Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – January 2021: A New Year Update!

Hello all! We did it! We made it to 2021!

Not to be totally underwhelming after that, but I don’t have a whole lot to report about the start of 2021. I do want to check in and give a quick New Year’s Update about my blogging plans for 2021… which are essentially that I’ve not made any plans. Basically, in the dread year that was 2020, I didn’t give myself much time off from anything… which has led to me being pretty burnt out and wanting to do things a bit differently. I just don’t know what that means as of yet 😉 There will likely be fewer posts in January while I figure things out.

Tiny Pretty Things– I appreciated some things about this as an adaptation, since it was a good take on the book (which admittedly I didn’t enjoy all that much). Think Pretty Little Liars– but with some cool dance sequences. For a TV show, it’s not bad at all. Plus, if you need some crazy teen drama in your life, then this is for you. And, what’s great is that you won’t have to wait goodness knows how many seasons for the mystery to be solved. The one thing that really bugged me was how this portrayed ballet as some right-wing bastion… which, c’mon, really? *eye roll* Suffice to say, it’s a pretty left-wing industry… though I guess that wouldn’t have fit with the America-bashing the show was going for. Alas, everything in TV has to have a smidgen of *I hate the West* propaganda these days.  

Bridgertonthis was the perfect pulpy tv to watch over Christmas break (and third lockdown *sigh*). It’s basically Gossip Girl in Regency England! Well, an alternate history version of Regency England (and even then it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief). Either way, I was hooked cos this packed in the DRAMA! There’s fake-dating and hate-to-love here. There’s light-hearted fun and stress and *emotions*. And there’s a mystery (that thankfully we’re not left in the dark about for season 2… oh please TV gods give me a season 2!). I actually read the book because of this and had some issues with it… suffice to say this was better!

Fire Child– I picked this up, cos I loved Ice Twins when I read it a couple of years ago. This was good… but not as good. It had a lot of the same strong elements: the creepily remote location, the strong writing, the growing intrigue. The one thing that stopped me from loving it quite as much was the odd ending. It worked… just about… maybe. It made sense of somethings, but it was also a bit far-fetched. Ah well, I guess I liked the journey, if not the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

Accidentally in Love- oh my goodness, this had the worst. love. interest. ever. Everything about him was unpleasant- he’s mocking, rude and snobbish. And turns all this around on her to say “we’re the same!!” Just the dream guy for every gal, amiright? I just don’t understand how the main character fell for him. While this was objectively just the kind of fun-ride romance I should have just leaned back and appreciated, I just couldn’t root for this couple because the male lead was SO AWFUL! Also, this won the award for weirdest metaphor of the month- why would you say you’re “pacing like an expectant father” about a potential love interest coming over? That conjures a strange image.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Roanoke Girls– okay this is not usually the type of book I like. Well, I didn’t enjoy it, but in this case, that’s the point. It’s little literary, mystery. Though it’s not really a puzzle you have to solve- it’s far more about discovering the trauma and characters coming to understand it. It was superbly written and completely disturbing- the kind of book I wish I hadn’t read in public, because it kept making me jump. And while it’s not technically horror, horrifying is the only way to describe it. It made my blood run cold.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

Keeper of the Lost Cities– don’t let the rating fool you- I liked this a lot. It was a very easy and enjoyable read. It’s a great start to an MG series about a girl that discovers she is an elf and gets to join their secret world. That said, there were things that bugged me. My biggest issue was that, although the protagonist Sophie has bundles of personality, she also had far too many abilities. There’s literally nothing she can’t do- and for me that leaves her teetering on special snowflake-dom. And while there were enough mysteries, action and the promise of very real danger to keep me reading through the first book, I doubt I’d pick up the rest of the series because of that. I just prefer the kind of protagonists that have more flaws and fewer talents. I’d still recommend it if you want to try more MG fantasy- though it’s not a complete winner for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all have a good New Year!

The Afterlife of Holly Chase Captured the Spirit of the Original!

What a fun, YA retelling of the Christmas Carol! I became completely swept up in it! I listened to the audiobook (which unfortunately wasn’t so easy to get hold of in the UK) and just loved it. Erin Spencer really brought the story to life!

