Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – April

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Gosh I swear every month feels like three right now. On the *massive plus* side, I did get some brilliant bookish swag courtesy of the lovely Lotte @the Reading Hobbit! Thank you so much to her and if you guys are looking for some great content from someone with excellent taste (especially if you’re a massive fan of the Hobbit like I am 😉 ) then look no further!

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I also thought I’d had a not-so-great reading month and not read much- I guess I did better than I thought 😉

a view from the bridge

A View from the Bridge– well, I felt a little conflicted about this play- cos while it’s well written, it gets inside your head… and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. Especially since the protagonist was a complete perv and there are some icky elements. A fair amount of that is implied- but, even so, it’s hard to read at times. Still, it gave a surprisingly complex view of immigrating- showing a clash of cultures, the visceral reaction to migration and the element of second generation immigrants “pulling up the ladder” so to speak. Ultimately, the story is one of betrayal- however it does also exemplify a poor community, with people struggling to get work, ergo showing why this conflict exists. Evidently, this gave me some food for thought:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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a curse so dark and lonely

A Curse so Dark and Lonely- there was quite a lot to like about this book. For starters, I liked the toughness of the mc and how her cerebral palsy was treated. Plus, the line that her name, Harper, has “edges” was a brilliant piece of characterisation. And the epic finale was *epic*. The curse was interesting as well- especially since it affected everyone in the kingdom and it was an good take on Beauty and the Beast… but I still couldn’t get to grips with the world. For some reason or other, I didn’t feel like it captured my imagination. Also minor spoilers, there was this random plot point of the mc making up a country, in order to impersonate a princess. As Briana from Pages Unbound pointed out in a great post, there are reasons this can make sense- however, for me, it didn’t make sense to point out the flaw so often (pointing out a flaw doesn’t eliminate it) *and* I thought there should have been consequences for this deception. Some colour was added by Grey- particularly at the end- though I don’t think it was enough for me to carry on with the series.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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poems to live your life by

Poems to live your life by– or one man’s personal favourites. I don’t think all the poems in here are brilliant to be honest. I personally liked 40% of them- and I’d read nearly all the ones I liked before. That said, the illustrations were gorgeous- and this is Chris Riddell’s strength. It makes for a really pretty book and would make a lovely gift. I did think it ended on a wonderful yet nihilistic note- the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech from Macbeth is not necessarily an extract I’d use to conclude a collection of poems to live your life by, but o-kay…

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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josh and hazel's guide to not dating

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating– I’ll be honest, when this started I had no idea how the romance would proceed, cos when it started the couple seemed ill-matched. I also didn’t know what to make of Hazel… actually, I’m still not sure and I’ve finished the book. She’s a little… too weird (and that’s saying something coming from me 😉). The romance didn’t give me butterflies, but it was cute, funny and won me over. Also Winnie the Poodle is the best dog name ever. One important note is that it’s not YA- cos I’ve seen it mistaken that way online.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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the alchemist

Alchemist– I had mixed feelings about this too. While it had some poetic moments, I’d estimate it held about 50% truth, 50% nonsense. There were lines like this:

–          “when you want something all the universe conspires for you to get it”- frankly this is patently untrue- and it often feels like the opposite.

However, there were also some truthful points like these:

–          “They were seeking the treasure without having to live out their destiny”

–          “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure”

Because of these life-affirming and hopeful messages, it makes me not want to critique it too harshly. It also did pick up when the boy meets his love and had some cute elements like the idea true love won’t keep you from your destiny. I also liked the idea (however obvious) that treasure is back where you left it. I did like the positivity of the story- however it also had a massive dose of orientalism that is kinda cringey nowadays.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

The Boy Who Steals Houses was *Just Right*

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the gushing you’re about to see is all me!*

the boy who steals housesIt wasn’t too big, or too small- it was *perfection*!! In case my title or terrible jokes aren’t enough of a clue, this is actually a modern Goldilocks retelling. I’ve got to say, I’ve never come across its like until now and this makes it practically a dream come true for a reviewer! It’s completely and utterly unique!

Before I picked this up, I was familiar with Cait’s awesome blog @Paper Fury (who isn’t?) had read A Thousand Perfect Notes and obviously *loved* the writing style- which is why I couldn’t wait to pick this up.

After that I knew I simply had to read it. And boy did it deliver the goods! With delightful attention to detail and impressive technique, Cait paints a picture of the perfect family colliding with an intruder. In her signature style, the images are acutely drawn and the characters are brought to life.

Before I get to anything else, I have to say I liked the “before” and “after” element (which, yes, I’ve stolen for my review 😉). I especially appreciated the way it addressed the darkness lurking in his past and how it was effectively built up over time. I thought the representation across the board was expertly handled and allowed this book to be incredibly hard hitting. It was so intense that I was holding my breath for pages at a time. And on top of that, it got better and better as the story progressed!

