As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

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Soul of the Sword Had a Lot of Spirit

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the heartfelt gushing is all me 😉 *

soul of the swordWell, I said at the end of my review for Shadow of the Fox that I wanted MORE and I definitely got it! Let’s cut to the chase, cos this book throws you straight back in at the deep end. This sequel picks up where the last one left off: the soul of the sword has broken free. With careful weaving of myths and legends, it shows you why this danger tears at the fabric of the world. Immediately, the reader is set upon by a terrifying tale and thrown deeper into the story’s history.

Thus, the stage is set and the narrative takes off at pace. A new, sharp voice enters the fray. Kagawa gives voice to a new (but also technically very old), sharp voice. We get to see first hand the struggle between good and evil taking root in the heart of a man. The reader can hear the thoughts of the hero tempered through the viewpoint of a villain. It’s fascinating to see the story from this perspective and it certainly makes for a mind-blowing opener. Instantly, the consequences of the last book are being felt.

Yet, hearing echoes of one character through another is far from the only brilliant moment when it comes to voice. Character is dealt with so strongly that you can tell who’s talking right away and without looking at the name at the start of each chapter. Yumeko is distinguishable through her humour and has all the same charm of the first book- perhaps even a little more 😉

I really enjoyed the writing in this one as well. With beautiful descriptions and poetic dialogue, this is Kagawa at her best. Everything adds to the atmosphere, giving the story a faintly mystical touch. The story flows beautifully and comes to life at each turn.

The pace sets off at a run and never loses footing. There is a clear sense that the plot is edging closer to the dragon’s wish, whilst also throwing in more intense challenges at the master of demon’s behest. There are plenty of clever, little developments along the way- but I have to give the most credit to the ending: it foxily sneaks up on you and pounces when you least expect. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say (rather vaguely) that it both concludes the storyline of the book perfectly AND sets up some crazy stuff for the next one!!

I can’t quite tell where it’s all heading, but one thing I know for certain is that the romance ante has been upped- not least because there’s more than one couple I am rooting for! If you’re hunting for forbidden love, then I can safely tell you that is something Kagawa excels at.

And I’m delighted to say that this was better than its predecessor. This is the kind of YA fantasy that will keep pulling me back to the genre- its got so much of the fun and vibrant spirit that makes it all worthwhile.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Us Didn’t Exactly Bring Things Together

 
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Well, this is exactly the kind of book that made me avoid adult fiction for some time. A story about a soon-to-be divorced middle-aged man, with a son about to leave home, going on a life-affirming trip round Europe to try and reunite his fractured home… tha-a-a-a-t ultimately ends up with it all being for nothing. 

Still, it did have a few things going for it:

1.       It’s well written. Aside from perhaps the overabundance of lists, there are nice little turns of phrases like: “contorting his body into a question mark”

2.       There’s a sad side to the story and some parts are deeply moving.

3.       There’s an actual plot! Huzzah! (I know this might seem like a weird one to list, but enough adult/literary fiction is lack in this department, so I may as well praise it when I see it).

you suckBuuuut this is all completely ruined by the fact that ALL the characters in this are AWFUL PEOPLE. Pretentious, selfish, shitty people. I couldn’t stand any of them. I don’t know if this book was designed to make me hate everyone in it, but it certainly managed to do that. Let’s start with the worst offender shall we? The son, Albi, made me come up with a whole host of reasons why his parents should have shoved him in a canal and been done with him:

1.       His main reason for not wanting to go to Europe to see the art there, despite being an aspiring “artist”, is because European art was made by: “a lot of dead white Europeans”. UGH. What a reductive way to look at art. Also, WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DO YOU EXPECT TO FIND IN EUROPE? The kind of idiot that would say Europe is full of Europeans is the kind of person who would take photos of his shoe (he does that too).

2.       He’s too surly to put forward any sensible reasons why he doesn’t want to go on holiday with his parents (aka “thanks for the offer mum and dad, but I’ve just graduated school and am about to turn 18, so no thanks” NOT “BUUUUT I WANNNNA GO PARTAYYYY WAHHH!”) Not that I think it’s a good idea to take a reluctant 17 year old on holiday, but you’re not gonna convince any parent with the excuse “I just want to get drunk!”

