Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May 2022!

I had a really good time with family and going out 😊 Shoutout to Macka B who I saw at the Jazz Café- I had an absolute blast!

And in other news, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the SUPER TALENTED SARAH for sending me this *gorgeous* Easter Bunny card! You have to check her out on her blog and Instagram because she is such an incredible artist!

Though I’ve been busier this month, I did manage to read more and I have lots to share 😀 So let’s jump into it!

Free Guy– what a fun, joyous experience this movie was! It’s kind of Lego Movie meets Truman Show- but not as dark as either of those 😉 I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m just gonna say go watch it if you want to see a movie that’s funny, action-packed and heartfelt all at the same time! I enjoyed every minute of this!

Short and Sweet: 101 poems– here’s a very quick recommendation! I loved this small collection of poetry. Starting off short and getting sweeter, every poem in here lives up to the promise. Even to the last, which is the shortest and sweetest of them all 😉 Definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for a tasty, little morsel of poetry to tide you over.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Island of the Missing Tree- I’ve found it! A literary fiction masterpiece I actually loved! It’s been such a long time since I discovered a literary fiction author I can get on board with- and Elif Shafak is certainly someone I want to read more from. If you told me before reading this that I’d love a book featuring the perspective of a tree, I’d have thought you were barking up the wrong, well, tree. BUT the power of this writer is such that she could enchant me from any angle. Her writing was so lyrical and stunning that I was transported through time. It took me beneath the surface, to the very roots of the Cypriot civilisation, intertwining current affairs and personal histories with ancient mythology. I could practically taste every description and feel every moment as if I was there. And, like waiting for the seasons to change, the story bears fruit with a most beautiful ending. It really was a remarkable book.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

One True Loves- I just loved this book. Very different to Reid’s more recent releases in (delightfully unusual) historical fic, this contemporary still captures the heart and emotionality and complex characters she is famous for. Like so many of her books, it has a melancholic beauty. Years after losing her husband in a tragic accident, Emma Blair is engaged again- the only problem is her husband has just been found alive and well. As you might expect from a premise like that, it’s emotionally very messy. And yet, appropriately so. It allows us to explore the question of soulmates in an unexpected way. For me, this is so intriguing as I’ve always believed in more than one “true love”. And I really like how this shows that every love is different and we are different in every love. There truly are many paths in life we can take- and they can all be right for different reasons. Using flashbacks, this also delves into the subject of grief, switching to second tense, which made me feel even more in tune with the emotions. In so many ways, this book is about fissures in the fabric of life and how we navigate when things get rough. Books like this show us that we don’t need to have all the answers. Oh, and that books always help 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Sword of Kaigen– books like this are why I keep giving out all the bananas. Heck, books like this are why I keep reading. This is easily the best book I’ve read so far this year. And I wish I’d taken more note so I could give it the full review it deserves- but I was too busy crying for most of the story. Because oof- Sword of Kaigen cuts deep. More than a story about magic, this is a fundamentally human story. Set in a fictionalised version of East Asia, this saga explores the Matsuda family as try to defend an empire. And what may seem like a straightforward story soon turns out to have unforeseen intricacies and waves of emotion. Though it is a sharp fantasy, with a cool magic system, it is the characters who shine. Their relationships and actions carry the story to epic heights and (evidently) produced a storm of feelings. It made me gasp, it made me sob (a lot) and it somehow it also made me smile. I do not have words to do this book justice- read it if you haven’t already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Win Lose Kill Die– for some reason there’s quite a few YA books about teens who would kill to get to the top… I wonder why? 😉 With its ultra-competitive academic environment, I couldn’t help but compare this to the Ivies. But where that is a more satirical take, this one had more of a slasher vibe with a HUGE body count. And while I don’t always go in for that, I did think this pulled it off. I didn’t love the writing, with its references to pop culture (and Riverdale of all things), but there were some parts I thought were cleverly done (which I can’t directly mention for spoilery reasons). I did guess the twist very early on- but the red herrings definitely threw me off the scent! All I can say then is: well played!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

Traitor King– So, this was a rather telling book. This biography tells the story of King Edward VI- but unusually focuses on after he abdicated. And while I can give this credit for being fair and balanced, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be fair and balanced about such an evil, racist, anti-Semite. So I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one: I’m not here for the “he gave it all up for love” narrative. And I am sick of people like Netflix posthumously doing his PR. He was a selfish evil traitor, who supported the Nazis and blamed Jews for the war. He would have sold England down the river if the Nazis had won. He was openly racist, writing for instance:

“Those with experience of regions where the population is predominantly coloured, realise that negroes in the mass are still children both mentally and morally and that while these liberal socialistic ideas of freedom and equality regardless of race or colour may sound fine theoretically, the forcing of these theories are to my way of thinking, both premature and dangerous so far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned…”