It was a particularly voicey story, giving Holly so much character and making her feel like a real-life teen. She very much feels like a modern spin on the Scrooge character. Yes, she has similar weaknesses, but she’s very much her own person. 

Keeping it light, funny and also surprisingly heartrending, this becomes more than a straight-up retelling. It has similar notes, but strikes a different chord. It weaves in some complex family relationships and a delightful romance. I appreciated the way it intertwined the original and multiple Scrooge stories. I also particularly liked how each individual backstory made me sympathise with the Scrooge characters. And because I’m me, some of those stories made me sob.

And by the end, I felt like I was squeezed into a great big hug. No, it’s not the perfect happily ever after, yet the twist was exactly what was needed… which, again, made me all emotional. But then I do get all sappy about a good redemption story. And by golly, this is a good redemption story!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So, have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! And *Merry Christmas* everyone!!

Why I Didn’t Like Girl Woman Other

okay, if you’re looking for another glowing review, this isn’t going to be it

you’ll have to find someone else to tell you what a “seminal piece of fiction” it is

because I hated this so much I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming

and look, I can fail at using punctuation too

it’s not exactly a challenge

Okay enough of that. I’m going to write this properly because I’m not a total wanker. I wouldn’t, say, write an entire book this way. That would be insufferable. That would be basically unreadable. That would make you think you’d lost your mind if you read it knowing it had won the Booker Prize… Oh wait, this book did all of those things.

Look, usually I try to soften the blow with negative reviews, but there’s no way around how much I hated this book. For me, this is just another in a long line of prizewinning books that I pored over trying to find *something* of merit. I picked it up, put it down, picked it up again, persisted once more… and still found it wanting. Despite all the praise that’s heaped on this book, I couldn’t see any hidden quality to it. I know I’m in the minority with this, but I’ve just got to come out and say it: THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!

With a million run on sentences and no punctuation, the book is near unintelligible. It comes across as mindless rambling. The style is much like listening to half a conversation a stranger is having on the phone- you vaguely know it’s important to them… but you also don’t care and wish they’d shut up because this is the quiet carriage dammit and you’re trying to mind your own business. Amazingly, on top of being pointlessly bloated, the writing also manages to be stodgy and flat at the same time. It’s almost impressive how it’s been gutted of any life. There’s no delicacy to the wording or vibrancy to the imagery (ha, what imagery?) It’s just stripped bare and a little awkward for it. Naturally this somewhat dents the reading experience, leaving very little emotional impact, despite (what little there is of) the narrative being very graphic.

Structurally, it’s all over the place. Each story is attempting to do something like Gyasi, linking individual stories into one overarching narrative. Except this can’t pull that off. Coming across as a completely disparate narrative, the strands between stories stretch thin. And this was made worse by the knowledge that they’re *supposed* to be close (friends and even family). But the way it was written meant the impression was overly fragmented and I could barely tell them apart in my head. Particularly as there was no differentiation in voice and they all used the same “lexicon”. The way they all sounded the same (and felt the same) resembled a hive mind.

Apparently, the reason I had to suffer through this is because it’s “experimental”. Though that’s not much of an excuse. Because, you see, we already have this thing called short stories and we even have this thing called short story collections! I know- incredible! It’s less original, more irritating. It’s just doing what other people have done before, but badly. It kinda reminds me of when sound sculpture was a thing (which just amounted to off-key singing).

This also managed to commit the cardinal sin of being boring on top of infuriatingly written. That’s because it’s full of political diatribes. Unless you love being lectured to by most of the “characters” in this book, you’re not likely to enjoy this read.

And, of course, as I’ve come to expect from political manifestos masquerading as literature, a lot of the opinions are logically incoherent. My favourite example was when a character insists she’s “not a victim”, after chewing our ear off for pages about how she is in fact a victim. The book was basically gaslighting me at that point. I did, however, find it amusing how it ribs Derrida (whilst basically being 99% based on his philosophy). If I didn’t hate everything else about this book, I’d give it points for that.

