’s hardly unusual for people to be wondering if the random rhino waltzing across the stage has one horn or two.

The Trial– the expression Kafkaesque exists for a reason- and yet this novel is the least odd on the list (considering how close to reality it can be). 

The Stranger– well, it’s no surprise that a book with this title is a little strange- but then Camu’s existential tale of murder was hardly going to be straightforward, right?

Alright, that’s all for now! Do you have anymore weird and wonderful suggestions for me? And have you enjoyed any of these books too? Let me know in the comments!

The Phonecall – an Absurdist Short Story

She had every expectation of a phone call that morning. Mouth still singed with coffee, she barely missed a beat when the buzz came and put on her best dressed smile to pick up.

“Good morning,” her boss said, without missing a beat, “I’ve been looking over your work for the last year and it made me think of promoting you.”

This was not what she had expected. “Oh that’s great news Mr Willoughby!”

“Yes- well I don’t like the way this is progressing so I’m terminating your contract.”

“Wait- what?”

Mr Willoughby sighed down the phone line.

“I can’t breathe,” she gasped.

“Let me explain,” Mr Willoughby replied coldly. “You see our company has all the power.”

“I see,” she stuttered, trying to regain her composure “so would it have helped if I asserted myself more?”

“No if you hadn’t been so polite and amenable and the model employee, we’d have fired you sooner.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to you,” Mr Willoughby harrumphed.

“But I thought I was doing well- I passed my appraisal with flying colours- I don’t understand.”

“You don’t understand the company values.”

“How so?”


“That’s just something we like to say when we fire people.” There was a pause down the line. “Look why would you think you had a place at this company?”

“Well… there was a contract? But I suppose that doesn’t mean anything.”

The rage was quick and swift. “How could you say that! Are you calling this company into disrepute?”

“No, no, I didn’t mean that. I suppose you were serious after all.”

“No, we always had our doubts about you. We think we can do better.”

“Oh. So, you have someone else lined up for the position?”

“No,” Mr Willoughby replied too sharply. “There is no one else.”

“But you have an idea of someone you’d prefer?”

Another beat of silence passed. “Look, we’ve said everything we needed to say. Your work was not good enough.”

“Oh god I’m not good enough!”

“I don’t understand why you’re taking this so badly- this should galvanise you to go and seek other employment. We could advise you about career opportunities if you’d like?”

“Oh no, please don’t!”

“There are lots of opportunities at our company- a position has just opened up in fact- would you like to apply?”

“This is insane- I’m hanging up now.”

Now it was Mr Willoughby’s turn to gasp.

“But I thought we could continue to share business contacts! I don’t see how that’s possible now!”

“No,” she agreed, calmer than she felt, “that’s not possible.”

Willoughby hiccupped, breathing heavily down the line.

“Are you… crying right now Mr Willoughby?”

“You were a wonderful employee,” he said, the sobbing intensifying.

“Okay, well I’m sorry it had to end this way, I’m going to go now.”

“Aren’t you going to tell me I was a good boss?”

She hung up.

The Town with No Name – Flash Fiction

Towns do not simply vanish overnight- at least not usually. Yet that is exactly what happened to the town of ——. Its buildings, its residents, its very name disappeared into the aether one yuletide evening.

Of course, for the neighbouring townsfolk of Runcold this was a massive inconvenience. Especially coming at such an auspicious time of year. Think of all the trading opportunities that were lost forever! Think of all the planned deliveries that would not be made! Think of the inconvenience! Everyone had their celebrations all planned out- and now who knew where to get that extra-special speciality that the town of —– was known for (and was now forgotten forever).

When the desperate nature of their plight was realised, the townsfolk tried all manner of remedies. With the guidance of the mayor, they held a candlelit vigil. When that didn’t work, they lynched the town idiot. And when that didn’t work, they went to bed early, as they often implored their children, waking up more refreshed than they had in years. But none of it seemed to do any good! The town of —— remained gone!

Grumbling at their hard luck, they all decided to go about their business and forget about the unfortunate affair. Until one day, as spring began to creak its way over the town border, a ragged traveller appeared at the gates.

He stood for three days, stench wafting into the town square, before the mayor decided to ward him off for disturbing the peace.

“Who goes there?” he said softly to the stranger, not wanting to cause any violent outbursts.

The stranger merely pointed to his throat, indicating that he had been robbed of words.

“Well, I’m sorry that you’ve been inconvenienced, sir,” the mayor went on, “but I don’t see how I can help you if you can’t tell us what you want.”

The traveller held a letter aloft, but when he slotted it through the gates and the mayor picked it up, the words on the pages disappeared.

Air rushed from his lungs.

“You’re- you’re from that town —— that town —–“

A collective gasp rose up from the crowd. Remembering what had happened to their neighbours, the townsfolk were suddenly very afraid.

“We don’t want none of your trouble here!”

“Go! Go before you do us in too!”