3.       On top of that, he’s the kind of ungrateful shit that’s had everything given to him on a silver platter, but STILL feels hard done to (because apparently parents/society/the world is oppressing you… by giving you everything?!) That’s right- he’s so WOKE that he understands how inherently *evil* the world is and therefore gets to throw his weight around like an overgrown toddler… because? I dunno if it was deliberate, but he was a bigger spoilt brat (and less nuanced) than Dudley Dursley.

4.       Also, he’s basically the villain. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list within the list of terrible things he does: refuses to spend time with his parents who’re bankrolling his trip, brings creepy 10 YEARS OLDER girlfriend to family breakfasts, gets angry at father for trying to de-escalate said fight, picks fights, runs away from said parents without a word leaving them to worry themselves sick, steals his father’s credit card, claims to be going round Europe on a shoestring budget WHILE USING SAID STOLEN CREDIT CARD, blames parents for all of above behaviour- I could go on but it’s an exhaustingly long list. The only excuse anyone can give for this behaviour is that he’s a teen- although that’ll only get him off the hook if you believe teens are inherently good and not responsible for their actions. Also, spoiler alert, he’s gay (big frickin whoop- do you think it gives you licence to be the world’s biggest prat?)

However, it’s no surprise that he’s a nightmare teen, as his mother Connie also sucks:

1.    do whatever you want   She is a terrible mother, because she let’s Albi do whatever he wants and tells her husband off for daring to discipline the out of control little berk. I have no idea why the whole book revolves around the father looking for his son to apologise, when really the kid needs a kick up the backside! (hopefully propelling him into said canal)

2.       She has an inexplicable affair and spends a lot of the book full of contempt for her husband- despite him putting her on a pedestal.

3.       In fact, everything she does is inexplicable– she marries a guy she doesn’t want to marry for no real reason (he just asked enough, I guess?) She then decides it’s time for a divorce cos she’s bored. I couldn’t think of a single reason to like this woman, despite being frequently told by the narrator how “terrific” she was. I for one would’ve liked an iota of evidence of her GLORIOUS AMAZING SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC personality.

Lastly there was the protagonist. Ah Douglas- smart, but exceptionally stupid old Douglas. I feel almost like kicking a puppy when I say this, cos he was idiotically loyal, but the guy’s a bit of bellend too- here’s why:

1.       shocked faceHe inherently lacks logic. I’m gonna assume that the views he holds don’t belong to the author, so I’m not trying to have a go, but WOW he’s got some dim-witted ideas about the future. For instance, he believes we’re going to live in a futuristic hellscape, where there are more robots, yet SOMEHOW the poor are still doing manual labour? Also, apparently, the ever-growing entertainment industry will shrink overnight and disappear. All of which is the fault of capitalism. No need to back up any of those claims- just go with it. That’s what everyone else seems to do in the book. Either that or sit there and silently fume (which only made me hate them more).

2.       Ridiculous fortunetelling aside, he is also completely clueless about people. The quiz night is the perfect example why (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean). He has zero emotional intelligence- which meant any sympathy I had for him quickly dried up.

3.       He also doesn’t know when he’s right or when to stand up for himself. He apologises to his son, his wife- and nobody ever seems to cotton onto the fact he’s being too generous. Despite this supposedly being about coming back together, reconciling differences, there’s never any real communication where they thrash out their differences. Douglas is just WRONG, everyone else is RIGHT.

funny-facepalm-gifAdmittedly this had a few plot twists and turns here and there to make it seem like things might work out- but I’ll save you all the bother of worrying: it doesn’t. Things end in much the same place as they begin. Except Douglas is cool with the fact his life is falling apart now. So that’s good, I guess. If you’re into this sort of thing, you might even like it. For me, I’m pretty done with books that masquerade as artsy by going the bleak route.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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So, dare I ask, have you read this book? What did you think of it? Did you enjoy it more than me? Let me know in the comments- don’t be shy!

