My Battle with War of Art

war of artOof this was a painful one for me to read. If you liked it, then more power to you, but for me this was an uphill battle from the start. Look elsewhere for positive reviews, because I’m going to go all in on this one. I don’t want any fights to break out, I just found this book ridiculous. Something (well a lot of things) really rubbed me the wrong way here.

My issues started with the childish personification of “Resistance”. And, no, that’s not my capitalisation. The author does that to make it seem Oh So Very Important. To me, this idea that “People have Resistance” didn’t come across as especially profound. It just seemed like a rather juvenile way to say sometimes people procrastinate. Well, that’s how the idea starts out- it gets a lot more ludicrous.

Within a short amount of time, the author proceeds to call *EVERYTHING* “Resistance”. If you’re out walking your dog, that’s Resistance. If you’re having sex, that’s Resistance. And if you’ve got a mental health problem, well guess what? That’s Resistance. Thankfully he does acknowledge some mental health problems are real (and not marketing ploys like other issues)… buuut also calls them Resistance. Great expert analysis there.

Who am I kidding? This guy knows jack shit about anything. Look, I get it, self help books tend to be light on facts- however this takes it to a whole other level! He plucks statistics like “70% of doctors think there’s nothing wrong with their patients” out of his arse and I’m over here thinking WORKS CITED?! I mean, even if that wasn’t an opinion, I’d like to know where he got that figure from. I also don’t think opinions should be stated as facts by the way- for instance I get that he hates critics, yet sadly for him it’s not true that no one successful ever critiques anything. Still, my favourite of his hilariously wrong “facts” was this:

“You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

I hate to burst his bubble about Hitler, but a quick google search could have corrected this assumption. Hitler painted plenty- although, as is typical of narcissists, they’re not up to much. Perhaps- and you can call this an overstatement if you like- if Hitler hadn’t been a raging psychopathic narcissist he wouldn’t have started WWII. Or maybe Hitler was resisting his Resistance and following his dreams- after all, according to this author, foisting your opinions onto the world could also be living up to your potential 😉 And if all that sounds silly, that’s because it is. I’m taking this book as seriously as that paragraph deserves.

What makes this even more ludicrous is how so often the ideas put forward are later contradicted. For instance, you know how I mentioned that he called sex Resistance? Well you can also be Resisting having sex (so I suppose that’s resisting resistance?) Early in the book, he says not to worry about what you’re writing, as long as you do it (BTW that’s how you end up with books like this in the world). He feeds into one of my pet peeves of favouring money over fulfilment; he talks about obsessing with craft over writing… BUT THEN decides to go full-on kooky in the final part. Look, I may not agree with being purely practical, yet you can hardly call people precious when you invoke the Muses. That’s about as flighty an idea as you can get. It’s just so unbelievably hypocritical.

Would I say there’s nothing of value in it? No, but frankly I don’t want to go digging through mud, looking for the occasional (cheap) gem. Even if I agreed with one or two of the ideas (like not giving into victimhood and continuing on after success) I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. Frankly, if I’d never heard those ideas before (which, obviously I have cos they’re not very original) I wouldn’t have taken them to heart coming from this terrible book.

I found this so lazy that I’d guess it was far more effort for me to read than it was to write. It was grandiose and pompous, while at the same time being utterly mundane. It may not be the worst book in the world, but I can’t give it more than:

A banana peel!

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Yeah that was a little harsh- I’m sorry! Some books just wind me up! Have you read this? Did you get more out of it than me? Do you (still) plan to read it after my review? Let me know in the comments!

One by One Piqued My Interest

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the upbeat ramblings are all me!***

one by oneBeing stranded in the snow-covered alps with a group of people that hate each other sounds pretty close to the ninth circle of hell. No spoilers ahead, but that’s pretty much the vibe of Ruth Ware’s spin on And Then There Were None. To give you a quick snapshot, One by One gives us an inside peek at a tech company retreat that goes horribly wrong. And as you might suspect from a book with such strong Agatha Christie vibes, this has some pretty wild twists and turns.

Isolated in at a ski chalet after an avalanche, it’s the perfect setting for a claustrophobic thriller. Even though I was reading it in the summer heat, I caught chills. The atmosphere totally transported me. I was locked into these character’s heads, not knowing who I could trust and where it was leading.

Very quickly, the story freefalls Off-Piste. People start dying. There’s real tension as the pace picks up and the tenuously forged alliances go downhill. The plot plummets over the edge as it races towards a heartstopping conclusion.

