All the fictional royals I don’t like

Because nothing’s more of a pain than a royal pain. As much as I enjoy books that feature kings and queens, sometimes they drive me a bit nuts. Having a crown makes people really entitled- and as true to life as that is, I frickin hate it. So here’s a list of some of the royal characters that I can’t stand:

Princess Diaries– while this is a series I liked for a lot of reasons (I read a helluva lot of them) the titular character kinda grated on my nerves. While the romance in the books is so much better than the movies, I just feel like the book version of Princess Mia lacks the charm of Anne Hathaway’s version. And to be honest, even though I read this as a teenager, I found it irritating to be in the head of this moaning teenage girl. There’s a reason- beyond respecting privacy- that you should never read someone else’s diary.

Selection– speaking of annoying, the character who takes the crown for MOST ANNOYING CHARACTER EVER is America Singer. Oh America, America, why must you be so darn bothersome? She can’t even decide between two equally bland boys, let alone do anything politically significant. And yet what she wears is somehow super important to the future of the realm. Admittedly, she’s the only one here who’s not technically a royal and frankly she’s earned her place on this list.  

Red Queen– again, not technically royal, but (the aptly named) Mare is boring AS HELL. Actually though, while we’re on the topic, I don’t like her royal love interest or the cartoonish villains in the royal family that surround her. So basically, everyone in this series gets on my nerves. No wonder I never finished it.

Vampire Academy– to be fair, the princess isn’t the main character. Because YE GODS she’s not interesting enough to be (at least in the first book).

Red, White and Royal Blue– okay this may be the one that I get in trouble for… ah well, in for a penny… truthfully I can’t stand either of the leads in this. Alex, the president’s son, is a bit too whiny for my tastes. And honestly, Prince Henry reminds me of a certain entitled real royal (who funnily enough shares the same name). And I know duty is a foreign concept, but it doesn’t endear me to characters who think only of themselves.

The Thief– I would’ve loved this series if not for the royalty in it!! They should all have their heads on spikes! Both the Queen of Eddis and (to an even greater extent) the Queen of Attolia are awful. And Gen basically takes the brunt of all their terrible decisions. What makes it even worse is the unearned romance with the psychopathic Queen of Attolia.

A Court of Thorns and Roses– Tamlin is an abusive man child. In case you didn’t already know.

And that’s all for now! Do you agree or disagree with my list? And what royals do you want to see the back of? Let me know in the comments!  

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – All in for August 2022!

Hello all! That was a WILD month! Over here in the UK, it was feeling hot hot HOT!!! But even with the crazy temperatures, I managed to drag myself out the house and do some cool things 😊 Right away, my month was off to a great start when a friend treated me to Jerusalem:

With incredible performances and an amazing script, I felt so lucky that this was my first experience at the theatre in years. A complex play, the story follows Rooster, who is on the verge of being evicted from his caravan. For all the rough edges, this tells of a purity beneath the grime. I particularly liked how the humour threw the darkness into sharp relief and made the experience fly by. And, ultimately, it softened me up for the gut punch at the end!!

Then I was lucky enough to go to Madame Butterfly- which was yet another stunning and moving Royal Opera House performance. Even more tragic than La Boheme, Puccini’s opera felt more real because the ending was so twisted.

Finally, I found myself on a witchy hike in the woods of Surrey!

Also, I never would’ve noticed this post box if it wasn’t pointed out to me, but can you tell what’s special about it?

Don’t Make a Sound– I don’t have much to shout about with this book. It had some cool moments of tension and kept me up reading all night, but was probably a little dark for me. Plus there were some things that stretched credulity. For instance, why when a police officer goes missing ON A MISSING PERSON’S CASE does nobody check where he went last?!??! Also, how are they not suspicious of the jumpy, creepy, elderly couple? I dunno, a lot of the people in this book had to be extremely stupid for the plot to work. That said, it did have a stellar final twist.

