Summer lovin’ – fun (& sometimes super emotional) beachy books to read in the sun!

 

It’s that time of the year again- time for us bookworms to be packing up our books to take on picnics/beaches/park benches. Although I gotta admit that the title is a little misleading- cos I don’t know about you, but I love something with a bit of an emotional edge for summer holidays. Something, like, say…

the boy who steals houses

The Boy Who Steals Houses– I. can’t. even. with this book- such an emotional rollercoaster. Read it. Read this incredible Goldilocks retelling. That’s it. That’s all I have to say- this book steals the words right out of my mouth.

words in deep blue

Words in deep blue– if you don’t mind being a blubbering mess in public, then this is the book for you! Seriously though, I absolutely loved this romance about second chances, loss and books!

sisterhood of the travelling pants

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants– it’s not all sad- I invite you to read this and be terrifically happy! (and then sad again when you get to the last book)

lucky star

Lucky Star– another emotional read, only this time it’s more of a middle grade/younger YA style book. Cassidy is known for her sweet books, but this one always stood out to me as the one that packs the biggest punch. I loved this when I was younger (and, if I’m honest, I still do)

kiss quotient

The Kiss Quotient– moving onto a more mature romance- I read this recently and have been looking for any excuse to recommend this more!!

far from the madding crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd– there had to be a classic on the list and of course this is one of the most romantic. Now, be warned, this is Hardy- it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. BUT I did pick one of his few books with a happy ending- you’re welcome 😉

my lady jane

My Lady Jane– it’s not all doom and gloom though- if you’re looking for a laugh, this will certainly do the trick. An alternative Tudor England (with magic!) this hilarious book is guaranteed to put a smile on your face 😀

wizard heir

Wizard Heir– of course I had to squeeze some amazing fantasy onto the list- and who better to promote than Cinda Williams Chima? I absolutely love her books and this happens to be my favourite. This one’s more of an urban setting than her high fantasy series and I don’t believe gets the praise it deserves.

song of the lioness

The Lioness Quartet– oh and what a surprise- more fantasy! I did actually take this to the beach once and it was exactly the ticket!

charmed life

Charmed Life– okay, let’s be honest, you all knew I’d start stuffing as many fantasy books as I could onto this list 😉 And this is just the epitome of cute and fun and inventive that I couldn’t resist!

Alright, now that I’ve overloaded my book bag, I have to ask what kind of books do you like to take on summer holiday? Let me know in the comments!

Chill thrills for hot weather!

 

I don’t know about you, but when the summer weather hits, there’s nothing I like more than chilling out with a good book. And what better than a good thriller to keep the shivers running down my spine when it’s hot outside!

ice twins

Ice Twins– of course the clue as to why I picked this is in the title 😉 Evoking the cool atmosphere of wintry Scotland, this book definitely provides a thrill… or two!

gone-girl-PB

Gone Girl– betcha you saw this one coming! Unlike everyone who read this book, cos that was quite the twist! 😉

woman in the window new

The Woman in the Window– on the topic of dark and twisted reads, this book, with its echoes of Hitchcock, will certainly keep you up at night.

big little lies

Big Little Lies– I especially appreciate the slow burn mystery when I’m feeling all lazy from the sun. 

all these beautiful strangers

All These Beautiful Strangers– I do love my summer mysteries and this one deserves some more love 😊

broken things

Broken Things– grim and tragic and utterly brilliant- this mystery will keep you on your toes!

sadie

Sadie– if your version of “chilling” is sobbing your heart out- cos it’s mine! 😉 I especially recommend the audiobook. Speaking of heartbreak…

we were liars

We Were Liars– I mean, I feel a little cruel putting this on here, cos it’s akin to kicking sand in your face and running off- that ending stings. Moving on to the last book of the list… 

the secret history

The Secret History– at the time of writing this list, I’ve just finished this book. And *wow*. I have to talk about this right away, because despite knowing the outcome from the start, it somehow managed to be one of the most riveting reads I’ve experienced in a while. A chilling story of elite students up to no good, this’ll have you breaking out in a cold sweat, even on the hottest of summer nights.

