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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

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

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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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! Hope you all have a good New Year!

Books that gave me a hangover

Usually when I finish a good book, it whets the appetite for another. Yet, on rare occasions, I am so intoxicated that I cannot read another one. These are just a few books that *ruined* me for others:

Wuthering Heights– heady and romantic and doomed… the kind of story that you can’t easily shake. It’s one of the first books I can remember giving me a hangover (when I was, I’ll admit, underage 😉). 

Jude the Obscure– after I finished this, I was so dumbstruck, all I could do was stare at the walls. I was completely unable to do anything, let alone read. It’s the kind of book that made me think “damn, never gonna do that again…” Needless to say, I don’t picture myself rereading it!

Sadie– there is no recovering from this any time soon- it delivers an absolute gut-punch of an ending.

High Lord– what started out much like any fantasy ended up breaking me. And I didn’t see it coming.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters– indeed there’s nothing quite like the perfect end to a series- and this dreamy Romeo and Juliet story of Angels and Demons was nothing short of *perfection*.

Winter of the Witch– I looked at my stats and didn’t remember any of the books I read after- they were all in its shadow. An enchanting end to an enchanting series.

Circe– I was so under this Odyssey retelling’s spell, that nothing measured up after. Circe completely captured my soul with its beauty and ingenuity.

Six of Crows– can you imagine what it was like not to have the next one when I finished this?? Such a brilliant series- but I recommend having both on hand at the same time (oh and maybe some tissues).

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– I couldn’t stop thinking about this after I finished. And now you’re going to have to deal with me talking about this over and over 😉 Not one I’ll be forgetting in a hurry!

Carry On– a Harry Potter parody is not the kind of thing I would’ve expected to give me a terrible book hangover- and yet I loved this so much, after I was done, nothing else would satisfy me than picking it up and starting all over again!  

With the Fire on High– there was something so simply satisfying about this that I just didn’t find anything else as appetising after. Nothing was quite the same. It’s the kind of contemporary YA that just hits the spot.

So have you read any of these? Do you feel the same way? And what books gave you a book hangover? Let me know in the comments!

My Resolutions for 2021

Well, last year was… different. Like so many of us, for reasons outside my control, a lot of my plans for 2020 didn’t quite work out. Needless to say, I didn’t complete my goals. Because of that I’ve decided to shift my perspective for 2021. Instead of using this time of year to get powered up for the next year, I’m actually going to be thinking of how I can give myself a break.

That’s why, before I get into my resolutions, I’m first gonna talk about the goals I’m notsetting myself. I’ve basically removed any tough goals or anything that’s subject to massive changes like a global pandemic. This year I’ve decided to just go with the flow (for the most part) and won’t be putting down things like a challenging books, poetry or plays (though mentioning it is a bit like a placeholder to my future self that I want to start thinking about these things again midway through the year). And any resolutions I do make will be significantly more chill- for instance:

Bookish

Read 10 Non Fic!

Despite the fact that reading 10 non fic, I’m not going to up this number. Given that I’ve clearly exorcised my non fic demons, I was in fact on the verge of taking it down a notch. However, at the last second I decided there were a few non fic I *have to* read for research purposes. So, this number is just gonna stay as a staple!

10 Classics

This is the first year ever where the number of classics I read went down drastically– from 13% (28 books) to just 5% (11 books). I’m not happy about that and want to fix it! This is, to be fair, quite a doable number, so I may have to up this number mid-way through the year.

5 Rereads!

Because if I don’t put it on the list, I won’t do it. Even though I enjoy this challenge the most! (daughter of smoke and bone 2, book thief, hunger games, heart of darkness)

Read 10 books I’ve been promising to read for years

This should be fun, because there are an amazing selection of books I’ve been saying I’ll read *for years*. And because I’ve been thinking about this a while, I did a helpful tag at the end of last year. I’m going to be keeping a vague TBR each month to make. this. happen!

Non-Bookish

3 yoga challenges

Yes, I did more of these last year, but this still feels like a good solid number. Doing 3 would be great!  