Rating: 3/5 bananas  

Bird by Bird– ehh this didn’t really take off for me. I love the title of this book… and not much else. Writing advice books aren’t really my jam, but I’d heard this was one you simply *had to* read. Annnd I don’t know why people think that. I guess the author is very assertive at telling you how right she is about everything (from writing advice to freedom fighters always being right apparently). Yet for me, this is just another prescriptive writing manual, with vaguely encouraging ideas like don’t be a perfectionist told in an irritating way. I just don’t see what’s so special about another writer saying that making it in writing is hard and to focus on characters over plot. You’ll hear the same advice for free on the internet.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

Gilded– for me, this book was a rare and golden experience. When I first picked it up, over a year ago, I wasn’t in the mood and thought it wasn’t going to be for me. But, not being able to resist the pull of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, I decided to pick it up again and, lo and behold, it was absolutely magical! I simply loved how it wove the story, threading together the plot in an unusual way. Up close I could not see where the story was heading- and yet when I stood back the beautiful tapestry was clear. It’s one of my favourite Meyer books to date and I’m looking forward to the conclusion!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Dark Queens– this is real life game of thrones and I am here for it!! Exploring the forgotten and erased parts of the dark ages to life, Dark Queens is centred on the rivalry of two powerful queens during the Merovingian dynasty. While this was a time period I knew virtually nothing about, I found myself completely gripped by the political intrigue and inner workings of these kingdoms. More than that, the book centres on the memory of these now-mythical queens, who were written out of the history books for their gender. I found it fascinating to follow how they both seized and ceded their power, learning of the personal struggles at the heart of their rule. If I had one criticism of the book, I’d say that I do not share the author’s admiration for their ruthlessness and ambition, just as I would not for the male rulers at the time. That said, this is easily one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Heck it’s one of the best books I’ve read! Even if it doesn’t have dragons 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Why Did You Stay?- How do you follow up a great book like that? With great difficulty. While I appreciated the basic premise that women are often conditioned to accept shitty relationships for the sake of “romance” (see the likes of Beauty and the Beast to Grease), I was not as impressed by this book as I wanted to be. Unfortunately, Humphries’ jolty style and sloppy structure make it hard to focus on her unfolding epiphanies. I feel like the book would have benefited from cutting down- at the very least. And, as much as I liked that this raised some awareness of toxic relationships and people’s reaction to it (with that awful shaming question “why did you stay?” ringing in the ears of so many) I did not feel like this went nearly far enough. While this is just one story, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a missed opportunity to talk about why people get stuck and perhaps how to get unstuck (hint: that question doesn’t help anybody). Still, I did particularly like the epilogue and its summations.

Rating: 3/5 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!

Bookish Hunger Games!

Ever wanted to know which book is the MOST SAVAGE?! Well I’m about to answer that question for you 😉

So, I had this idea to pick 12 books at random, have them fight it out and kill each other, until only one is left standing!! The winner not only gets to keep their life, but shall be crowned Victor!

Welcome to the inaugural year of the BOOKISH HUNGER GAMES!!! *

*this may be the only time I ever do this, cos I don’t know if this is a good idea, we shall see…

Okay using my whopping great big database from the last 7 years of reading and a random number generator, I came up with the following twelve tributes:

(I’m guessing that the Thief was the most likely one to volunteer for altruistic reasons…)

Right out of the gate, we know that Spanish Love Deception is getting mowed down. It’s weak sauce even for a romance novel and it got in the way of the Silent Patient getting some serious weaponry up its sleeve… (of course this is the last we shall see of the Silent Patient for a while as she skulks off to find a cave somewhere).

The Thief has a soft centre and tries to protect Little Dorrit, but she gets bludgeoned to death by a team of Wilder Girls, House of Salt and Sorrow and Young Elites (otherwise known as Team YA Killers). The Thief is kinda mopey about this (but really he should’ve chosen a better ally).

You absolutely forgot Accident Season was there… and not in a good way… it dies of hypothermia off screen. One could almost say accidentally.

Wilder Girls, though a strong contender, gets caught in a weird inexplicable gust of acid rain and morphs into some kind of monster. Out of the game… (until a few years from now when her remains are transformed into some kind attack-dog-monster-hybrid-monster-thing)  

Eventually Young Elites stabs House of Salt and Sorrow in the back. House just wasn’t as savage as it thought it was.

