Supernova was superb!

supernova

Hello all! I’m SUPER psyched to talk about the conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s epic superhero series! And you know what that means… it’s time to bring back my Marvellous Monkey suit:

supervillain orangutan

Kicking off with Renegades, amping up the tension with Archenemies, I had high hopes for this one- and I was far from disappointed. Supernova was the kind of book I looked forward to picking up every time I put it down- which is rather a rare thing for me at the moment.

I’ll admit, this had something of an imperfect start, with the main characters consistently not figuring out some rather obvious secrets. That said, I did understand why they might plausibly not want to see the truth staring them in the face (even if it was frustrating at times!) Luckily this was all just setup for an *explosive* plot. When we finally got their reactions to the big secrets, all was forgiven (well at least from my perspective 😉)

In terms of that plot all I can say is WOW! It my breath away. With blockbuster action and showstopping exploits, this book was an experience. I loved where it took the characters and how the relationships evolved- all the way to the bitter end! This wasn’t just a rollercoaster ride- this went full speed off the tracks and in directions I couldn’t have predicted. Especially where it took the subplot murder mystery of who killed Adrian’s mother- highlight for spoilers: yes, it was what we expected, but I loved that it also wove in the idea that we create our own enemies and have to overcome our own fears.

Sure, there were also treacheries I did see coming- but even they were satisfying because they were built up so successfully and didn’t go for the straightforward solution. I was happy to see that this finale still played with nuanced ideas about good and evil- showing the Renegades true colours and talking of redemption for Anarchists. The power of the ending came from how it delivered on every promise of the premise- and gave us a few extra gifts besides!

Ultimately, I’m flying high with satisfaction for this series. I’m delighted that there’s finally an exceptional YA superhero series out there- and I’d love for there to be more!! (at the very least, I’d suspect a spinoff from Meyer sometime in the future)

My rating: 4½/5 bananas

small bananasmall bananasmall bananasmall banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

And of course, because I shared this series from the beginning with the Magnificent Monkey Baby, I’d like to ask her join us for a moment to tell us what she thought:

superhero monkey

Supernova is a banatastic book!!! Literally! It’s insane but in the most amazing way! It takes such epic twists and turns but feels so satisfying. I love the dynamics between the characters and how they each grow. Also the sheer shmushyness between Adrian and Nova is heart-warming and even sideline characters manage to pull on your heartstrings. It is superbly well done. There is a moment or two where I wanted to knock Adrian on the head because I couldn’t believe how stupid he seems to be (I thought he might have lost all his wits) but those moments are thankfully brief and don’t take away from the awesome storyline and the amazing conclusion to this SUPER Series!

Monkey Baby’s Rating: 4½/5 hearts

heart (2)heart (2)heart (2)heart (2)half a heart

Well you heard it from both of us- we found it an exceptional finale! What do you think of this series? Have you got to the superb ending? Do you plan to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Wow, is it July Already?

monthly mini reviews version 2

Wow, we’re firmly in the summer now, aren’t we? Where on earth has this year gone?

Actually, don’t answer that- the less said about it the better 😉

Having said that, June was pretty good and I’ll tentatively add that I hope July’s gonna be just fine too. As we’re coming out of lockdown here, I’m working more and getting to see the outside of these four walls for a change 😉 I’m (hoping) work is going to settle into something of a routine again soon. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to (try to) use July for a bit of a refresher, so I’m tentatively gonna say that I’ll probably be on the blog less. Not sure if I’ll take an *official hiatus*- kinda want to keep my plans casual at the moment (I think, if anything, the last six months has taught me that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry 😉)

But while we are here, I did want to say another massive thank you to you all for helping me to get to 6000 followers. I’m doing a little celebration where I react to your assumptions about me– so if you’d like to participate feel free to add your comments to the celebratory post or on this one if you like 😊 (I’m having a lot of fun with the ones people have already made!)

orangutan thank you

And I think that’s all the housekeeping for now! As I’ve been doing the last few months, lets talk about what I’ve been watching before we get into the books…

monkey at the movies 2

 

