Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Jumping into Summertime for June 2023!

Hello all! I think we’ve finally hit summer in the UK (I say that as everything has clouded over again and there’s a promise of rain). Last month passed in an absolute whirlwind of walkies, socialising, an exhibition, Sleeping Beauty and a near death experience… so as you can see not much going on 😉 And on that note, I’m going to dive straight into some of the media I’ve been consuming in the last month…

Queen Charlotte– I was positively engaged by this. If you’re going to write a historical fantasy, then this is absolutely how you should do it. Yes historical accuracy is sacrificed- but it is sacrificed on the altar of romance. And yes there is overt political messaging- but it is messaging about unity that will warm even the coldest heart. There’s an if only aspect to it, which distinguishes it from the modern rewritings we have seen. It humorously upholds the social mores and doesn’t throw out every concept of the age. All this is done to provide a backdrop to a truly unconventional love story- one marred by tragedy from the start. In a heartrending fashion, this is the most charming rendition of the madness of George III that I’ve seen (just watch out for the awkward sex scenes 😉).  

Seven Kings Must Die– continuing the royal trend, we finally have the finale to my favourite show of all time: the Last Kingdom. As we started the show with the last kingdom being the Anglo Saxon Wessex, we are now brought to the near formation of England with the last kingdom being the Viking kingdom of Northumbria. Our hero Uhtred has had many years enjoying the successes of the series 5 finale- but as we know from this show, that peace cannot stand. With poignant storytelling and deep character work, this provides a beautiful conclusion to a story I have followed for many years. More than that- it goes beyond the mere characters in the narrative. The story inevitably becomes about the formation of the English as well as England. It is utter perfection and I had tears in my eyes by the end.

House of the Dragon– well, that was some hot stuff. After my complaints about Fire and Blood being something of a damp squid, I didn’t expect to be so taken in by this series. And in truth, I was rather cool towards it at the start. Yet as the series progressed, the characters and narrative were ever more compelling. Based on some rather dry histories, the showrunners have breathed life into this Westerosi mythos. Somehow they managed to make me root for some truly heinous characters and reignite my passion for the world of Game of Thrones (which is no small miracle!). Do not go into it expecting romantic highs or happy endings- for this is very much grimdark fantasy. As graphic as I found it (unfortunately it is still too unnecessarily gratuitous) I could not look away. I have to confirm what all the critics are saying: this is television worth watching.

Final Girl Support Group– like all the other Hendrix books I’ve read, this is an intelligent horror. With the concept of the final final girl to examine themes of gendered violence and trauma. As an examination of the final girls trope, it’s on point. Not only does it explore the concept in modern media, bringing in multimedia extracts to add texture to the narrative, but it also becomes deeply mythical by the end. Entrenched in Greek mythological themes, the narrative journeys into the concept of becoming a monster to defeat the monster.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Small Things Like These- this isn’t a bad book by any metric. It explores deep and real emotions. It has a complex central character. It has a sophisticated narrative arc in a contained space. AND YET something about it feels incomplete. I felt it was more of a snapshot rather than an epic work of art. There’s more promise to it than it delivers- and in that way I guess it’s a typical Booker Prize nominee. And we all know what I think about Booker Prize Winners by now 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers– this was a delight. Packed with fun characters and with a plot to die for, this was such a joy to read. Using malapropisms and some smart writing, Sutanto created the perfect cosy mystery with a 5* ending. I strongly advise you try it for yourself!  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn Just About Managed to Ignite

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but any incendiary comments are my own***

I’m afraid I have mixed emotions for this book. I mean, it’s a book about books and libraries- so how could I be anything other than positive? Yet sadly, my feelings for a lot of it were pretty lukewarm.

As much as I was drawn in by the old school fantasy feel, it seemed to be missing that vital piece of magic that makes a story tick. While I connected quickly to the tough and tenacious Livira- named after a weed- I struggled to click with any of the other characters. And as much as I found the world layered and shrouded in mystique, I found the story a little on the dense side. The plot, quite simply, failed to fly. There was a time jump that threw me from the story and an uncertainty about where it was heading. It wasn’t until the last quarter that I found myself turning the pages at a rate of knots.