Captivate totally thought they were in it with a chance to win- because it’s used to being all smart and figuring out what a raised eyebrow means. Unfortunately, they didn’t take a hint and duck when Blackwing raised an axe to their head.

Girl at the Lion D’Or wasn’t really sure where it was going or what it was trying to be, so she drifted around until the end, but got mysteriously murdered off in a cave somewhere. I’m not saying that a certain Patient did it, but they’ve been oddly silent this whole time.

Malibu Rising has surprised everyone by making it this far. Surprisingly resourceful and savage, she burns down half a forest in an attempt to wipe out the remaining contestants. Young Elites and the Thief are both caught in the blaze- they just don’t have very good luck.

However, Malibu shouldn’t have stood there gloating so long, as one of the final contenders, Blackwing, smashes them upside the head. Out for the count.

And of course, the final twist, you won’t even see coming… Blackwing gets their comeuppance at the hands of the Silent Patient. Blackwing goes looking for her, sees her cowering in a cave, thinks he has her cornered… and let’s just say what happens next is a total bloodbath. Silent’s patience paid off 😉

Victor:

And that’s all for this year’s Bookish Hunger Games!! I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I had fun writing it! Were there any surprises in there for you? Did your favourite contestant make it to the end? Let me know in the comments!

The Bastardisation of Persuasion

What fresh hell have we entered? Persuasion is, as for many Austen fans, one of my favourite novels. Beautifully romantic and emotionally complex, it is an intensely personal story. And yet, it’s clear that whatever film the producers of 2022’s version wanted to make, it wasn’t an adaptation of Austen’s Persuasion. For many a mere glimpse of the trailer will convince you that this is an unmitigated disaster, but should you need further persuading, read on…

The most glaringly obvious example of how this blatantly disrespects Austen differs from the source material is in the characterisation of Anne. Now, let’s be clear, this boozy, boisterous, snarky woman *is not* Anne Eliot. To be clear, Anne Eliot was such a kind soul that she gives and gives without realising that she’s being taken advantage of. This “Anne” is nothing like that. Almost gleefully aware of how horrible her relatives are and simultaneously resentful of her lot in life, she literally can’t experience the growth of her bookish counterpart, because she knows from the beginning that she made a gigantic mistake and that her family are all pigs. All her lovability and goodness is stripped away so that she can seem more #relatable.

Of course, this change massively disrupts the tone of the whole story. Where the original is a delicate romance of lost love and personal growth, this has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Here, we get to have the lead constantly bitching to the camera about how much she’s being pushed around… which makes very little sense since they recharacterized her into someone who can so clearly stand up for herself. I honestly wondered why she was even in this position, since she clearly didn’t have a kind bone in her body, despite other characters helpfully telling us that she is. But why show when you can have characters monologuing what they think and feel? We may as well have Anne simply inform us that her sister is a narcissist. We may as well have the villain tell us his motivations. And we may as well have the juvenile humour of Anne saying “got much further to fall” followed by a literal fall. Fun. If your version of fun is circus-style antics where the leads wear jam for face paint. Which doesn’t exactly fit with the story. Still who cares, because clearly this is the only way to appeal to a modern audience, right?

Speaking of which, all the dialogue is modern and cringey as hell. I’m sure you’ve already heard that this bastardised version of Austen contains the line: “We’re worse than strangers. We’re exes.” A line “so good” that they decided to follow it up with “now we’re worse than exes. We’re friends.” I swear, it’s actually more gagworthy in the context of the film. Yet in case you’re still not convinced how utterly awful this writing is, allow me to give you a few other choice quotes:

“I am an empath.”

“He’s a ten. I never trust a ten.”

“Sucking my own face.”

All lines you can be sure were straight out of an Austen novel… if you’ve never actually read an Austen novel.