And that’s all I have for this year! As you can see, I’m definitely keeping it shorter than normal! I have some hidden goals (that I’m not putting up just yet cos I don’t want to pressure myself too much) which I may add in the middle of the year! I just want to give 2021 a chance to show me its true colours get going before I pin my sails to the mast!

What about you? Do you have any plans for 2021 big or small? Let me know in the comments!

Looking back on 2020 Resolutions- Success or Failure?

I find it almost hilarious to put “2020” and “success or failure” together in a sentence. 2020 has been a year… or 20 years in one, which is why I won’t even attempt to sum it up. I wish I could say I was someone who was productive in all the various lockdowns… but I wasn’t. And usually I find inspiration in my midyear’s resolutions to *keep going*… but I didn’t. I pretty much gave up with most of my goals early on.  Which is why my results are all over the place… 

Bookish

READ MORE NON FIC!

Starting off with a massive success- I have no idea how I did it, but I managed to read 26 non fiction books in 2020!!! This is an absolute record for me!!

Score: 10/10

(shame I didn’t cheat and add points to this in the mid-year post cos I could’ve done with picking up a few- even if I’d already read over my target…)

READ MORE CHALLENGING BOOKS!

Oof massive fail. I just wasn’t feeling this after Covid struck.

Score: 1/10

READ MORE POETRY!

Not a bad result considering I gave up on this too!

Score: 4/5

READ MORE PLAYS!

No idea how I did it… but I did it!! Really surprised and happy with this win!

Score: 5/5

DO SOME REREADING!

I did well here! Somehow I managed to read more than my target of 5! I’m especially happy with this cos I always enjoy rereading (but I wouldn’t do it if not for this challenge!) Every single one of these books was an absolute pleasure to revisit. Pratchett in particular was a real tonic! And I finally started rereading the His Dark Materials trilogy!

Score: 5/5

Non Bookish

DO MORE ART!

Ehh as I mentioned in my mid-year’s post, this was a poorly defined goal. I should’ve done more for it, but at the same time, I’ve done a gazillion cartoons this year (off the internet). I’m counting this as a win.

Score: 5/5

Do more yoga! 

So this is another big success! I completed three yoga challenges midway through the year and was actually inspired to keep going with another three challenges! So original challenge and extra credit combined gives me:

Score: 10/10

(if anyone’s interested in trying out the challenges, I did a bunch of the Yoga with Adriene ones- my favourites being Revolution and Home)

START A NEW WRITING PROJECT!

Done!

Score 5/5

I did have some stretch goals, but let’s face it, they were too much of a s-t-r-e-t-c-h!

SORT THROUGH BOX OF STUFF

Yeahhh I still can’t believe I was in two lockdowns and didn’t manage to finish this… but there were reasons (I swear not excuses) that I didn’t. I mean, when I was doing nothing but working, I didn’t much fancy doing a clear-out with the limited free time I did have. Much better to just watch the Tiger King (yes I know I could’ve easily combined those two things shhhh). Anyway, this is over half empty.

Score: 3/5

Total Score: 48/60 = 80%

B

Ahh I’m actually really happy with that! Can’t believe I’ve scraped through with a B! I’ve done worse before and it wasn’t 2020… so I’ll take it! How have you done with your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments! And a ***Happy New Year*** to you all!

My Reading Stats for 2020 – A Bookish Overview

Not including DNFs!

Just like the rest of the year, everything about my stats is skew-whiff. I’m obviously happy that my average rating was so high and I had a very small number of low rated books. What I’m pretty baffled by, however, is how I read fewer books in genres I love- especially fantasy, which was down from my usual 1/3 to just a 1/4! I do think this was a blip (especially considering most of my favourites from 2020 were fantasy books). I also think that this could be a good thing– since varying the genres so much meant that I never got genre fatigue (and I guess I just stuck to high quality fantasy instead of just ploughing through a bunch I wasn’t really enjoying). Predictably I read fewer challenging books, including classics, however on the flipside, I read SO MANY non fiction this year (some of which was True Crime which I don’t normally go for). For some reason, when life was stranger than fiction, I ended up with a craving for real life (and I guess this makes more sense of my reduced number of fantasy reads: basically everything seems to be fantasy right now, so it makes no difference what genre I read!)