This is the person the Crown chose to venerate as “inclusive” (somehow having a black servant makes you “inclusive”… incidentally Wallis fired Johnson for wanting time to look after his kids). It’s sickening to me that the Duke of Windsor was given such a sympathetic portrayal by Netflix. And that it completely ignored any mention of how messy their relationship was- prone to fits of jealousy and rage and affairs. Not to mention the fact that, politically, he thought England was behind the times for not already having a dictatorship. Reading this confirmed what I already knew: this was not the greatest love affair of the 20th century. It was the lucky escape from a despotic king.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The No Show– this was a delight. Three women + one missing date = a recipe for another brilliant Beth O’Leary book! I felt like I connected with each of the women’s stories and fell in love in turn. Written with so much heart, this had me laughing through tears and hugging the book. I only wish I didn’t have to wait for the next Beth O’Leary book to be released- because this was her best yet!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Love Hypothesis– I theorised I would like this book… and I was right! This ticked so many boxes for me. Tropes like fake dating and secretly a sweetheart? Yes please! And I really liked the interesting setting and the fact that the female protagonist had *a lot* more going on than just her floundering love life. That said, there were a few things that kept this from fulfilling the perfect romcom formula. From a clinical standpoint, I never entirely warmed to Dr Carlsen and wasn’t convinced of his niceness. He was a bit of a cold fish and doesn’t do anything kind for anyone unless his (fake) girlfriend is involved (unless you count the car scene, which I don’t, because he came off as a showoff there). I don’t really love when a character’s only redeeming feature is that they’re nice to the person they want to sleep with. Speaking of which, I also didn’t buy the chemistry in the sex scene- it was weirdly chatty and went into odd anatomical detail… Not my thing! I wasn’t a big fan of the meta moments and wokisms either. Even so, my final hypothesis is: it was an enjoyable enough read and I’d happily read more from the author (if only that I might be able to work on my science puns some more 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – alrighty then, it’s April 2022!

Hello all! I hope you all had a lovely month… I somehow managed to get Covid! Because, why not?! My immune system is currently on vacation :/

I’m still not feeling great, so I can’t promise my blogging is going to pick up any time soon. I haven’t been reading much lately- but I did plonk myself in front of the TV for days, so I do have plenty to talk about on that front!

The Duke- when I was still able to leave the house, I actually went to the cinema for the first time in years! And I’m really happy with the movie I chose to see 😊 Lighthearted and full of quirky Britishisms, this movie was just the tonic I needed. With witty one liners and a stellar cast, this is the kind of old school movie that puts a smile on your face. Based around the slightly bizarre events of the stolen Duke’s portrait, it engaged with a deep (and also rather odd) history of political activism in the UK. Funnily enough, I feel like I’ve met a few Kempton Buntons in my life… even with him being a rather unique character! Definitely an enjoyable film I’d recommend 😊

Last Kingdom Season 5– and one of my favourite TV shows is back! And better than ever! Darker than its previous seasons, I did find some of this a little too upsetting for words. However, I also understood that this historical show does not lightly engage in shock value and only uses violence purposefully. And, even if it was hard to watch at times, I thought the story powerfully written. Unfortunately, this is the final season of the show… BUT at the same time as learning of this, I heard the fantastic news that its due to have a movie sequel to round off the story (which has already been filmed!!) Which is especially gratifying as the TV show was an epic conclusion to one significant storyline, while leaving another open-ended (this is very difficult to explain without spoilers- but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the show!) Regardless, I am truly satisfied to see such a well-executed finale and very much look forward to Seven Kings Must Die!

Bridgerton Season 2– well, here’s a complete tonal shift: because Bridgerton season 2 was certainly a return to the frothy nonsense I’ve come to expect from the show. And nonsense it really was this season. As much as I enjoyed parts of it and while I actually preferred the love interests in this season, I did suffer from some severe confusion that the couple just wouldn’t get together for no apparent reason!! I have to admit, as much as Hastings and Daphne irked me more as characters, the obstacles to their romance made a lot more sense. By contrast, Anthony and Kate were a lot more likeable (no deception and sexual assault in their romance- huzzah!), but their love affair was so drawn out that it drove me a bit bananas. Still, while their romantic entanglement was at times more painful- involving a very unfortunate love triangle- I did feel it was all the sweeter when it came to pass. I have to admit that this series did make me smile and certainly lifted my spirits. Really curious who else is caught up in the buzz of this show 😉

Okay now onto the books!

Anna K- if you’re looking for something else in the Gossip Girl vein, then this may be just the ticket. A YA retelling of Anna Karenina, this very much embraces the maddening world of kids who are too rich for their own good. Full of just the right amount of angst and sanctimony, this somehow succeeds in modernising a book that very much speaks of its time. And I’m saying this as someone who is notoriously fussy about retellings. Very romantic and with careful attention to detail that brings these new variations of the characters to life, this is an unapologetically brilliant take on the classic. Bold and scandalous in equal measure, it does a fantastic job of showing how little times (and expectations for women) have really changed. I wasn’t quite as taken with the ending, though I did understand and respect the choice the author made. I’m not sure I’d read the sequel, but I do recommend giving this a go. Big thank you to Kat’s great review for making me pick this up in the first place!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Poison for Breakfast- the best description for this book I can think of is: bewildering. I guess there’s only one way to describe this story- and that’s to say it’s about Lemony Snicket going on a journey. A journey specifically to find out about the poison he had for breakfast and (more importantly) about the process of crafting a story itself. I’m not quite sure what I got out of this story- but I do know that I fully agree on his opinions on how to perfectly prepare an egg (and that you should never trust a person who flips over a fried egg). Words of wisdom indeed. I did very much enjoy a lot of his references as well- even if I did not fully understand them. This was rather a peculiar experience of reading a book and yet being quite uncertain what I read. I suppose he moved the notes around and I came out of it somehow transformed. And that’s what I quite liked about it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Maid– fair warning, this is marketed as a murder mystery and yet I did not think it all that mysterious. As a story, I was far more interested in the character portrayals and the protagonist’s found family. As a first person narrative, the audiobook had me transfixed. The style worked so well for characterisation, building the maid’s personality page by page. In many ways, it reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, which likewise told of an unusual character finding her place. I think that, rather strangely, the actual plot was secondary to that.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

That’s all for now! Did you watch any of these shows? And have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all had a good month!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – I’m Feeling February 2022!