Last Kingdom Season 4– by now, you may have heard me rave about this super entertaining show. And if you haven’t, you may be confused as to why I’m in Viking dress 😉 Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, this series tells the story of Uhtred of Babenberg as he tries to reclaim his birthright and you can hear me rave about the first few seasons here and here. Just like the other series, this was tense and delightfully surprising. What I loved about this season is that it simultaneously gave us resolutions we’ve been waiting years to see… only for the story to about turn and go in a completely unexpected direction. With new settings introduced, I was happy to see the ongoing development of characters and relationships. By pure chance, there was a sickness subplot- which frankly had me shouting at the screen why aren’t you social distancing?! Regardless, every episode was an adventure. The only thing left to say is that I really need to catch up with the books already, cos I’d love to see where the similarities and differences are.

Okay, that’s all I watched last month worth note (I know, I’m running out of TV!!) now let’s discuss some books!

silence of the girls

audiobook2Silence of the Girls– when I think about this book, the first thing description that comes to mind is lonnnng. Which doesn’t make sense, all things considered, since it’s a pretty short book. Perhaps this was in part because in the audiobook version, the narrator seems to savour every syllable, HOWEVER even speeding it up didn’t seem to take away the tedium. As much as I wanted to like this book, it just felt remarkably long-winded. So much is drawn out and dwelt on, in an attempt to make the reader more sympathetic to the Girls’ plight. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have the desired effect. In fact, I see this technique used quote a bit in fiction- but I personally never feel like excruciating pacing does anything other than bore me. Incidentally, the whole purpose of this book is to create sympathy for the Girls- as if the classic tale somehow leaves that out- except I never had trouble empathising with their plight in the original. In fact, Homer could draw tears from me with a single line in the scene with Andromache. So no, I wouldn’t say this book was necessary. The other problem is that the way this is told- going from tragedy to tragedy in muted tones- doesn’t allow for any catharsis. And, as much as Briseis was a boring voice for the narrative, I liked the voices of Achilles and Patroclus even less. Frankly, I also found the line “his story” wince-inducing- entirely missing the humanity of the original (and slightly bizarre considering it’s a myth). All that said, this is not a bad book (I know, that contradicts everything I’ve said, but it’s the truth). The writing had some balance and beauty to it. It achieved what it set out to- such that I cannot rightly give it below:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

the rumour

The Rumour- Ahhh this is a frustrating one to talk about, because I can’t really say all that much without spoiling it, so this review will have to be entirely made up of whispers and hints. There was one aspect I wasn’t keen on throughout- but the last twist redeemed that for me. There was plenty of great characters and suspicion at every turn. The only other thing I can categorically say is that if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you should give this a whirl!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

house of salt and sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows– another decent book that I just didn’t click with for some reason. In this case, I have murkier reasoning. For some reason, I imagined this would be a far more atmospheric read than it was, but, while the world had a hint of salt to it, it perhaps could’ve been peppered with more descriptions. It did have some good ideas and twists on the tale, yet the story itself felt a little convoluted. I also guess a lot of the story beats early on and wasn’t as impressed as I’d have liked. It ended up being more of a generic YA fantasy than I expected- which isn’t so much a fault of the book per se- it’s just that I tend to avoid those nowadays. Overall, this was pretty bland and could’ve done with more seasoning for my taste.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

ruin of kings

Ruin of Kings– Eh, this didn’t blow me away. I found the flipping between timelines and povs an interesting touch, building some suspense and layers of world building nicely… However, I ultimately don’t think it added to the story, which made it feel like a bit of a gimmick. To my mind, using a complex structure like that should be more purposeful (although, happy to hear from someone who could tell me, what *was* the point of that?). And for all the intricate plotting, I was still able to guess a great many of the twists early on. Other than that, my main sticking point was that I struggled to connect with the characters. As much as I was entertained by the plot, now more than ever I need to feel a strong, visceral reaction to the people I’m reading about… All of this is to say, I didn’t personally love this book, but there’s no reason other’s wouldn’t.