In terms of other stats, I’m sadly listening to fewer audiobooks (I really need to get on looking for a bigger list to dive into, because what I have listened to, I’ve really enjoyed!). However, most exciting of all, this year I decided to start checking out my library stats. Inspired by Pages Unbound post with their stats back in 2019, I decided to keep track of how many books I’d read were borrowed from a library. Last year it made up 43% and, remarkably, this year it was even more at 57%! On that note, because I know a lot of people aren’t aware of this, but libraries are still a-go in the middle of this pandemic! I know that across London, where I’m at, you can order books to collect and make use of ebooks (through Libby/Overdrive and Borrowbox). And the same goes for a lot of the UK and the US- definitely worth checking online to see what your library can offer you!

Okay PSA over- now let’s check out the rest of my stats:

There was a lot packed into this! I never would’ve guessed it was so short!! 

This was really the longest?! It didn’t feel it! It went by so fast! I suppose that’s the mark of a good book!

Sorry Booker Prize stans, not a fan of this.

Going to mention my favourite new author this year, because both her books- Ten Thousand doors of January and Once and Future Witches– cast a spell on me!

This is the year I finally learnt the meaning of “LIFE’S TOO SHORT!” I DNF’d a grand total of *11 books*!! That’s a new record for me- by quite a distance!

7- very happy with this! Especially since they were all a delight to reread!

The Hobbit- bit of a problem when I do rereads- cos I’m sure this has come up before.

Well I’m not happy about this being least popular, cos I enjoyed it! By the fabulous Fran Laniado- a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast- it’s well worth checking out!

Yeah this was underwhelming for me- but I don’t think it deserves the lowest rating!

Even if I’ve read fewer audiobooks, I did listened to some incredible ones. Holly Chase was *so much fun* to listen to and gave me wonderful Christmassy feelings 😀 I also really liked the Aurora Burning audiobook- it’s made me definitely want to continue the series that way! I also listened to the whole Diviners series on audiobook and that was a creepilicious delight!

And a new category…

Inheritance- I never would’ve discovered this if not for the library! I saw it being requested a few times and thought the story behind it was intriguing… so glad I picked it up! And highly recommend if you want to read a genealogical detective story!

And that’s a wrap! So how was your reading year? Have your ratings been good? Did you discover any brilliant books? Let me know in the comments!

Top 20 for 2020!

Oh my goodness, I can safely say that even if 2020 was not an amazing year, I read some pretty phenomenal books! Which is why I decided to expand the list to twenty for a change! Yes, that’s right- the reason I’m not doing 2 posts this year is because there were just TOO MANY INCREDIBLE BOOKS TO TALK ABOUT! This was one of the hardest years to narrow down and rank because SO MANY OF THESE WERE OUT OF THIS WORLD! And even though I increased the number to 20, I still had too many books to talk about!! But since it’s my blog and I make the rules, here’s a few honorary mentions before we get started:

Yeah there’s a couple there that easily could’ve been in the top twenty in a normal year… which should give you an idea how good this list is going to get! ***As usual all pics link to reviews*** Now let’s kick off because there are so many great books to talk about! 

Sorcery of Thorns– I had loads of fun with this. The romance was adorable and the characters cute- but what I enjoyed the most was the magical library setting!

Winter Rose– I read my first two Patricia McKillip books this year and enjoyed both of them. While Atrix Wolf may have been technically better, this is the one that really snared me. I can’t explain it- I just have a weakness for creepy, enchanted forests… and this was done so exquisitely well.

Uprooted– this Russian-inspired Beauty and the Beast somehow managed to feel really fresh and different. The world was vivid, the protagonist striking and the romance especially tantalising. And one can only stand back and admire Novik’s writing style.

Enchantment of Ravens– it may surprise people that this is higher on the list than Sorcery of Thorns, but the heart wants what it wants! This is not a perfect book and yet I liked it so much more than I thought I would. I loved how Rogerson explored the idea of immortality here and found she made craft something special. I’ve been under this book’s spell for months and can’t shake the enchantment!