So, there you go. I believe this has managed to knock even my least favourite books off their pedestal. Most of the time I like to be gentle when I break up with a book, but in this case all I can say is “nah, it’s not me, IT’S YOU!” I don’t think there’s anything redeemable about it. It was insipid, sneering and stupid.

Rating: banana peel

So, dare I ask, do you plan to read this one? Or have you read it already? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2020!

Okay, we’re moving into the final month of the year… and I’m ready to move on already. I ended up doing a project for work in November that just ate and ate and ate into my free time. Which means I don’t have a lot to report (other than I’m clearly stuttering through blogging right now). My plan at the moment is to end the year on a high… most likely just a sugar high 😉 Let’s not mince pies words, I’ve no idea what the last month of 2020 has in store, so I’m not going to promise anything! My only strategy is to keep calm and have a cookie…

Anyhoo, time to gorge ourselves on the great TV I’ve been watching…

The Queen’s Gambit this was the star of the month for me in TV! Like everyone with a Netflix account, I saw the advert, but didn’t think a drama about chess could hold my interest… shows what I know! I’m really glad I gave it a go, because this completely took me by surprise. Because it wasn’t just about chess (though that part was surprisingly amazing) it was an intense character study, focusing on the topic of obsession and addiction. All of which was captured in a way that made it feel like a real story. I loved the sumptuous setting, thought the lead’s performance was incredible and was impressed with the gripping storyline. I really recommend checking it out! (And all I want to know is whether the book is as good?!)

The Crown– well, I felt incredibly voyeuristic watching the Crown in season 4… which is my way of saying that, for all the inaccuracies, it was a strong season. Not just because the history around this is so fascinating, emotional and dramatic- but because there were some really good performances this year. I liked the take they had on Thatcher, thought showing Charles aging was a good idea and thought Diana was especially believable. The only episode I wasn’t keen on was the one about Fagan. I’m never a fan of turn-to-the-camera-and-preach moments, but this was made worse by the knowledge that the real Fagan couldn’t possibly have said all that since he was high on mushrooms, which messed with my suspension of disbelief. Other than that, it felt so realistic that a lot of the scenes this season made for uncomfortable watching. Yet, I can’t deny it was very addictive television.

The Plague– oof the subject matter for this one felt all too familiar. Okay, okay, we’re not dealing with the literal plague, but this was still pretty close to home. It’s incredible how this story not only crossed borders and has such depth of meaning in translation, but has also stood the test of time. It felt very universal. Trouble is, because of the current crisis, I did struggle to see the line between fiction and reality. I think I took a lot of this more literally than it was intended and lost (the probably considerable) metaphorical meaning. I’ll have to reread this again one day, when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

Station Eleven– well, here was another book that was creepily like reality. So much so that I think the media used this book as their official guide on how to write about a pandemic. Anyway, I don’t know what made me pick this up in November, but I thought this was an impressive book. Again, I think this book might have been better if I’d read it before or after Covid. That said, there was a lot to appreciate about this book. I particularly liked how it flicked back and forth through time. And the story flew by at an alarming rate.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

I Know Who You Are- ugh this is one of those books I really wanted to praise… and can’t. Because the twist made me feel a bit sick to be honest. I’m going to spoil it in one word for those that want to know: incest. I mean, I should’ve seen it coming, but also why would I have seen that coming?! Yet, despite the stellar writing, there were some serious flaws in the narrative early on. Cracks that appeared out of nowhere and stretched any semblance of believability. There was just so much happening that it got really far-fetched. I kept thinking “surely this can’t all happen to one person?” And yet, it did keep happening. And happening. And happening. It was less like being kept on my toes and more like being forced to do a dance over hot coals. I could barely keep up with this crazy conga of ideas-smashed-together. And then there was that ending… and goddamn. No.