Honestly, that ending saved the story for me. There were some cool concepts packed in there that sparked my interest. There were poignant moments and depth. Still, I think it might have been too little, too late for me. Much as this was a love letter to books, I’m not sure I’m going to be writing home about it.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

And that’s all for now! Are you interested in this book? Have you read it? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Let’s Get Motivated for May 2023!

Hello all! Another month has rolled around and I’m glad to say April was a good reading month for me… a lot of which were motivational reads! So, I’m certainly feeling motivated to dive right in and share them with you now 😉

Landlines– springing right into it, with a book that lends itself to the new season, I walked myself right into Raynor Winn’s third travelogue. Evocatively following her and her husband’s trek across the United Kingdom, this third memoir in the series is more overshadowed by the potential impending loss. Not that it stops this book from being incredibly inspiring and hopeful to the end, carrying a message to just keep going in the face of whatever hardship life throws at you. For such a message, the setting of Scotland and the North of England feels most fitting. Full of hope, I will say that while all the books have been political, I felt some of the links here were more tenuous and distracting. Sometimes it was a bit more incongruous to the awe and the stirring wonder of the landscape- which fell into the background with these discussions. Still, this was well worth the read (or listen as the case was for me) if you want to know more about Moth and Raynor’s journey.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas    

Also, as a footnote, I very much enjoyed the “conversation with” at the very end- it’s like listening to a lovely mum and dad potter around and put the kettle on.

Dear Dolly– collating agony aunt columns can make for a peculiar (and in some cases rather irritating) book. Not in this case! Dolly Alderton’s collected thoughts proved to be refreshing and delightful. While I had mixed feelings about her memoir, I found her personality lends itself to advice. Non-judgemental and actually helpful, I found that she didn’t smother people with her opinion or experience (as many agony aunts are wont to do). Rather she did the most important thing when it comes to counselling others and actually listened. It was particularly useful to hear from someone who didn’t believe in their own perfection. And on that note, I also don’t entirely trust people that don’t have regrets (live a little and get some I say! 😉)

Rating: 4½/5 bananas    

Failosophy– this book was a huge success. There’s something very therapeutic about examining the things that have gone wrong in your life and working out where you go from there. I certainly have had more than the recommended three to mull over (one of which is not opening up about failures so don’t expect this to become a confessional 😉). What I especially liked about this book is that it doesn’t offer useless platitudes- because it’s okay to feel shitty about your failures and it’s okay to make bad decisions. Failosophy, however, can have you moving beyond ruminations of what was I thinking?! and into a more productive line of thought. None of us are perfect- but this book is pretty close 😉 (side note: there’s also a teen-appropriate version of the same book and it’s really good!)

Rating: 5/5 bananas

How to Fail– of course, after reading Failosophy, I had to check out Day’s original book on failure. Part manifesto, but more memoir, I wasn’t as impressed by the fragmented structure and writing style. There just wasn’t enough to it and I ended up distracted by the setup. Definitely not a bad book, but if you have to pick between them, I’d recommend sticking with Failosophy.  

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Longshadow– ach my most disappointing book of the month (and possibly the year)- I almost don’t want to talk about it at all. As you may know from my previous reviews, I’ve been loving Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect with Abigail as a character in the same way. Harsh as this may sound, I didn’t think she had sufficient personality to sustain my interest for long. Personally, I don’t think being a lesbian and magical is enough in lieu of actually creating an interesting character. In fairness, Mercy was far more interesting and I did like the ending. It’s just that the other two books were so character focused- with a distinct cast that leapt of the page- that I couldn’t help but be let down.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Five Survive– genuinely exciting and tense, this read differently to a lot of other YA thrillers. More on the action-packed side of the genre, this had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. And with characters who you will want to get to know (and in some cases avoid at all costs). I especially liked how unique the concept was in comparison to a lot of more staid stories I’ve tried. If you pick this up, be prepared for something a little more dramatic than your average high schoolers going on a trip 😉 And that ending was absolutely *to die for*.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas 