Which brings me onto yet another complaint. And that’s the way this treats the historical context. And I’m going to skirt right over the issue of rewriting the past into a magical anti-racist haven and point out some of the other more obvious problems. Like having Anne shouting “vivre la revolution!” and joking about Marie Antoinette getting her head cut off. I know someone somewhere thought this would be a clever and fun way to differentiate Anne from her snobby relatives… but did any of these people ever think to research the time period? Because no, even a rebellious lady (which incidentally Anne is decidedly not in the books) wouldn’t be cheering on the mass murder of their peers in a foreign country. And yet they were so vested in this idea that they decided to stick Anne in a beret- perhaps as some symbolic gesture of protest to the idea of making an adaptation in the first place. While the writers clearly think they are showing off a certain amount of progressiveness to praise the bloodbath of the French Revolution, it merely shows their extreme ignorance and disdain for history. As much as it might be fun to watch a hungover lady slurping tea… it’s actually no fun at all and isn’t at all the reason people watch period dramas in the first place.

And if you can so easily dismiss the importance of history, because all you care about is the romance, then allow me to inform you that this movie is utterly devoid of romance. There’s no real tension of will-they-won’t-they, since the leads so clearly still care for each other. Well, Anne cares for Frederick and Frederick is a damp cloth. I haven’t bothered to talk about his personality up until this point, because he doesn’t have one. But never fear coming out of this movie with no emotions whatsoever, because we are told what to think at the end of the movie with this gem of a quote:

“It’s okay to love on your own terms, however unorthodox. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live or who to love.”

So very Austen. We are expected to have simply take this modern interpretation, the bizarre breaking of the fourth wall and the desecration of the character… and just run with it I guess. All in the name of modernising a classic.

Well, have you suffered through this movie as well? Or are you doing the sensible thing and avoiding it like the plague? Let me know in the comments!

Little Look at… Lisbon!!

That’s right- I took my first holiday in YEARS! After finally, finally having a break from all the covid restrictions, I was able to go away at the end of June/beginning of July (hence why I’ve been even more inactive than my usual inactivity on the blog 😉). And you can bet that I was the most touristy of tourists while I was away and took way too many photos… so I’m gonna share some of them with you now!

I did a ridiculous amount of sightseeing in Alfama and Belem in the first couple of days, checking out churches, monasteries, towers… and more churches! 😉

Seriously though, the Jerónimos Monastery was to *die for* (and worth baking in the boiling heat standing in a massive queue to see it! 😉).

Naturally, I also introduced myself to the famous pasteis de nata, sampling the original in Pastel de Belem and discovering the very best in Lisbon at a place called Manteigaria (in the Time Out Market). I could not get enough of those bad boys!

One of my favourite parts of the city was definitely Bairro Alto. Partly because it had such a cool vibe, but maybe mostly because I had the best. sandwich. ever in a place called O Trevo (really, this was an unassuming café with THE BEST FOOD!!)

And of course, I also did a day trip to Sintra… because how could I not?! I swear Sintra was like stepping into another world- the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira were like something out of a fairy tale. Even the Rossio station set the scene for a *magical*day! I cannot describe how beautiful it was- but hopefully I’ve given you a little sneak peak 😉 

Clearly, I had a lovely time 😉 Portugal was a delight and I’d happily go back! (right now, if I could 😉) Before I go, if you are looking to travel there, I highly recommend checking out Mary Drover’s posts on Lisbon and Portugal– which are far more descriptive than mine and do a great job of getting you in the mood and (perhaps more importantly) finding out what you *need* to visit!! I can also suggest checking out this blog if you are hoping to plan a day trip to Sintra- it really helped me!

And that’s a wrap! Hope I’ve inspired some of you to check out Lisbon for yourselves!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – (just about still) July 2022!

Hello all! Yes I am writing this monthly wrap up in the middle of the month… and what of it? 😉 Okay fair enough, I should probably explain that I accidentally took a little blogging break for some nice reasons (I’ve been on holiday! yay!!) and not-so-nice reasons (I’ve been ill again boo). ANYHOO, I did have a lovely June, wrapped myself in bunting for the Jubilee…

Okay not really, but I did have a lovely long weekend off, where I went to the suitably British Box Hill, which inspired the picnic scene in Emma

After traipsing around the countryside (not quite as gracefully as a regency lady 😉 ), I had some fun in London… because sometimes I forget how cool it is that I live here! The highlight of my June wanderings in the capital was going to the incredible Beatrix Potter exhibition at the V&A!