Each of the POVs worked for me. They led me down one path, only for me to discover I’d been led astray. My allegiances shifted with the narrative. I loved snooping inside the main character’s heads and thought their perspectives were fascinating. One by one, their secrets get revealed… until there were none.

Speaking of nosing into other people’s business, that’s along the lines of what this tech company does, listening to celebs music taste along with them. While I didn’t relate to this social media aspect completely (I’m much too uncool for all that) I have to admit it added a salaciously soapy dimension. I couldn’t look away.

Ultimately, this ticked so many boxes for me. Thumbs up!

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Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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And that’s all I’m going to give you! Do you plan on reading One by One? Have you tried Ruth Ware before? Let me know in the comments!

Choice Words About Chosen Ones

chosen onesWell, this was a little bit disappointing. When I first heard the concept, I was psyched: I loved the idea of chosen ones in their post-saving-the-world days. It was a great idea and I was hearing promising things. And I had high hopes as I flew through the initial pages… yet sadly that fell a little flat by the end.

When the book first got going, I thought wow Veronica Roth has really matured from her Divergent days. We were given some articles to hint at characters and give us a clue about the backstory. I especially liked how these snapshots contrasted the protagonist’s actual perception and issues with PTSD. I thought it drew on the idea of trauma and its consequences really well.

But then that kind of disappeared into thin air. The story began to be about the death of one of the Chosen Ones and stopped trying to detangle the concept of life after heroics. It just dragged through a mystery and adventure that I couldn’t bring myself to care about. I was surprised (and a little let down) to find it was more about defeating a Big Bad than anything else. It just felt somewhat generic and the reveals were underwhelming.

Not only was I disappointed with the direction of the plot, I also didn’t care for the characters. Matt didn’t have much depth. Nor did the other male lead (whose name I’ve forgotten). And for all Sloan’s prickliness, she was pretty flat. I never found her likeable enough to get invested in her struggles. I also felt like the structure of “oh they saved the day before” only served to make me feel like I’d missed all the good bits in their development.

So, no, I’m not going to leap off a roof and jump on the hype train for this one. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as I thought it would be and it certainly wasn’t memorable (which hopefully explains all the gaps in my review 😉)

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? What did you think of it? Did you like it more than me? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Swiftly Moving into September!

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Hello all! I’m coming out of a bit of a tumultuous month- and not just cos of the scorching heatwaves one minute and thunderstorms the next. Personally, I thought the universe was over-relying on pathetic fallacy to write the story of my life right now 😉 That said, some cool things happened, like getting to see my brother for the first time in a year and a half 😊 In terms of reading, I’ve been mercilessly DNFing (which I’ll talk about more soon!) Yet, even with all those duds, I did still manage to read some good stuff and made it to 1500 books read on Goodreads!!! And also, to top it all off, this happened:

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I’m so glad to have made it this far and thankful to everyone that’s stuck with me!

Alrighty then, let’s get to talking about what TV and books I’ve been into this month.

 

Jane the Virgin- seasons 1-4– this is basically all I’ve been watching this last month. I started in season 2, cos I’d already watched (and enjoyed) the first season about a year ago. While I haven’t finished it, I’ve no doubt I’ll love where it ends up, cos this is just the tonic for a overly dramatic 2020! And speaking of drama, this has it all. Inspired by a lot of South American tv tropes, this packs in action, romance, family themes, cultural elements and a little bit of humour. Just like a telenovela, this makes me gasp one minute and cry the next. Admittedly, I don’t normally love all the tropes (highlight for spoilery examples: amnesia and back from the dead in particular). And this even centres on a love triangle for crying out loud! BUT this is one of those times when I can make an exception, because in each case, I totally get why the trope is there. They’re partly used to pay homage to the fun genre of telenovelas, partly to deconstruct them. Plus, everything is geared to forcing Jane to choose between the two men (whilst putting her in a position where it was in no way her fault that she had to choose in the first place!) Basically, it’s not just fun, it’s clever. I also love the characters- from Jane as the main character to the slightly antagonistic Petra. Even Mateo has a big role to play. And, a bit random, but I tried (and failed) to learn some Spanish a while back and it’s been so great for me to just listen to the language to see what I can pick up. Highly recommend this if you just need something to kick back and relax with!

