Monthly Monkey Mini Review – September

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YO PEEPS! Yup, I’m actually online, which feels like something of a miracle at this point. I do want to update you all about *EVERYTHING* but alas I am still away from home and finding it hard to squeeze in blogging time. While I did have big plans for last month, a lot of stuff ended up getting in the way and I don’t know if I realistically be about in September much either… In happier blogging news though, I will be back in sunny England from October, so mark it in your calendars folks!

Anyhoo, my mini reviews for this month are a little late and I’ve not read that much again, BUT I’m hoping that by next month it’ll be a different story (***fingers and toes crossed***)

mysteries of udolpho

Mysteries of Udolpho– I get why Austen made fun of this. It felt silly, melodramatic and yet still managed to bore me (I blame all the long-winded, convoluted descriptions with daft word choices). I can’t pretend like I would have been reading much without this book sitting on my kindle, gnawing away at any desire I had to pick it up, but it certainly didn’t help! I seriously struggled to finish this one and DNF’d it after a month. And this gets no bananas for that reason.

cinder and ella

Cinder and Ella– finally something to squeal about!!!  If you’ve been around a while, you might already know that I have a thing for Cinderella retellings (ie I LOVE them). And this one was particularly well done. Not only was this funny and sweet, but it also explored different family dynamics in a way that didn’t demonise the step family. I especially liked the way the relationships evolved over the course of the book and characters were given more complex motivations than the typical fairy tale allows. And cos it was so good, I didn’t end up writing very complex notes, so you’ll have to read it to find out more!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So have you read either of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

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Monthly Monkey Mini Review – August

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Hello all! Long-time no blog!! As a lot of you know, I’m currently on a blogging break, so haven’t been able to keep up with content much. And while I’m not giving out my current location (cos, erm, I don’t want to end up in a cage for endangered species) I’ll fill in some of the confusion that I probably should have said before I went away. I am not:

  • In a prison/zoo
  • Dead
  • Stuck on Mars

I am, however, volunteering abroad and doing *a lot* of physical work that’s pretty tiring (Eight Days a Week… okay not really, but SIX days a week is still a lot). Anyway, while I’ve been dealing with all the craziness that is my life right now, I’ve been immensely grateful to those of you who’ve stuck around, sent lovely messages and also to all the new folks who helped me hit 4000 FOLLOWERS yesterday. I am speechlessly screaming right now!!! (and the only reason you haven’t seen a crazy bellowing monkey on the news is cos a lot of the people I live with don’t know about the blog and I don’t want to freak them out- though they’re remarkably cool about living with a great ape 😉 ) Thank you guys so much!!

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Alrighty then- moving away from the vague life stuff, let’s talk about what’s really important here: what the hell have I been reading. Well, *ahem*, I’m still in a slump, so again I only have a few books to talk about right now and they are…

love and gelato

Love and Gelato– I really enjoyed this one. The characters were great- particularly the hilarious main character, whose voice I immediately fell in love with. It was a sweet romance, even if the plot was a bit obvious. Most of all though, I loved how this felt like walking through Florence, one of my favourite cities, and exploring all the beautiful art (and ice cream) it has to offer.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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callum

Callum– this was a waste of time if you’ve ever read the original book (and I highly recommend you do read Noughts and Crosses instead). Literally nothing happens that the reader doesn’t already know and there’s nothing new from his perspective added into the plot. Seriously, just read the main series. Even though it was pretty pointless, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read. It also didn’t hurt that it was short and I got it on overdrive(aka I didn’t have to buy it), so I gave it:

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Tiny Pretty Things– this wasn’t a terrible book, by any means, I just didn’t enjoy it all that much. A lot of that came down to the fact that I didn’t end up latching onto any of the character’s stories. Perhaps that was because there was simply too much crazy drama- I mean, that’s kind of what you sign up for with a book like this, still this whirl-twirl-leaps to a whole new level of insane.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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truth or dare

