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!

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!

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!

An Unkindness of Magicians Deserves All the Goodwill!

I swear this is severely underrated. I’d heard really mixed reviews, but ultimately loved the sound of it from Murphy Napier’s channel, so I took a chance on it and I’m so glad I did! 

Set in the secret magical underworld of New York, this urban fantasy takes duelling magicians to a whole other level. Pitting magician against magician in a deadly competition for supremacy, we see that there’s more to power than meets the eye.

Darkly intriguing and full of complex world building, an Unkindness of Magicians is unlike anything I’ve read before. With gaspworthy twists and turns, I could never quite decipher which direction the story would go. Every page kept me on the edge of my seat; every new revelation took my breath away.

Howard cleverly layers subplots and storylines, building depth to the characters and their backstories. The shadowy history of magic shifts from the sidelines and takes centre stage. It was hard to tear my eyes away as the narrative unfolded.

Beautifully and sparingly written, I became so immersed in the storytelling and invested in each and every one of the characters. Layering myths and legends, from the Arthurian to the Shakespearean, it felt both familiar and entirely new. This is by far one of the best fantasies I’ve read in a while.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – June 2022!

Hello all! Wahey it’s summer time!! And time for another monthly mini reviews 😉 (what a segue that was 😉) Last month was wild– packed with work events, general chaos and some hiking! Bluebell season was in full bloom out in Kent- have a look at these beauties:

Now, I have to admit I didn’t have an amazing reading month- I was choosing a lot of the wrong books, DNFing left right and centre, and didn’t have a lot to say about what I did finish. That said, I’ve cobbled together an interesting range of books here:

Jade City– this is definitely well written… but my god it’s not for me. I just didn’t care enough about the characters and found the plot too slow for the word count. I’m just not that into hundreds of pages of political machinations without any real excitement. I did find that it picked up somewhat by the end- though sadly I’m not invested in the story enough to continue with the series. It’s a shame, because the concept of an Asian inspired magical mafia sounded really cool. But I think for this kind of fantasy saga, I have to care more about the family, otherwise I’m just not going to be fussed if they’re all bumped off.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Three Daughters of Eve– ahh now this was more like it. Shafak is quickly becoming a new favourite author. I feel like I sink into her storytelling and get swept away into her world. Beautifully written, with such real characters, this story provided a fascinating view of Turkish culture and multicultural Britain. I will admit that I didn’t love this as much as Island of the Missing Trees– simply because there was a lot going on. Don’t get me wrong, I was on board for a lot of the interlocking plots- from its intriguing exploration of academia to female friendship to tyranny. I even liked the supernatural dimension and how it showed how familial trauma haunts us. I just felt like having a mugging at the beginning and (highlight for spoiler) gunman at the end was too much all in one day!! Otherwise it was really excellent.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The One– what a great thought experiment this was. In this alternate reality, it’s possible to find your soulmate by simply taking a DNA test. This story explores the stories of five individuals who’ve found their match… and all the pitfalls that come along with that. I loved the ideas this brought forward. It definitely covered every single conflict imaginable in these circumstances. I especially appreciated how distinctive each of the characters and their challenges were- it kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next! This book made me gasp, it made me wince and it sent shivers down my spine. I will say that for me this had a bit too much of an ick factor to give it five stars- I think there’s just something about this author’s style that makes me a bit squeamish!! But top marks for ideas and execution.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