Hello all! Long time, no monthly mini posts! But 2022 is bolting out the gate- so I’d better get started talking about some of the things I’ve been reading and watching! Let’s begin with the TV/movies I’ve seen lately- some of which I loved and one I LOATHED…

Cobra Kai– I was so so sceptical about this show. I thought it was just another cashgrab, deconstruction of a classic… but that’s not what this turned out to be at all. Because there’s so much depth to this story and it does every single one of the characters proud. It’s not simply a redemption story and it’s not just a way to ruin our childhoods by showing that the hero was really the villain all along. No, this shows that while the villain can be the hero of their own story, everyone needs to make an effort and work on themselves. Not everything is black and white. Not everything is as straightforward as it seems. This heartwarming show is genuinely moving. Plus, it’s also pretty kickass and crazy dramatic.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window- what a BLAST! Such a great parody of recent thrillers. It was very obviously side-eying the likes of Woman in the Window. Because of this, you can guess the ending fairly quickly- but that didn’t stop it being a joyous satire. It has some truly laugh-out-loud moments. In fact, every time the trailers rolled, I was chuckling to myself. And Kirsten Bell KILLED IT as the lead!! I will say it was a bit gory at the end- I couldn’t even watch through my fingers at some points- however this also gave me Woman in the Window flashbacks 😂

Don’t Look Up– look, if you like propagandistic movies by elitist schmucks who claim to be the “little guy” then… I don’t know what to say to you. Even if you’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid and don’t mind being patronised by a very-obvious-analogy for climate change denial, you may end up being bothered by how Hollywood acts like all these groups aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet. I don’t know what planet you’re living on- but world leaders and celebrities and media outlets all seem happy to fly around the world on private jets to espouse the same “we’re all gonna die” talking points. I didn’t need to watch a boring, unfunny, hectoring movie to hear that same message from the same damn people so that they can justify raising taxes for the poor. Gotta love Hollywood- the moral arbiters of the world…

Once Upon a Broken Heart– ohmygosh, I’m so happy I picked up this book! I was hesitant, because, well, my feelings about Caraval aren’t exactly a secret. But this was EXACTLY what I needed. Fundamentally a fun fantasy, this fulfilled my every forgotten desire for YA. Playing with the idea of fate and gods in a way that is totally unique, this was a wild ride from start to finish. I loved the way the story starts so unexpectedly- with a HUGE blunder from our main character! This is just the kind of entertainment I was looking for and that I’d have enjoyed once upon a time when I was a teen 😉 I can’t wait for book 2!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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I Have Something to Tell You– don’t bother reading this book. Unless you want to spend the whole time wondering what is even the point of all this?! This is a murder mystery that really isn’t much of a mystery at all… because *spoiler alert* everyone can tell who did it EXCEPT FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER (who also happens to be the murderer’s defence lawyer). And why is she the only person on the planet who thinks he’s innocent? Well, because he has sexy eyes. Greatest defence in history, amiright??! Seriously though, this was peculiar for plenty of reasons. Not least to say that it’s ALSO OBVIOUS that the main character’s husband betrayed her… not that there’s any point to that subplot other than to set up a terrible ending where the main character shacks up with the killer only to discover he was guilty all along. Gah!! And if you read all those spoilers, I haven’t ruined the book for you: I’ve saved you from wasting your time.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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Six Crimson Cranes– ach I had such high expectations for this… but sadly this is the kind of book that didn’t quite float my boat. While it had a fiercely dramatic opening, it kind of slid into mediocrity after that. Possibly because the most interesting character (the dragon) was side-lined for most of the story. And once the initial conflict was initiated, it plodded along in a muted fashion. I didn’t really take to the secondary conflict… which is a big issue because (*spoiler alert*) that was the actual conflict. The potentially fascinating villain was just trying to help her all along (which is basically the worst trope ever)- replacing her with some generic fantasy threat I didn’t care about. And it used flimsy tropes like false memories in an attempt to trick us into seeing the villain in a sympathetic light… which still didn’t work since her actions at the start were the equivalent of kicking a puppy. That said, I feel like I’m the one kicking a puppy by not liking the book, because it does have such an optimistic view. It just left me feeling flat. While not a bad book, unfortunately the ending undoes a lot of what I liked about it in the beginning.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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The Man Who Died Twice– this was another pointless read I’m afraid :/ It felt like the author was just fulfilling a quota of getting a second book out in order to capitalise on the success of the first. There wasn’t enough about this book that was special in its own right to justify it as a sequel. Whereas Thursday Murder Club used the structure of a murder mystery to explore themes of aging and used the story to explore the characters in real depth, this felt like a tagged on overlong epilogue. And while there were still fun characters to work with, I felt like it missed the mark in terms of actually making me like the newer members of the cast and didn’t have the heart of the first book. And although the mystery was alright, I was frustrated that the disparate stories still didn’t connect. Irritatingly, all the things that I didn’t like about the first one were amped up (including the middle-aged attempts at wokeness and BBC-approved moralising). This was just an okay read- though I can imagine it being a fun TV series.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Poison– okay, I don’t normally talk about rereads here, but I JUST WANT TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK (again) SO BADLY!!! This was one of my rereads from 2021- that I hadn’t planned on picking up again… if ever- because I just wasn’t sure it could live up to my memory of how good it was. And you know what? It was better. Not only was the tone utterly unique and stylised, but the characters were just as vivid and distinctive. The motivation and plot isn’t straight out of your usual YA fantasy. This takes stereotypes and twists them just enough to give them meaning and make them take on a life of their own. Wooding has such a brilliant understanding of life and stories, bringing them together in a magically meta way. This had even more clever twists than I remembered- so I’m glad I left it such a long time before rereading it. I almost felt like I was experiencing it for the first time, yet with a little hint of nostalgia behind that. I wish I could do a full length review- but I feel like it’s the kind of book that engrossed me too much to take proper notes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Cytonic– now this is what I’m talking about!! While I wasn’t super blown away by Starsight, I had enjoyed Skyward enough to give the series another go- and I was so pleased that I did. As Spensa mentions herself, a lot of the second book was taken up with being a fish out of water, which didn’t really work for me, but this was a return to form. Action-packed and with fantastic character development, it kept me hooked from beginning to end… even in a super strange environment where it’s hard to get your footing. But of course, Brandon Sanderson is the master when it comes to world building! I listened to this on audiobook and found the reading mesmerising- not least because I already loved the voicey style. It made me fall in love with the characters all over again. A great edition to the series that has me pumped for the next instalment!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2021!