How to Sell a Haunted House– okay you know how I don’t read horror books? Well, Grady Hendrix is the exception for me. His books are just so darn funny and creepy and complex- I have to read them! And with a title (and cover!) like this, how could I resist? Fashioned in a way that made me think of it as a Toy’s Story for adults, this book definitely left its mark. Creepy and a bit too much on the gruesome side for my tastes, this haunted house story was intrinsically a family affair. In a sense, it was about the ways our history haunts us and the scars we carry into adulthood. At the same time, it’s an ineffably sad take on coming to terms with the concept of death- both in childhood and in adulthood. Absolutely worth buying what this book is selling- just watch out if you’re on the squeamish side!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Last Girl To Die– when I picked this up, I have to admit I thought I was in for something a little generic. This was not that. Set on the Scottish Isle of Mull, the remote location had echoes of timelessness and a strong sense of place. Dredged in a mythological air and powerful motifs, the plot was pulled along by the enduring images of a murdered girl. Mouths packed with sand and wearing a seaweed crown, this spoke to the silencing of women and the overbearing weight of femininity. With witchery at play, it felt like the story had a mind of its own, directed to a particularly good ending I couldn’t have fully predicted.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas 

Last Letter from Your Lover– oof I have some mixed feelings about this one. And not just because the central plot focuses on infidelity. Because there is heart to this dual timeline romance that will have you investing in spite of the controversial subject matter. Indeed, Moyes has proved to be the writer who can take difficult subject matter and humanise it. No, my problem was not the issues the story deals with- but how the plot wove together. You see, this is a bit of a mess structurally. Rather than having the story as an interlocking narrative, you get long patches of one story, only for it to jerk into the other timeline. And that creates a very manufactured feeling of tension that left me deliberating over the quality of the book. Frankly, as much as I liked the story, the flaws showed too much. 

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Seventh Bride– last but certainly not least, I read yet another unconventional Kingfisher fantasy. Now that I’ve read a few, I can absolutely say these books are pure magic. Fairytale-esque and with a wonderful tone, this is reminiscent of Bluebeard (whilst not being a direct retelling). Focusing on female relationships, this is about a young miller’s daughter forced to marry… only to discover her wealthy intended has had many wives- some of whom are still living! Yet while you might think this would be centred on her relationship with her future husband, this instead is about sisterhood, with women working together and supporting each other. Thoroughly unromantic, with the beastly man being quite simply a beastly man, this covers different kinds of female relationships and is an unusual coming-of-age tale. Here is a story where it’s not just our young hero who must learn to endure and fight for herself- but also where the other women must learn the importance of helping each other and trusting your instincts. If something seems off- it probably is! I loved everything about this and would recommend it forever!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Luminaries Was Dreamily Dark

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but all the bright ideas here are my own!*

Entering into the nightmarish world of Luminaries, I was immediately taken by the moody setting and beastly concept. Inventive and intriguing, the narrative was instantly compelling. The opening drew me in, with atmospheric writing and exciting storytelling.

Voicey and with distinct characters, the audiobook was an excellent choice for this story. A balance of romance and friendship and family kept me invested in the cast. Most importantly, the language and voice acting lent itself really well to the medium. 

I became very quickly swept up in the saga. With plenty of mystery and monsters lurking in the plot, I was kept on my toes throughout. Admittedly, there were aspects about the ending that were a little lacklustre- yet still enough intrigue to make me want to continue the series.

Overall, an engaging start to a series, with plenty that has piqued my curiosity for more.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

And that’s all for now! Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Not So Starry-Eyed Over the Lord Stariel Series

I have deep regret over reading this entire series. It got progressively worse, with increasingly unlikeable characters. And that’s not really what you want from a light-hearted fantasy series. Charmed by other regency fairy tales, I picked this up with high expectations. Yet far from delivering, this stomped all over my hopes and actually drove me a little mad.

The main character is practically perfect in every way from the very beginning- meaning she doesn’t grow or change over the course of a FOUR BOOK series. That’s right, four books of her plodding along in much the same way, with her only lesson being you are perfect just the way you are. Mind, her staticity in no way affects the other characters. They remain unchanged by the events of the series and are either as good or as bad as they begun.

