Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – June

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Hello all! I think I’m becoming a bit of an old record lately, recounting how busy I’ve been every month, explaining why I’m playing catch up and *yada yada yada*… Rather than dancing to that tune again, I’ll skip all that and just say if you’re interested in my adventures offline you can check out this post 😉 For everyone else, we can just get straight to the books, cos there’s a lot of them!

devil's thief

The Devil’s Thief– I am haunted by my disappointment for this book. It’s the kind of book I quite enjoyed reading, but look back on with irritation. Because it could’ve been so good! Following its powerful predecessor, this had a bold opening, with stunning prose, thus assuring me I was in for a treat. And yet somehow it didn’t manage to fulfil the promise. While there was some entertaining action throughout, the structure was ultimately more disjointed than The Last Magician and I didn’t feel as connected to it. There was far too much squabbling and I didn’t care for the characters as I should. I also felt that the romantic problems were repetitive and pointless- maybe because I’d just watched a video on the rule of three- or maybe because there’s only so many times you can read that Esta is *a strong woman* and Harte is *too old fashioned* (what with him being from a different time period and all). Problem is, this was not helped by the fact that Esta literally wasn’t listening to the fact Harte was possessed!! I’m honestly unsure about whether I should continue with this series now- despite the fact the twist at the end was decent and I’d kinda like to see how it all works out. It would be really great if someone could pop back from the future and let me know if it’s worth it 😉

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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emergency contact

Emergency Contact- do you know that feeling where you pick up a book and instantly know it’s not for you? Well I had that with this book. The second I’d started reading I knew. But I’d waited in a queue to read it on overdrive and now I had the (albeit not physical) copy, I was determined to finish it dammit! Annnd it was totally not worth it. I *hated* the writing style straight away- it felt like it was trying too darn hard to be down with the kids. And there was SO MUCH virtue signalling. Such as: “Never mind the karma of a total non-Jew stealing a book about the Jewish holocaust from a Jewish person.” Everything. Is. Wrong. With. That. Sentence. I can’t even will myself to dissect it. Or the time when she expresses her thoughts on Memoirs of a Geisha: “a book Penny adored until she discovered some rando white guy had written it”. Wow, stunning and brave 😉 I found Penny insufferably unlikeable and ergo did not have much interest in the plot/romance/much of anything to do with this. This is not to trash the book- I just think you can figure out within the first sentence/page/chapter whether this is for you or not. That’s definitely something I should have done. Moral of the story: I need to DNF more! Needless to say, I have not learnt that lesson quite yet 😉

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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a separate peace

A Separate Peace– “it’s an American classic”, I was sneeringly told by the person that recommended it. Now, that may very well have prejudiced me against the book, but I will still say I am not quite sure why it is considered an American classic. I never connected with the dry writing style; I thought the story lacked a certain punchiness. And this all culminated in a dull and unearned ending. Finny was, admittedly, an interesting character- it was just a shame he wasn’t explored as fully as he could have been. There were also some interesting ideas here- it was again a pity that they amounted to very little in the eyes of this reader, since they were conveyed in a textbook-style telling instead of showing. Most notably, telling me a moral at the end, without demonstrating it throughout the story feels cheap and pointless. Personally, I found this book a bit of a waste of time, though there was potential in it.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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otherworld

Otherworld– another in a string of bad books. However, the positive side of this one is I DNF’d it! That’s right! I finally learnt my lesson! Why was this the straw that broke this monkey’s back? Well, there’s a long list of reasons- not least that it felt like reading a string of clichés and recycled ideas. This was Ready Player One, only without the great voice and stand-out characters. The protagonist had ZERO personality (no, having a “kishka” does not count- it just makes you a racial stereotype- so thanks for that I guess?) We’re told over and over that the Otherworld is a *fabulous* place, but I never felt it shown in the flat descriptions. Perhaps if I hadn’t had a string of meh reads this month I would have been more inclined to finish it- but life is too short and I had little hope of it improving. Based on what I’d read so far, I gave it:

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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beautiful disaster

Beautiful Disaster– well the clue is in the title I guess 😉 Just so damn ugly and petty- though perhaps not as terrible as I was led to expect (although I do think a lot of the love interest’s behaviours wouldn’t fly today). Oh and heads up, the people in this all suck. Strangely, that wasn’t my biggest issue though. What actually spoiled this book for me is the weird structure- there are so many time jumps and issues with pacing. At points the characters would be in the middle of some crucial interlude in their lives, only to skip a few weeks. For me, this was incredibly jarring.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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panic

