Dispel Illusion Cast its Spell Over Me!

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

That’s right- I’m back baby! Dressed in my Dungeons and Dragons gear, because I’ve been whizzing through time/space/my reads to get to today’s release… (okay I got an ARC, but we can pretend I’m a space-hopping primate, can’t we? 😉) Either way, I am more than ready to review the final book in the Impossible Times trilogy!

Much like the first two instalments, this was a compulsive, dramatic and entertaining read. Unlike the first two, this had interlocking timelines, flipping between Nick’s present and future selves. This worked perfectly. The two stories were layered over each other, taking time to get from point a to b, and yet speeding us to the final destination… I barely had the chance to pause for breath!

From the witty first line to the chuckle worthy last, I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out “how on earth are they going to get out of this one”. There were innumerable twists and turns; the plot closed off loops, only to open up more possibilities. I think it’s safe to say I had no idea where it was heading- even though I knew exactly how it had to end.

Still, this managed to hit BIG EMOTIONAL points. The friendships and relationships were beautifully realised. For all the action, there was real heart to this story. As the plot ticked towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion, I felt the protagonist’s desire to roll the clock back. The story began to feel like a love letter to a former self, the wonderful writing giving weight to the narrative and inspiring a sense of longing for simpler times.

Speaking of nostalgia, one of my favourite things about this series was the Dungeons and Dragons subplot. It reminded me of the “what you study in school somehow lines up with real life” trope- except this was way more inventive and ingenious and appealed to my inner geek!

But that was not all- oh no! Because Lawrence had an ace up his sleeve. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat- I knew it was coming and yet couldn’t see how… until *tada*! Everything came together with a flourish! I’m happy to say, it was one of the best endings I’ve read in a long while and it made me a very satisfied monkey. My reaction to that last masterstroke could only be described as gleeful; my only frustration is that I cannot talk about it for fear of spoilers! Which is why, I’m giving this:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Woke by @TitaniaMcGrath is the most important book of our time

wokeWhat a STUNNING and BRAVE and MAGNIFICENT creature Titania McGrath is. It is an absolute pleasure to bask in her tweets that liberate us from reality and hear to her shrieking *ahem* spoken word poetry. We are all blessed to breathe the same air as her (except that we probably shouldn’t do that cos that is stealing air from minorities). We, the undeserving, are fortunate to merely be able to listen to this goddess of progressivism preaching how much better she is than us. Her wisdom is undeniable.

“It is no exaggeration to say I would rather be living in a Soviet gulag than a capitalist country”

Of course, it can come as no surprise that Titania experienced *horrendous* abuse from an early age, being brought up by wealthy parents and privately educated (the horror, the horror!). Worse still, she recently faced a twitter ban by the evil Nazi capitalist overlords over in Silicone Valley! I now thank my lucky stars that I have never experienced such inhumane treatment!

“That’s the wonderful thing about identity politics: you never have to explain yourself, or even develop your thoughts into what right-wingers call a “coherent argument””

Are we not all oppressed though? Titania teaches us that anything can be a form of oppression if shouted about loudly enough. I for one would love to share my invisible disability of extreme laziness but I’m afraid I’d have to get out of bed early to do that (#slovenlypride). But really, I recognise that my biggest obstacle in life comes from being a woman (obviously) and that even my cartoon depictions of myself are oppressed by the patriarchy (obviously) since no one recognises I’m a woman unless I put on a dress!

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“When women are valued more than men, then and only then will we have achieved equality.”

Althoughhhh when I say everyone is oppressed, I’m not really talking about everyone. Straight white men don’t count. Even if they’re living in a dumpster, they have privilege. I mean, that goes without saying. I actually bought a copy of this book for my brother’s birthday because he needs to feel SHAME for being born male and having the audacity to stay that way. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson from our Great and Glorious Saviour, Titania McGrath! And on that note, given that I don’t have the power to award this book a Nobel Prize, I shall have to give it the equally prestigious award of 5/5 bananas:

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Okay, I think I might have blown my cover by engaging in the imaginary free market with that endowment 😉 Of course, *disclaimer time*, this book and my review were satire. I’m afraid I must break character or you’ll all think I’ve gone totally bananas. Surprising as it may be, Titania McGrath is a fictional character invented by the hilarious Andrew Doyle. Having said that, if you’re worried about authenticity, this was replete with plenty of bonkers things real-live-people have actually said. Woke was an amazing antidote to some of the barmy media out there- I was belly laughing and chuckling throughout- so job well done! (and yes, I did actually buy this for my brother’s birthday and he thought it was brilliant too!)