Winterwood– as I’ve said many times, I have a real weakness for witchy woods. This had an intensely dark and mysterious atmosphere- I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. I will admit that I could see a lot of the paths that this would take, yet that didn’t make them any less enticing and exciting. I couldn’t look away from this haunting tale. I gobbled it up faster than two lost children coming across a gingerbread house 😉

Labyrinth of the Spirits– this was not my favourite of the series, but it absolutely did the story justice. Taking us back through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, along for stories of war and beyond, this tied everything together. Zafon clearly showed us he had the string to guide us through this labyrinthine saga all along. 

Lair of Dreams– I’m rather excited to give this series a mention, because it is surely a definitely part of my reading year. And for once I’m not cheating and plonking the whole series on the list, just going with my favourite! (Although, honestly, if you get into book 1, why would you stop there?!) Starting out as a straightforward (but pos-i-tutely fab-u-lous) ghost story, this is the kind of series that expands in scope. What I loved most about this quartet was how the intriguing powers intertwined with characters and backstories. I also loved how all the family relationships, friendships and romances were to die for. Plus, let me tell you, I listened to the audiobook version, which was insanely long, and yet I was entertained for hours on end!

This is How You Lose the Time War– a hate-to-love story in space about two people on opposite sides of a time war falling in love?! Yes please! However, what ultimately makes this so vivid in my mind is how wonderfully written it is! By both authors!

The Huntress– this memorable historical fiction crosses deftly into thriller territory. Chasing a Nazi called the Huntress, this is a story of how the hunted become the hunters. With multiple timelines seamlessly interweaving, this story had so much scope. Everything about this story held power to me. I have definitely found a new amazing author to follow.

Art of War- (not to be mistaken for the war of art 😉). I learnt so much from this! No, I’m not planning on going to war any time soon 😉 I just found the advice more universal than I was expecting! 

Nevermoor– this perhaps deserves to be even higher on the list, because it’s one of the best MGs I’ve ever read! In a lot of ways it deconstructs the typical tropes of the category, whilst bringing all the whimsy and delight you’d expect. It’s really a wonderful take and I know I’d have loved it even more if I was a kid!

With the Fire on High– there’s no two ways about it: this was a delicious read. A masterful contemporary with colourful prose, this brought heart and soul to the table. The plot revolving around culinary ambitions and the realistic characters were paired perfectly on this plate. I especially appreciated how this gave light to stories we don’t typically see in YA.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase– this was more than just an enjoyable YA retelling of Christmas Carol. It had a depth I wasn’t expecting, taking the classic in a unique direction. Exploring every facet of redemption and what leads someone to become a Scrooge in the first place, this packed an emotional punch I wasn’t expecting. This got to the heart of the original and thought beyond it. That’s a bold and brilliant move. I also listened to this on audio and loved every second of it.

Alias Grace– no one is more pleasantly surprised than me that I loved this so much. I’ve always admired Atwood’s writing, but haven’t clicked with her stories… but this was different. It’s one of the books that made me the most obsessive this year. Not only is it masterfully written, it’s so addictive and layered and conjures incredible pictures to my mind even now.

Inheritance– I can’t stop thinking about this thrilling genealogical memoir. Set up like something of a detective story, I found myself turning the pages at an alarming rate, wanting to know what was going to happen! Beyond being utterly compulsive, I liked the depth of themes. It begins by tussling with the question WHO AM I and ends by getting to the root of WHO ARE WE? It doesn’t give you any firm solutions either- leaving you thinking. It’s truly an experience if you want to be intellectually stimulated and challenged.

Wild Swans– this is more than just an intergenerational memoir- this story covers so much of China’s history and gets into the truth about what happened under the Mao regime. This does more than take you on an emotional journey- it is a true education. Everyone should read it.  

Big Magic– an inspiration and a must-read for any creative, there’s something so delightful about this book. Elizabeth Gilbert has a way of bringing joy to her non fic. If you like to procrastinate, this will surely prod you in the right direction. And if you need it, this will give you the spark to keep going.