crave

Crave– speaking of a bit of fun, I wasn’t exactly craving a vampire book, but I did feel like some paranormal YA. Plus, the sassy voice promised a little bit of bite and I thought why the heck not. In some ways I was rewarded for my optimism, flying through this faster than a vampire bat could launch itself at an unsuspecting victim. I liked how it didn’t take itself too seriously and how there was a more logical structure to the story than Twilight. Still, on the subject of Twilight, it did mirror that infamously sparkly tome in a way that wasn’t very subtle, so I could see the reflection a little too clearly. And I really wasn’t sold on the corny romance. Nonetheless, there was an interesting final twist that had me somewhat intrigued. Not sure if it’ll be enough to get me to read more- maybe if I’m feeling like the living dead again when it comes out 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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beach read

Beach Read– what a fun beachy read! The story of two rival writers in a small town, this doesn’t just deliver an entertaining hate to love romance, it also ends up being a love letter to books and writing. I loved how this went from rivalry to romance at a delightful pace. And the chemistry *sizzled* off the page. I also liked how this handled the topic of grief, exploring how sometimes we just don’t know the people we love. This managed to deliver some heartbreaking moments and put a big smile on my face. For me, it was a beautiful example of how to balance a bright, bubbly read with just a hint of the blues. Dare I say it’s the perfect beach read, with or without the beach!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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sharp objects2

Sharp Objects– I’m going to try and not be too cutting for this one, because there were parts I liked. It was sharply written, yet the plot was blunted by being a little too obvious. In this small-town secrets story, a reporter returns to her home town to investigate the murders of two little girls. There were a couple of good twists a long the way and an especially excellent final reveal. It made sense of the earlier plotholes. However, I did feel like there could have been more of a punch to the final reveal. And, another thing that stopped me loving this on a personal level was that of the descriptions made me a little queasy (I forgot quite how graphic Flynn can be). I do recommend it, just perhaps don’t expect it to be too edgy.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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weekend away

Weekend Away– this would have simply been an enjoyable thriller that took me on a quick spin around Lisbon… if not for the creepy last second twist that I ended up thinking about for days after. There’s a lot to explore here. I liked the basic premise of two friends going on a weekend away and only one comes back (*dun dun dun*). What made this especially good was the execution. The characters and their relationships are slowly revealed a bit at a time. I especially liked how it built up the profile of the antagonists and the threat they posed. One thing I wasn’t keen on was how the main character was pretty clueless- but it did make sense and helped the plot progress. The best thing was that there was enough drama to keep me flying through the pages. Ultimately, it was exciting and suspenseful with an explosive finale.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the flight

The Flight– this was slightly more of a letdown. It’s not a bad book by any means, it just didn’t wow me. It didn’t have that compulsive quality that keeps me whizzing through the pages. It didn’t take me to new heights because it was a little too pedestrian. The biggest issue for me was that it was more interested in telling us that domestic abuse is wrong than telling an interesting story. Frankly, I thought it was preaching to the choir. It didn’t help that the pacing felt a little bumpy- jolting between a quick takeoff and a rather slow middle where we were told one of the dual perspective’s backstory. It often vacillated between far-fetched and mundane. I also didn’t think it stuck the landing- while I quite liked how it linked up, it didn’t exactly blow my mind. Though it was a solid book, I felt like this just didn’t fulfil what I look for in a thriller. I need something a bit pacier and with enough intrigue to send me into a tailspin.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

Normal People Tried Too Hard to be Special

normal peopleThis is kinda awkward because I completely forgot that I said I’d never read this… But when I saw it was available on Overdrive, I didn’t remember that and curiosity got the better of me. Whoops. And the worst part about that is, as I predicted, it wasn’t for me. Initially I was quite struck with the story and got really into reading it- sadly by the end I thought it was a pretty pedestrian literary-prize-bait. Go figure.

In fairness, I did find the opening chapters quite promising. I thought the way it handled bullying and captured feelings of isolation was realistic. And I could see why the two lovebirds couldn’t just be with each other… at first. The problem was the story got very samey after a while. I normally don’t have a problem with the miscommunication trope, but it was the constant mix-ups that started to grate on my nerves and make me question why can’t you just act like normal people? Why do you have to bring other people into your drama?

In that vein, it seemed like part of their “specialness” was that they were dysfunctional. Because as the title suggests, these aren’t Normal People. No, they’re the most *special snowflakes*: Marianne is “not like other girls” and Connell is “not like other boys”. Although, they’re both pretty much like every pretentious person with a humanities degree I’ve ever met. They’re the kind of people you feel bad for, cos no one likes them, but you also secretly get why, cos you don’t like them either. They’re the kind of insufferably pretentious people that get to call work a “social construct”, cos for them the concept is demeaning (and they have the luxury of being picky). And they’re the kind of egotistical people that never have to recognise they’re the ones in the wrong.