And of course, the holiday that I will doubtless talk about in another post!! Here’s a sneak peek before I jump into the books…

Book Lovers– this was a great summery read to get me in the mood for the hot weather! Emily Henry’s answer to Hallmark genuinely made me smile and laugh. A unique story playing with some typical romance tropes, it turned my expectations on their head and didn’t conform to type. And it was all the more satisfying for it!! What’s fun about this is that we finally get to see what happens to boyfriend/girlfriend who ends up as the rom com villain (you know the one: they’re the high-powered city-dwelling gal/guy who’s holding our main character back from living their truest life and finding real lasting love). Well, in this book, we get to see what happens to the person left behind, with real empathy thrown into the mix!!! (ya know, cos it’s not so nice to decide your long term partner, who you chose to date is a soulless villain for wanting to live in the city). And yeah, the main character here is kind of a jerk sometimes, but I’ll allow it, because everyone deserves a cutesy happily ever after in whatever form that takes.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Maybe in Another Life– someone recently told me that this was the only Taylor Jenkins Reid book that they’d read and that they didn’t enjoy it… sooo naturally I had to check it out. And she was totally right. I’m sorry to say this book was a bit of a waste of time. I wouldn’t have believed this is the same author who gave us such nuanced and fascinating characters, but there you go. Unlike with One True Loves, I wasn’t invested in either of the romances (but one less than the other). And I didn’t feel like the main character had much of a personality (beyond bemoaning having big boobs). I dunno, it wasn’t terrible, however I think you can safely skip this book and not miss out on any of the usual Jenkins Reid magic.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Hotel Magnifique– such a lovely place, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… Okay enough of that! Right away I have to say that this is another book that falls victim to the Night Circus comparison. Luckily for me, I had Caraval more in mind when I picked this up, so I was personally just relieved to find it better than that. I treated this like a fun YA, with some good ideas and a few dark tricks up its sleeves. Still, it was far from flawless, with too much overexplaining and exposition-y “let me tell you my life story” dialogue. I had an alright time reading this, but I doubt I’ll be continuing the series.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Only a Monster– finally a YA fantasy that I really enjoyed!! And a time travel story no less!! The concept is simple, but effective: the main character is from a family of monsters and said monsters are being hunted. Yet, we are given this information in a viscerally effective way that instantly had me rooting for the monsters (aka the bad guys). I will say that I found this more plot driven than character driven, which is less my thing, but the plot is so good, I wasn’t as bothered by that. Plus, the chemistry between the characters brought the narrative to life. I loved the dynamic between all the different monsters. And Len pulled off a difficult connection and backstory for the villain too. Overall, this was executed really well and definitely scratched an itch. This was an anti-hero story I could actually get behind!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Ariadne– this is going to be a very quickfire review, because I don’t have a lot to say about this other than it was very readable and hit the right emotional notes at the end. And my god look at that gorgeous cover!! I’m curious about her other book, just because she does explore some interesting female characters.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl– this was wholesome in an unusual and funny way. I really liked how this explored a topic and perspective not typically seen in YA contemporary (or adult contemporary for that matter!) And because of that, it was actually educational and could be really helpful to lots of teens. I will say that because of this function, it does lose some of the sheer entertainment points of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, but it was a solid story nonetheless. I did feel like the family drama was resolved a little bit too easily, yet the romance and friendship were handled in such a superior way that I can give it a pass for that.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Finnikin of the Rock– ahh reading this made my heart happy. Because who doesn’t love a little classic fantasy from time to time? Yes, some of the plot points were obvious and yes, it’s not got some flashy magic system, but MY GOODNESS it knew how to make my heart sing. You can rest assured that I’ll continue with this series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

That’s all for now! I think you might be able to tell my note-taking for books wasn’t that great this month… 😉 Regardless, 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!

Mid Year Freak Out Tag 2022!

Hello all! Looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come… it’s halfway through 2022!! I’m having a great reading year and frankly I don’t want it to stop- let’s talk about why, shall we?