Alright, did I fool you? Did you think I’d lost my marbles? Do you think you’ll pick this up? Let me know in the comments!

Preachy Priestley’s Inspector Calls Commits Seven Deadly Sins Against Literature

an inspector calls

I can’t say that I didn’t know this would be bad. I once helped someone get an A* on an essay, without having to read the play. The fact that it is that easy to get a good grade should tell you all you need to know about the “quality” of Inspector Calls… and yet some people still attest it’s a masterpiece. Well, sorry, the false niceties of Priestley’s garbage haven’t won me over. It’s crap. Let’s get into my (rather indolent) explanation as to why that is…

SLOTH- it’s lazily written. Merely a vehicle for Priestley’s sanctimonious preaching, this play is stagey, melodramatic and mindlessly bland. *Amazingly* all the characters sound the same and you’d never know who’s talking if you hadn’t been told. And by amazing, I mean it’s so shoddily written that none of the characters come across as remotely real. Everyone is a cardboard cut-out with as much personality as those Knight vs Peasant mock debates Tudors used to write to weigh up the pros and cons of Enclosure. Which nicely segues into hot take number two…

GLUTTONY- this is stuffed full of bad characters– chief among them is the Inspector, the titular character and the closest we get to the hero in the play. It is with the greatest irony, then, that this faceless imposter actually comes across as the villain. He reminded me distinctly of the bureaucrats in Kafka’s Trial and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. He’s much like the KGB invading the home without due-process and demanding everyone kowtow to their demands. It’s not clear for most of the play whether the accused are guilty and frankly it doesn’t matter- this is not what amounts to a fair trial. Believe me, I get that this is supposed to be like the ghoul of past sins coming to visit, yet as a moral arbiter, matilda chocolate cake.gifthe Inspector looks rather sinister and ultimately reflects the fact that Priestley does not know what true justice looks like. Of course, in the true fashion of badly written propaganda, everyone in the cast conveniently fesses up to their alleged crimes. Never mind that this is wholly unrealistic. No, fans of the play tend to overlook this poor characterisation, because they are delivered their own preconceived ideas by the plateful.

PRIDE- in his arrogance, Priestley is really insulting to the working class. Again, fond as he is of the faceless entity, he tries to create sympathy through the “universal” entity Eva Smith/Daisy Renton/symbolic-poor-chick. In reality, this reduction dehumanises the working class, especially as he seems to be stating that the poor have no responsibility for their own actions, no agency of their own and thus every interaction with the rich must inevitably push them closer to offing themselves. Nice. Really progressive. Very “Thirteen Reasons Why” before it was cool. All the horror is placed at the Birling’s door, but Eva (knowingly) kills herself and her unborn child with her. But she’s totally sympathetic because you see poor people don’t have autonomy– gosh this is patronising bilge. Frankly, I find this uppity attitude insulting and out of touch, but what do I know? I’m poor 😉

LUST- Priestly is in love with the sound of his own voice. Moralising and moaning and beating you over the head with its message, Priestley is determined to bludgeon you into agreeing with him. What makes this THE PITS in terms of plot is that there’s no story here- beyond emphasis on causality, there’s nothing to it. The message isn’t even powerful, half of it is just “be nicer to each other” platitudes. You want a round of applause for that Priestley? Of course, there is a more sinister side to the argument…