That’s the most infuriating part about the book. Both of the leads have pretty flat character arcs, never truly having to experience failure and brushing off most criticism (just to make the same mistakes). And amazingly, even though they constantly cheat on people and live only for themselves, it’s the world around them that’s messed up. Unlike the best stories with an unchanging protagonist, no one in the story is inspired to change- because who would be inspired by them? This lack of growth seems rooted in Rousseau’s “people are born perfect” philosophy aka society is the corrupting factor (conveniently alleviating culpability for terrible people). Which brings me onto my next problem…

The damn politics. Okay, we all know I’m biased and hate politics randomly inserted into my fiction… but guys this was on a whole new level of stupid. Cos these characters that are the kind of idiots people that think dictators like Castro are cool. Nothing says progressive like firing squads, amiright? 😉 Also, Connell is casually a Marxist, because obviously we need more positive representations of Marxists in the media (to wipe out all the blood they’ve spilled in the last 100 years). We wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea (that they’re just as murderous as Nazis). Sorry, not in the mood to be a Marxist-apologist right now. Not with the harm that this ideology *continues* to do. On the funnier side, this also had the Trinity College free speech society actually inviting a Neo Nazi Holocaust denier- which was such a strawman way of dismissing people who are pro-free speech that I found it kinda amusing.

conversations with friendOn the plus side, I did think this was infinitely more readable than Conversations With Friendsyet had a lot of the same pitfalls. There’s still no speech marks and no reason for it. I suppose if Rooney used them, the writing would lose its “specialness”, and we don’t want that. Because there’s not much else to report on the writing front. As with her other work, I didn’t get much of a sense of place, just felt like I was told we were in Ireland. On that note, Rooney did explore telling in an interesting way, having us find out Connell has depression from his filling in a form… which is different I guess (though not necessarily good).

fifty shades of greyI wasn’t impressed with much else in the book. As I mentioned, the main characters are *special*, so that kinda makes everyone else surplus to requirements (because, don’t you know, when you’re the hero, the rest of the world just revolves around you?) Even the subplot about an old friend’s suicide is there to make you feel sorry for the main character (the guy that died and his family are only visible in the periphery). Worse still, subplots like domestic abuse were explored in a superficial way with cartoonish perpetrators. I also hated the fact it was linked to sadomasochism (because apparently we’ve not moved past Fifty Shades of Grey). I also thought that Lorraine was barely sketched out- ironically for a leftist work, she is merely identifiable as a mother and cleaning lady. How forward-thinking.

Much like the book, I’m going to end on a lacklustre note, not with a bang, but the whimper of a deflating balloon. It was better for me than Conversations with Friends– however not by much.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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So, dare I ask, have you read Rooney’s work? Did you enjoy it? Do you have different perspective? Let me know in the comments either way!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – ahh it’s August 2020!

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Hello all! Last month was a little bit better (by 2020 standards 😉)- I’m happier being out of lockdown here in the UK and glad to say I got out a little more.

orangutan in the great outdoors

Plus, there’s always yoga to keep me more positive 😊

orangutan yoga

One thing I did learn is if I say I’m taking a hiatus, I need to actually do it! (but what are plans this year, amiright?!) So I didn’t take a proper break, I just got worse at blogging- whoops!

Anyway, as much as I’ve been enjoying talking TV these last few months, I didn’t watch anything in July except season 3 of the Crown… which admittedly was fun for all the wrong reasons. I mean, I enjoy the “history”, but wow, this season took some serious liberties. Case and point calling the ex-king, who was a rather famous fan of Hitler and the Nazis, a progressive?! I wouldn’t get so excited about him meeting with Emperor Hirohito either (a questionable historical figure who at the very least signed off on allying with, you guessed it, Nazis). So weird to glorify a man who was friends with fascists late into his life. My guess is the whole look-at-royals-marrying-for-love subplot (even if Wallis Simpson was a Nazi sympathiser) was paralleled with Charles/Camilla so that we don’t blame them for their affair. It also got a chuckle out of me when Wilson (made to mirror Jeremy Corbyn) was a leftie (lol). But whatever, the show is royalist propaganda… so what can we expect? (I’m just being a grouchy Brit, it was still very entertaining).