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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

Loveless– I wasn’t in love with Loveless I’m afraid. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I have a love-hate relationship with Oseman, but I do enjoy some of her books more than others and this one wasn’t for me. The biggest barrier to my enjoyment is that Georgia is a *horrible* character. I can’t speak for things like authenticity, but I can say that I don’t really like people that use their friends the way she did. Experimenting on the bestie she knew had a crush on her was a big no-no. And just in case that didn’t leave enough of a sour taste, she’s also the kind of person that doesn’t know the *VERY BIG RED LINE* between someone saying something you don’t like and physical assault. Call me old fashioned, but assaulting a stranger doesn’t make you brave (*unless you think bravery is faceless jackboots). At the same time, she’s the kind of cowardly hyper-agreeable individual that can’t tell a girl sobbing in her arms that maybe just maybe she’s not happy and should make some changes. Another issue for me was that, while the voice sounded authentically teen, it did grate on me as immature, because they were supposed to be uni-aged. That said, it could just be that I’m old and aging out of the category, so take that with a pinch of salt 😉 The only reason I didn’t DNF this was cos I had to read on for Rooney and Pip’s relationship. Their relationship was worth every bit of page time (and should’ve had more). If that would’ve been the whole book, I’d have loved it.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Majesty– I don’t have a great deal to say that I haven’t mentioned in my review for American Royals. This was just as fun, dramatic and entertaining as its predecessor! Picking up from where we left off, with a new American Queen, this launches straight into the action. And while this had some predictable elements, it still managed to surprise me! I loved that it didn’t go in the direction I expected and had plenty of exciting turns- particularly in the romance department. I enjoyed getting to know the characters even more than in the first one, as I was pleased with how far they’d come! Plus, I really like that this gives us the main antagonist’s perspective as well!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

Labyrinth of the Spirits– I think like many people, I was sad to hear of Zafon’s passing this year. It made reading this all the more bittersweet. And it was already an emotional journey through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. As you will know, I love this story, so it was wonderful to see its conclusion. While it has a slow start, the building tension made it feel pacey. Slowly but surely, it weaves the mysteries from the previous stories together, drawing us into a labyrinth of secrets. It’s such a complex and dark story that you could easily get lost- and yet, incredibly, there is a light showing the way. Zafon gives us answers to questions launched in Shadow of the Wind. I realised by the end that we had the string to find our way through all along in the palm of our hands. I’m just so glad this story ended on such a strong note. I can now say that, even though each book acts as a standalone, it also really works as a complete series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

Winterwood- this was the very *definition* of atmospheric, autumnal reads. A witchy story that winds through a wooded path. Intricately plotted, it has a mystery that uncurls like a forest fire and must be devoured… before it devours you! It was so compulsive, I had to keep reading and reading and reading. I loved the stylistic originality of the writing as well- a few too many authors miss the mark trying to be unique with their imagery, but Ernshaw knows how to hang a single word on a sentence to give it a breadth of beauty. The multi povs were done well and the spells added a touch of charm to the characterisation. My one minor issue was that the romance was a tad fast- I felt like it needed more chemistry and a deeper connection. And yet, I also found the broad strokes of it lovely enough that it didn’t detract from the pleasure. I also saw one of the twists coming, yet it was the kind of story I can appreciate if it’s done well. And this was the kind of story that was done well.  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana hand-drawn-banana

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!

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is Unforgettable

invisible life of addie larueThere’s something exquisitely mysterious about this book. It’s the kind of novel that slips into your periphery as you read, so that you feel it following you around, haunting your every step. It’s the kind of novel you think you’ve witnessed before- and yet I can guarantee you’ve never seen it play out quite like this. Because, while V E Schwab has always been a very clever writer, this is the cleverest of her works.

The story, on the surface, appears to be simple: girl makes a dangerous wish and is cursed with unforeseen circumstances. However, there’s nothing straightforward about this from the start. You see, the deal itself is a curious affair. Yes, in the typical fairy tale tradition the catch costs her everything. Yes, the consequences fit the request. Yes, the devilish antagonist behind all this pulls the strings to torment her throughout. Still, there’s a part of this particular curse that ties the darkness to her, making the binds a little more complex. Unlike any other story of this nature, the deal touches both parties.