Alrighty then, that’s all for now! What do you think of these? And do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – July

monthly mini reviews version 2

So, we’re in July and maybe the heat is baking my brain… but is anyone else baffled by the way the earth continues to orbit round the sun faster and faster every year? Just me? Anyhoo, I hit a bit of a slump this month, so the most exciting part of my journey was rereading Carry On again (which OMG is somehow better than I remembered and if you don’t know why I can happily provide you with reasons to read it!) Sadly though, most of my new reads were a bit meh and I didn’t have a lot of thoughts on them… hence this is gonna be a quick post.

truly madly guilty

Truly Madly Guilty– as a lot of you know, I was blown away by Big Little Lies last year, so I had high expectations for this. Unfortunately, this took a lot longer for me to be truly invested and it was pretty slow going. HOWEVER, once the crazy shenanigans did get going, I couldn’t put it down. I’d say it was definitely saved by the last 30%. This ended up being a solid domestic thriller- if not the best in the world.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

conversations with friend

Conversations with Friends- oh gosh my thoughts on this one are not gonna gain me any friends, since this seems to be universally loved. I did not get on well with this at all. Generally speaking, this is the kind of okay writing I might give 2*, except that I couldn’t think of a single thing I liked about it. Like I said, the writing was fine, if a little lifeless, but what did me in was the lack of quotation marks. Bear in mind, this wasn’t a dystopia or sci fi where odd punctuation might have blended seamlessly with the story, this was just an attempt to elevate lame ass “conversations with friends” to something worthy of the title Literary Fiction (in case it isn’t obvious, I hate the title too). Well, in terms of fulfilling generic conventions, it got the whole pretentious-wanker-writer mc part down. Actually, everyone in this was pretentious, so that didn’t make her stand out. Speaking of which, the main character was a bore. And do you know how I knew this? She frickin tells the reader. Seriously. Don’t tell me your mc is a plank of wood because a) it’s telling not showing and b) you’ve instantly made me disinterested in her. I can’t exactly praise the plot either- too many dysfunctional relationships and nonsensical extra-marital affairs for my liking (none of their choices in this department made sense to me and they seemed devoid of logical, human emotions). One of the worst things though was that this was set in Dublin and yet the whole thing was so colourless it felt like it could’ve been anywhere. What a waste. Sorry, I can’t spare a banana for this one, just giving it a banana peel…

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unexpected everything

The Unexpected Everything– I enjoyed this, though it didn’t have that *sweep me off my feet* feeling that a lot of Matson’s books do. For me, there was quite a bit more potential here than it achieved. I did like the characters, but I wasn’t feeling the romance. Personally, I thought the random side character she was almost with (Topher) would’ve made for a more interesting choice (since it was a book about missed opportunities, getting back together with an ex she’d never given a chance to would’ve been more interesting). And funnily enough, I wasn’t the only one that thought this- I gave the book to my sister the Monkey Baby and she said the exact same thing. To top it off, I felt like the whole meet cute with dog walking was completely random. The family aspect was the emotional heart of the book- as is often the case with Matson- I just felt it was resolved too quickly. The friend drama was an entertaining subplot and thought it was especially realistic that it wasn’t fully resolved- I’m just allergic to texting in books and that bit got on my nerves. Still this book did have redeeming qualities. I always appreciate a good story within a story and the whole aspect with Clark having writer’s block worked really well. And though it might seem like I had a bad time reading this, I did enjoy it for the most part.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana 

devil aspect

Devil Aspect– here’s the thing: I liked the setting, the idea and the twist. Actually, make that LOVED the twist. It was pretty genius- the kind of ending that I never would’ve seen it coming, yet made total sense. And it was well written to boot. Which is why I feel pretty stingy with my banana rating, but, alas for some indefinable reason I just didn’t completely click with it. Unusually, this is the kind of book I wasn’t in love with, but would recommend anyway, because I do think other people will feel sparks flying with this one.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