Rating: 3/5 bananas 

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

the huntress

The Huntress– well, I looked for it all month, but I finally found an absolute winner thanks to the brilliant Beware of the Reader, who suggested it to me and reviewed it so beautifully on her blog! This exquisite historical fiction, tells the story of Nazi Hunters going after the one and only Huntress. Like a Russian Doll, the narrative is nested in different timelines. Characters are slowly revealed and developed, as they circle each other in figure eights, giving the reader a sense of each personality in turn. And wow, what stories- they soar and loop and leave you breathless… until at last we come to the dramatic conclusion. Moving and mysterious, this made for a truly memorable read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you’re all staying safe and well!

Enchantment of Ravens Had A Certain Charm

enchantment of ravensWell this book was an unexpected pleasure. While I’m always hearing great things about the author’s more recent release, Sorcery of Thorns, I feel like Enchantment of Ravens has flown a little under the radar… which is why I wasn’t expecting to like it quite as much as I did.

From the off, there was a subtle sense of intrigue, creating a little whimsy in the world building. I was instantly captivated by the writing style and charmed by the characters. Traced out just enough to have a sense of form, there was an air of the unknowable about them, making them all the more intriguing.

I loved the carefully laid brushstrokes to the world building as well. There was an element of threat in the wild nature of the Fair Folk and I loved this conception of them. The story played with the idea of costly immortality, of the sorrow of living forever without being able to change and of the grief attached to this eternal death. To me, it was especially impressive to see this slowly woven into the narrative, painting quite the picture through simple actions of a fair folk being unable to do something as simple as cooking. It showed me how human creativity is our greatest asset. Of course, in terms of details, elements of the Craft could certainly seem surface level- however I was personally surprised and delighted by this level of depth in a seemingly simple YA fantasy.

Going beyond the world, I did feel the plot could be a little all over the place. The romance, for instance, leapt into action and then bizarrely slowed down to a snail’s pace. And I wasn’t convinced that there was a clear line to the plot. Still, I did enjoy the banter and aspects of the love affair. And, ultimately, I did like the way it ended and everything was tied together.

Overall, while this wasn’t the perfect book, it had so much potential! If you take a step back, you can see the beauty in it. I definitely have to admire this work as a while and have high hopes for this truly talented author.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

So, have you read this? What did you think of it? And have you read or do you plan to read anything else by this author? Let me know in the comments!

Bookish and the Beast was a Beautifully Freeing and Redemptive Read!

*I received this from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the *gushy feels* is all me!*

bookish and the beastYou guys probably know by now that I love fairy retellings. Yet for some reason I rarely get locked in to Beauty and the Beast retellings- well this was the exception! I’ve been really enjoying the “Once Upon a Con” series so far, for all its wondrous geekiness and cuteness- but this took that love to a whole new level. I was hoping that it would hit the spot right now… and it did! It turned out to be *exactly* what I needed.

Starting with an extract from the series’ fictional show, Starfield, we’re given a little sampler of the sweet story to come. From the enemies-to-lovers vibes here and the quirky meet cute, I knew I was going to fall hard for this book. With masses of misunderstandings and a low-key Pride and Prejudice feel, I developed a real attachment to the romance.

Part of my love for this stemmed from admiring the main character, Rosie. Not only is her name, Rosie Thorne, basically the best, but I also liked how she handled the difficult hand she was dealt. There were some particularly moving moments about grief that gave the narrative another dimension. I also couldn’t help but relate to her as a massive reader 😉

I also liked how the love interest was both understandable as the Beast-like character- yet is also given room to grow. And the other additions to the cast were greatly appreciated (particularly the Gaston insert). And this even had a fantastic father figure- which you don’t get enough in contemporary.

Oh and of course, this had some cool concepts and detailed layers from the fandom aspect. I always enjoy how each of these books builds on the Starfield universe- I look forward to finding out more about that as much as the new love story!