ENVY- it is built on the politics of envy. The fact that this was first performed in the Soviet Union should give you some idea of its political leanings (yeah, I fact checked this several times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, this was first performed in 1945 in LENINGRAD). Not that it really bothers to explore left-wing ideas with any real depth or offer any real solutions- that would be a more challenging endeavour and as we’ve already established, Priestley was a lazy prat. Still, its origins are relevant. The resurgence of this play in the 1990s is credited as being because of its “universal” ideas reaching beyond the Soviet Union. Really, beyond telling you that people like vacuous banalities, it should tell you that not enough people bother to read Solzhenitsyn and have the memories of goldfish when it comes to the evils of communism. Heck, they don’t even like to look beyond their borders to Venezuela these days. It’s a shameful blight on our education system that this piece of propaganda is given the same amount of space on the exams as the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare, but ho hum, it’s easy and fun to indoctrinate kids. I don’t suppose it matters that…

WRATH it’s just blind rage, absentia any logic. While wildly aiming his fury at the “system”, Priestley’s drivel makes for pretty poor analysis. Literature should be endlessly complex not an algebraic formula of (the author’s) authoritative ideas. And yet, here’s a book asking to be solved in the simplest way. People somehow feel clever knowing exactly what Priestley intended them to know, like they’ve solved the world’s hardest puzzle- stressed monkey orangutan0002except this is a game designed for toddlers and you should feel a little ashamed if you’re patting yourself on the back for putting the round peg in the round hole. This is deliberately straightforward to trick you into thinking it’s clever (which is a stupid move, if you ask me). The only reason people like this is because of confirmation bias- not because it’s making any solid arguments. In my book, it barely makes the cut as literature, let alone a classic. The fact that it’s somehow managed to make it onto exams makes me wrathful.

GREED– it greedily steals one more twist… and ouch. It made me groan. The ending is a gimmick and used to disguise the fact you’ve been preached to- so I guess I’ve come full circle to the fact this is just not a very good play. Which leads me to do the stingiest thing of all with the rating and give it a banana peel:

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And that’s all for now! If you thought my analogies sucked, that’s cos my brains went on vacation after reading this trash. Have you had the misfortune to read this? Let me know in the comments!

Make Some Noise for Radio Silence!

radio silence

Hearing about this all over the internet, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure this was going to be for me. It sounded a little like a typical contemporary YA, aimed at a not-quite-me audience, and trying to be something it wasn’t. Despite my reservations, I decided to pick it up annnnd BAM!

bam friends

This hit me like a ton of bricks! I could not have anticipated how much this book about fangirling over a podcast would hook me. Fascinating and nuanced and layered- it’s a proper coming of age story, with all that entails. And yet does none of this in the usual way!

Tuning in, the tone was instantly relatable and captured the tone of modern Britain. The writing simultaneously managed to be well written and also get the lingo down. The speech in particular was incredibly natural- like listening in on actual teens- like looking at a snapshot of people’s actual lives.

All the characters in this felt super real. There wasn’t a single weak link- there were so many lovable friendships and family relationships crammed into one book (Frances’ mum in particular is a Rockstar of a character!). And I loved the contrasting vibes I got from everyone- it was such an eclectic mix of people. Obviously, I was also a massive fan of the *online friendship meets real life* storyline- it just made me absurdly happy. And really liked how Aled wanting to keep his identity secret wove into other themes.

At the same time, this wasn’t just light and frothy all the way. This dealt with a TON of important issues. In fact, I was particularly impressed by how this handles the topic of abuse. What I especially liked was that it made a strong case for not knowing what goes on behind closed doors. The ass-umption is that Aled is privileged for going to a good uni and running a successful blog- but people don’t know what really goes on in his life. The exploration of this was handled sensitively, whilst not beating around the bush. I cannot express how much respect for this book for doing this justice.

I’m also glad that this doesn’t present uni as all sunshine and roses. Not that I want people to be put off, but too many books do that. Too often we are bombarded with the “best time of your life” line and that it’s the “be all and end all”- which can be hard to live up to. It is refreshing to tell some different stories for a change: plenty of people don’t go, many are rejected, lots of people hate it, some are pressured into doing subjects they don’t want to do, a fair few drop out/change courses (or go through a mixture of the above). Somehow, this book managed to explore a lot of those options.

And that’s just one of the reasons I think this is a seminal book for this generation. Everything from the highs and lows of fandom to being an anxious young nerd to coming to terms with who you are was given space on the page to develop. It really spoke to me on a deep and personal level- yet what’s most amazing about Radio Silence is seeing on Goodreads how many people found different parts relatable. As much as I felt Oseman was personally talking to me, tens of thousands of other people felt the same way. And that’s just brilliant.