Favourite Fantasy Worlds I’d Love to go on Holiday To…

 

orangutan list

So, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought of packing it all in and going off to fantasy land- I was feeling the wanderlust last month and went on a jaunt a couple of years ago in January 😉 With that in mind, I’m gonna try my hardest not to repeat too many destinations (and if there are any shockers missing from the list feel free to check out my other posts). Also, these are places I actually want to go- so no Panem or Westeros for me! I’m gonna try and play it safe- starting with…

Faerieland– okay perhaps not the safest first choice. However, I’m often captivated by faerie realms, but few are more intriguing to me than Holly Black’s take in Cruel Prince. I’ll just make sure I take some iron and rowan berries for protection!

Iwagoto– aka the world from Shadow of the Fox. I mean, I really want to go to Japan, but a fantasy version of Japan *with* Kitsune?! YES PLEASE! This mythical creation by Kagawa has set my imagination alight and I’d whizz off tomorrow if I could.  

Discworld– well, obviously 😉 My first stop would be the Unseen University, to say hello to say hello to my bestie and stock up on some books/bananas!

Lyra’s Oxford– let’s be fair: real Oxford is a very pretty city. But I have always wanted to have my own daemon and meet Gyptians and witches and armoured bears… so yeah I need to take a trip here. If only I could get my hands on a Subtle Knife…

The Night Circus– I think when people talk about fantasy worlds, this nearly always comes up. And there’s a good reason for that! The Night Circus is a whole other level of captivating magic- and I think most of us would give an arm and a leg to be able to go!

Ravka– oh Russia would be amazing to go to- but how much more so would Grishaverse Russia be?! Preferably with the Darkling as my guide 😉 (he’d be good for tourism, really sells the place 😉)

Narnia– I have to admit, I have checked many-a cupboard looking for Narnia. Alas- to no avail! One day though, I’m sure I’ll stumble into the land that is always winter and meet a friendly lion who will eventually crown me queen monkey… what? It could happen! (also, I wouldn’t say no to a few Turkish Delights- yum!)

Neverland– speaking of the classics, I’d quite like to pop off to Neverland sometime soon. I rather fancy going somewhere I can never get older (even if I’d probably fit in more with the pirates than the lost boys at this stage 😉)

Wonderland– this one might be more of a risk, what with the crazy queen shouting “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” Even so, I think it’d be worth it to say hello to the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. Plus, I could always make a beeline for the mushrooms of course…

Ingo– I haven’t seen nearly enough underwater worlds- and none are done as well as this. It’s the kind of story that has an utterly unique feel and I would love to explore it more for real!

Howl’s moving castle– Wynne Jones always had a magical way with her settings- and none more so than Howl’s Moving Castle. She (literally) brings it to life and I couldn’t think of anything more fun than bouncing round the globe in this awesome travel home.

Alright, I didn’t go to deep into the danger zone there 😉 What do you think of my list? Would you like to go to any of these worlds? Is there anywhere else you’d rather go? Let me know in the comments!

Books for Gryffindor/Ravenclaws/Slytherins/Hufflepuffs- *ULTIMATE EDITION*

 

Hello all! I have a *huge* bumper post for you all today! Over the last few months, I’ve seen so many fantastic posts recommending books based on your Hogwarts houses- most recently on the wonderful Weird Zeal‘s blog (do check out her brilliant version for more recs!)- so I thought I’d do it myself.

gryffindor

Gryffindor– Well, this wasn’t too tricky to choose for, since it’s no secret that Gryffindors make excellent leading ladies and gents!

Alanna: The First Adventure– let’s face it, Tamora Pierce is the *QUEEN* of kickass heroines. And who better than the one, the only, the original: the Lioness!

I Coriander– this may be more of an unusual choice, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of finding your courage.

Last kingdom– something about this book screams GRYFFINDOR! I guess it’s all the fighting 😉 Admittedly, Uhtred gets by on his wits just as much as his sword, so this could be suited to brainy-but-still-brawny-Hermione types.