Throw in some delightfully geeky references, some chuckleworthy scenes, a pang-inducing budding relationship… and you get the kind of book that left me starry eyed. This didn’t just deliver on the “aww” moments- it gave me all the *feels*! It was wonderfully adorable and surprisingly rewarding.

Above all, I could tell that the author cared deeply about this one- it came across in the emotionality and joy of the narrative. It was precisely the escapism I needed right now and my favourite of the collection so far!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

And if you’re craving more fairy tale retellings from this series, feel free to check out my reviews on Geekerella and Princess and the Fangirl

So, have you read any of the books in the “Once Upon a Con” series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Just About Made it to June

monthly mini reviews version 2

Well there goes another tumultuous month where I’ve had both more and less work… (no that isn’t a contradiction and yes that makes total sense!). Cos of that, I’ve been falling behind on blogging a bit. Annnnd it’s just a weird time overall- so much so I don’t really know what to report anymore- do you? 😉 I haven’t watched as much on the small screen lately- though I do have one *awesome* recommendation coming right up…

monkey at the movies 2

love wedding repeat

Love Wedding Repeat- well this was a pleasant surprise and *exactly* what I/we needed right now. I was expecting a straightforward rom com- but this was a lot more entertaining! Funnily enough, in many ways this was a fun spoof of weddings, showing us what it’s really like… (and dare I say showed us what we’re not missing out on 😉). Genuinely hilarious, with some great characters and charming acting- I highly recommend this if you fancy a (tv) trip to a destination wedding… or even if you don’t!

And that’s all I’ve got in terms of films! Luckily, I have been reading a fair amount:

letters to the lost

Letters to the Lost– this had a great premise, beautifully executed. Two characters are brought together by letters at the side of a graveyard. Now, I will admit, I have read similar things before (which, after I spelt out the concept, feels more surprising). That said, it was very well done- the writing is wonderful and the story captures the theme of grief. The characterisation was especially strong, with everyone feeling like real people. What I particularly liked was how they felt close to stereotypes- but ultimately defied that in a refreshing way. I do recommend this if you’re looking for more contemporary, though I (marginally) preferred Call it What You Want.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

exquisite

Exquisite– okay, I’m just gonna get the clichéd pun out of the way: this was exquisite. It’s true. I can’t help saying it! I discovered this brilliant book over on Meggy’s marvellous blog and I’m so excited to say Exquisite more than lived up to expectation! I loved this on a line by line level- the writing and references are beautifully crafted. More than that, it was an incredible psychological thriller. From the offset, this was excellent at building mystery. The story starts in a women’s prison, with the knowledge that one of these women harmed the other… yet we don’t know which one it was or how. So begins a journey into the obsessive minds of two protagonists as they fall in love, knowing full well that this love turns toxic before the end. Both characters take turns at likeability, making for a genius presentation of narcissism, placing the mask of deceit on each of them. Only over time, tiny inconsistencies are revealed and the disguise is lifted. While there are parallels in each of the tales, I began to sense that one of the narrators is gaslighting the reader. Then as the story draws to a close, it begins to get surprisingly meta. No spoilers, but this has a book within a book in a most unique way. By then, you know where the story is heading- but the creep factor is up and that compels you to the end. It is the kind of chilling that makes your go cold… as in, my tea literally went cold, cos I was so absorbed in this book I forgot to drink it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

stranger on the beach

The Stranger on the Beach– I have a real thirst for thrillers at the moment- luckily books like this are quenching it. Initially, if you’d have told me I’d love this book, I’d have said you must be pulling my leg. I wasn’t at all keen on the writing style: the use of past tense was done in such a foreshadowy way that it was kind of annoying. Still, I felt a storm brewing, and had to read on. It wasn’t until the first lightning bolt twist that I understood… Annnd it frustrates me no end to write a review like this, but I really can’t say much more for fear of spoilers. All I can say is every device is here for a reason and each revelation comes like a thunderclap. Everything that didn’t make sense at the start is clear by the end. This one snuck up on me like a stranger in the night… and was much cleverer than I gave it credit for.