Ten Thousand Doors of January– I haven’t been able to shut up all year- and for good reason. This took me beyond this world- into countless others. A layered fantasy, it opens the door to something new.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– the more I think about it the more I just love this book. On the surface, it’s about a girl cursed in exchange for immortality. Yet it’s so much more than that simple description. It is quite simply one of the most unique and compelling books I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of story that stays with you. 

Once and Future Witches– this was undoubtedly my most magical reading experience of the year. I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK. Interlacing history and fantasy and myth in a remarkable way, this book utterly bewitched me. I couldn’t stop reading: for the characters, for the beautiful writing, for the story. Harrow must know something about how to command the ways and the words herself, because I am absolutely spellbound by her work. There’s more than a pinch of genius here.

So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book(s) of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

My Most Disappointing Reads 2020

We’ve made it! It’s the end of 2020! Luckily for me, books haven’t been such a big disappointment this year, so I haven’t made it to a full list of ten (for the second year in a row!!) As per usual, this is not necessarily going to be the worst books I read this year, just the most disappointing (amazingly, some books that I didn’t like surpassed my expectations and didn’t make it onto the list). I’ve only written reviews for some of these- which are linked- but a fair number will be the first (and last time) I’ll be talking about them… So enjoy the rants while they last! 😉

Girl Woman Other– this was undoubtedly the worst book of the year- possibly of any year- but it wasn’t as disappointing as some of the other books on this list. Partly because a) I shouldn’t have bothered reading it given my track record with prizewinners lately and b) I should have stopped reading once I realised the writing was so shocking (I did stop once, yet saw so much praise, I had to go back and see if there was any merit to it. There wasn’t). So, you see my expectations weren’t that high to begin with- however since I hated it this much, I couldn’t reasonably leave it off the list altogether. Putting it last is a compromise.

The Hand on the Wall– I was too generous when I reviewed this one, cos I wanted to like it so badly. But really, the solution to the mystery was not satisfying enough and too many subplots took over (*spoiler alert*: I didn’t invest all that time for it to be all about money). In truth, I should’ve seen the writing on the wall after book 2 plummeted into politics-ville.

Bringing Down the Duke– in retrospect, I don’t know why I hated this book quite as much as I did, because it really is supposed to just be a bit of fun. However, for me, something grated about the historical inaccuracies and I ended up not loving it as much as I wanted to.

Foundation– this was quite simply not my cup of tea- I didn’t enjoy the fact it was more philosophy than storytelling and didn’t click with the writing.

Slaughterhouse Five– this is another one that just wasn’t for me. Not just because it was a bit odd, but because I never enjoy stream of consciousness. I wasn’t the right reader for this book.  

Wait for Me– this would have been a fairly “meh” read if not for a couple of issues that really irked me. One, I’m not totally on board with the whole Nazi/German rehabilitated romance. It’s a weird trend that’s not to my taste. Two, the writing killed the atmosphere. There was very little sense of place except for the occasional “aye”. Worse still, the teens didn’t just sound modern, they sounded very immature. From the writing, I’d have guessed this was a MG, but the romance was a bit too much of a central focus for this to be aimed at 12 year olds. Either way, it’s safe to say I’m not the target audience for this book, so please bear that in mind.

Queen of Ruin– this was worse the more I thought about it. My biggest issue with this was the fact that characters need to grow in sequels… otherwise what’s the point? Especially in this case- where they didn’t finish the first story as the best version of themselves. After starting strong in book 1, Nomi had made a big mistake, meaning she needed to toughen up and stop being so naïve. Serena had gotten really tough in the first book, but it could have been interesting for her to learn to soften. It would’ve been great to see both characters meet somewhere in the middle and realise that both parts of their personality were important. Instead, nothing happened to their character arcs. It was all action and not-so-subtle lecturing. Very disappointing indeed, since it had so much potential as a series.