Panic– Lauren Oliver to the rescue! I am always assured that when I pick up one of Oliver’s books I’m going to be rewarded with a wonderfully written, interesting concept, entertaining read- and this was no exception! This was a thrill a minute and I really liked how the idea was handled. I also found the characters engaging enough and the twist solid. While this may not be her best book, I still enjoyed it and would recommend if you like her work.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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dark matter

Dark Matter– this was by far one of the best books I read all month. From the intriguing opening, this had a fast-paced intensity that made it hard for me to keep my breath. There are some creepy turns to this and it works out as a fascinating thought experiment. What I liked most about it was how Jason consistently chose to be the best version of himself (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it 😉 ) This was an absolutely wild ride, an exhilarating journey, with a bonkers ending- in the best kind of way!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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AlwaysNever_BOM_4p.indd

Always Never Yours– this had both a unique and typical plot- which completely works in its favour. Often in YA contemporaries, whatever the characters are studying in school has some sort of bearing on the plot. But it’s usually rather a disappointment. How many times will we see a character studying Romeo and Juliet, for instance, only to be swept off their feet by someone they can’t have? This is always especially funny in a high school when they’re being all *melodramatic* high school about their performances and trying to fit in all 5 acts (when even professionals know to cut for time lol). Now, while I won’t say this was wholly original in that regard, it did miraculously flip the script a little by exploring the role of Rosalind. Even if the character of Megan sometimes made very little sense to me, I did appreciate this fresh take, especially as it allowed for the mc grow in courage, learning to take the lead, instead of always waiting in the wings. It was just a shame that (because of weirdly inexplicable girl rules?) she had to forgive a friend who betrayed her by the end of the story. For me personally, the protagonist was too nice in this regard, sacrificing her character development to be treated like a doormat. Frankly, I’m struggling not to rant about how all cheats are skeez-bags, so I’ll just skip to the fact that at least I enjoyed the mc’s romance and leave it at that.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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death comes to pemberley

audiobook2Death Comes to Pemberley– if I had to describe this in a couple of words, I’d sum it up as enjoyable fanfic. I won’t be pretending this is in any way highbrow, when in fact, it is so very, very silly. Personally, the sole reason I picked this up was that I’ve been in the mood for a lot of Austen lately and can’t seem to get enough of what actually exists in canon (anyone fancy building a time machine and fetching Austen from the past so she can write at least one more book?). So, naturally, what was I to do but check out a murder mystery set in Austenland? 😉 Nonetheless, one of its biggest failings is not that it insists on putting the characters of Pride and Prejudice in the most ludicrous of circumstances, but that it recaps the original so frequently and unnecessarily that the point is a little laboured. I confess, I have very little knowledge of fanfic, so perhaps someone can answer in the comments if characters excessively recalling the events of their past is a common theme in the genre? Regardless, I did have a bizarrely enjoyable time with this, mostly thanks to the atmospheric hold of the author and the rather pleasant reading from the audiobook narrator.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

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No Word of a Lie: Why I Not-So-Secretly Loved Truly Devious!

I’m honestly so excited to do this review today- but first I have to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU again to the lovely Jill Jemmett, who ever very kindly hosted a giveaway for getting 1000 followers! She’s an amazing book blogger with a whole host bookish content, from lists to book reviews, and I highly recommend checking her out!

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Now let’s crack this case (*ahem* book) wide open! Set in a boarding school, this is the story of Stevie Bell trying to uncover a cold case murder mystery. With this intriguing location, an entertaining plot and a colourful cast of characters, Maureen Johnson enters into a thrilling start to a series.

Though I was initially disappointed with Dotty in the opening, I was soon gripped by Stevie’s more compelling voice. Full of charm and humour this true crime YA story more than gets under your skin. When (as the blurb suggests) the murderer re-enters the crime scene decades later, the *creep factor* intensifies.

I really liked the intersection of these two mysteries. Plus, not only was there good anxiety rep here, but it also added to the story, amping up the tension significantly. Because of Stevie’s anxiety, the reader is left wondering who-what-where-when-why and scrambling for answers in the dark. Time and again, the narrative sends you of in (mis)direction, only to about turn and take you down another path. It made for an on-the-edge-of-your-seat experience!

There was an absolute addictive quality to Truly Devious for sure. Just so you know, though, *there is a massive cliffhanger*. Personally, since I knew this was a series going in, I figured as much before I started and didn’t expect to get many/all of the answers- but I will admit I STILL WANT MORE!!!! I think for that reason I’m gonna hold off getting the sequel until it’s closer to the third book’s release date- cos I’m already dying from the wait!