What MADE MY MONTH was Taylor Swift’s surprise album drop: Folklore! I didn’t love Lover, but thank goodness for Folklore. This was just what I (and millions of fans around the world) needed. It offers sensational storytelling, lovely lyrics and some much-needed escapism. I could go on forever and always about how Swift took it to another level here and how I was enchanted by every. single. song- but for now I’ll just say that this is what I’m going to be listening to well into august (also my god I think I have new favourite Swift songs and this might even knock 1989 off its perch of best album!)

alice network

The Alice Network– yes, after reading Huntress last month, I had to hunt down another of Quinn’s books and fortunately I was able to instantly connect with the Alice Network (and no I won’t apologise for terrible puns 😉). It was, as you can imagine, another brilliant historical fiction. Well researched, it brought two eras of history to life, this time focusing on WW1 and the aftermath of WW2. Quinn had excellent control of both the timeline jumps and the multiple povs, creating a compelling story I couldn’t stop reading. The one issue I had was that I personally wasn’t as keen on Charlie as a main character and so didn’t enjoy her perspective as much or fully buy into her romance. However, it was still a very satisfying read. Tense in all the right places and with a brilliant finale, Alice Network delivers a fast paced, gut-wrenching spy novel.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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loveboat taipei

Love Taipei– okay, I initially didn’t get why this was so underhyped, but by the time I got to the end, I understood. This had some seriously dodgy elements… and yet I still kinda liked it? I know, I know- that makes no sense, just hear me out (or don’t- I wouldn’t blame you 😉). This had a love square and so-called friendship that’s MESSY af- but it was also very immersive and I completely believed the characters were real. Especially the main character, who was torn between what she wanted and what her family wanted for her. I thought it had a strong opening, concept and felt connected enough that I went along for the ride (however bad it got). Not sure I’d actively recommend it, but I’ll admit I enjoyed most of it (though perhaps not super into the how the romance panned out).

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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fountains of silence

Fountains of Silence– I had such mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the crimes that occurred in Franco’s Spain is an important story that needs to be told. Plus, some of the perspectives were powerful- particularly Puri’s. On the other hand, it wasn’t the smoothest read. As much as I pushed through it pretty fast, it could be a struggle, because I wasn’t interested by all the minutiae and stories. A lot could’ve been cut for a punchier plot. The ending, especially, could’ve been tighter. And, while there was some strong writing, this was far from Sepetys best. It didn’t sparkle enough for me and I only got a hint of the Spanish setting. In short, I think it’s good this book exists, I just think it could’ve been better.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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nevermoor

Nevermoor- The Trials of Morrigan Crow– people have been raving about Nevermoor for years- and I get why! What a clever, entertaining and funny work. The concept and world building were wunderful. The characters were really well drawn- there wasn’t a single case of a poorly sketched figure in sight- they all felt like real people. And wow that ending is basically the best! There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like. I am so excited to continue on with this story and I think this is the most *perfect* book for kids since Harry Potter!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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his and hers

His and Hers– this is a hard one to talk about, but an easy one to recommend. I loved how this thriller handled dual povs- it was so well done and absolutely added to the story. Flicking between Her perspective (an alcoholic, out of work TV presenter) and His (her detective ex-husband) we come face to face with a serial killer, as both are implicated in a spate of killings. As with all the best thrillers, this had plenty of “oh shit” and “wtf” moments. This pacey page turner delivers all the twists and turns. While I suspected some of them, there were many parts I wasn’t expecting. Most importantly, I had no idea whose story to trust. I did have some lingering questions, yet ultimately this really packed a punch.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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who did you tell

Who Did You Tell?– this was another solid thriller, featuring sordid secrets and a stalker. Again, I didn’t know how much of the narration to believe, with the focus on a recovering alcoholic. I really liked how this addressed the topic of alcoholism- cos it didn’t just use it as a crutch for the story or a convenience for the narrative. No, here it was about the trauma that is involved in substance abuse. This gave it some emotionality that I often don’t feel in thrillers. I also liked the slow reveal and clean structure. Plus, the final reveal was fabulous.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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clap when you land

Clap When You Land– written in verse, this was another flawless contemporary from Acevedo. I was prepared for heartbreak, but not for how heart-warming it would be. Focusing on the aftermath of a plane crash that reveals explosive truths, this was surprisingly action packed and I whizzed through it. It went beyond simply dealing with the topic of grief to take the story to even greater heights. The characters were not just shaken, but re-shaped by events. It was a beautiful journey and deserves all the applause. I’m really into every single one of this author’s releases!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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the library book

The Library Book– as you can imagine, a book that talks about how wonderful libraries are is preaching to the choir. So, unsurprisingly, I rather enjoyed this book of brief essays and stories about the glory that is the library. Being an anthology, there were of course parts I liked more than others (my favourite being the deeply personal one from Stephen Fry). It was amazing to read about all the ways it can change lives and the amazing benefits it offers. I liked that it put flesh on the bones of library life. Also, I rather like the reminder that LIBRARIES ARE A PLACE YOU CAN GET FREE BOOKS!! So, no, it wasn’t a life-changing read, but it was a little affirming. And yes, I know that there’s another more famous book (watch this space).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you’re all staying safe and well!