Now one of the pros of this approach is the low stakes and lack of drama makes for an easy read- yet much as I wasn’t looking for something too heavy, I was still looking for something interesting to happen. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed when nothing did. Villains were obvious and easily overcome with frank conversations (to reform their ways and become uninteresting side characters in later books). Most of the story was wrapped up in the dull minutiae of running an estate, fussing over bank loans to do up outhouses and the like (riveting for home renovators everywhere, I’m sure). Oh and the repeated reveal that the love interest is fae- which gets old really fast, though the author insists on rehashing this plot point at regular intervals. The romance was a foregone conclusion and, once it had got past the will-they-won’t-they (they obviously will), there was nothing to maintain my interest in this most bland couple (the love interest may as well have just been a face and abs for all the personality he had). Worst of all, the series’ ending was a complete anti-climax. *Spoiler alert* (for anyone fool enough to read to read all four books) there’s a gender swap that makes no sense and is only there for woke brownie points. It makes no difference to the actual plot- except to tell you there was no real danger all along, because the magical god-like mother/father figure was looking out for you the whole time.

Annnd now to get into just some of the nonsense politics. Because the whole of this series existence seems to be predicated on the fact that a woman is a Lord- how novel! Except that this obsession with having a woman have the title of Lord negates the fact that there are already titles for women. There is nothing wrong with the title QUEEN or LADY or DAME (unless of course you want to obliterate the achievements of women in history). And since it’s all about gender “equality”, the love interest has no purpose beyond being subservient to the main character, giving up everything to be with her (to the detriment of other lives). Really, the mind boggles. Sadly, this series held all the excitement of a wet raspberry and I can only recommend you steer clear of it.

I gave this an average of 2.5 bananas

So, have you read all or any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

A very different sort of bunny

Well. That book was a ride. I almost feel like I should apologise for liking it so much. Because this book was Weird, revelling in that weirdness, like a weird thing- and I loved it for that!

This book deserves a lot of credit for getting me out of my comfort zone and making me want to sit there for hours on end. Normally I don’t enjoy horror and magic realism can be hit or miss for me… but this had me transfixed by a terrific and practically terrifying writing style. It was oddly compelling- emphasis on the odd. Full of oddities and excess, there was just SO MUCH of everything. Overloaded with imagery to the point where it blended seamlessly into the narrative, every metaphor hit just the right note. Picking this up, I knew I’d need to work to get into it, but it’d be worth it and it is. I was sucked into its dark and sultry world.

Bringing the atmosphere of university life to the page, this was precisely what I want from my dark academia. This was the antithesis of all those bland school stories I despise. Making a feeling out of a thought, it transported me to this beautifully false world. Experimental for a reason, it took apart the pretentions of the upper echelons of society, piece by piece, then rearranged it in a likeness of rebellion. Undercutting these affectations and simultaneously embracing them, this is a book that deconstructs deconstructionism.

A compulsive liar, the unreliable narrator seems to be both unwitting director and mindful actress. In love with its own outsiderness, this is a tale of wanting to belong and yet obstructing one’s own belonging. Masked by joy and edginess and angst, this poses the conundrum of being an outcast. For it is in the margins that the main character is given life- but she cannot help but be twitchy for change.

Hanging together with the image of a bunny, the plot is unnervingly captivating. I was obsessed by the trippy twists and turns- which took me to a place I did not expect. And, while I did hope for more of the strands to connect and come together, I cannot say I was entirely dissatisfied. Almost surreal in nature, it is hard to see where reality begins and ends in this book. Mysterious and full of questionmarks, I am still trying to make sense of it to this day. Yet it is that which makes me believe this book has staying power: I cannot shake it from my thoughts.

One aspect I have to disagree with in the marketing is that this was not a book I would have described as “pristine”. Far from it.  Gritty and raw and a little bit peculiar, this is a book that has something to say and demands that you listen. This is not going to be to everyone’s taste- but it absolutely was to mine.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas 

So, have you read this book? Do you plan to? Very interested to hear your thoughts on this one!

And Happy Easter to all the bunnies in the world 😉

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Awesome Sauce, It’s April 2023!

Ahh we’re finally out of winter! The sun is shining and the birds are chirping- and of course there’s an amazing amount of reading to be done! Luckily, I had a pretty good reading month, so I’ve plenty to share 😊 But first a quick interlude into TV and things to see!