Other than that, the only downside of this book was the cartoonish politics (and you know my feelings about politics shoehorned into fiction anyway). Besides that, everything from the romance to the mini-mystery of this book to the leads for the sequel were killer!

4½/5 bananas

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Very excited to see where this goes, in the meantime, I’ll be hunting for clues…

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! (also *lalalala* not listening if you want to talk about the second one 😉)

Bless me: Holy Sister is *Glorious*!

Hallelujah! Holy Sister is here and damn it delivered. *Look upon it in wonder*

Thank you so much to the author who sent me a copy in exchange for review!

The prologue shines, from the pov of an empath, meaning you can feel the intensity from the get-go. And that, my friends, is nothing- because there is so much more emotion to come!

From there the plot goes at breakneck speed, never letting up, dropping bombshell after bombshell. Hell, Holy Sister is jam-packed with action!! Flashing back and forth, from past to present, layer upon layer of intrigue is added. The twists and turns keep coming, the story gains a breathless-pace, until all I had left to say was: wow. Lawrence certainly knows how to write explosive endings- cos this is certainly a fantastic series finale.

It certainly helped that Nona Grey’s characterisation was wicked strong here. I loved the idea that Nona felt the loss of her shadow- it showed the high cost of magic and also gave her something to strive for. What I especially liked was the theme of learning to be a little more human, rather than superhuman, and the journey of a hero to perhaps live beyond their saga. I also appreciated how this arc was presented in contrast to Zole- the characters being two sides of the same coin and yet Nona is learning to embrace her demons, to be imperfect and to rely on others.

Which was wonderful, because this has always been a series about the threads that bind us. Sisterhood and friendship are strong motifs- but sharp characters like Glass cannot be forgotten- pulling the strings from behind the scenes. In a cast of vivid characters, she still manages to shine.

Beyond this, I loved the descriptions and enjoyed the acute aphorisms like “We are never more vulnerable than when we are giving chase”. It was an effortlessly quotable read and the world building felt so real (even if it’s the kind of all-out fantasy you can revel in 😉). I was awed by how complex the magic system was and carried away by the powerful atmosphere. All in all, it can come as no surprise that I gave this:

5/5 bananas

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Oh and I also couldn’t resist getting all dressed up in celebration of this series- although I’m not going to claim my costume is book accurate, I reckon I make a pretty killer nun! 😉

killer nun

So what do you think? Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Thousand Perfect Notes Played Like a Dream

A thousand perfect notesI’m so excited to talk about this book today! Especially because it was written by a fellow blogger- the incredible Cait from Paper Fury. I actually bought this book the second it came out- however, it’s taken me so long to read it- partly thanks to, ya know, falling off the face of the earth for a few months last year, but also because it takes me a while to psyche myself up to reading books with extremely dark subject matter.

Cos, fair warning, this deals with domestic abuse and is not an easy read. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m very picky when it comes to books on this topic, but I think Cait did an incredibly sympathetic job. It never shied away from the grim reality and exposed hard truths. There were points when there could have been more build-up and consequently the heightened drama occasionally hit a false note for me- yet anyone that knows music will also know that this makes not an iota of difference when the end result is raw, passionate and beautiful. Looking back on the piece in its entirety, this emotionally charged book reaches sublime heights, delivers a tremendous symphony of action, ultimately flowing to a harmonious conclusion. The whole experience was a spectacle, which explains why most of my notes are simply oohs and ahhs!

Without a doubt, the writing was excellent. I loved the writing style- it was very much in the unique vein of her blog and held so much personality. The language was gorgeous and measured. I really admired the use of fragmentation- it reminded me of Lockhart’s poetic We Were Liars. And most importantly, the descriptions of music were exquisite. Every bit of the sound imagery came together and contributed to the story- creating a resonant narrative about being made to hate the thing you love.

I really liked the characterisation as well- especially of August, whose presence brightened up the novel. I also appreciated the little details, like the Maestro’s nickname, which brought the story to life.

All in all, it was wunderbar (I only know compliments in German 😉 )

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

Monkey at the Movies: Another Roundup!