And a lot of this comes down to the fact that Addie Larue is an entirely enigmatic character. She’s a complicated protagonist, brought to life with memorable details, from the constellation of freckles on her face to the dreams she holds close to her harrowing suffering. And still, I haven’t come close to covering who she is.

Twining her life with art, we see that she is the ultimate muse. Wherever she walks she brings inspiration. Though she is frozen in time, unable to change, she does develop over the course of the narrative. It’s a subtle change, keeping the core of the character intact, but shifting her attitudes so she’s a better, bolder version of herself. I loved this expansion of confidence. And I admired how it showed her creative streak in more ways than one. And I liked how it twined with her constantly budding relationships.

Speaking of relationships, there are many that were powerfully explored. Not just romantic relationships. Friendships were given space to bloom. Romance is often featured in the book- and yet for me it was the friendships that will stand the test of time.

Even better, there is a plot worth selling your soul for. I glided through the book, unable to put it down, though I thought the path it was taking was clear. Of course, in typical Schwab fashion, she pulled a blinder at the end. Unusual, unexpected and an absolute stroke of brilliance, the ending is *perfection*. The more I think about it, the better it becomes. And I would love to talk about this in more depth- but I won’t for fear of *spoilers*. It’s the kind of story you have to watch out for yourself. One thing’s for certain: I won’t be forgetting this book in a hurry.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So, have you read The Invisible Life of Addie Larue? Can you see yourself picking it up? Let me know in the comments!

Alias Grace was a Gem Hidden in Plain Sight

I committed a cardinal sin with this book: I started watching the TV show first. I know, I know, that’s a crime as a bookaholic! Truth be told, I did it because I was on the fence over whether I wanted to try more Atwood. While I was impressed with her writing in Handmaid’s Tale, the actual story wasn’t for me. But then Netflix went and tempted me with this beauty.

Telling of a notorious murderess, this is an intriguing historical murder mystery. Pacey and languid in equal parts, I found myself racing to the end of the book and the show at the same time! (such that the two are blurred together in my mind). The lilting tone of the writing and the specificity of the imagery took me on a journey. My only issue is that Atwood has an aversion to speech marks for some indecipherable reason- the only consequence of which is to blur the words on the page. But otherwise, I was captivated.

Twining real life events with hints of the supernatural twists the tale into a unique patchwork-puzzle. Even with all the pieces, it’s impossible to solve… and for me that makes it a little bit special. The text never fully commits to vindicating or condemning Grace- and for me that is the perfect solution. I am sure there are feminist interpretations (indeed I’ve seen a few) that blame all the negative male behaviour for everything bad the women do… and yet neither the book nor the show fully commits to that argument. Which is a good thing- not least because this would take away the responsibility (and therefore power) of its female cast.

And, because of this ambiguity, I can’t stop thinking about it. I confess after finishing, I fell down an (unsatisfactory) research rabbithole, trying to get to the bottom of the true story! One thing’s for certain, Grace has been haunting me ever since I first caught her eye.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

So, have you read this? Do you plan to? And what Atwood (other than the Handmaid’s Tale) would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2020!

Hello all! Looks like we made it to November- hopefully all in one piece! Nothing too freaky happened to me in October… except starting a new job- which caught me by surprise! (in a good way 😉) Like a lot of people, this year’s been a bit rocky financially, so pretty relieved to have some more stable work to see me out to the end of 2020. Sadly, on that note, I may have to take a few more breaks from blogging (gosh so reluctant to just say I’m going on hiatus!) I’d love to be able to catch up on everything I’ve been missing out online, but I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.

gotta go to work! 😉

Emily in Paris– there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this: the stereotyping, the silly inaccuracies for cheap laughs, the *awful* (cheating) love triangle and the horribly unsympathetic lead… buuut I have to admit I had fun with it. It was a light, fluffy, silly rom com that made me laugh. So I’m sorry to the Gods of TV Taste- I enjoyed this more than I should have!