Truth or Dare– oh boy, I could get in trouble for saying what I have to say here, but I’m gonna go ahead and say them anyway cos I truly think this is constructive criticism. There were several choices that I found off-putting before I even began to read the actual book. The first was the author’s choice of pen name; the second and third were the two apologies issued before the book- one of which instructs the reader to maybe try different books instead. After reading this, I wish I’d followed that advice. So many times while I was reading this I wondered why the hell didn’t I just put this down when I had the chance?  Not only are the apologies a major clue that this is going to be jam packed with virtue signalling, yet they also give a fair warning that *everything* is going to be over-explained. From vlogs to issues with brain injuries- this book is more concerned with info-dumping and getting a message across than telling a story. It was written in such a juvenile way that made it impossible for me to care about the characters. I actually can’t remember much about the leads now that I think about it. The only character that stuck in my head at all was Seren, because she was effing nuts (she gets aggressively upset that someone wants to date her, then pissy when he moves on). Truthfully, I should never have dared go near this one 😉

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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So yeah, not a great reading month, but I have high hopes for the next one! Anyway, enough about me- how have you all been? Did you have a good reading month? And, as always, have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Review – July

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Well hello! This is me coming at you live for the first time in weeks and I gotta admit it feels a little strange- I’m pretty out of practice I guess. But I thought you ought to know, from the monkey’s mouth, I’M ALIVE (not much of a drama queen, am I?) Anyhoo, you might have noticed that I had a lot of content up after my whole “I’m off” post, partly cos I had a lot of reviews to catch up on, although mostly cos I stress blogged before I left. Now though, I’m pretty busy (I promise to give details when I’m done) and *shock horror* haven’t been reading much 😦 I still have plenty of ideas for content, yet I’ve decided to take a proper break while I try to figure out a schedule for when I can post… so bear with me! Okey dokey, preamble aside, I have only two books to review for July:

city of brass

City of Brass– I really wanted to like this a lot more, but this got far too confusing and felt overlong. There was just so much information flying about over warring tribes and I struggled to keep up with the overload of world building- which was an especial pity, because a lot of that was beautifully written. I still ended up with way too many (irrelevant to the plot) questions like “why do they hate each other again and what the hell is going on?” And when I couldn’t connect this with the overall story, I wondered why it was included at all. Too much of the plot felt meandering anyway and that didn’t help. Nahri, the main character, initially delighted me with her antics and trickster charade… but all too soon it transpired it was little more than an act, for I couldn’t connect this character with her later impossibly innocent nature. As for the other lead, Ali didn’t grab my attention and was lost for way too much of his narrative. Again, we’re told he’s this pious and it didn’t quite match up with how he appeared in the story. It’s not a bad book per se, it just didn’t live upto any of the promise.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Always and Forever– I found Lara Jean’s final book really relatable- especially the part (*spoiler alert*) where she didn’t get into the college of her dreams. That kind of disappointment will ring true with a lot of readers no doubt. Overall, I preferred it to the second book, as the focus on growing up made it feel more necessary, yet it still didn’t quite capture my heart the way the first did.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So yeah, part of the purpose of doing this blog was to tell you all I’m not gonna be about… again! In the meantime, have you read either of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

I figured I would like Father Figure… And I was right!

father figureSome books start with a bang, others slowly build up in what seems like an orderly fashion- but don’t be fooled by the steady opening, such books can end with an avalanche of emotions and knock you off your feet. This was one such book. After Jay’s amazing debut last year, I was obviously excited to see what he came up with next. Now, this did initially take me some time to really get into, some parts clicking more than others, yet I very much appreciated the trickle of information, eroding any sense of stability I had, bit by bit.

The dual perspectives were done really well. There was plenty to latch onto with both stories and I found myself invested in both of the main characters- especially since both stories were so raw and emotional. Amalia was relatable and sympathetic; Brianna was incredibly likeable. I did get irritated with Brianna for not hearing Molly out- but I felt like this was a testament to how realistic the relationship was.

Speaking of things that were realistic, but I didn’t especially enjoy- if I had a friend like Shanelle, I wouldn’t need enemies. Me and bossy people do not mix- it’s the ultimate rock meets hard place- if someone tries to tell me what to do they’ll look like a cayote running into a brick wall. I can’t pretend that I liked anything about her: I hate nags, I can’t stand people that play games in relationships and woe betide anyone that tries to pressure someone into a relationship when they’re not ready. What can I say- I’m just not as agreeable as Briana and would have told her to eff off. Phew- glad I got that off my chest. THAT SAID, I did not see this as a criticism of the book, cos irritating or not, people like this exist and as I always say (sometimes 😉 ) eliciting a strong response means it’s more real. And I think it’s pretty clear from the way I’m talking about these folks that I felt they were very life-like.