 

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Oh boy I have some controversial opinions to share today… so in honour of one of the movies on here I’ve split the reviews into likes and dislikes (or salty and sweet 😉 ) How about we jump into the movies I wasn’t so crazy about first, shall we?

guernsey literary

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– well the good thing about this movie is if you haven’t read the book, you can after watching this film, cos they’re two separate entities. My main contention is that the main character is not the same character as the book. I don’t know why so many strong female heroines from books are translated into “seen and not heard” types in movies (though I can guess a few reasons). It’s like they took all her personality traits and flattened them into her saying that Anne Bronte was “ahead of her time” (someone was looking for feminist brownie points). The way I’d describe Juliet from the book is vivacious, headstrong and decisive. Here she’s a shadow of that character- whose main role in the movie (spoilers) is to say yes to an engagement she never agrees to in the book, so that she can break her word later. Making the character more flaky *is not* an improvement. Other than my serious frustration in this department, I felt the movie lacked tension. There were a couple of components from the book which really could have been utilised to create that here. Also, I recognise that translating the letter element from the book to screen would have been tricky- yet (as you’ll see from other movies on this list) stylised elements can truly elevate a film and it was a missed opportunity to not do that here. What saved this movie for me was a couple of outstanding performances- especially from Tom Courtney and Penelope Wilton (every time the latter was on screen I ended up in tears). The child that played Kit was also truly sensational. In fairness, this isn’t the worst book to movie adaptation out there- but I adored the book and this could have been so, so much better.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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walle

WallE– wow what a pessimistic view of humanity. I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with this movie too. I’d had it hyped for years in my head- which I didn’t worry too much about cos Pixar films usually live up to expectations. This was obviously a message movie- and that’s not such a terrible thing- but the delivery was a little off. Personally, I think things like humanity floating off into space and turning into War-of-the-Worlds-style-Martians seems a bit silly- especially when you consider that along with the rise of laziness, there’s also an increase in fitness fanaticism. And yes, I know it’s a kid’s movie (I’ll agree the robots are cute and it’s mostly enjoyable), but since it delves into the sci fi region, I couldn’t help but compare it to other things in the genre. For me, Pixar’s foray into this area left a lot to be desired. Let’s see how they did with the sequel to one of my favourite properties…

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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incredibles 2

Incredibles 2– yeahhh I wasn’t happy with this either. Not only did it regurgitate the original- but it also took out the satire! Which makes it a bad remake. It’s quite disappointing after such a long wait. The plot felt unsatisfying from beginning to end- particularly as it reversed all the character growth from the first movie. It did make me laugh though and (with a few tweaks) could have been titled Jack Jack Attack 2 and then I’d have enjoyed it. Sadly, there were just too many unconnected strands and the story was lacklustre at best.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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mamma mia 2

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again– this is here just so you can all see the full range of my capacity to be a grumpus 😉 It’s hard to determine whether I shouldn’t have watched this or if this movie shouldn’t exist. Probably both. There’s no two ways about it: the story sucks. It’s a rehash of the first movie- only even more ridiculously contrived. The music is (mostly) still good- though for the most part you’d benefit a lot more from listening to the old tracks (*why on earth* they chose another person with a grating voice to play younger Pierce Brosnan is beyond me!)  I guess it’s good fun seeing Cher singing Fernando- though surely you can just watch a clip of that?

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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Gosh I’ve gotten salty here…

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Let’s move onto the movies I got more out of:
amelie

Amelie– it took me *years* to watch this movie- while this is considered a classic, I’d also met enough people that didn’t like it. And to be honest, I get why. This is film of likes and dislikes. Naturally, I had my own likes and dislikes for it:

Likes:

The intricate little tales of every person Amelie meets.

How funny it could be at times.

A lot of the motifs.

The romance!

Dislikes:

There were some icky elements (like Amelie’s conception) I could have done without…

And that’s it! Initially I was on the fence about the stylised element to the movie- but by the end I thought it worked really well. Ultimement, je l’ai aimé (and that’s all the bad French you’re getting!).

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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the firm

The Firm– while not a perfect movie, it is a really entertaining thriller. It does stall at times, so the pacing isn’t always perfect, however by the end I was utterly gripped (so much so I missed some police drama going on outside my window… #LondonLife). The music in particular works to add tension and fits the dramatic tone. Definitely recommend if you’re into this genre!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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citizen kane

Citizen Kane– atmospheric and artistically shot, I don’t know what I could say about this *fabulous* film that hasn’t been said already. What a story! It’s so simply a mystery- and yet it is told in such a way that there are layers upon layers of complexity here. I loved how it told the story over and over again in different ways- returning to the beginning of the movie by the end. Every little detail adds to the movie- the echoes, the use of space, the endless corridors. It’s a visual masterpiece. It’s psychologically fascinating piece. The acting is sublime- you can see the actors thinking and emotionally manipulating the scene. I became obsessed with finding the answers and couldn’t have been more satisfied with the ending! Definitely watch this movie if you want to find out who is Rosebud? And more importantly- why does it matter?