American Vandal– I watched this because I was obviously craving something a little more serious 😉 I loved how this sent up true crime documentaries. I still think that Sadie is the best for critiquing the way true crime doesn’t care about the victims- yet this did make compelling arguments about how filmmakers can expose people unfairly, ruin lives and not really help anyone in the long run (especially if society already has it in for them). Not just because it offered an interesting commentary on how so many of these documentaries can be unethical, but because it was a remarkably compelling story in its own right (even if the main mystery was “who drew the dicks on teacher’s cars?”). And it was all the more entertaining for being completely over the top!

City of Girls– after reading a couple of Gilbert’s great non-fiction books, I’d been hoping to read her fiction for some time now, because I hoped it would hold the same charm for me. Sadly, this did not live up to expectations. My biggest issue with City of Girls was that it basically read like a modern story with a vintage veneer. For all the costumes and hints of setting, I felt like too many characters were out of step with the time period. And while I loved the voice, because its expressive tone created so much character, I ultimately found the protagonist incredibly unlikeable. Sometimes this isn’t such a big problem- however in this case she was such an unconscionable cow that I was cheering on the person chastising her.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Inheritance– in this compelling memoir about discovering the secrets of her DNA, Dani Shapiro hands down the details of her life story. Part detective story, part journal of self-discovery, this is one of the most intriguing non fiction books I’ve ever read. Reading this, I was constantly annoying my family with exclamations of “oh my god!” (so beware reading this in a public place). On a personal level, it’s hard not to empathise- yet it also raises ethical quandaries that are not so easily put to rest. Do donors have a right to privacy or children have a right to know? It is no small thing to consider- especially if the potential cost is the lives of these very children. Then there are the questions of nature vs nurture- for if you find out your father is not your biological father, then who made you who you are? Surely both inform your identity in some way? Finally, and most significantly, there is an attempt to get to the root of one of life’s biggest issues: who am I? And I guess it was this central issue that made me relate- despite how unusual her story was. I couldn’t help but identify with her struggles to connect with her identity. I definitely knew what she was talking about when she referred to veiled anti-Semitism. Much of this hit me like a gut-punch. It’s a powerful and fascinating read that I would definitely recommend. Nonetheless, I have to warn you, even though the mystery of her parentage is solved by the end: the puzzles at its heart linger will linger long after you turn the last page.   

Rating: 5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

The Wife Who Knew Too Much– after reading Michele Campbell’s Stranger on the Beach, I knew this would be a strong thriller. And I was right… to an extent. For much of the book, I had no idea where this was going. I loved some of the legal drama woven in, but it dragged in the middle and I wasn’t quite clear on whether I was fully invested in the story. Yet, the author really hits the accelerator at 80%, taking a bit of a wild turn off a freeway. I was impressed with how much smart the twist was and liked the motive more than I expected. I especially loved how the title plays with you and has many different meanings. Ultimately it wasn’t my favourite journey, but I liked the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

Spinning Silver– I’m struggling to weigh up my thoughts about this one. There were so many delicate threads that wove into an intricate design. There’s love, monsters, adventure, friendship and family- all seamlessly stitched together. Standing back from it I can see Novik certainly knows how to spin an elaborate tale! The author has such a talent for taking the villains of a tale and turning it around- and doing this with Rumpelstiltskin is a far more remarkable feat than Beauty and the Beast. What I especially liked was how the original was revealed to be simply the blood libel in disguise- which I had not realised before. Still, I did end up fairly conflicted about the Jewish aspect of the story- since writing another ugly-Jewish-girl-with-money story doesn’t exactly challenge stereotypes. But while I may have been a little sensitive to this, I don’t want to be too critical, especially as I am aware of the historical reality (ie Christians were not allowed to lend money and Jews were often not allowed access to any other profession). Plus, it’s an interesting enough spin. On balance, this was an excellent book, just perhaps not quite the right fit for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

Ninth House- I’ll confess I took a risk reading this, because I wasn’t that sure I’d like it. I love the author, but have never been into horror. That said, with all the hype, the pull was to great to resist. And, even if it’s not my usual cup of tea, I’m glad I gave it a go! Straight away, I could see it was a good job this was classified as adult- it’s exceptionally dark. As has been widely discussed, there is a graphic rape scene that is hard to read. However, having read it, I can’t believe Bardugo was called out over it- maybe people should spend more time getting angry at the people that do evil things, not the people that write about them. Despite all the gore, what actually stood out was the story. Pacey, intriguing and hinging on different timelines- I was wowed by how it all came together. In fact, I was feeling pretty slumpy when I picked it up and still whizzed through it in a day! Galaxy, while dark and edgy, has enough shine to keep me interested. Darlington was considerably more fascinating than I first thought as well. But really it was all about that plot and killer ending for me.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

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!