Hello all! Can you believe we’re well and truly into the festive period?! But I have to say I’m loving soaking it up as much as I can this year! I’m trying to do more things that I enjoyed before the pandemic. Among a lot of things I’ve already mentioned, I’m excited to finally be going to art galleries again! And on that note, I went to the Wallace Collection for the first time to take a peek at the recently restored Swing by Fragonard.

This photo truly doesn’t do the piece justice! For such a small painting it sure does have a BIG IMPACT! Wondrously captivating and worth checking out if you ever get the chance!

In terms of tv, I’ve been getting well and truly wrapped up in the Wheel of Time. I know they changed things (which I don’t agree with) but I’m finding it easier to follow than Jordan’s writing, so I’m very into it. I just hope they continue making all the seasons of it so I don’t have to go away and read all the books (which, granted, I’m pretty tempted to do now anyway). And of course, I watched the second series of Tiger King– which somehow was even crazier?! Other than that, I’ve just been ploughing through the books!

Mrs England– and Halls has done it again! This is her best yet! With a hint of tragedy lurking in the background, this is a subtle take on the traditional English gothic. I loved the creepy vibes and atmosphere of the Yorkshire setting. More than simply a revival of the Victorian novel, this gives a new lease of life to the form. Beautifully written and with psychologically rich characters, this story recontextualises romantic notions of the past and reveals the dark truths behind classic “mad woman in the attic” narratives.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Hunchback of Notre Dame– well this book is magnificent. Jumping straight into the euphoric high of the Feast of Fools, this story quickly descends into the drama of 15th Century Paris. Under the gaze of Notre Dame, we are slowly introduced to the principle and challenged with our perception of good and evil. Much of the dark side of humanity is on full display and so many characters are morally ambiguous. For this is far, far from the Disney version. Stunningly written- particularly with regards to the description of place- this was powerful reflection of humanity’s strengths and deficiencies. With expert mirroring of the beginning in its tragic conclusion, there is an air of inevitability from the start. It delivers its emotional blows as every great tragedy should.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Owl Service– this is a bit of a new-old discovery. Someone I work with recommended I try Alan Garner books and WOW these books don’t mess about. Owl Service felt less like a retelling and more like it was possessed by a mythic force, like the legends of old were forcing their way into the story and taking control of the narrative. I liked the concept and the simplicity of the story. More than that, I liked how the characters weren’t mundanely pure and good children. Rather, they were little humans, full of the usual concurrence of good and bad. Way darker than any book I read when I was young, there’s enough creepiness in this to freak adults out (well, adults like me, who can only manage spooky stories in broad daylight 😉). Uncanny in the purest sense, I couldn’t help but feel like this was both unusual and oddly familiar. A masterstroke of mythical storytelling.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Elidor– if I had to summarise this book, I’d say it was a realllly twisted take on Narnia. Except much like the more recent the Light Between Worlds, it deals more with the aftermath of being whisked away to a magical world. It makes you question what is left after a formative (and in many ways traumatic) experience. Taking the extreme example of reluctant heroes- if they can even be called heroes- it explores the genuine human response to asking children to bear the responsibility of the world on their young shoulders. And the result is bleak and hard to come to terms with. It’s a bold coming of age story; it’s the best of YA (written before YA existed). And it does so much of what modern books try to do now- but it does it with a greater profundity and without contrived conclusions. Like the best art, it doesn’t lead you to simple answers and doesn’t propagandise its message. Like the best myths, the meaning is layered beneath mists of magic. You’ll have to figure out how to interpret it for yourself.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Wedding Party– this vowed to be great fun- but just didn’t live up to its promise. I do love thrillers set at destination weddings- it’s that wonderful cocktail of high hopes and long held secrets and dashed dreams. And this had all those ingredients and more. The characters were delightfully detestable- the bridezilla obsessed with her image, the weirdly obsessive friend and the catastrophically selfish sister. BUT unfortunately, so much in a thriller hinges on the ending. And after being driven mad by these *awful* characters for hundreds of pages, I wanted to see someone get theirs in a dramatic way and for a good reason… and sadly this just fell flat. The twist of who died and who dunnit just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas  

Before I Go to Sleep– this didn’t quite send me to sleep… but it came close. Fairly predictable and a bit far-fetched, I wasn’t really sold on this story about a woman who wakes up every day with no memory. Granted I never really love amnesia stories to begin with- however this was an especially irritating example. Because I don’t have a problem with my memory, so leaving massive plot holes and contradictions doesn’t work for me. Even if you excuse them by saying the main character just didn’t remember telling other people vital facts. Also, I get that the protagonist reading from her diary was central to the plot, yet it hardly makes sense to have her reading it at crucial moments, when, say, she suspects there’s a potential psychopath on the other side of a door. Just leave- then read the diary. Make her think she’s made it safety before she settles in for an explanation. I’ll also never be a fan of villain monologuing at the end OR a weirdly unearned happy ending. And to top it all off, it’s really obvious to me this was written by a man trying to get inside a woman’s head, because women aren’t typically hyper-conscious of how much space our boobs take up. Stop being weird dude.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The Appeal– a murder mystery like no other, this is a story you’re going to have to figure out a lot of it on your own. Told through a collection of emails, this crime novel forces the reader to put on their thinking cap and work through a series of clues. With interjections from two investigators, you can slowly come to the truth of who was murdered and why. I have to say I was ridiculously impressed by the format and style of the genius thriller. I was also very happy with myself for working out bits and pieces along the way. Normally, I might find it disappointing to guess twists, however in this case I was inordinately proud of myself and satisfied that I’d been reading between the lines closely enough to get some of it right! I whizzed through this so fast, having enormous fun along the way! I definitely recommend giving this a go if you enjoy mysteries, thrillers or just having a good time. I hope you get as much out of it as I did- break a leg!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2021!