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ YET IN 2020

Sword of Kaigen– this book was absolute FIRE!! It reminded me why I love fantasy, it reminded me why I love magic, heck it reminded me why I love reading!!

BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2020

Cytonic– ever since I finished it, I cannot stop thinking about when the next one’s coming. I’m obsessed with this series. It makes me all starry eyed 😉

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

Gallant is the one I have highest on my list right now!

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

Pretty Dead Queens– Alexa Donne’s first YA thriller was killer- definitely looking forward to her next one 😊

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

The Coveit was just so meh. All the characters were bland and moany and boring. And even worse, I didn’t care about the so-called mystery. Not exactly thrilling for a thriller either. The good news is I’ll probably forget it by the end of the year.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

An Unkindness of Magicians– this book was pure magic, in every sense of the word. Dark, twisted and with excellent characters, I fell for this hook line and sinker.

FAVOURITE NEW AUTHOR

Elif Shafak– I’ve read two of her books this year and I could wax lyrical about her writing, her characters and her transporting storytelling. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover her books- so I’m trying to make up for lost time!

NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH

Ach I think I’d be making stuff up if I said I had one! I will say, in terms of romance, the biggest surprise was how much I loved One True Loves. I just love the concept, exploring how there can be more than one special love in our lives. And really, I also felt like the one she ends up with was the one she was meant to be with, in a way that was (ironically) almost like destiny. And if she had turned him down, I’d have definitely wanted to nab him for myself 😉

 NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER

I’m going to go for a complete curveball here and say Tony Webster from Sense of an Ending. Reading about a washed out retiree isn’t normally my thing, but this played with my expectations and was a fascinating character study. Webster isn’t remotely likeable and his story isn’t groundbreaking- and yet it felt so real and telling. I was surprised by how much I connected with it.

BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

Sword of Kaigen DESTROYED me

BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

The No Show– this book really showed up for me and put a smile on my face- which you can always trust a Beth O’Leary book to do! It’s her best romance to date- and that’s saying something!

FAVOURITE BOOK TO FILM ADAPTATION

Last Kingdom– I mean, it’s got to be. That was the *perfect* finale to a tv series I’ve seen in a while. Most importantly, it tied up a lot of loose ends and concluded the most important story arcs that have been up in the air since series one. It was emotional, satisfying and dramatic as hell.

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT THIS YEAR

I’ve not bought that many books so far this year, but I do have this pretty little copy of Galatea (which I still need to read 😉).

WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR

I’m not putting too much pressure on myself to read anything specific this year. Still, as usual, I have quite a few books from the backlist that I really want to read. I’m not going to make any promises, but I have a few old Sanderson books in my sights.

Since this is an old one, I’m not tagging anyone specific- just feel free to do it if you like! What I wanna know is what’s your favourite book so far this year? And what are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Why I still like using ratings (even if they’re imperfect)

Obviously, not everyone is a fan of ratings. And that’s a-okay! I’m not writing this post to give anyone the idea that they *have to* use ratings. You don’t have to like them or even find them useful- but I personally find them a great tool for a reviewer.

Of course, a rating is not going to give you any level of detail. Of course, they are entirely subjective. BUT a rating can still be helpful as a snapshot of what someone thinks. While there is *a lot* of leeway between even a single star (or in my case banana) you can still gauge a reasonable amount from a quick glance at a rating.

Plus, for me, they can help with statistics (because as you all know I’m a stats nerd 😉). Looking at Goodreads, for example, I can quickly find out if a book is making waves or if it’s sinking. Which can satisfy a morbid curiosity (or create excellent fodder for discussion pieces 😉).

I’m not going to say that ratings are the be-all and end-all of a review. And I definitely don’t think they should be taken too seriously. However, they can provide an overall impression. Which is really no substitute for reading the review… so I guess you should do that too 😉

What do you think? Do you use ratings in your reviews? Do you love them or loathe them? Let me know in the comments! And take a banana or two for the road 😉

Treading Water in the House Across the Lake

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

house across the lakeThis was not the book for me. Obviously, the title should’ve raised some warning flags, BUT I consider the author an autobuy and I had high hopes for Sager doing something unique with the trope of a woman spying on her neighbours. WELL, he certainly did something unique- I’m just not convinced I liked it.