Rating: 5/5

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

school for good and evil

School for Good and Evil– I really liked the premise for this one: two girls, who get whisked off to a fairy tale school to be either good or evil. What I appreciated even more is how nothing is as it seems- especially in terms of characters. Chainani takes the concept of the villain being the hero of their own story and runs with it (and prepares to do battle with the idea!). I also liked how successfully (and uniquely) the author did the underconfident “reluctant” heroine as a counterbalance. It was an interesting way to tackle the topic of good and evil with some complexity, even for children, though it did leave some questions unanswered. This did sag a little in the middle for me and I saw the ending coming- but I still enjoyed it. And, to be fair, I think I’d have enjoyed it a great deal more as a kid.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

ella enchanted

audiobook2Ella Enchanted– As you guys may know, I have a real soft spot for Cinderella retellings- and this one was especially special! It upped the magical content, the world building and the spirit. I loved how spunky and defiant Ella was in this- even under a curse where she has to be obedient. I also happened to listen to the audiobook version of this, which I particularly enjoyed and thought was really well done. The way the various fantasy languages were performed added an extra fun flavour. One thing I really liked- and this is entirely down to personal taste/isn’t the most popular opinion- is that I liked how different this was to the film adaptation, cos it means I feel like I can appreciate both of them for what they are and that they don’t detract from each other. Regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie, I do think this offers a unique perspective on the traditional tale! As a diehard Cindy fan, I was satisfied 😊

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

poet x

Poet X– experimenting with form and language, this is a story of a girl finding her voice through poetry… and it’s told through a series of poems! I personally liked the use of verse and interesting imagery choices (I was tempted to imitate it for this review, but I can’t write poetry for toffee 😉). I was pleasantly surprised to find how strong a sense of character, development and even plot that we got in this structure (and in the limited space). Definitely worth checking out if you like YA contemporary. Plus, I also read her more recent book and liked it even more- review to come soon!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you’re all staying safe and well!

Getting to Know the Sociopath Next Door

sociopath next doorNot everyone loves the Sociopath Next Door. If you look at the ratings on Goodreads, you’ll see some very unfavourable opinions and a fair amount of criticism. So, I was pretty surprised to find how much I appreciated this book for its fascinating assessments, analyses and case studies. Sure, I didn’t like everything about it and didn’t agree on every point, yet I found it captured my attention from the offset and gave me plenty of insightful information to mull over.

I will say that some information could be misleading if taken at face value- if you’re familiar with statistics around anti-social personality disorder, you may be aware that:

  • 4% figure usually refers to anti-social personality disorder includes narcissists, who are not nearly as dangerous
  • According to The Psychopath Test, most sociopaths/psychopaths are drawn to the thrills of crime and are in prison, thus the percentage is more like 1% of the general population have anti-social personality disorder.

So yes, I would agree that part of this is sensationalised (or, to be more generous, not as developed as it could be. For instance, there also could have been some discussion of the prevailing view of the difference between psychopaths being born and sociopaths being “made”).

That said, I did like hearing some ideas I hadn’t come across before. The most fascinating concept for me personally (which I have now seen discussed elsewhere) is the idea that anti-social disorder could develop out of attachment disorder, rather than abuse per se.

Interestingly, one of my biggest contentions with her argument was her discussion on the fault lines of pure reason, where Stout expressed the idea that conscience runs counter to logic, which is not something I personally agree with… And yet, by the end of the book, I found we were both on the same page, as Stout expresses how acting ruthlessly does not bring you more of the good things in life. Ultimately, she proves time and again that dominating others brings nothing but destruction (and, frankly, that assholes get what’s coming to them). With her view that love brings you happiness, the book ends on a surprisingly hopeful note- and that was both unexpected and worthwhile.

Okay, so then why has this book provoked such a negative reaction? Well, I couldn’t help but look at some of the popular reviews and respond accordingly. Here were some of the critiques of the book and my takes on them:

Argument 1: the book is a witch hunt. It encourages people to identify sociopaths in their midst.