Hunger Games– I mean, I’d be remiss not to mention this, wouldn’t I? Katniss personifies so many of the Gryffindor traits, speaking of which…

Northern Lights– Lyra is the epitome of fearless! Again, this book would easily have broader appeal, but I think Gryffindors will get a kick out of this wild adventure. Be warned though, by the time the series ends, you may end up cowering in floods of tears. Which reminds me…

The Book Thief– I’ll admit, I get almost too emotional thinking about this book. But it’s such a beautiful story about bravery in the darkest of times.   

ravenclaw

Ravenclaw– You’d think that since this is my house it’d be easy for me to choose- not so! I oddly found it more of a challenge to just think beyond what I like to read and pick things with more House-wide appeal- you’ll be the judge of whether I succeeded 😉

Red Rising– this book was a bit of a hatstall to be honest, cos I could easily have put it in any of the houses. It has a similar bravery aspect to Hunger Games, the heroes are all super ambitious, and there’s the incredible Darrow/Sevro friendship at the heart of it… buuut in the end I thought all the strategizing and Ancient-Rome-based world building made it a great fit for us Ravenclaws (to be fair, this could easily have been me being totally biased as a Ravenclaw that loves this series 😉)

Shadow of the Wind– not only is this an excellent mystery for us Ravenclaws to scratch our heads over, but it’s also a story about the love of books. Let me say that again: it’s a story about BOOKS. And we all know how much we love books 😉

Turn of the screw– going the more traditional route, this is a classic, thrilling tale. Even better than a regular scary story, there’s no correct answer here and you’ll be left wondering what just happened? Was the narrator reliable? Who can I trust? Which, you know, is exactly what us geeky types want.

The Waste Land– so. much. intertextuality. You’ll need *all the footnotes* to get every single one of the references. And that works out really well for those of us who love an intellectual challenge!

Crime and Punishment– Dostoevsky is nothing if not thought provoking and this philosophical exploration of a murder really gets to the heart of the human condition. While perhaps some might see this as good for Slytherins looking to (not) get away with murder, I think this will appeal even more to Ravenclaws with a penchant for psychology.

Phantom tollbooth– it’s not all tough classics and mindbendy books for us Ravenclaws! Sometimes we like the quirkier things in life- not least children’s books with jokes about grammar… like this one!

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Slytherin– Despite my earlier banter about this house, I have a deep love for Slytherins (and reckon it’s where I’d have liked to end up if I wasn’t a Ravenclaw through and through). Often misunderstood and definitely underappreciated, I’ve got your back with some *wicked* reads:

Game of thrones– duh. I mean, I think most people in these books (who survive) are hardcore Slytherins. I feel like sometimes this comes across as a How To Be Cunning Guide- which is no doubt handy for a lot of Slytherins 😉

Six of crows– loads of people said this but that’s cos it’s perfect. Kaz and the whole gang are an *awesome* set of Slytherin-style heroes- sure, they may be willing to break the law to get what they want, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about each other! (and will use all their Slytherin wiles to protect each other!)

Prince of Thorns– another obvious one. Prince Jorg is by far one of my favourite Slytherin-types. He is sharp as a blade- in more ways than one- and pretty good at getting what he wants 😉

To Kill a Kingdom– Lira definitely has an edge to her, making her a great fit for this list. Plus, this is a twisted retelling of the Little Mermaid, which is perfect for this house!

Vicious– well, Schwab had to make it onto the list, one way or the other, didn’t she? 😉 And what better pick than my FAVOURITE of her series- the Villains books are complex, different and bold. Also, Victor Vale is *the best* anti-hero imaginable- just sayin’.

The Godfather– anyone that’s read this or more likely seen the films (no judgement! They’re excellent!) will know that the saga of the Corleone crime family is something that will very much appeal to the cunning reader- if only to live out the fantasy 😉

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Hufflepuff– This was such a fun house to choose for- perhaps because Hufflepuffs are easy-going, easy to be around and easy to love!