Psychologically, I thought Cudney painted a striking picture of the bitter and resentful mother and the spiteful son. Both villains, for me, were spot on. I did unfortunately think that certain other additions were less believable- for instance I did not buy that about 90% of the men in the book were creepy pervs. There were just a few too many deeply unpleasant men and I needed more Jonah-type figures.

I loved the descriptive elements- more even than Watching Glass Shatter. The writing and imagery, as good as it was before, was vastly improved and struck a deeper chord. As the pace picked up, the drama became more harmonised and I was transported by the magnificent finale. I became more in tune to how the themes of the title wove into the narrative and saw how it was all interconnected from the start. The twists kept rolling and the story grew darker and things snapped into place. I don’t want to spoil anything- but believe me, it’s all about the ending with this one. Ultimately I got tingles from so many parts of the conclusion and felt just-stepped-off-a-rollercoaster giddy. It was that good.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Finding my way in Spellbook of Lost and Found

spellbook of the lost and foundI had sooo many mixed feelings about this one guys. There was a lot that was well done and then, for seemingly no reason, there was ideas shoved in here that I had a lot of problems with.

To start with, I did appreciate the writing. It was witty, striking and had plenty going on under the surface. I felt like that added to the uncanny element and the air of mystery. And boy were there quite a few mysteries to contend with and many layers to the narrative.

The story centred on two groups of girls finding a spellbook and there were consequently quite a lot of characters, which could have been tricky to keep a grasp on, but all of them were distinct and the voices separated them out nicely. I did also like the characters overall- they all felt necessary to tell the story and had their own problems woven into the plot.

That said, it felt like the book was missing something (no pun intended). Sure there was that eerie element, but it felt like everything could have been explained, which meant it didn’t hold the charm of actual magical realism. Plus while I did like the message at the end was lovely, to find the magic all around us, it didn’t feel quite like an ending and was more of a moral. And that’s okay- just not something I was really looking for.

Especially since it drew attention to the authorial intrusions that I’d had trouble with throughout. Because while there were a lot of smart things in this book that I loved, there was a not-so-smart thing to counterbalance it- which brings me to some of the random shit that was in this book that it could have done without:

  • The fact that a character was raped when they’re unconscious at a party and said something to the effect of “I’ve read all the feminist blogs and know there’s nothing you can do”- which seems like an incredibly irresponsible thing to tell young people. I’m not judging people’s decisions here, but actively telling people not to bother reporting crimes is not a good message.
  • strawman

    No offence strawmen!

    Why does this book set up the idea that the “heteropatriarchy” has decided there’s only one way to lose your virginity- strawman much? Literally nobody even in the book brought this discussion up. The main character just presents the idea and refutes it- so why is it there at all? Especially since no one in the world of the book even cares and I don’t care, so just bugger off.

  • Just the casual mention of Faulkner’s “kill your darlings”, which always irritates me no end because if Faulkner had killed his darlings he’d have executed his whole goddamn book.

None of what I’ve said there will probably be popular opinions, but whatever, that’s why I gave it:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana 

So have you read this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Grey Sister was a *Technicolour* Masterpiece!

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Yes, I went with that title, and no, it is not an exaggeration. Because I really cannot express HOW MUCH I FRICKIN LOVED this book! I think this probably the best Lawrence book I’ve read to date (and I always love Lawrence books). I was already enraptured by Red Sister, so I knew I had to read this pronto when it came out- and man was I satisfied with this sequel!

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Let’s start with what happens before you even read the book- because I think I owe Mark Lawrence a big thank you for the recap! I’m one of those readers who really doesn’t like in-text “we need to remind you what’s going on in case you’ve forgotten things” conversations- especially cos I usually like to binge series. But if it’s a newer release, I most likely have forgotten things. So this worked brilliantly for me! Especially since it was done in such a lovely way and created intrigue for what was to come- I immediately wanted to know who this Keot fellow was.

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See what I mean!