Hello all! Time is going weirdly fast, or is that just me? October flew by in a whirlwind of pumpkins and chaos! Most importantly, of course, I read a lot of great books this month, so let’s jump straight into it!

The Shadows Between Us– this was the definition of fun fantasy! A Slytherin love story with fake dating and intriguing political plots, I couldn’t help but be enraptured. Never knowing who to trust, I was swept up in the unfolding drama. And with its fresh take on fantasy, I was quickly drawn into the lush and shadowy world of Shadows Between Us. Oh and of course the romance was TO DIE FOR! I listened to this romp on audiobook and definitely recommend it for people who are looking for a (somewhat dark) romantic YA fantasy!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Kingdom of the Wicked– I’m not sure how much I can say about this other than I FRICKIN LOVED IT!! A witchy, demonic story set in Italy?! YES PLEASE!! I mean, there was dark romance, a story of vengeance, magic and FOOD DESCRIPTIONS!! You have to know that I WANT A SLICE OF THAT ANY DAY OF THE WEEK! I’m so sorry that I can’t do this book justice- I just haven’t read fantasy I’ve enjoyed as much as this in a while and simply devoured it. So so good- I definitely want to try more from the author now (can anyone tell me if Stalking Jack the Ripper is as good as this?)

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Any Way the Wind Blows– ah- now I have to admit this was a little bit on the disappointing side. I did wonder if I was just in the wrong mood when I picked it up, which is always possible, but I still can’t explain why it took me AGES to get through this book, even though I already love the characters and am invested in their stories. Well… all except Shepherd, who I don’t really care about enough to read about him in such detail. And as much as I don’t always mind predicting the twist, I found this one a tad obvious. I didn’t quite get as many warm fuzzies with this as I usually do with this series- though I did enjoy it overall and it’s not a bad conclusion (and luckily may not be the finale anyway).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Tweet Cute– it’s back to reality with this heart-squeezing contemporary. Centred around a twitter war over cheese toasties of all things, this is a brilliant take on enemies to lovers! Plus, with its secret app elements, I felt like this was a genuinely fun update to Gossip Girl (absolutely mean that as shade towards the new Gossip Girl). Naturally, because I am a very cheesy person, I loved all the grate puns and jokes. I gouda say this book did not take itself too seriously- it just got cuter and cuter. This was all around brie-lliant. (Okay, I’ll stop now 😉)

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Night She Disappeared- I listened to this on audio (as I often find Lisa Jewell books work so well that way) and was definitely swept up in the complexities of this suspense-thriller. Once again, Jewell delivered a story that was far more about the people going through hell, rather than just being simply plot driven. I did like that the investigator character was a mystery writer herself- that added a nice dimension- however the one thing that made no sense to me was that (minor spoiler) she somehow didn’t spot a reference to her own book!!! How did she not remember writing it?! Anyway, this was bonkers (in a good way) and as emotionally resonant as I’ve come to expect from this author. Looking forward to whatever she writers next!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

We Watch You– and last but certainly not least, I’m very excited to recommend a book by our very own brilliant blogging author, N S Ford! Engrossing from the start, this multi-perspective book about a stalker (or potentially stalkers) was definitely a thrill ride. Each of the characters was distinctive and it was intriguing to get to know them… especially as the stalker seemed interested in targeting them for the things they loved the most. I won’t say anymore because *spoilers* except to say that the ending was unusual and took me by surprise! Kinda wish I’d had my antennae up earlier and paid more attention to the hints!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Let’s FREAK OUT cos it’s October 2021!

Hello all! Hope you had a great month! Mine was jam packed! And after all the lockdowns and everything we’ve been through over the last year, I have to admit I’m appreciating it more than ever. The little things like going to see friends, having meals out and going on day trips are a real treat. My favourite things this month include going to see LIVE MUSIC- which was especially great at the Blues Kitchen in Camden…

(I promised my sister I’d share a cartoon I did for her)

And I finally, finally got to return to the Royal Opera House to hear the Magic Flute 😊

Plus, I went the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, where I got to feel like a witch for the day. I don’t want to raise your expecto-patronums too much, but I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. It was so good that I may do a post entirely dedicated to it!

Lastly, I went on trips to Bath and Windsor- which were both very unique (and cake filled) days 😊

The House in the Cerulean Sea– delightful and quirky and sweet, this romantic fantasy definitely gave me the warm fuzzies. I loved the writing style- it was simultaneously light and colourful. And the characters were really bright sparks. I especially loved the anti-Christ (and I’m not just saying this because I may never have this opportunity again 😉). I also really appreciated the story being told from Linus’ perspective, with an inspector’s eyes, introducing us to the world detail by detail. Through this, we uncover a whimsical world filled with wonder. We find a house that inspires imagination and a reality packed with magic. Slowly, as the story unfolds, he opens up to this beauty. For as much as he may seem like the boring middle manager type, we find he truly has a heart of gold and there is much more to him than a lot of people assume. It just goes to show you can’t judge by appearances- and I love that message! Of course, this book is a very obvious parable, which I don’t normally like, yet I was overcome by the cuteness factor here. I also did notice that this promised a fair amount of moral relativism… though it (thankfully) doesn’t deliver that in the plot. A joyous and romantic read!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Rock Paper Scissors– I always enjoy Feeney’s books- and none more so than her latest. Showing that marriage is a dangerous game, this book is all about choices. Artfully using different points of view, the story follows Mr and Mrs Wright on their wedding anniversary. Yet, up in the Highlands of Scotland, something is about to go very, very wrong indeed. Genuinely tense and terrifying at times, the story had me gripped. And just when I thought I had all the answers, it turned at the last moment. Not everything was as it seemed on paper. I loved the sharp ending and I was very happy with how it all came together (well, as happy as you can be with a grizzly thriller). 