Sorcery of Thorns was a Spellbinding Success!

***I was given this by Netgalley in exchange for review- but the unabridged gushing is all me***

sorcery of thornsSet in a magical library, with the promise of plenty of drama and danger, I had a feeling I was bound to love Sorcery of Thorns… and I was right! Last year, when this came out, I was blown away by the sheer number of positive reviews. Just last month, I was delighted by Enchantment of Ravens and saw for myself the author’s potential- but nothing could’ve prepared me for the pure pleasure of this book. A perfect escapist read, I was instantly lost in this world of grimoires and demons.

The main character, Elisabeth, was charming, feisty and quirky. Her perspective felt refreshing and fun- and it certainly didn’t hurt that her ambition is to be a warden of the Great Library (let’s be real- I wish this was my life!) I didn’t just feel a connection to her, however- the love interest stole pieces of my heart and (surprisingly) a side character managed to run off with the rest of it!

And while the world is easily one of its biggest draws, it’s no question that the plot also delivers a punch. Pacey from the enigmatic opening to the turn of the last page, I felt like I was leafing through the layers of this story with every chapter. Part murder mystery, part coming of age tale, part romance, this has a little of everything to satisfy readers of all stripes.

For me, the writing held just the right level of enchantment. With a lovely refinement, it made me laugh and hit me in the *feels* when it had to.

The narrative also manages to raise interesting ideas- which I also appreciated in Rogerson’s previous work. Here, she doesn’t just explore the brilliance of books themselves, but how they make the reader stronger and more resilient. This is penned into the protagonist’s development in such a way that makes her feel simultaneously special and relatable. It bookends the beauty of libraries in an exceptional way.

As you can tell, my love for this book is no fiction. There’s something simply joyous in this YA fantasy. If you’re looking for a little time away from our world right now, I highly recommend stepping into this book about books!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Have you read this? Did you have as much fun with it as I did? Let me know in the comments!

Finding Inspiration in Big Magic

big magicAfter devouring Eat Pray Love earlier this year, I was craving more from Elizabeth Gilbert. Enter: Big Magic! I’d heard good things- but, wow, I was not prepared for how much I would love it. It’s just pure, sparkly *inspiration* in book form. It’s safe to say, Big Magic had cast its spell over

Bringing forth magic of creativity, there’s a hint of euphoria in this book. It sweeps you up in equal doses of optimism and tough love. Much like with Eat Pray Love, I adored Gilbert’s self-awareness and humour. I couldn’t help warming to her all over again and feeling like I was being taken on this journey by a good friend.

No doubt, like any guidebook for the (chaos that is the) creative mind, bits and pieces of this book will be relevant to different people (or at different times of the creative process). I personally felt called out for my perfectionism (described as fear in a mink coat) and welcomed the long-deserved kick up the backside. I’m positive that every creative will see parts of themselves reflected back at them here (and will benefit from the honest assessment).

I also liked the quirky analogies and unique ways of reassessing your mindset- such as asking yourself what you’d be doing in the apocalypse, so that you can know if you’re on the right path (which, you know, we can all kinda answer now that it’s rolled around 😉).

There were a whole bunch of great takeaways- which I’m going to paraphrase and you may want to skip over if you plan to read this:

  • I LOVED her point that yelling at creativity is like yelling at a cat- it has no idea what you’re talking about and you’ll just scare it away- VERY TRUE!!
  • I also agreed with her mantra: “Everything sucks some of the time”. There’s no such thing as a perfect job (and I think it’s not healthy to be in the mindset that there is).
  • She said no one is worrying about what you do with your life- which is great advice and reminded me of some advice my grandpa gave: no one is worrying about what you’re doing when they put their head on the pillow at night
  • And we have to keep pushing forward, no matter what!
  • Her point that people shouldn’t strive to be the suffering artist is so apt- writing is something to be enjoyed (and even in writing misery, it should be to untether your soul a little). I do not think it’s healthy to chase darkness around the world (it’ll catch up with you eventually anyway). I always think if you feel like you can’t write something dark, write something fun- the world needs more joy! I very much appreciated the quote: “Love over suffering always”
  • Plus, I liked her advice to lighten up!
  • And, by the way, “It ain’t your baby” (I’m certainly guilty of describing my work in those terms, but it’s not healthy!)