After I got into the narrative though, I realised it’s not a gloomy view of the world! There is plenty of light that shines through; there are quiet moments that make themselves heard. The story and romance melted my heart with its cuteness. It was funny and sweet and made me *feel all the feels* (I’m not crying, you are!) It’s safe to say, this book snatched up my heart and ran away with it. I can only give it all the bananas in the hopes I might trade it back:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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But just in case it’s a *no deal*, I got all dressed up to even up my odds:

burglar orangutan stealing houses

So have you read this or Cait’s other book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

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! 😉

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

The Princess and the Fangirl Switched Things Up!

*Received this book from Netgalley in exchange for review- though all the fangirling you’re about to see is all me*

Princess and the fangirlLast year, I read Geekerella, a *super fun* retelling of Cinderella- except transposed onto the fandom arena. Now, I’m happy to be back with a review for the sequel- a modern take on the Prince and the Pauper! And I am so excited to say that Poston didn’t rest on her laurels with this one- from the stellar opening, it was an entertaining journey of intergalactic proportions!

One of the things that stood out for me was the range of styles exhibited here. The dual perspectives works perfectly, as they’re easily distinguishable. Imogen is laugh out loud funny, while Jess is prone to out of this world descriptions and cosmic imagery. Both collide in this deftly handled narrative, successfully shifting tones and delivering a cohesive narrative. Even better, it feels like two stories for the price of one!

The characters shone through strongly. And I especially like that they reflected the idea: “She wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t try to be”- yes!! That’s the heroine we want… and the heroines we get from this book! Surprisingly, despite being a superstar, I ended up empathising with Jess more. Sure, Imogen/Monster was relatable, but I loved how this humanised a celebrity, whilst also being sweet and inspiring. It genuinely moved me to see how insecure they were- showing how they had a lot more in common than superficial things like their appearance. Personally, I thought this was one of the best parts of the book.

I also preferred Jess’ romance. While I enjoyed the hate-to-love aspect of Imogen’s relationship, Jess and Harper made my sappy heart melt. Maybe it was the incredible descriptions, maybe it was overcoming the obstacles to being together and maybe it was the genuine angst keeping them apart (I completely understood why Jess held back and kept secrets!). I simply adored the romance so much- I might have exploded with joy!

I *loved* the geeky references as well- they gave me such pleasure and made so much sense in this context. There was even a solid reference to the Yellow Wallpaper– so kudos for that! Once again, the slang was top notch. Man, I just wish this was a real show so we could all argue about it in real life 😉 (JK- seriously, please don’t @me!)

On that note, this book did open up some interesting discussions about the toxic side of fandoms… which I’ll admit I’m a little scared to venture into and demonstrates the problem (and the point the book didn’t mean to make, but kinda did: fandoms are a little intense guys). However, even if it was good that this book at least attempted to explore the issues of “us vs them” mentalities in fandoms, I did feel it fell to heavily on the “you’re either with us or against us” side, largely demonising critical voices as sexist pigs. I ultimately thought that the way it dealt with self-esteem was quite a bit better than its view of how to handle trolls (go under the bridge and hit them with a big stick… only joking- don’t do that!) Annnd now I feel like some people are gonna want to wage war on me in the comments…

So moving onto the more frothy side of fangirling, I did really like that this felt like an interconnected universe, bringing Elle’s blog back from the last book! Best. Crossover. Ever. Every appearance and mention of old characters lit me up!

In the end, if you liked how dorky the first one was (like I did), if you enjoyed it as a fresh look at a fairy tale (like I did) then you are bound to like this (like I did!).

Happily, I gave it:

4/5 bananas

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

HOW (not) TO READ REVIEWS

I’ve been doing this nearly four years and I’ve received a lot of advice in that time- some of which has even been good 😉 Nonetheless, thanks to all the bad advice, I now think I also have a good idea of how not to approach a book blogger. So, I’ve compiled a “useful” list, for all those not in the know, of all the best ways to make a reviewer irate.

NB *please note, this is all in good fun, take this satirical piece seriously at your own peril* 😉

im-right-youre-wrongCorrect the reviewer on their opinions because their opinion is wrong and yours is right and soon they’ll understand that. Don’t be constructive and give reasons for your disapproval- it’s preferable if you use ad hominems like “you’re thick as pig shit” or more pretentious terms if you can manage it. Remember you can use a thesaurus on the internet and it doesn’t matter if your insults make sense- just try to find the longest word possible (like floccinaucinihilipilification or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious… although that second one’s more of a compliment 😉 )

pretending to readWhen you critique a review, don’t bother to actually read the review– remember your opinion is valuable and the reviewer is bound to listen to you, even if your suggestion makes no sense in the context eg “in the future you could write what genre it is” in a review that states as much in the first line- this will leave the baffled reviewer reading and rereading their work, trying to figure out what the hell you meant- which is what you want!

angry inside outAsk the reviewer why people are reading their review– make sure you say this in an as aggressive tone as possible- preferably in ALL CAPS example: I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE READ THIS TRASH!