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

The Foundling– I really liked this book. It brought an area of history I knew nothing about to life. Once again, Stacey Halls focused on the plight of women in a meaningful and significant way. It was written with such kindness that I was unsurprised by the sweetness of the ending. I just find Hall’s books quite lovely. 

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Instant Karma– oof this wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought this was going to be about a girl who gets the power of delivering instant karma and that would be the central conflict of the story. INSTEAD, the story was centred on a biology project and an animal rescue centre… which would’ve been fine if that’s what I’d been expecting. To make matters worse, the instant karma, while a fun trick, didn’t really serve much purpose to the story. The actual plot was filled with twists that were easy to guess and not as exciting as the premise could have been. I felt like there was the outlines of two decent stories in this, but not enough to make one enjoyable book. It didn’t help that the most of the characters were insufferable- especially the protagonist. I barely understood her motivation throughout (I’ve never taken to characters who want to be successful purely for the sake of being successful) and found her lack of empathy infuriating at times. I also didn’t enjoy being in the company of some of the background characters- one of whom was painfully holier-than-thou. And even the nicest character- the love interest- does something utterly unforgivable. Not to mention the romance, which I didn’t see working out. While there were cute moments that made me smile, I couldn’t see what they had in common beyond raging hormones. Overall, this was fine, but didn’t possess the magic I hoped for. 

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Sleeping Through to September 2021!

Hello all! I don’t know about you, but August was a bit of a blur. I’ve been so busy that I couldn’t even say where the month went. What I can say for certain is that I enjoyed getting rained on in Rye 😉 Such a cute town, with quaint architecture and lovely places to eat! 😊

Okay, moving on to tv and movies… which I didn’t watch much- except rewatching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (delightfully bonkers) and Cruella (delightfully wicked! Loved the aesthetic and music!)

Which just leaves me with the books I read!

Thursday Murder Club– this was just as fun as I thought it would be! Centred around a group of seniors who investigate cold cases, this quirky crime novel was absolutely delightful. What I most appreciated about it was how much heart it had. I liked the way that clues were used to tell individual stories, fleshing out characters, rather than simply moving the plot forward. One was so beautiful, it made me cry. I also liked how (almost) everything came together at the end, linking the ending to the beginning. A lot of fun and worth listening to on audio!  

Rating: 4½ bananas

Nightingale– Read this if you want your heart broken a million times over. This was a moving wonderfully done WW2 novel, focusing on the occupation in France. I listened to this on audiobook and was actually crying in the street because of it! And I didn’t even care! I just wanted my beloved characters to make it through to the end. The descriptions were so powerful and immersive, I felt like I was living their story. An absolutely beautiful read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

A Kind of Spark– this MG book was simply perfect! The story of an autistic eleven-year-old who just wants to get justice for women who were persecuted in witch trials. In many ways, it reminded me of Wonder, telling kids okay to be different and stand out. I loved how this focused on friendship and family. A must-read for children and adults alike! 😊

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Familiars– hubble bubble toil and trouble- this historical fiction had more than a hint of charm. Set in 1612 around the looming Witch Trials, I loved how this focused on sisterhood and friendship above all. I happily whizzed through the story, appreciating its subtlety. As the plot developed it became more tricksy and devilishly dramatic, until something had to give. The enchantingly ambiguous ending was brilliantly crafted and spelled my love for the book. I know I’m bound to read more from this author now!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

You and Me on Vacation– this one didn’t quite take off for me. While I found the concept fun- two friends who go on holiday together every year have one last chance to fall in love- I was mostly just irked by the storyline. I prefer rom coms where there’s actual obstacles and didn’t understand why these lovebirds weren’t together. I also didn’t like that Sarah- the male love interest’s on-again-off-again-ex- was made out to be the “bad guy”. She (rightly) gets upset that her bf goes on holiday with the female lead over and over again… and we as the reader know that said female lead has a crush on the bf and is constantly trying to break them up. So, it made it pretty hard to root for the female protagonist. Luckily, there’s no actual cheating, but it still felt ickily close to emotional cheating. And while it was good that the protagonist apologised for messing with this other girl’s relationship, it was resolved by Sarah saying “oh without you around as an obstacle we fell apart quicker”… which I didn’t like either. I’m just a bit tired of romances that let people off the hook for being shitty people just because. It tells me that they think love is simply wanting someone more (which seems more like entitlement and narcissism to me). It’s not a terrible book, but I felt like I needed a break from rom coms after.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – August 2021!

Hello all! I had a really lovely month and hope you did too 😊 Been really busy, which is why I’m super late with this post, but let’s just overlook that 😂 Luckily, I’ve been out and about a lot more- the highlight of which was going to see a friend in Cambridge!