This book brought me joy and laughter- and most importantly it brought me hope. It taught me to have a fierce trust in myself, knowing I will fail and that’s okay. On a personal level, I’ve learnt something this year about how simply turning up can make a huge difference to your life (although the great irony is that then we all found ourselves locked up, so I guess occasionally the universe likes to have a laugh at my expense 😉). However, the point still stands! You can’t win anything if you never play the game (just make sure you wear a mask and bring hand sanitiser 😉). I feel like this was a kick in the right direction.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So, have you tried a little bit of BIG MAGIC for yourself? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Supernova was superb!

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Hello all! I’m SUPER psyched to talk about the conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s epic superhero series! And you know what that means… it’s time to bring back my Marvellous Monkey suit:

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Kicking off with Renegades, amping up the tension with Archenemies, I had high hopes for this one- and I was far from disappointed. Supernova was the kind of book I looked forward to picking up every time I put it down- which is rather a rare thing for me at the moment.

I’ll admit, this had something of an imperfect start, with the main characters consistently not figuring out some rather obvious secrets. That said, I did understand why they might plausibly not want to see the truth staring them in the face (even if it was frustrating at times!) Luckily this was all just setup for an *explosive* plot. When we finally got their reactions to the big secrets, all was forgiven (well at least from my perspective 😉)

In terms of that plot all I can say is WOW! It my breath away. With blockbuster action and showstopping exploits, this book was an experience. I loved where it took the characters and how the relationships evolved- all the way to the bitter end! This wasn’t just a rollercoaster ride- this went full speed off the tracks and in directions I couldn’t have predicted. Especially where it took the subplot murder mystery of who killed Adrian’s mother- highlight for spoilers: yes, it was what we expected, but I loved that it also wove in the idea that we create our own enemies and have to overcome our own fears.

Sure, there were also treacheries I did see coming- but even they were satisfying because they were built up so successfully and didn’t go for the straightforward solution. I was happy to see that this finale still played with nuanced ideas about good and evil- showing the Renegades true colours and talking of redemption for Anarchists. The power of the ending came from how it delivered on every promise of the premise- and gave us a few extra gifts besides!

Ultimately, I’m flying high with satisfaction for this series. I’m delighted that there’s finally an exceptional YA superhero series out there- and I’d love for there to be more!! (at the very least, I’d suspect a spinoff from Meyer sometime in the future)

My rating: 4½/5 bananas

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And of course, because I shared this series from the beginning with the Magnificent Monkey Baby, I’d like to ask her join us for a moment to tell us what she thought:

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Supernova is a banatastic book!!! Literally! It’s insane but in the most amazing way! It takes such epic twists and turns but feels so satisfying. I love the dynamics between the characters and how they each grow. Also the sheer shmushyness between Adrian and Nova is heart-warming and even sideline characters manage to pull on your heartstrings. It is superbly well done. There is a moment or two where I wanted to knock Adrian on the head because I couldn’t believe how stupid he seems to be (I thought he might have lost all his wits) but those moments are thankfully brief and don’t take away from the awesome storyline and the amazing conclusion to this SUPER Series!

Monkey Baby’s Rating: 4½/5 hearts

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Well you heard it from both of us- we found it an exceptional finale! What do you think of this series? Have you got to the superb ending? Do you plan to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Wow, is it July Already?

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Wow, we’re firmly in the summer now, aren’t we? Where on earth has this year gone?

Actually, don’t answer that- the less said about it the better 😉

Having said that, June was pretty good and I’ll tentatively add that I hope July’s gonna be just fine too. As we’re coming out of lockdown here, I’m working more and getting to see the outside of these four walls for a change 😉 I’m (hoping) work is going to settle into something of a routine again soon. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to (try to) use July for a bit of a refresher, so I’m tentatively gonna say that I’ll probably be on the blog less. Not sure if I’ll take an *official hiatus*- kinda want to keep my plans casual at the moment (I think, if anything, the last six months has taught me that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry 😉)

But while we are here, I did want to say another massive thank you to you all for helping me to get to 6000 followers. I’m doing a little celebration where I react to your assumptions about me– so if you’d like to participate feel free to add your comments to the celebratory post or on this one if you like 😊 (I’m having a lot of fun with the ones people have already made!)

orangutan thank you

And I think that’s all the housekeeping for now! As I’ve been doing the last few months, lets talk about what I’ve been watching before we get into the books…

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Last Kingdom Season 4– by now, you may have heard me rave about this super entertaining show. And if you haven’t, you may be confused as to why I’m in Viking dress 😉 Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, this series tells the story of Uhtred of Babenberg as he tries to reclaim his birthright and you can hear me rave about the first few seasons here and here. Just like the other series, this was tense and delightfully surprising. What I loved about this season is that it simultaneously gave us resolutions we’ve been waiting years to see… only for the story to about turn and go in a completely unexpected direction. With new settings introduced, I was happy to see the ongoing development of characters and relationships. By pure chance, there was a sickness subplot- which frankly had me shouting at the screen why aren’t you social distancing?! Regardless, every episode was an adventure. The only thing left to say is that I really need to catch up with the books already, cos I’d love to see where the similarities and differences are.