His Dark Materials– I finally, finally finished this series. I have to admit it was a bit of a struggle. I was really slow getting into it this year and found it petered out at the end, meaning the only part I found impossible to look away from was the middle. Yet, it still did manage to make me cry and was tense towards the conclusion. Fundamentally a complex story, I’m not sure how well this translated to screen. I think the fact I didn’t care about continuing speaks volumes.

Cinderella– a gorgeous production as usual, this captures a great deal of the fairy tale’s charm. While the music is a little moodier, I did still feel transported by the style and substance of this ballet.

Swordheart– Kingfisher strikes again with another unconventional fantasy! I am quickly falling for this fairytale-esque style, with its atypical heroes and inventive world building. The unusual plot follows a widow fighting to get her inheritance (armed with a very special magic sword). A little bit slow in parts thanks to the book travelling syndrome, it still managed to sweep me up in a (sometimes swashbuckling) adventure. Once again, I appreciated how it incorporated modern elements, but also managed to make it feel true to the time. Having an older heroine to provide commentary on conventions (and simultaneously challenge them) was done particularly well. Above all, it was a fun and unique twist on the medieval fantasy genre- showing that this setting has plenty of life in it yet! I’m really glad Bookwyrm Knits kindly recommended this to me when I was looking for more T Kingfisher to read- so thanks for that! (psst she also wrote a great post recently about other books you can read if you like this author)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Someone Else’s Shoes– this walkabout in the lives of two very different middle-aged women was very compelling. Initially I wasn’t convinced I’d ever find either of them likeable- but by the end of the book I was converted! It just took a little bit of time to see things from their perspective- but as soon as I did, I became more and more invested. I couldn’t help rooting for both of them as they stomped through the pages in each other’s shoes. Dealing with difficult topics with a good dose of humour, I thoroughly enjoyed the story (and the message that wearing Louis Vuitton can do you some good 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

She is a Haunting– for a complete change of pace, this haunting horror set in Vietnam took my breath away. Written as if the house is a body and the body is steadily breaking down, this was a super creepy take on colonialism. The rot at the heart of their home held sway over the entire narrative. And, as much as some of it was on the nose, I liked how it explored the themes of what it feels like to be displaced and not at home in your own culture.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

They Mostly Come Out At Night– as you might be able to tell from the title, this was one helluva powerful and intense book! Recommended a while ago in Liis’ sensational review, I was captivated by the deliciously dark world building and cleverly constructed tale. Working with a hint of mythology, this gave a very real depiction of life as an outsider. While I found the dual narrative made for a somewhat fragmented plot and predicted the major twists, I did find the overall plot intriguing. But in the end, this soared towards a glorious finale and I was left keen to read more by the author!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Chef’s Kiss– sometimes you need something a little light and frothy- and this graphic novel was precisely that. Following a group of friends straight out of uni and trying to find their place in the world, this is a story of figuring things out and (more importantly) how it’s okay to not have everything figured out all at once! In fact, it’s cool to experiment, go with the flow and find your passion. Frankly, I LOVED the message that it’s daft to expect teens to figure out *right now* what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Even if you end up going in a different direction to the one you expected- that’s what adds spice to your story! I loved how this mixed coming-of-age vibes with romance, cooking up a delightful story for anyone to enjoy. I spotted a review for this over on Misty’s marvellous blog and I’m really happy that I did- this was just what I needed in my life! The illustrations were lovely, the story wholesome and it even had a recipe in the back!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Down Among The Sticks And Bones– as you may remember from my review of Every Heart a Doorway, I wasn’t too smitten with this series. Yet, I loved the concept of what it’s like to return from a portal world so much, I wanted to give this series another chance. Well, it transpired the second in the series was more of a deep character study of two characters from the previous book, with their story of being in another world. In their (surprisingly) gothic world, they are confronted with the true versions of themselves and have to learn survival skills at an alarming rate. Now if that sounds like a diversion- it kinda is. But I can’t say I objected to it! While the opening felt a little twee and I suspected I might be in for a modern-day lecture, I soon found myself lost in the tale and leaving my reservations behind. Much as it is a little didactic, I did appreciate the play on traditional narrative forms. I ended up far more invested in the characters and gripped by the somewhat-gruesome setting. For all its simplicity as a twist on the genre- merely transforming the portal world into somewhere unappealing- this fascinated to me far more as a twist on the genre. Definitely worth a try- regardless how you feel about the series!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Spare a Thought for Prince Harry, King of Fools  

No joke- I actually read this book. The whole premise of one of the most privileged people in the world bemoaning his poor unfortunate status is pure absurdity, begging to be mocked- so who am I to pass up such a golden opportunity? Needless to say, I will be giving this memoir the royal treatment.