I also watched a couple of great movies last month…

A Simple Favour– this film was stylish, slick and a lot of fun. It wasn’t what I was expecting- in a good way. I thought it’d be a generic thriller about a missing woman, but this was a lot about the face we show to the world and influencer culture. It ended up poking fun at the way we see each other and how fickle our judgments can be. There was a lot more to the characters than meets the eye and was digging it (like a detective digs up clues lol 😉 #BadJokeAlert #I’mGoingAllInOnThisSocialMediaTheme #ButIDon’tKnowHowToHashtag)

Little Italy– sometimes you just need a deliciously cheesy rom com. It’s like a big, beautiful slice of pizza- comfort food at its best! And this did make me smile 😊. Focusing on a food fight that creates a feud between two Italian families, this was a (very) light-hearted take on Romeo and Juliet. Peppered with humour and a big dollop of awws, this was a really cute story. I did like the relationship between the two leads- though I actually enjoyed the romance between the grandparents more! Oh, and of course, the big side of watching this movie was it made me sooo hungry! Don’t make the mistake of watching this without a pizza of your own!

And now onto the books…

White Eagles/Firebird– I listened to these novellas on audiobook. Both of these were exciting, tense-filled dramatizations of being female fighter pilots in WW2- and I loved every second of them! White Eagle for me had a lot of heart and Firebird BLEW ME AWAY with the twist ending! Definitely recommend these for quick historical YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Catch– this thriller was a bit ridiculous. The Catch is about a father suspicious of his daughter’ fiancé who seems too good to be true- so of course this had obvious Taken vibes. For spoilery reasons I’ll keep to myself, the father doesn’t quite come across as Liam Neeson. In fact, I was convinced he was THE CREEP. And that ambiguity in a book like this could have been a good thing… but I’m just not crazy about characters, even in thrillers, stalking other people because they have “a feeling”. The other thing that bugged me was how frickin dumb all the characters are. There’s a point in the story that’s supposed to feel all claustrophobic, like the murderer is closing in on them and there’s nowhere to run… except that the character has a phone and lots of options!! Instead, said character decides the best thing would be to go to an isolated place with the person THEY ALREADY KNOW IS A KILLER!!! It doesn’t make any sense!! I have to admit though, as silly as this story seems, it was absolutely entertaining throughout. Kudos for keeping me reading when I was feeling slumpy! 

Rating: 3/5 bananas

House of Hollow– bold and bloody brilliant. Now if you’ve been around a while, you know I don’t like anything horror… but this completely broke all my rules. Because this was perfection. Gorgeously written and creepy af, this supernatural ghostly story had me all-a-tingle. Atmospheric from the start, I felt like I was knee-deep in the world Krystal Sutherland created. I even thought she did a fantastic job of nailing the North London setting and Celtic Scottish feel (which I say as someone who has lived in both places!) The only thing- and this is the tiniest of nitpicks- that pulled me out of the story was the amount of smoking in pubs (that’s been illegal since 2007, so I’m not sure when this was supposed to be set given all the social media?) Barring that, cos it doesn’t actually matter, this was a glorious read. I loved all the Hollow sisters- and definitely felt a deep connection to a literature boffin eager to find the right answer in a text! 😉  There was something simply intoxicating about House of Hollow. And that cover is to die for.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – just in time for June!

Hello all! Hope you all had a marvellous May- I’ve enjoyed two lovely long weekends and (finally) some sunshine!! The funny thing about leaving the house more is that somehow I’ve made more time for movies… so there will be a separate post for that at some point, cos I have *opinions*. Also, I’ve been giving out a lot of bananas for books this month- but I don’t care, because they all deserved it! Let’s see why shall we?  

The Summer Job– starting with a sizzler for summer time. I loved this fresh and fun book, all about a girl who takes a summer job… that isn’t hers. Whisked away to the Scottish setting, I thoroughly enjoyed all the talk of food and wine. The love interest was an absolute cinnamon roll and the story had a joyful flavour. I like how it explored friendship with some depth. It was a perfect palate cleanser and ideal for fans of Beth O’Leary.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

In a Dark, Dark Wood– despite hearing this is not Ware’s best, I enjoyed this more than I expected I would. While there were some repeats of plot points from her other books, particularly its And Then There Were None vibes, it still had nice twists and turns (which I can’t reveal cos they’re *spoilers*). The one thing I did have an issue with was the main character’s motivation to go to this hen weekend in the first place- because I certainly wouldn’t have set foot there! I think it could have been fleshed out more. There were also some loose ends. Clearly, Ware has tightened up her plots since this, yet it was a good fix to tide me over till her next release (more of this please!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Transcendent Kingdom– this reminds me why I read lit fic- because this was *glorious*. The story itself is a snapshot of what it’s like to grow up as a new migrant in America, yet zooms in on one individual family’s story. It’s so beautifully written that I glided through the prose. Though it has a fragmentary and non-chronological structure, I couldn’t stop reading. The unusual form was handled masterfully, dissecting the emotion and presenting it to the reader. I’m starting to adore everything this author writes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Bone Shard Daughter– sadly this didn’t quite do it for me. Despite the cool world building and the intriguing perspective of the bone shard daughter, I didn’t have much interest in the rest of the story or characters. I feel like this would have been far more immersive if there had been fewer points of view and expanded on the elements that worked.