While I’m not sure it will be for everyone, I can safely say this is an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a teen in the UK in the 21st century. I didn’t know it before I read it, but I legit *needed* this book. I’m all abuzz with excitement for Radio Silence- so let’s raise the roof and give it:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Dear My Plain Jane – You Are Beautiful To Me!

my plain janeDear My Plain Jane,

I must confess I feel like I am cheating on My Lady Jane with this letter- but I cannot hold it in any longer- I cannot keep my feelings stashed away in the attic like a dirty secret! After My Lady Jane, I was bereft of witty fantasy company and there you were: dressing and talking and acting the same way. You lured me in with your wicked wiles, you made me pick you up. I could not resist peeking between your pages.

And I must say, your charms increased the more I got to know you. While you didn’t make me fall for you quite as fast as my first love, you did hook me with your premise. You weren’t quite the same as your predecessor; you had your own unique personality. I liked the new take though! The concept of a retelling of Jane Eyre where titular character was literally haunted was a great deal of fun. I was not prepared, however, for the little surprises along the way.

Initially, I thought the original characters were getting the rough end of the stick (yes, Mr Rochester is a jerk, but I still love him) yet in the end this was a kinder retelling than I expected. More than that, you went above and beyond to give the characters the story they deserved. Jane’s narrative was sweeter, more focused on friendship and focused more on how we deal with hardships. Even better was the meta take on Charlotte Bronte- giving a never-before-seen glimpse into her life (well, a fantastical, joyful take anyway). I did like the relationships and cute romances throughout. I especially liked how this all led to an aww-inspiring happy ending.

Your humour was breath-taking as well! I enjoyed every refence to pop culture- from LOTR to the Princess Bride to Scooby Doo! Each one made me throw my head back laughing. You were a riot! I think I guffawed the loudest when you mentioned My Lady Jane.

Anyway, I have to say as much as I am a fan of Jane Eyre, I was able to take this unique reimaging in the spirit it was intended and didn’t mind the changes it made (I know, I surprised myself again). Reader, this book was a lot of fun. Please find enclosed:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Sincerely, Orangutan Librarian

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King of Scars was close to flawless!

*Spoilers for Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows– cos I just can’t talk about this without mentioning them- so if you haven’t read those why not?!*

king of scarsReturning to the Grishaverse after two successful series was always going to be no small feat- thankfully Bardugo delivers an intriguing instalment that definitely made me want to read on. With Bardugo’s trademark elegant writing style, the story opens on a dark night that sets the scene for much of what is to come. We are soon reintroduced to an eclectic cast who are bound to have us rooting for them.

The titular character Nikolai is, of course, marvellous- for much of the book, I found his story about overcoming the monster within him was the most compelling. I was admittedly only invested in Nina’s story while the book explored her grief for Matthias and my interest in her storyline waned as the book progressed. That said, Zoya was a true dark horse for me- I initially didn’t warm to her but by the end I *loved* her!!! She quickly turned from a former antagonist to one of the most compelling characters of the series. Her backstory was done remarkably well and her plotline gave her a lot of chances to truly shine.

When I was around Nikolai and Zoya, the book flew by. Journeying with them into the Fold, I enjoyed their exploration of folktales and the brilliant twist around the midpoint that arose from this. I particularly admired how this allowed for the development of Grisha powers in a cool way. Also, the explanation for “why Grisha” is finally given (which gave me the sense Bardugo was answering a very old question). I’d definitely say that every plot beat fell precisely as it should, like a set of staged dominoes after a really good flick, which does lead me onto some more spoilery stuff that you’ll have to highlight to see…

The big finale twist isn’t much of a twist. The return of the Darkling is foreshadowed so heavily that it felt inevitable. That said, I did actually like that Bardugo doesn’t just tease doing something cool, she does it (which is a shift from her earlier books). Plus, on the positive side, I liked the how of the Darkling being brought back and didn’t see the betrayal coming. Still, I’m not quite certain I think bringing back a villain who’s already been defeated was the right way to go- although I will wait to see how it plays out in the next book before making my mind up. And to be honest, I’m just glad the same thing Matthias didn’t also escape death- firstly because two in one book would’ve been a bit much and secondly because I’m not keen on being robbed of my endings (especially when that ending really landed for me).