Oddly enough, I think he’s making some salient points about the media. No- not the part where he argues against freedom of the press and wants to shut it all down. But the part about the tabloids being shockingly cruel. That said, all of this is obscured by the sheer and brazen hypocrisy this book is built on. Somehow I find it a little ridiculous to claim you want privacy (oh don’t go saying you didn’t when the evidence is right here and here) and then rob others of their privacy. And somehow I don’t think you can complain about the gossipmongering press when you are building a fortune from badmouthing other people. Which just goes to show it doesn’t matter how much the media can try to dehumanise a person, only you can lose sight of your own humanity.  

Because it’s unfortunately very clear that the motivations for writing this book stem from a very unhealthy level of sibling rivalry. Worse than rivalry- it’s out and out resentment. From being envious of the fact his brother was told about their mother’s death first to gloating that William is apparently losing his looks. There’s no two ways about it: Harry hates his brother and he wants you to know it.

Of course, much of this is genuinely sad. I’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by his account of the loss of his mother. I felt for both the brothers when he talked of the aftermath of Diana’s death. However I also felt for William when Harry (publicly in writing this book) rejects his brother’s love and tells the world that he doesn’t believe him. No one can enjoy reading about this on a human level.

Irritatingly, a lot of Harry’s narrative comes down to infantile whining. Forgive me for not feeling sorry for him that he had the smaller bedroom in a castle- I can’t exactly relate. Then again, this prince is delusional about class, privilege and money- seemingly completely unaware that you can’t get into Eton without a shed load of all of the above (even if they let a few plebs in every year to maintain charitable status, it’s undoubtedly a club for the rich and powerful). Yet here he is, lamenting his lot in life and feeling sorry for himself. Not that I don’t sympathise- I guess I am just too far removed from the line of succession (probably about 357,405,837th in line to be precise) to understand the point when #TIARAGATE matters in the grand scheme of things.

To be fair, I do empathise with Harry’s desire to set the record straight. Only problem: in his desire to clear his name, he accidentally incriminates himself. Not just all the times he tells us things we really didn’t need to know– no, he is determined to tell us that every. single. article you weren’t sure you believed was, in fact, entirely true. Turns out, he did take drugs (a lot of them). And he and Meghan did announce they were expecting at Eugenie’s wedding. Most notably of all, he describes making his staff work round the clock to correct so-called errors, such that “More than once a staff member slumped across their desk and wept”. DUDE- THIS IS NOT NORMAL FOR EMPLOYEES- YOU ARE ADMITTING TO CREATING A TOXIC WORKING ENVIRONMENT! And he can’t call his actions “constructive criticism” when even now he’s calling his ex-staff incompetent. Not to mention, he talks of slapping his bodyguards as a teen. I just cannot. I do not understand how so many people claiming to be left wing can defend *a literal prince* abusing subordinates in such a classless manner.

And therein lies the reason I chose to write this review. Because in the UK, this man’s privilege actually matters. Harry has the audacity to state it just costs taxpayers the equivalent of a pint a year for me to live in the lap of luxury. Well, I know I don’t get into politics normally, but as a British taxpayer, I’ll make an exception. You see, I do actually have a problem with paying for your private jets mate. Especially when nurses only make 33 grand a year. Call me crazy, I’m not super excited to pay for this guy’s koi pond (hahaha, he giggles, 1% problems, amiright?) I do think we should get a choice where we spend our money- and ungrateful royals wouldn’t be my first choice.

In truth, he must have had some great PR to have ever been considered likeable- for this is a man who will dish the dirt on anyone: his disabled matron, his ex-girlfriends, even a kindly teacher who bought him a funny ruler. Other than bashing anyone who ever showed him a hint of kindness, the vast, VAST majority of this book is boring bilge. As you might expect from someone who has been indulged most of his life, he’s not really got any exciting tales to tell. Unless you count going to T K Maxx (which, fyi, don’t be that person who comes in just before closing- no one likes you!) So I suppose I ought to be grateful for Meghan- because boy did this drivel pick up once she came on the scene.  