Settling in for Home Before Dark was… Unsettling!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but I’m the one trembling with excitement about this book!***

home before darkWelcome, welcome! Today I have a treat for you if you like something a little tricksy- let me show you around. Here we enter into a story that has all the hallmarks of a spinechilling thriller: a haunted house vibe, a tensely told plot and even hints of creepy children in the flashbacks.

Step over the threshold and this is a multi-storied narrative. It contains a story within a story in a unique way. For this is a story that takes place over two timelines- a mystery that unfolded twenty-five years earlier and led to a family fleeing in the middle of the night… and the present day where the daughter tries to uncover what the hell happened. Problem is, the main clue she has her (now deceased) father’s bestselling, “true” account… which she’s a little sceptical about.

And it’s this motivation that makes it such a compelling read. Not only is she clearly haunted by what happened in this house, she’s also troubled by her father’s runaway success story. Thrusting her into the spotlight, it made me think of the troubling trend of child stars. Her foundational motivation for getting involved in this case is unshakeable. Even better, her character is intrinsically built around resolving her childhood trauma. It really strengthens the story.

Of course, it’s not a cut and dry situation. Unlocking what happened uncovers revelation after revelation. The key is elusive. I kept feeling like I had all the pieces to the puzzle… yet couldn’t quite put it together. To complicate the matter even further, Sager proves that memory is not always to be trusted. The narrative becomes lost in the labyrinthine passages of Baneberry Hall. Then- suddenly- the answer pounces on you and throws you into a frenzy of “aha”s. This is, after all, the kind of thriller that makes perfect sense when you think about it.

So, needless to say my visit was an experience… one I won’t forget in a hurry! 😉 I hope you enjoyed that quick open house and got a taste for what’s inside! Do come back and visit any time! Please take some bananas for the road…

Rating: 5/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

And let me know: do you plan on coming to stay?

The Divinity of the Diviners – Series Review!

audiobook2What a devilishly delightful series! Amazingly atmospheric and pos-i-tutely petrifying at times, this 1920s New York ghost story will give you a run for your money. I listened to the audiobooks for this series and every step of the way was a real showstopper. January Lavoy did an unbelievable job bringing the world, characters and writing to life! It’s the best performance I’ve heard in a while!

While this does carry a lot of the hallmarks of YA- which we’ll get to later- this certainly stands out from the crowd. Taking countless twists and turns, these books are jam packed with plots and subplots. Admittedly that’s because these are hefty tomes, so if you pick them up, you’ll be in it for the long haul (especially if you go with the audiobook version- which I’ll push forever 😉).

However, given this is such a character driven story, a lot of the time is spent getting to know the stars of the show inside and out. For me, what makes these books special is how much each of the personalities shine in turn. I especially loved book 2, Lair of Dreams, with its focus shifting to my favourites, the adorably debonair Henry and the lovely Ling! Even my least favourite heroine, the rather sanctimonious Mabel, had a real crisis of personality, realising she couldn’t just believe in her own goodness to win out. And that’s just one example of the brilliant multi-faceted complexity! 

I also loved that these books were brimming with romantic subplots. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, it even had a love triangle that really works! Not only was it done in a believable way, it also doesn’t contain cheating! (it doesn’t hurt that my ship sailed!) And if that trope doesn’t tempt you (which I get) then have no fear- this also has forbidden love, hate to love, fake dating, slow burn and more!