Overall, while imperfect as the king, this did give us a glimpse of shadows and divinity peeking through. I’d say this isn’t as good as Six of Crows, but it’s better than Shadow and Bone. And now I want the next one!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So are you into the Grishaverse? Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

I am completely obsessed with You…

youThe book and TV show… why what did you think I meant? 😉 Kepnes infamous story about social media stalking in the modern age certainly grabbed my attention and now I’d like to share it with *you*. So, what can you expect from this book about a New York love affair gone very, very wrong?

Immediately, you will be struck by the unreliable narrator. Combining a biting wit with an exceptional use of second person pov, you will find the execution of this novel is top notch. This unique style allows for stand out characterisation and a story that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Now, you might have seen a fair amount of criticism for the crassness and vulgar language… to which I say: what do you expect? Yes, a stalker and dangerous individual is less than polite and uses violent means to get his way. To me, anything else would be a dishonest representation of reality. Naturally, you will agree that it is unnerving to be this up close and personal to evil- but that is what really works about this book (admittedly the show has a different take… more on that later).

Another criticism you might have is that the characters are all pretentious a-holes. Which is true- but given that they’re viewed through the lens of a psycho stalker, you might be inclined to let them off the hook. Again, you will find this an ingenious way of letting you inside his twisted mind. Every portrayal he shows you will be warped beyond recognition and every barb he directs at others can be thrown back at him.

Either way, you will discover there’s something enigmatic about the distinctive writing. This voicey book gives you more characterisation than a thousand thrillers combined. You will come to see it as more of a character study than a typical story.

Most importantly, you will be compelled to the finish line as if someone is chasing you down a dark alleyway. Truth be told, you may find the plot fairly predictable- but that’s because when you’re trapped in a terrifying place with no way out, there really is only one way it can go down. All the bodies littered throughout make the ending inevitable. So if you are like me and you like *BIG* twist thrillers, you might not end up giving it 5*. But that’s okay, because you know it’s a great book regardless. And you may decide that, while you’re not sure you need a series of books in this vein, you’re still invested enough to check out the Netflix adaptation…

Okay, I’m gonna stop with the second person because you get the idea 😉 Also the voice is used slightly differently in the TV show. In fact, there were a number of distinctions between the book and the show: the timeline, the characters and even the relationship have all shifted. Most importantly, the more lovey dovey romance makes the show more of a deconstruction of rom coms than the danger of Social Media. While still present, the idea of stalking someone online is made light of at times when (for reasons I can’t fathom) Stalker Joe tells her he’s been following her?! Aside from the illogical tint this gives the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this take. I think that the ideas it was presenting, while not entirely in line with the book, were still valid critiques on society. Plus, on the more positive side, this did flesh out some aspects better.

Characters who weren’t given a proper voice in the book (understandably) did finally get their chance to speak for themselves. I liked that while Peaches made more sense as a character, the tv version didn’t remove her shades of grey. I also loved Blythe and Ethan- as different as the latter was to the book counterpart. Most significantly, we actually got her perspective. And it’s good- it’s very good. She gets to be a far more well-rounded character and her life is given importance its so lacking in the book- which makes the impact of the narrative greater still. I liked that they even had her talk to herself in the second person- it was a nice touch.

Having said that, the show’s desire to fill in some aspects meant that the things Joe does make less sense sometimes. There was more of an attempt to make him likeable and misdirect the viewer into thinking he’s not an entirely terrible person. For instance, he genuinely cares about Paco, which felt strangely out of character for me as someone who’d read the book (and was the first major indicator that the book and show were going to be different entities). Again, I wasn’t quite convinced whether I liked that he was more sympathetic. On the one hand, it made him less predatory… but on the other there was more of an unnerving sense that this could really happen to anyone. It didn’t hurt, either, that unlike the book closing off its ending, the show had a chilling end that left me wanting more.

Ultimately, I found the show just a bingeable as the book was a page turner. Sure, they were different, but this didn’t impact the quality. I gave both the book and show:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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