Opening on a moody lake scene, Sager dredges up an intriguing premise and wades out into uncanny territory. Evocative and intriguing, the atmospheric writing instantly lends itself to a sense of mystery and character. I certainly felt fully immersed from the start.

Quickly, however, the story falls into a seemingly generic plot of an unreliable (drunk) narrator watching her neighbours. Unfortunately, this trope is becoming a little tired and I could barely stifle a yawn as she stays up late watching a random couple’s marital antics. At this point, the only thing I had to worry about was being bored.

… Annnnd then the book went right off the deep end. I guess the good news is it’s nothing like all those books where the woman watches a murder. Bad news: it’s a very weird book.

Of course, there were the typical twists and turns you can expect in a book like this, some of which I rather liked, yet then it went a little too far and I felt like I was drowning in the unknown (where all the ghosts and ghoulies dwell 😉). I can’t be too harsh, because as I’ve hinted at already, there was a promise of something supernatural- I can only blame myself for not taking those hints seriously enough.

Without spoilers, I can say that this starts as a psychological thriller- then abandons reality somewhere in the murky middle. So, if you like supernatural genre benders, like Behind Her Eyes, then this could very well be the book for you… Otherwise, this was a well written book of utter nonsense.

Rating: 2½5 bananas 

Okay, so have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

The NeBUloUs Topic of ARCs

I am obviously *not* the expert on ARCs. I only request one or two a year, despite being a virtual blogging veteran at this point 😉 So perhaps I should keep my trap shut and let other more experienced bloggers take the lead on this topic… but then when have I ever managed to do that? I guess it’s about time that I address the NeBUloUs topic of ARCs (and why there’s no need to get in a tizzy over them).

What “inspired” me to talk about this was the latest twitter drama: an author having what can only be described as an unhinged rant about how people with small followings aren’t entitled to arcs. Which, naturally, made me want to rant I DAMN WELL AM ENTITLED TO ALL YOUR ARCS 😉 JK I just thought “wow this is a good way to put people off buying your books darling”. And more importantly, most people don’t care about your ARCs, chill out.

Really, there are a lot of perks not being too invested in ARCs. For starters, as The Literary Phoenix pointed out in her brilliant piece “Five Reasons I Kind of Hate ARCs”, they allow publishers to continue to undervalue bloggers. While they’re seen as compensation for blogging/vlogging/whatever, they’re actually more of a free marketing tool for the publisher. Ironically, the reward for all our hard (unpaid) work is… more work?! I dunno about you, but that seems a little off balance.

Admittedly, there has been a lot of (good-natured) discussion about Tiktokers getting paid and getting all the ARCs. Which seems part of the course at this point- when it comes to blogging, there’s always someone else on some other platform getting all the perks and opportunities. Luckily for us, as Krysta @Pages Unbound wrote in her fantastic piece “I’ve Accepted That Publishers Aren’t That Interested In Book Bloggers” there are definitely upsides to this. Not being valued as commercial commodities actually gives us the freedom to write what we want and say what we actually think!! I wouldn’t trade that for all the ARCs in the world… and yes, I do realise I’m saying that as someone who’s not a part of the ARC-machine 😉

Clearly, we don’t blog for the accolades and money and prestige. And that’s why I can safely say that ARCs don’t really matter to me as a reader. I personally have no desire to read every ARC. Especially given I’m perfectly content to read from the backlist, to get to the popular books after the hype dies down and to not be tied to deadlines. Reading is supposed to be fun after all!

This is not to disparage anyone who enjoys getting ARCs. And honestly, more power to you- I know what kind of graft you have to put in to get them nowadays. That said, it’s never going to be the end of the world if you can’t get hold of the latest ARC. After all, if you’re just looking for free books, you can always head to the library 😉

So, what do you think? Are ARCs important? If so, how important? Really wanna hear your thoughts on this one!