Rating: 3.5/5 bananas

Made You Up– this was the real deal! Telling the unusual YA contemporary about a girl with schizophrenia, it had a vivid energy. Though I cannot speak to its authenticity, it felt powerfully empathetic. I felt as if I was deep inside her head and hearing her struggles. I also liked the motif of photography for this story- it was a clever addition to the narrative. I do have to say that I found the middle a little hazy- yet the beginning and ending really worked for me. This was not as proficient as Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters, but a great story nonetheless!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Light Between Worlds– isn’t the title for this book just brilliant? As a reimagining of the aftermath of children finding their way into a Narnia-like-world, the concept of this story intrigued me straight away. Luckily, I was far from disappointed. While this does have flashbacks from the protagonists’ time in the Woodlands, this focuses more on what it means to return home. It is not an action-packed story, but a deep character study that holds its own magic. Focusing first on a Lucy-like character and then on a Susan stand-in, this was as much about sisterly relationships as it was about the abstract discussions of growth after trauma. I really liked how it reinvented the Lucy dynamic, showing how she’s actually got a great challenge to fit in after Narnia, which she can’t quite live up to. I also liked that this examined the treatment Susan gets in the later Chronicles of Narnia, showing that her path to trying to forget is just as understandable as clinging onto the past. It shows how we all struggle with trauma in different ways. And I was particularly impressed with how the story acknowledges that the greatest trauma comes from our own actions. Profound and well written, I found this a fascinating fantasy.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Road Trip– Beth O’Leary is back with another delightful contemporary! With two holidays for the price of one, five friends stuffed into a mini and plenty of history- this was one helluva ride! Jumping between “now” and “then”, you get a glimpse of the summer romance and then the less-glamorous aftermath. Thanks to this, you get to see some very contrasting settings and circumstances. It builds up the characters and relationships throughout the journey. The story soon goes off in a hilarious direction, making me laugh out loud and cheering me right up (even if a road trip isn’t on the cards for me any time soon). This ended up being far more than a second chance romance, exploring some difficult topics along the way. I was very sad to finish it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May it be May 2021?!

(not actually trying to make a LOTR reference… though who am I kidding that’s totally a reference 😉)

Hello all! Very very very exciting news! All my work-stuff paid off and I got a new job in libraries! I’m going full time!! And I’m really, really happy about it!!! Not sure where my blogging will be at while I get into the swing of things- WE SHALL SEE (she says ominously 😉 ) Please bear with me!

Other than that, we’re also starting to see the light (okay maybe only the outside of pubs 😉 ) in England. Hopefully, hopefully things will start looking up soon! *CHEERS!*

With the application/interview, I’ve fallen into a bit of a reading slump, so haven’t got a lot to talk about this month. But there’s still some gems to share. First though, I watched a fab film:

Karate Kid– have you ever rewatched something 20 or so years later and it’s like experiencing it for the first time? Well, this is what it was like to rewatch Karate Kid. It felt faintly familiar and comforting- and yet I was delighted by how fresh it felt. Feel good and with strong characters, it’s one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a long time (twenty years or so I’d say 😉). I loved the spirit of the story and the goodie vs baddie themes. It’s got some real depth to it as well- teaching the viewer not to simply become what we hate- but be something better. It’s very powerful stuff and incredibly inspiring 😊

The Happiest Man on Earth– you perhaps won’t expect to find a holocaust memoir to be one of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read- but that’s exactly what this is. It’s obviously hard to read at times and has some harrowing stories, however ultimately this was a beautifully life-affirming read. A real quick read, I was shocked by some of the revelations and at times wondered if this was the unluckiest man on earth. And yet- and yet somehow he managed to survive. More than that, Jaku built a life for himself and his family. He never allowed himself to become less than human- no matter what circumstances tried to strip that from him. He is a shining example of humanity.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Tiny Beautiful Things- compiled of letters to and from an agony aunt dubbed Sugar, this had the miraculous ability to be in part a touching life-advice and part memoir. Though I didn’t agree with every piece of advice, the warmth and sweetness behind Sugar’s every word was undeniable. I will admit that I did find I had to take some of the letters with a pinch of salt- some of the suggestions were a bit too saccharine and out of touch with (my) reality. That said, I think I got a lot out of reading this- not just for the author’s take, but the immensely powerful stories of everyone that wrote to her. And, after reading this, I very much look forward to reading the author’s fiction.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Then She Was Gone– I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I just really like Lisa Jewell’s books. Yes, they’re not traditionally thrilling thrillers; yes, the “twists” are more than a little obvious. AND YET, even if I can sense the exact steps the narrative will take towards its conclusion, I just really appreciate the journey. Focusing more on the lives of victims than villains, this book was very much focused on the explosion of horror into a normal life. Though absorbing, it was not for the typical reasons I find a thriller absorbing. Rather I was compelled to witness an unravelling of the cruel realities that make up so many crimes. Jewell imagines lives touched by tragedy with startling empathy. And of course, Jewell always has that magic way of making her characters real and genuinely good.

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

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Court of Silver Flames– I have issues; I really don’t know why I read this book. I knew very well that I was unlikely to enjoy it- I was dissatisfied with the ending in ACOWAR and thought ACOFAS was a waste of time. So, I should’ve known this wouldn’t be for me. Still, the ending of the series had left me wanting more… And I didn’t get that here. Unless you count lots more of Maas’ infamous sex scenes. Lots and lots of sex scenes. Ones that I didn’t find particularly sexy (somehow talk of “impaling” doesn’t exactly do it for me). Unfortunately there isn’t much to say beyond that. The story was a kind of formless blob. The plot was all over the place. Apart from the “romance” (*ahem*), it’s just a jumbled mess. Many times I questioned, where the hell is this going? (Minor spoiler: in a freakishly Breaking Dawn direction apparently). I did think the ending was saved by a moment of grace and proof that the whole story had been in service of character development (even if it didn’t seem that way while I reading). This somewhat saved the reading experience for me. That and the fact that, as a character, Nesta occasionally grabbed my attention… except when she was moaning “boohoo it sucks to be an all-powerful immortal”. Honestly, I have to hold my hands up and admit it was my fault for reading this in the first place. I really need to have some s(h)elf control and stop picking up books from this author- for my own good!!

Rating: 2.5/5 bananas

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