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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And that’s a wrap! Have you seen any of these movies? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Some Great Contemporary YA Reads That are More Than Their Romance

 

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Let’s face it: romance is a staple of contemporary YA. Even so, that doesn’t mean that the story has to end there. Many wonderful contemporaries also explore other avenues of life, love and relationships. That’s why today I’m sharing some of those YA books!

Sisterhood everlasting

#1 Sisterhood Everlasting– I feel like I can rarely talk about contemporary YA without bringing up one of the books in this series. I adore how Brashares shows love and friendship in all of her books- this finale is special though in that it takes a sadder turn. Annnd I’ll leave it there, cos I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read it!

words in deep blue

#2 Words in Deep Blue– another moving book, this delves into the depths of loss, family and friendship. This exquisite story really takes a lot of the themes of this genre to another level.

second chance summer

#3 Second Chance Summer– this was my first Matson book and definitely not the last! I don’t think I could ever forget reading this for the first time- mostly cos it involved lots of crying in public… oops 😉 Seriously, this does not pull its punches. If you want an excellent read about family and grief, then this is the book for you!

cinder and ella

#4 Cinder and Ella– in fairness, this is the most romance-heavy of the books on this list. That said, this Cinderella retelling does a *brilliant* job of demonstrating complex family dynamics and offers more than your standard YA contemporary fare.

simon vs the homosapien agenda

#5 Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda– this is also fundamentally a romance, but along with a good dose of cuteness and a strong hint of humour, this book also delivers by telling a powerful coming out story.

A thousand perfect notes

#6 A Thousand Perfect Notes– I read this fairly recently and haven’t had the chance to review it yet- but rest assured I will get to it, cos this book deserves a lot of attention! I have a difficult time with books on abuse- however I really do believe that this does an outstanding job.

all the bright places

#7 All the Bright Places– possibly the most controversial book on this list, as like many books on mental health, it’s incredibly polarising. Personally, I connected very strongly with the representation and found the characters realistic.

eliza and her monsters

#8 Eliza and Her Monsters– I have made no secret of how much I liked this book- it’s a colourful, exciting contemporary, which also happens to deal with anxiety, friendship and even living on the internet. Hence for a lot of us online, it’s not to be missed!

stargirl

#9 Stargirl– an ‘un one but a good ‘un! This is aimed at a bit of a younger audience, but I read it in my late teens and still got a lot out of it. This is far less about getting a crush and more about dealing with bullying.

And *Bonus*- cos here’s a contemporary without romance at all:

wonder

#10 Wonder- such a powerful read about friendship and overcoming hardship. Words tend to fail me when it comes to this book, so I’ll simply say: if you haven’t read it, you really should.

So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And what other contemporary YA books do you think are more than their romance? Let me know in the comments!

Fantastic Folklore-Inspired Stories from Around the World

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Hello all! Since I’ve been speaking a lot about fairy tales and folklore in the last week, I thought it would be fun to just to a little list for this Sunday’s post. I decided (cos I’m a fussy reader that’s picky about retellings) to go with books that I think are great, which aren’t necessarily retellings, but rather are simply awesome stories, inspired by mythic tales. And these they are:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– it’s not just that I really enjoyed this book- I also thought Kaguwa’s light touch was perfect when it came to representing the wonderfully complex creature that is the kitsune.

ForbiddenWish_BOM.indd

Forbidden Wish– I don’t think I talk about this book enough on this blog, even though I really enjoyed this unique Aladdin retelling.

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the nightingale– I think it’s fairly obvious how much I love this book. Bound up in Russian folklore, it’s become an instant favourite for me and is perfect reading for this time of the year.

anansi boys

Anansi Boys– this was the first Gaiman I really fell in love with- and for good reason. Not only does it absorb fascinating mythic elements, but Gaiman also puts his own unique humour and twist on the story, elevating it to the levels of genius.

circe

Circe– ah Greek mythology is so close to my heart- so I’m delighted to have read what I believe to be the *definitive* retelling of the Odyssey. It’s simply sublime.

Hobbit_cover

The Hobbit– I went back and forth about putting this on this list, because it doesn’t necessarily correlate with any one story. Instead it’s an amalgamation of so many stories and goes far beyond a traditional retelling in that it becomes the backbone for future British mythology- which meant I’d be remiss to leave it off. Besides, it’s one of my all-time favourite books and I’m biased 😉

through the woods

Through the Woods– this graphic novel is not only visually stunning, but an excellent example of unique retellings. It not only incorporated elements from the original Grimm’s tales, it also embodied something of the spirit from Angela Carter’s work. For that alone, it’s a worthy read.

 

What do you think of any of these? And do have any favourite retellings or novels inspired by folklore? Let me know in the comments!