This is going to hurt was far from painless…

 

I liked this more than I expected- and I didn’t expect much. I’ll confess, with my recently resurfacing squeamishness, the memoirs of a former Junior Doctor weren’t high on my list. But this incisive, insider vision of the NHS ended up being too hard to resist. While it wouldn’t have been something I’d necessarily seek out, I’m glad this cuttingly comedic story fell into my lap.

Because dark humour is up my street- and this has that by the (admittedly sometimes icky) bucketload. So, rather than telling my fellow borderline-germophobes not to read this, I’d probably suggest skipping the footnotes, because that’s where most of the “arghh my eyes” moments are 😉

Admittedly, I sometimes found the Kay’s experiences unrelatable at times, yet that did not detract from the importance of his narrative. Like I said, this does give valuable insight into the ghoulish state of the UK’s National Health Service, for which I am grateful. This touched on a lot of significant issues, from the obvious issues of overworking and understaffing to how people even end up on this track in the first place (I always find it of particular interest that unis prize candidates who can play the clarinet passably well rather than considering if the 18 in question has the resilience and empathy needed for the job). Needless to say, all of this did not exactly allay my fears of going to the doctor.

Because at the same time as sympathising with a lot of the people who work for the health service, I was also struck by the number of cretins in this world (the example that most springs to mind was the fool interrupting a genuine emergency for a drill and then demanding an apology when this doesn’t go down well). Just for that incident alone, I’d say this isn’t the kind of book that makes you all fuzzy-eyed about humanity.

And on that note, as promised, don’t expect a happy ending. This concludes on the most depressing of stories; this is not a comfortable book to read by any stretch of the imagination. Never before has a book title been so literal. I do not think I can invoke the spectre of it and do it justice. So, I will just leave you with the instruction to read the book and see for yourself:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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And that’s my prognosis! Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Listen Up: Daisy Jones and the Six are Gonna Rock Your World!

 

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audiobook2Verse 1

Before we get into anything, I have to say that again, the audiobook is the way to go for this one. With the multiple narrators, all putting in powerful performances, this the best way to experience the story by far.

Chorus

What I loved instantly about this book is how immersive it feels. There’s something sultry and sexy about the voices that carries you away; their words are both natural and yet carry a distinct beauty. Incorporating lyrics that feed into the narrative, we get a sense that the characters are riffing through their stories, bringing the reader into their world. It’s especially cool that this is about a time period most authors won’t touch. We’re all rewarded with a big, bold, splashy title. And, thanks to Reid’s mastery, no one could say it doesn’t feel real.

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Even better, Reid really comes into her own when she’s describing art. She has a true gift for making it feel like this band not only existed, but that you would have committed a major crime to go see them back in the day. Significantly however, this book doesn’t just leave you with the allure of the music scene. No, it goes deeper, bearing the darker undertones to the world. Daisy Jones doesn’t gloss over the hard topics. There’s a grittiness to this history and Reid doesn’t skirt around it.

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What I loved so much as well as how the character portraits are drawn. The character of Daisy in particular goes beyond the usual, coming close to an enigma, dancing near the poor little rich girl stereotype and achieving cult-like status all at once. For the record: Daisy can be a jerk. She has a long list of negative traits, which compliment the other members of the band (who are all equally imperfect). Their egos did sometimes get in the way of my enjoyment and I will admit I wouldn’t like any of these people in real life. AND YET, that’s just it- they felt like people to me. No one could say they don’t feel real.

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I also appreciated the way the contradicting stories gave a sense of where the lines blurred. Either the characters were so into their own stories that they didn’t notice what was happening around them or the memories had shifted to suit a narrative. It is as the narrator says at the start: truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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What I loved as well were the messages embedded in the plot. It tells of the importance of earning things for yourself, of redemption and of love. While it begins in a dark place, it builds to an inspirational crescendo. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the stories here, as so many struck a chord. Reid is such a talented writer that the only downside to listening to the audiobook was I *wish I could’ve written down more quotes*. It’s those wonderful lines that sneak up on your soul and make it feel real.

***BRIDGE***

I will say certain aspects were pretty predictable. The ending isn’t exciting or explosive or loud- BUT what is remarkable is how Reid turns the sadness around into a poignant final note. And, I can also say that if you listen to the audiobook your in for a treat as the story plays out…

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What I love most about this book is how I feel like listening to it all over again. Perhaps it is not the perfect book, but for me, the main thing is that it feels real.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

Limitless Praise for Limited Wish!