Now, for me, there were a few downsides. As much as I appreciated the general idea that history rises from the grave and that we have to learn to hear the ghosts of our past, I did think the messaging took over from time to time. Once again, this was a case of me not enjoying the insertion (of what was ostensibly modern) politics into fiction. Granted, I believe there was an attempt at rousing people into being better… but when there are passages on the tragedy of massacred buffalo, I had to come to the conclusion that this was not about taking the good with the bad. This was the story of a nation that has fallen out of love with itself. Perhaps it is witnessing the fires burning from across the pond, but I personally find that rather depressing.

Then there was the ending. Though I divined bits and pieces, I didn’t entirely see where it was heading. There was betrayal, heartbreak and horror. I thought victory would come at a high cost indeed… until a last second change that robbed me of that emotional impact. Now, entering *spoiler territory*, so highlight to read on… I personally felt like it made sense to have Isaiah defeat the King of Crows. When he realised that there was no story in the coat, it was reminiscent of the boy in Emperor’s New Clothes. But to have Isaiah come back from the dead just felt cheap. Yes, it was in the spirit of the story, yet it would have been better for the story to have him defeat the villain purely for the good of his family and move on. Dark as that might have been, the story would have been more beautiful for it.

Still, even if it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed the hell out of this series! It delivered every emotion, from genuine *chills* to romantic *feels*. The perfect YA series for Spooktober that’s for sure. And I really can recommend the audiobook version- it was ab-so-lutely the cats pyjamas!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

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

Once and Future Witches was Beautifully Crafted!

***I SOLD MY SOUL TO NETGALLEY FOR THIS COPY AND WOULD DO IT AGAIN***

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the blessings I will bestow on this beauteous offering are all from me***

once and future witchesCast your mind back to January. Before we all fell under the corona curse, I was blessed to read a wondrous book called Ten Thousand Doors of January. Such was the enchantment of the narrative, I was sure that no other book I read this year could surpass it… Until now. For, Once and Future Witches has utterly bewitched me.

Before we get started, I must confess I lost my notes for this review. No matter how much I hunted for them, those devilish scribblings couldn’t be found. Never fear, however- I shall scry my memories to tell you why you should read this wickedly clever twist on Arthurian legends and fairy tales. With legendary skill, Harrow roots this story in the oral tradition, telling of ancient tales resurrected and revived into something new (actually, given all that, it’s kind of fitting that my notes vanished into the aether).

Masterfully written, this has the kind of charm you cannot put into words. Dressed in darkness and showing off its witchy wares, this captivated me from the start. Weaving its magic steadily through the pages, I was cloaked in its mystifying atmosphere. Hinting at history, yet entirely made up- this ties threads together that don’t really belong in one story. It shouldn’t really work- and yet, as if by magic, they all blend together in a remarkable tapestry. In fact, the story snaps so many conventions in its crooked fingers, pointing us in a dazzling new direction… which I suppose just shows that some rules were made to be broken 😉

witchy monkey2I’ll admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for witches. Unconventional and with pinch of dubious intent, they feed my need for anti-heroines. And these were no exception! They weren’t your average “good girls” nor were they cackling caricatures- they were entirely fleshed out as individuals. Mirroring archetypes, they came to life thanks to their distinct personalities, steady development and most importantly their relationship with each other. Beyond the romances and friendships, my favourite part of this story was how it explored the complexities of sisterhood. Evil brews throughout the story- yet they learn to stand together in the face of it.

The plot was quite something to behold. For a spell, I did wonder where the story was heading. But ultimately, it comes full circle, setting a blaze of drama and thrilling me to the core. And there are real costs at the end of it. The results were haunting; it left a shadow in its wake.

Stories are layered atop of stories here. While some of these will be familiar, others are utterly unique. Covering the woman’s suffrage movement and more, this delved into areas I usually prefer not to see in my fiction… but given Harrow’s talent I can’t pretend to have been all that bothered by it. Whether I agreed with every bit of its themes or not, this was a tale that held a great deal of power. It enthralled me even in its gloom. It conjured more beauty than I ever could have imagined possible. And you really can’t ask for more than that.

Rating: one eye of newt, three dead mans toes, some serpents teeth…

Just kidding: 5/5 bananas of course!

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So, have you read either of Alix E Harrow’s books? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!