But the traveller refused to be turned away. He rattled the gates and he mouthed wordless pleas. Naturally, the townsfolk knew they could not ignore him forever. Unlocking the gates, they pulled him inside and strung him up next to the village idiot. Then they decided to move on with their lives. The town of —— may have been gone, but there wasn’t a lot they could do about it and they had no real reason to be concerned. Things would go on much as they always had. Sadly, the residents of Runcold never did get their much longed for presents.

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Now it’s November 2022!?

OOF- where has this year gone?! Being an adult is kinda hard, so I went to a Sasha Sloan concert and at least I look cool now 😉

Hope everyone had an excellent Spooktober! My sister threw a Descendants themed party- so you know I had a great time 😉

Speaking of creepy, this was largely a month filled with thrillers, with a handful of romance thrown in to keep things spicy!

The Getaway– I was reasonably surprised that I enjoyed this- even though I’ve been looking for a book like this for quite some time! It’s an isolated thriller, set on an island, where the (mostly wealthy) guests are killed off one by one… What’s not to like? Aside from having an entertaining premise, the characters are intriguingly well drawn, with plenty of secrets up their sleeves. The best part of this book for me was the fact it had a Rupert Murdoch stand in- because seeing the media mogul in an “And Then There Were None” style thriller was exactly what I needed.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Love on the Brain– this made me remarkably happy- even if it wasn’t the smartest book I’ve ever read. For one thing, it’s not a very good version of the enemies-to-lovers trope, since it solely relies on miscommunication to pull it off. In fact, it relies on miscommunication for way too much of the book. Plus, it had some ridiculously woke views that made very little sense even by woke standards (I don’t know who decided that it’s okay to decide women and minorities are bad at taking tests and so shouldn’t have to do them… but it comes across as pretty offensive to me and an amazingly bad take). Even funnier was the fact the main character had an AOC t-shirt (never understood why anyone would stan a politician- but o-kay). Also, it’s bizarre to forgive someone who slept with your fiancé because she told you it came from a place of jealously- hOW iS ThAT An ExCuSE?!? Oh dear- I’m making this sound like I didn’t like it. Still, I swear there were plenty of good parts! The humour was on point for one! And I loved how she slowly realised how much in common they had. Finally, huge bonus points for not being Kylo Ren fanfic 😉 It’s a flawed book- but I did have a good time with it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Verity– well, it’s quite hilarious to me that I found Hoover makes a far better thriller writer than a romance writer. I guess it tells you something about how scary I find her idea of a love story 😉 Following a desperately broke ghostwriter and her job to finish a bedbound (and potentially insane) famous author’s series, this mind-bending thriller will absolutely get inside your head and make you question everything. In fact, I’m still asking questions long after I finished it- which is the sign of a great read. While I guessed some of the twists, I never could’ve figured out the reasons behind them. Other than being a little dark for my taste, it was the perfect thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Deadly Waters– so, this twisted Me-Too thriller started off swimmingly, then it sank below my estimation. The idea of a girl killing off rapey and gross frat boys by feeding them to crocodiles was too juicy for me to pass off. The only trouble was the overlong writing and repetitive preachiness meant it just wasn’t snappy enough to keep up the excitement of the premise. There were some great moments (and I particularly liked the satirical edge to the patronising uni’s response “be careful of crocodiles”). Unfortunately, the author seemed to think we wouldn’t get the message if she didn’t beat us over the head with it. I struggled to return to this book after a while. So, see you later alligator, this book was just an average read.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Dark Objects– here’s a solid mystery, with well-drawn characters and an excellent final twist. This follows a professor of crime scenes who only ever works on cold cases… being drawn into a live case and finding herself embroiled in the outcome. There’s some atmospheric writing, good attention to detail and a killer plot. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out bits and pieces along the way. Sadly, the author couldn’t pass up a few opportunities to moralise and throw in some random plot points (minor spoiler: I’m really not sure why the author wanted to have the aside of the teenage daughter attempting suicide… I feel like it was just to keep the audience on their toes and because it’s topical? But I feel like it’s a serious enough topic not to be an aside in a book like this). Otherwise, it was a very satisfying read, with an outcome that actually makes sense!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Ballad of Never After– ahh this was precisely what I needed!! A fun, frothy, fantasy romance, this sequel is packed with romance and curses and tricksy characters! I just loved where Garber is taking this series, introducing more mysteries and some background myths. I was definitely along for the ride as this took some unexpected turns and didn’t end up where I expected. The only downside I’m finding to this series is that I’m enjoying it too much to take notes!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Bullet That Missed– Osman returned to form with this third book in the Thursday Murder Club series. While I did enjoy the sequel, I personally found this one far superior, with new characters to grow attached to and the most substantial mystery yet. I loved how this explored even more of the former spy aspect- especially the links it had to spying on the Soviets. There was something so unexpected and heartwarming in that subplot that it made the book all the more joyous for me! And best of all, I really appreciated the double meaning to the title… which I won’t reveal to you, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Rating: 5/5 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!