I mean, THE DRAMA! Not just because of the singing seals or because Harry depicts her constantly breaking down/in tears/hiding in cupboard somewhere. Even a trip to Whole Foods is a performance for this woman- a scene which is depicted in such a psychotically bizarre fashion that I have to recount it for you. Usually when she goes to the shops, her and Harry managed to get through the aisles without having to bat away the hoards and hoards of Suits fans, but on this occasion she was ALONE. And because of that, everyone- and I mean EVERYONE- in the shop decided to take out their camera phones, snapping photos and grinning deviously as she runs away. By the time Harry gets home, she’s shaking and inconsolable… but in the midst of all that she managed to soldier on and make lunch. We don’t deserve such heroes. Look, I’m not one to call someone a liar buuut if something sounds *a bit* unbelievable, it probably is. Still, since all the footage of this alleged incident mysteriously has never surfaced, I guess we’ll never know.

And if all that sounded patently ridiculous, you haven’t heard the half of it. There’s a great bit in here where he communes with ghosts (I won’t spoil it for you). One was also amused when he compared his lying to the press about doing cocaine to the Queen’s stoicism (lol). And I did rather enjoy the part where he likens himself to Daenerys Targaryen (you know, the queen who goes mad and burns a city to the ground). I guess it’s true that Harry is the funny one.

Not that this book is funny. For the most part, it’s just a bit shit. Overdramatic and nauseatingly written, this made me question what on earth wins people a Pulitzer?? Vacillating from the extreme mundanity of “oh I wish I’d bought a coat” when describing the cold to violently purple prose, I struggled to take any of this seriously. Particularly as half the sentences. Just stop. Midway. For no reason. And, much as I appreciated the line “how can you really describe light? Even Einstein struggled with that one”, I don’t think it was supposed to make me laugh. Gags aside, this was absolutely gagworthy. I didn’t think much of his hyperbolic language describing “fleeing” from the UK. I didn’t think it helped that he paralleled his experience with Wallis and the Traitor King “fleeing” (a pair who plotted to help the Nazis take Britain). Somehow, I don’t think he gets most people would regard that as an unfavourable comparison. But then, I don’t think even Harry would be so arrogant as to claim to be a student of history. I think we can both agree he is better off smoking weed and communing with foxes.

Alrighty then- I’ve got so much more material I could definitely do a second review, but I think I’ll just leave it at one 😉 All that remains to do is award this the very princely sum of a banana peel:

You’re welcome, Harry! And you’re also welcome for me reading this drivel! The things we do for our blogs 😉

Dare I ask- did anyone else make the mistake of reading this? Come on, fess up! I know I’m not the only one!! 😉

Well that was an absolute disaster

Disastrous. That’s how I’d describe this book.

Badly written and contrived, you may be inclined to consider this a “How Not To Write” guide. I certainly did when I came across a part where the main character says something along the lines of: “I have a great idea, why don’t I ask everyone’s names so we can bond”. Not exactly the best way to introduce a motley crew. It didn’t help that the sarky tone was complete overkill. It’s trying very, very hard to be funny- which of course means it only comes across as childish and insufferable. Add in details like the ship being called (I kid you not) Swiftkick and you will be wondering how such a juvenile manuscript ever made it past an editor (especially when the book’s title gives you a great option).

What makes all this worse is how desperate this book is to prove its geeky credentials. There are more than enough derivative illusions to Star Wars to make you want to join the dark side (complete with a “maybe I should shoot first” line). All of which is no mere accident- I found it amusing that the author’s bio has a weird flex about loving Star Wars more than you. Especially when it doesn’t come close to bringing the magic of Star Wars. Still, more noticeable is that it comes across as an Illuminae ripoff- except without the charm of the characters (or a good conspiracy to drive the plot… but we’ll get to that).