 

I'm offendedGet insulted on behalf of the author for negative reviews– particularly if the author is a millionaire. Remember to take any criticism levied extremely personally- cos your hero’s honour is at stake and you must defend it! If they knew you existed, said author would probably thank you (or, you know, not).

angry catCritique the blogger’s layout– cos why not- if it’s offensive to your eye then it must be bad and if you don’t like the images they used, they have to know about it dammit.

 

 

 

you need to shut up.gifAnd my favourite: if you don’t like what a blogger has to say- harass them on twitter. This will not only show the world that you’re a *good person* but is a great way to change someone’s mind (also mind you don’t listen to any counter arguments they offer because you are a GOOD PERSON and they are a BAD PERSON). I have to add that this is an incredibly convincing tactic, cos I’m sure “YOU’RE WRONG, I KNOW YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN YOU DO!” has convinced many people in history (particularly when coming from strangers).

Annnd *ouch*, I think I’m feeling the sting of my own sarcasm after that. What do you think of this list? Have you any other “helpful” criticisms to levy at book bloggers? Don’t be shy! And Happy April Fool’s! 

Bloggers are Underrated

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Obviously, I’m biased, but here’s the thing: I’m not wrong 😉 Nowadays, it feels like bloggers are low hanging fruit, and everyone wants a piece. I barely go a week without seeing some disparaging comment about “what even is the point of bloggers” or “who even cares about bloggers” annnd I’m here to correct those assumptions- cos as a point of fact, bloggers are underrated. Here’s why:

book love belleEndless enthusiasm for books! Whether it’s in reviews/lists/discussions, bloggers have a way of creating continuous exposure and forming intense fandoms. Blogs are the perfect place to create superfans- which is why I believe some books with strong connections to the blogosphere have the power to do so well.

merlin books sharingCos, frankly, blogs are a brilliant place to cultivate organic interest. It’s not just that blogs have the ability to spread a book far and wide (and oh boy they do- a few book bloggers raving can get a book to spread like wildfire), blogs also manage to make that spread feel less like hype sometimes and more like fans sharing art. Which brings me onto…

book loveThe blogosphere is a wonderful place for readers! You can get some genuine advice on what to read and rave directly with someone else has loved a book. Feedback is super easy to get and real conversation is up for grabs. This is largely thanks to how interactive the blogosphere is, but also because…

friends hugThe community side is so strong. I personally believe it’s one of the more intimate platforms, with a greater connection to other readers and more meaningful engagement. This isn’t to disparage any other platform, cos everywhere has it’s “casual viewers”, but the format of a blog does lend itself really well to communication. And, even better, as we all like to point out regularly, this is one of the friendliest places on the internet. What’s so wonderful about blogging is how friendly everyone is- and this makes a huge difference. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it makes the reading experience so much more pleasurable (and, c’mon, it’s reading, it was already pretty darn awesome!!)

monkey typewriterBlogging also helps us writerly types to develop our craft further. Since we’re all lovers of the written word here, it stands to reason we’d enjoy reading other people’s posts and learning that way- PLUS we also get to improve our own skills every time we post. Really, it’s a win all round!!

 

mood reader 1And lastly, blogging is addictive! You’d probably have to prise our blogs from our cold dead hands 😉 Which doesn’t necessarily sound like a good thing, buuut having a blog quickly becomes a way of life. We put so much love and effort into our internet space- and that real commitment is why the blogosphere such a wonderful place to be!

 

 

 

In short, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it 😉 So do you agree? Are bloggers underrated? Let me know in the comments!

Brightly Burning was a Blast!

brightly burningI picked this book up for two reasons: 1) I follow the author, Alexa Donne, on Youtube cos her videos are fantastic and 2) it has a sexy concept: Jane Eyre in space- yes please! And I’m happy to say this ended up being an addictive, rompy romance, full of humour and plenty of fun.

As a retelling, this was brilliantly executed. Sure, if you know the story, you’ll get most of the plot points, but equally if you like the original, you’ll get a kick out of this. While there were some points that weren’t totally for me- highlight for spoiler: sorry, George should have stayed dead, bringing him back gave me whiplash– however the tempo  generally worked well and the main twist was stellar!

What I especially appreciated was how Donne got the creep factor down. That gothic vibe in space really succeeded for me and made it stand out from regular YA sci fi. Using more sci fi tropes to achieve this was very cool.

The characters did what they were supposed to. I particularly liked Stella and Hugo- though perhaps this is cos I like their original counterparts so much 😉 Honestly, aspects like this made me feel like it’s hard to see where one story ends and the other begins. The two books are so well blended that I felt a little like I was rereading Jane Eyre, without actually having to put in the time commitment 😉

Ultimately, this does exactly what it says on the tin and I very much enjoyed it for that:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? And are you a Jane Eyre fan? Do you like the idea of putting this story in space? Let me know in the comments!