The Hating Game– it may seem surprising to include a book that has “hating” in the title for Hufflepuffs, but appearances are deceiving! Even enemies can become friends and this book shows the benefit of getting beyond first impressions. On that note…

Carry On– Rowell’s parodic vision of Harry Potter provides a very Hufflepuff take on Hogwarts- in the best possible way. Not only does it show that the very best of antagonists can become something MORE, but its cherry-scone-sweetness is a delight for all the mushy hearted people of the world.

Night of Cake and Puppets– one Hufflepuff trait I don’t see mentioned enough is a healthy love of FOOD! (boy, I can relate 😉) and for that reason alone this had to be on my list. But also, I just adore the fact that Taylor went out of her way to award the loyal best friend in Daughter of Smoke and Bone with her own swoonworthy story 😀

The Princess and the Fangirl– what better way to make friends than at a fan convention? In more ways than one, this is about coming together despite differences and I am HERE for it. Also, there’s great romances! (yup, romances, plural!)

Wonder– this could easily be a great fit for Gryffindors, however I felt with its focus on friendship, acceptance and kindness that this was a book that typifies Hufflepuff’s finest qualities.

Hitler’s Canaries– it’s very rare for a book about the Holocaust to be uplifting- but this is exactly that. In fairness, the tremendous (and true) acts of bravery by the Danish could easily make this a fit for Gryffindors, but I think the unifying humanity of this story really speaks to lengths people will go for each other, and that reminds me more of Hufflepuff’s unwavering sense of right and wrong. It is one of the most life-affirming books I have ever read and I can’t recommend it enough.

And that’s all for now! This was more fun than I expected! Plus, I had so many more books up my sleeve that this easily could’ve gone on a lot longer! Do you agree with any of these? Do you have any additions I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

 

My Favourite Mythical Creatures

 

orangutan list

From Tolkien’s elves to Pullman’s daemons, mythical creatures are often the backbone of fantasy. I’ve talked quite a bit about how they can pull me into a story, but I’ve never said which are my *absolute faves*- though never fear, that day is here!

The-HobbitDragons– let’s just get the obvious one out of the way, shall we? 😉 These fire-breathing, war machines are easily my favourites. I will admit that when it comes to dragons, I am biased- for me, the perfect dragon is very Smaug-like. Clever, greedy, possibly evil… but completely badass!

 

girl in the towerGhosts– even though I’m totally afraid of scary stories, I can’t help but be drawn to ghosts in stories (a bit like how I’m scared of heights, but love rollercoasters). I can’t say that I have a definite favourite here, but I did realllly like the version in The Girl in the Tower, possibly because the Russian atmosphere gave me the chills in more ways than one.

 

crown of feathersPhoenix– I mean, it’s another creature that is fiery and can fly. Plus, it’s got powers often linked to resurrection- I think it’s fairly obvious looking at this list why I like them. Now for a lot of people, the first phoenix that will come to mind is the rather lovely Fawkes from Harry Potter, but recently I’ve discovered an even MORE EXCITING representation of this mythical creature… say hello the phoenix riders in Crown of Feathers! This definitely goes above and beyond any other depiction I’ve seen before!

shadow of the foxKitsune– when I first heard about these mythical creatures, I was falling straight down the rabbithole/foxhole of research, because they are so fascinating! Cunning and magical, they easily crept onto the list. And when it comes to the best version I’ve seen- well, that’s obviously Shadow of the Fox.

 

hollyblack-thedarkestpartoftheforestFae/Faeries/Fey– this one is quite on vogue lately- and I am living for it! I had so many options here for examples I could go with- I loved the evil Phaeries in Wooding’s Poison and I was tempted again by Kagawa’s portrayal in Iron Fey. Ultimately though, I decided to go with Holly Black’s Darkest Part of the Forest, for an atmospheric take that falls somewhere in between the two styles. 

And the last one that feels like a bit of a cheat…

circeWitches and wizards– I’m not sure I even count these as magical creatures- especially because their conception is so vast. And yet it would feel remiss not to mention them. Best by far that I’ve seen lately is Madeline Miller’s Circe– she takes the idea of talent and hard work, then melds them together in the most interesting version I’ve come across in recent history.

 

And that’s all I’ve got for now! What do you think of these creatures? And what are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!