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the infinite gushing is all me*

 

Well hello there! No, you’re not getting déjà vu, I am wearing the same outfit that I did when I reviewed One Word Kill, but that’s not cos I time travelled from an alternate reality, it’s cos I’m here to review the sequel! (plus I didn’t want it to go to waste 😉)

Reading the recap, I was immediately reminded how complex Lawrence’s creation is. With more time travelling fun, this sequel has the added benefit of dual timelines, hinging on multiple choices.

From the outset, there were even more laugh out loud moments and perfectly balanced descriptions. Each sentence had a careful equilibrium, making me appreciate the writing in new ways. With unbelievable skill, Lawrence showed us maths through the eyes of the protagonist, making it more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

This all works to create a world that is both vivid and a little mind-boggling. What I especially like about it is the way there’s a supernatural strangeness to the story. And of course, I love the characters that populate this world.

I was blown away by the characterisation here. For instance, when Sam introduces himself as Sir Algeron, we instantly know what he is about. All of them are made from an intelligent blend of chaotic and orderly traits, making sense on the surface and yet having enough incongruities so that they feel astoundingly realistic.

This not only equates to a fascinating window into human nature, it also allows the reader to be fully immersed in the story. And what a fantastic story it is! There’s no middle book syndrome here, as we’re thrown straight back into the narrative. Remarkably, the ideas are just as sophisticated as the last. I particularly loved the idea of Nick being a “statistical anomaly” and the clever consequences that produced. I did guess who Eva was, but that didn’t subtract from my enjoyment in any way, though I will say I was more impressed by how D&D was entwined with the plot again! If you do pick this up, you can expect non-stop action and excitement. And, miraculously, Lawrence managed to pull all this off, whilst also managing to end on a sweet note yet again!

The sum total of all this is I enjoyed the heck out of this sequel!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you started the Impossible Times series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Sadie: Some Stories Just Need to be Heard

 

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EPISODE 1

[Soundtrack plays]

Orangutan Librarian:

I’m not much for audiobooks- I’ve rarely given them a chance and mostly only used them to squeeze in some non fic I wouldn’t otherwise read… until now.

sadie

Sometimes a book comes along and it completely changes your perception of things. It makes you open your eyes and your ears and wake up. Sadie did that for me in more ways than one.

The story itself is hard to listen to. There is no way around that fact. It’s the story of missing girls- a disappearance layered on top of a murder mystery. Of course, I was aware while listening that this was not a true story, but what struck me was that it all too easily could have been. And that, to me, is why this is such an important book. It strikes at the reality for too many girls; it brings such an important topic to light (and to life).

Often, when I’m listening to a book, I’ll want to speed up the book, so I cram in as much as possible, as fast as I can- but I didn’t do that here. I wanted to savour every moment of this agonising, engrossing, devastating story. To engage with this is like witnessing a train crash- you know it will have a horrible outcome, but you can’t tear yourself away.

The tension is made even greater thanks to the inclusion of Sadie’s story. Flashing back in time, before the podcast takes place, we hear Sadie talking in her authentically teen voice. In stark contrast to the radio show host, her words are stuttered and frayed and sharp around the edges. We don’t get a clear or concise narrative from her. It’s not an account polished up for the media. It’s every bit as raw and emotional as you’d expect.

Thanks to the author’s brilliance, we get to the heart of this complex character and vivid images of the people she meets along the way. The different styles blend perfectly and this is what makes the audiobook so mind-blowingly good. Rather cleverly, this even included ads like a real podcast! For the first time on this blog (and probably not the last) I’d say it’s 100% worth trying the audiobook version. It’s an experience.

An experience that admittedly just about broke me. Because naturally I was sobbing by the end and I’ve been struggling to write the review because I tear up every time I think about it. It is worth every bit of the hype- and then some. Sadie is beautiful and sad and simply amazing. Read, or better still, listen to it.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Did it make you an emotional wreck like it did me? Let’s cry about it some more in the comments!