The opening itself was nothing short of exquisite. It started from a super emotional point and didn’t loosen its grip on my heart strings for a single second. In fact, it was so good that I read it in one sitting, while I was in the middle of one of the worst reading slumps I’ve had in years. If anything, the reason why this review isn’t longer is because the book is just that good!

It’s beautifully, beautifully written. The only time I paused was to scribble down a particular phrase I loved like “arboreal gloom” or the “headache knifed its way past her forehead” that captured my attention. In between though, there were tiny little messages that I really liked: “My father told me, your weaknesses have more to teach you than your strengths”.

There were many hidden depths to the story, reflected in the striking figure of Nona. What I loved about her depiction in particular was how her black eyes created a sense of her being somewhat primal- from an evolutionary standpoint we’ve developed to have visible whites of the eyes, so that other primates can see where we’re looking and trust us… Nona is an exception and ergo an exceptional character. Lawrence has tapped into this primordial element of humanity and carved a protagonist into someone who feels like a shade of our most feral nature. Her lacking a shadow adds to this, making her unanchored and impossible to pin down. She’s like an inner wildness we all hold and strangely relatable. With our view into her mind, we can witness how misunderstood she is and simultaneously understand why she’s so isolated.

Evidently, I really, really liked Nona, but she’s not the only standout character! When Keot did turn up and was explained it was a *brilliant* addition!!! All the other characters served their purpose and were well drawn- I was particularly rooting for Apple and Kettle in this one. And of course, Brother Pelter cut a chilling figure.

What more is there to say then? I was simply blown away by this book. Just take my bananas already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Ravencry Called to me from the Depths of Grimdark

ravencry*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the crazy gushing you’re about to see is all me*

Well, that’s what I call a sequel! If you remember back to my review from last year, I was *blown away* by the McDonald’s debut Blackwing and was so psyched to pick up an ARC for the sequel… but also naturally nervous because what if it didn’t deliver on the second instalment? I really shouldn’t have worried- because the Raven’s Mark series is shaping up to be a sharp venture into grimdark fantasy!

This begins with a mystery that flies in the face of what we already knew- instantly showing us that this will be different from its predecessor. We then journey with Ryalt into the unknown, travelling deeper into the heart of the Misery. Much like traditional fairy tales where a character treks out into vast unknowable nature- losing pieces of themselves along the way and undergoing a transformation- the trip alters the protagonist irrevocably. Yet here it is all the more traumatic and vividly grotesque. Psychologically and physically it breaks down his character, until he admits “I just wasn’t the same as when I’d gone in”- and we as the reader have changed along with him.

I was sucked straight back into sludge-grey world of the Misery and the Deep Kings. The only anchor was Ryhalt Galharrow’s enigmatic voice, which balanced out this grim vision with chuckleworthy asides. And even as the main character has more prestige and respectability, there’s no way a shall we say less than level-headed hero can wake up and get on with the next book without being drenched in regrets and grief. Ryhalt is most certainly haunted by recent ghosts- especially since there were some very real manifestations of the Bright Lady and a cult that rises up in her wake.

Complex and action packed, the non-stop whirring of the plot takes you through darkness into phos-induced light. The reintroduction of the villain, in particular, felt like we dived into the flesh and bones of the story. Through the amazing twists and turns, there are hints of further intrigues, making me curious as to where it’s going after the enigmatic end.

The level of imagination here is incredible. Like the first, it’s a richly dense book, with terrifying darkness and an unsettling atmosphere. There is an uncanny, gothic element to the magic, which adds tremendously to the world building.

I was gripped by the writing as well. Not only is it creepy, but there’s also a build up to create a sense of dread. My kindle copy was covered in highlights- because, man there’s some effing expertise to the writing. One masterstroke, for instance, was to add Shakespearean technique of giving logic to the ravings of a madman. Phases like “save face” are given multiple meanings. The writing is, to be frank, bloody good (emphasis on the blood- there’s quite a bit of it!)

Yet Ravencry does not simply serve up a dish of graphic entertainment- it will tear at your heart strings and open up your innards. Characters don’t just grow up like Amaira- they ripped from their childhood and thrust into the adult world. Stories like that of Nenn’s aren’t just expanded- they are pushed to the limits- and what happens to them is too awful for words. In the end, this was as emotional as the first:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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