Okay, that’s all I watched last month worth note (I know, I’m running out of TV!!) now let’s discuss some books!

silence of the girls

audiobook2Silence of the Girls– when I think about this book, the first thing description that comes to mind is lonnnng. Which doesn’t make sense, all things considered, since it’s a pretty short book. Perhaps this was in part because in the audiobook version, the narrator seems to savour every syllable, HOWEVER even speeding it up didn’t seem to take away the tedium. As much as I wanted to like this book, it just felt remarkably long-winded. So much is drawn out and dwelt on, in an attempt to make the reader more sympathetic to the Girls’ plight. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have the desired effect. In fact, I see this technique used quote a bit in fiction- but I personally never feel like excruciating pacing does anything other than bore me. Incidentally, the whole purpose of this book is to create sympathy for the Girls- as if the classic tale somehow leaves that out- except I never had trouble empathising with their plight in the original. In fact, Homer could draw tears from me with a single line in the scene with Andromache. So no, I wouldn’t say this book was necessary. The other problem is that the way this is told- going from tragedy to tragedy in muted tones- doesn’t allow for any catharsis. And, as much as Briseis was a boring voice for the narrative, I liked the voices of Achilles and Patroclus even less. Frankly, I also found the line “his story” wince-inducing- entirely missing the humanity of the original (and slightly bizarre considering it’s a myth). All that said, this is not a bad book (I know, that contradicts everything I’ve said, but it’s the truth). The writing had some balance and beauty to it. It achieved what it set out to- such that I cannot rightly give it below:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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the rumour

The Rumour- Ahhh this is a frustrating one to talk about, because I can’t really say all that much without spoiling it, so this review will have to be entirely made up of whispers and hints. There was one aspect I wasn’t keen on throughout- but the last twist redeemed that for me. There was plenty of great characters and suspicion at every turn. The only other thing I can categorically say is that if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you should give this a whirl!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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house of salt and sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows– another decent book that I just didn’t click with for some reason. In this case, I have murkier reasoning. For some reason, I imagined this would be a far more atmospheric read than it was, but, while the world had a hint of salt to it, it perhaps could’ve been peppered with more descriptions. It did have some good ideas and twists on the tale, yet the story itself felt a little convoluted. I also guess a lot of the story beats early on and wasn’t as impressed as I’d have liked. It ended up being more of a generic YA fantasy than I expected- which isn’t so much a fault of the book per se- it’s just that I tend to avoid those nowadays. Overall, this was pretty bland and could’ve done with more seasoning for my taste.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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ruin of kings

Ruin of Kings– Eh, this didn’t blow me away. I found the flipping between timelines and povs an interesting touch, building some suspense and layers of world building nicely… However, I ultimately don’t think it added to the story, which made it feel like a bit of a gimmick. To my mind, using a complex structure like that should be more purposeful (although, happy to hear from someone who could tell me, what *was* the point of that?). And for all the intricate plotting, I was still able to guess a great many of the twists early on. Other than that, my main sticking point was that I struggled to connect with the characters. As much as I was entertained by the plot, now more than ever I need to feel a strong, visceral reaction to the people I’m reading about… All of this is to say, I didn’t personally love this book, but there’s no reason other’s wouldn’t.

Rating: 3/5 bananas 

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the huntress

The Huntress– well, I looked for it all month, but I finally found an absolute winner thanks to the brilliant Beware of the Reader, who suggested it to me and reviewed it so beautifully on her blog! This exquisite historical fiction, tells the story of Nazi Hunters going after the one and only Huntress. Like a Russian Doll, the narrative is nested in different timelines. Characters are slowly revealed and developed, as they circle each other in figure eights, giving the reader a sense of each personality in turn. And wow, what stories- they soar and loop and leave you breathless… until at last we come to the dramatic conclusion. Moving and mysterious, this made for a truly memorable read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you’re all staying safe and well!