The Sense of an Ending– by far, this was the most unexpected delight of the month. A Booker Prize Winner about a middle age bloke looking back on his past and struggling with the typical lit fic issues, I didn’t necessarily think it’d be my thing. And yet this was a poignant and intriguing read. In this story, we follow a man reflecting on the suicide of his friend many years earlier and trying to retrospectively make sense of it. Being inside the protagonist’s head, however, we learn far more about him and his habits than the friend, who is reduced to the periphery and poorly understood. What’s really interesting about this book is how the main character is actually quite unlikeable and yet rather endearing in his increasingly desperate attempts to insert himself into a narrative that isn’t his. In a way, I felt this was almost a critique of the pretentious lit fic character who describes life in unearned and highfalutin terms. Over the course of the novel, we understand his frustrations and inability to come to terms with his rather average life. A life that contrasts the youthful desire at the start to be distinguished and special (and the kind of person who wears his watch on the inside of his wrist). Somehow I think this book manages to evoke the affectations of literary fiction, whilst fundamentally undermining it. Which is probably why it’s one of the few Booker Prize winners I’ve actually enjoyed. It also didn’t hurt that it wasn’t overlong 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

And lastly, I thought I’d share a quick recommendation:

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!

A Quick Note on Dear Fahrenheit 451

To “Dear Fahrenheit 451”,

Yes, I am duty bound to write this review as a letter to you. Yes, I know it’s a cliché at this point- but it’s only a cliché because you made it so 😉

Firstly, thank you so much for welcoming me into your library. You made me feel so at home and I loved getting to explore the stacks with you. I had such fun hearing your real-life stories of what it’s like to work in a library (and found them far too relatable! We’ve all passed on a book a patron absolutely will not like!!)

What I didn’t realise when I picked you up was how this would read more like a story than a collection of reviews. As you weeded each of the books, I felt like I was going on a personal journey with you. And it clarified for me why weeding is simultaneously the saddest and most interesting job. Each story is full of memories and stories of their own- so it’s not a simple act when we send them off to live another life elsewhere.  Luckily, I don’t think I’ll be parting with you any time soon.

Above all, I appreciated your wit and humour. Your playful writing was so on point (I definitely chuckled at the line where you said you were “seeing someone else” with regards to Anna Karenina!) You definitely felt made for me.

I must admit, though I really enjoyed reading your suggestions for more books, I’m not sure we share entirely the same taste. But that’s okay- it would be boring if we were all the same and it was fun reading why you love and loathe different books nonetheless.

Once again, I want to say how grateful I am to you for keeping me company. You are an inspiration and a delight. I will be sure to push you into the hands of unsuspecting readers whenever I can!

All my love,

The Orangutan Librarian

PS: enclosed are four and a half bananas- I hope they’re not too squished!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May 2022!

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

The Plot Worth Dying For…

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay now onto the books!

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

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

Excuse me while I ugly cry (over how good this book is!!)

List of all the reasons I loved this book:

  1. Written in list form, Quinn keeps a diary of all her deepest, darkest secrets… a diary that is now being used to blackmail her! Now she has to do what the blackmailer wants… before all her lies are exposed! I’m choking back the emotions this book gave me, cos as you might be able to tell from that description… it was a wild ride!
  2. Bold and different to a lot of other contemporaries out right now, this is a coming-of-age story for a new generation.
  3. Far from being a goody two shoes, our main character has a lot of growing up to do. And yet, that’s what makes her so relatable. Her journey isn’t about achieving perfection or being the best (amazingly this isn’t yet another book where the main character gets into an Ivy League 😉), but about her finding out who she is. I really appreciate how this book shows that it’s okay to make mistakes and grow from them, because life is a process. And your story doesn’t end at your high school graduation!
  4. Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry gives us a fair dose of realism, showing the complexity of friendship, romance and family relationships. The romance is cute and has a fantastic first-love feel. The friendships are explored with great care. And I especially loved that it didn’t give us the cookie cutter family image- it’s more down-to-earth than that.
  5. Happily, so many of the characters are humanised. Sure, there’s one or two irredeemable people in the bunch, but most have some humanity to them.
  6. There’s a lot about redemption and hope and growth in this book. This deals with difficult and significant issues in a grounded way. I loved the maturity and heart of the main character- and it was her attitude that was the saving grace of the story.
  7. Plus, we get to cheer on some justice being done by the end of the book!
  8. I can safely say I was delighted with this contemporary- it was one of the best I’ve read in a while!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

And that’s all for today! Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!