What’s most entertaining about how one note this supposedly diverse crew are (one reviewer described them as straightforward jocks- and I have to say I agree). What’s most frustrating is that in a book about failure, they’re not actually allowed to fail. For instance, the supposed brains of the operation gets herself captured, for no real reason and with nothing to gain, but oh-would-ya-believe it, she gets herself out of it with no harm done. Not only does this suck all the fun out of the concept, it also manages to remove all the tension. Very quickly, the crew that’s (justifiably) not getting on are now all the best of friends. Because this has to be the kind of story where they’re all pretty much useless, but also geniuses. In fact, we’re actually supposed to root for them because *twist alert* all their problems come down to discrimination.

That’s right- this book is woke as hell. And it wants you to know it. This book is on a tick box mission to cover all woke bases. The characters are defined by their immutable characteristics- and that’s it. Naturally none of the characters are allowed to have real flaws or personal development (because we all know diverse characters aren’t allowed personalities- implying they are human would be a travesty 😉). Hilariously, it’s also woke in way that accidentally ties itself in knots- especially when it comes to the so-called villain.

Because this is a woke book in favour of colonisation. I kid you not. As the official “bad guys” the Earth First group don’t make a lot of sense. Look, I get that the author was trying to parallel America First and far right movements- except that their motivations are more like a group of left wing eco warriors? This is a group saying that we shouldn’t colonise other planets when Earth has enough problems of their own- which to the author means they’re on the wrong side of history… yet to anyone else creates a crater sized flaw in the narrative. Here we have a story purporting to stand for left-wing progressivism… that somehow manages to be an argument for pro-establishment capitalism on (a)steroids. Needless to say, I don’t think the messaging is as right on as the author intended. In fairness to the author, this might be the most unintentionally funny story I’ve read in a while.

When it comes to the plot and world building I wouldn’t get excited. There’s not much to say about this supposed intergalactic setting, other than it doesn’t feel remotely like the future or another planet. In its pro-colonisation message, it does tell us that if we do take over other habitable planets, we may manage to set up a utopia for lefty ideals… though once again I’m not convinced this is what the author intended to put across. And in terms of plot, my notes are simply full of how bored I was. It’s just an endless stream of chase scenes and a rush to a stupid ending. Oh, but there is a polyamorous love triangle, because famously everyone that reads YA wants more love triangles. Give the people what they (don’t) want I guess.

Unfortunately, this book was nothing short of a mess. Other than the title and the cover, I can’t say there was anything I liked about it. I wanted to give this book a higher rating, since it’s not the worst book in the world, yet I simply couldn’t find a single thing to give it credit for. I didn’t even enjoy it as an audiobook- it was grating and irritating and could’ve done with more perspectives. So, I’m giving it the rather undistinguished honour of getting one of my rare banana peels:

Phew- that’s over with! I’m curious- have any of you had the displeasure of reading this? Or have you read any books lately you consider a disaster and think I should avoid? Let me know in the comments!

I Dig Burying Eva Flores

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review… needless to say I won’t be keeping any skeletons in my closet***

Gossipy and intriguing, this paranormal YA has the potential to kick up quite the social media storm. With aspects that are hit and miss, it’s one of those books that I reckon will go down like marmite. For me, swept up by the drama and distinct characters in this audiobook, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Instantly grabbed by the tone and the voice, I definitely found the multiple povs, texts and interviews lent themselves to the format. And while the supernatural elements could have detracted from the intense teen-rivalry plotline, they were integrated enough so as not to feel too out of place.  

What was a bit much was the protagonist’s attraction to an older man. Of course this did connect to the wider narrative and I saw the place this dark subplot had in the overarching story- yet it still made me uncomfortable. I get that it’s supposed to be toxic- but I wouldn’t blame anyone for tapping out at that point.

Personally, I was always going to be most invested in the revenge fantasy element- and luckily for me that part worked well. Delightfully dark in the best way, it kept me reaching for the book at every minute of the day!

I also really appreciated the social media aspect (even if the mere mention of Tiktok makes me feel old 😉). This is a novel about fame, authenticity and most importantly of all finding freedom from the constant glare of the camera lens.

Full of WTF moments, twisted charm and an entertaining ending, this story grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let me go until it was done.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

So, have you read this? Do you plan to? And what are your favourite girl-rivalry stories? Let me know in the comments!