Unorthodox– ugh I hate even talking about this book… which is why this’ll be the first (and probably last) time I ever mention it. I didn’t have a good experience reading this. Not because it was shocking (which it is) or because it’s unfamiliar territory (which it is) but because I couldn’t quite find my feet with the narrative. A lot of things didn’t add up. After doing some research, I found a lot of claims disputed. Add to that the fact she deliberately changed (vital) parts of her story (sometimes to supposedly “protect the anonymity” of people… whose pictures she included). That’s just not something I’ve come to expect from “true stories” and made it hard to take the story at face value. It felt more like he-said, she-said rather than a typical biography and I don’t feel that comfortable getting in the middle of it. Let’s just say it’s an unorthodox way to write a memoir and leave it at that.

War of Art– not to be mistaken for the Art of War 😉 I don’t know why, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve already ranted about this, so I’ll keep it brief. I expected quite a lot from this book- especially after enjoying some inspirational books on similar topics- but it let me down faster than a whoopie cushion.

So- dare I ask- what do you think of these? Have you read any of them? And what were your worst books of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Books I successfully DNF’d #2

A few months back I did a post talking about books I successfully DNF’d. What I loved about doing that post is it encouraged me to give up on books I’d have otherwise powered through… So I decided to do another one for the other books I’ve DNF’d this year! I might even make a tradition of it (if I can keep up the DNFing that is). For now, let’s just jump into it:

Devouring Gray– at first, I thought there was no real reason to DNF this, cos I liked the opening and thought it was pretty atmospheric. Still, I hit a roadblock at 43% and couldn’t seem to get passed it. I simply didn’t care where it was headed and I was trying to have more pleasurable reads in the pandemic, so quit while I was ahead, thinking I could try it again at some point. I really wanted to like it, so a month or so later, I picked it up again… only to get stuck again at 15%. That’s when I realised the problem wasn’t in my head. I think there’s a serious pacing and character issue for me here.   

Fix Her Up– this really didn’t work for me as a “fake girlfriend/boyfriend” story. They started getting it on pretty fast- so it doesn’t really qualify. It also didn’t help that I didn’t find the characters very likeable. However, what absolutely killed this book for me was how awkward the descriptions were for the romance- things like rashes are just off-putting and shouldn’t be anywhere near a sex scene. Worst of all, while they’re making out, the male lead thinks she’s looking at him like she’s going to “harvest his organs”- how… sweet?

Hygge Holiday– I borrowed this for my sister, but of course, once it was in my hands, I thought I might give it a try too… I got a few chapters in before deciding “not for me”.

Nine Perfect Strangers– I borrowed this on overdrive, cos I loved Big Little Lies by the same author. Yet, after two weeks of struggling to get into it, I realised it wasn’t going to work. Sadly, the characters remained strangers to me and I just couldn’t connect with any of it. Plus, the reviews weren’t looking too positive, so it didn’t seem worth powering through. 

Angel Mage– this book did nothing for me, unfortunately. I got about 2/3 of the way in before I started skimming. At that point I knew it was only a matter of time before I DNF’d. I think I only had 10% left before I gave up.

The Secret Barrister– I couldn’t stand the longwinded pomposity. I quit after 2 (very long) chapters. I think he was trying to copy Kay’s success with a professional memoir… but this is nothing like This is Going to Hurt. It’s got none of the charm, humour or heart- just plenty of virtue signalling.

The Ragwitch– I just had a completely different view of what this book would be. I thought it was going to be a spooky story, but it was in actuality a slightly MG adventure story. Not a bad thing, but not the kind of thing I wanted to be reading.

Hot Milk– this is my latest (and really recent) DNF. I tried with this one, but I just couldn’t stick out the 200 pages to the end! Unfortunately, after a well-written opening, it just became a bit staid and samey and wasn’t doing anything for me. I’m blaming the morose tone and flat voice- after the year we’ve all had, I just didn’t want to be in this Debbie Downer’s head a moment longer.

Annnnd that’s all I have for now! Not bad for me- but could be better! Especially since there was a real stinker that I DNF’d and picked back up again (which will be mentioned in my most disappointing of the year).

But what I want to know is- did I make a mistake with any of these? If you’ve read them, do you recommend finishing? Or did you get more out of them? Let me know in the comments!

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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