My take: I didn’t see this as saying *all* evil people are sociopaths- it was merely identifying some cases. In fact, she gave examples of how a compassionate person could make decisions that were not always compassionate. Thus, I would not say it is fair to say that this attempts to explain away all of human hurt, just some of it. Of course not everyone is a sociopath- but some people are and it is useful to identify that (or at the very least be wary of certain behaviours).

Argument 2: it divides people into two classes

My take: well, you could make this argument about any disorder or condition. If you were to talk about the mindset of a depressive, for instance, you might compare it with someone who is not suffering from depression. Indeed, it can also be helpful in treatment- in CBT, getting someone with depression or anxiety to look at things from another angle can be helpful. Therefore, I think it is perfectly reasonable to differentiate between those who have a condition and those who do not. It’s also important to note that sociopaths are not victimised by someone analysing the condition- to believe this would be to miss the real victims (ie those who are manipulated and abused).

Argument 3: It was too broad sweeping at times.

My take: I’d partially agree- as I pointed out before, this book wasn’t perfect. I’d definitely have to chime in on the fact that the “three lies and they’re a sociopath” is a weak test. But then, I also assumed that the author meant big lies- not white lies- which leads me to my main contention with this argument: use your common sense. Likewise, asking for mercy may not always be coming from a manipulative place… but it could be. Clearly, not every liar or layabout is a sociopath- but the ones who repeatedly manipulate might be. To that end, I think reading this book could offer valuable insight to potential victims.

Now, I think that covers the main complaints. I can understand having issues with this- it is not a perfect work. I personally have been reading/listening to psychologists speak more on the subject and think there is *a lot* more to explore. After my continued research, I would discourage anyone to take this as a gold standard on what sociopathy means. Still, I do think that the overly critical takes have missed the entirely hopeful message about love. And that is a shame.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my analyses or do you have another point of view? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May

monthly mini reviews version 2

Phew- April’s over! And I’m feeling a lot calmer this month (though I’m still sick of being in lockdown). Things aren’t exactly easier, especially on the workfront, but I’m feeling a little bit more chill about it (most of the time haha!) And *fingers crossed*, I’m hoping to be able to have better news to share next month. In terms of what I’ve been up to… well it’s party like we’re in a pandemic baby! That means occasional painting and long walks in the country- WOOHOO! 😉 As you can imagine, I’m also watching more TV and movies, which is why I thought I’d do some quick mini reviews for those first- *SURPRISE!* Here are some quick recommendations (that you’ll most definitely be aware of and don’t really need me to tell you to watch them):

monkey at the movies 2

tiger king

Tiger King– I had low expectations for this- but enough people recommend it and… here we are! Like everyone else in April, I was swept up in the audacious entertainment and pure escapism of this *bonkers* documentary. I can safely say I’ve never seen anything else like it. And, best of all, it’s really fun to theorise about (so, if you did watch it, I want to know- do you think Carole Baskin murdered her (ex)husband and fed him to the tigers!? Was Joe Exotic Guilty? What do you think??)

spiderman into the spiderverse

Spider Man into the Spiderverse– what a beautifully made movie! I’ve wanted to see this for ages and I’m glad I finally did, cos yeah, I get what the fuss is about. I won’t go as far as to call it my favourite animated film, but it is gorgeous to look at! And storywise, it has some awesome twists and turns. It never leaves you hanging! And not only is it a well-woven tale, it also has some great characters. So yeah, definitely recommend getting stuck into this one 😉

frozen 2

 

Frozen 2– I was actually surprised by quite how much I liked this one. While I enjoyed Frozen, it’s by no means a favourite, and so I thought it was really cool that I liked this more! I’ve heard some criticism about it, but I actually liked Elsa’s character development in this. And I felt it built on and answered some of the unanswered questions left over from the first film. Having seen this, I get how (and why) this has to be more than one film. All the songs were delightful (even the one about how we’re all gonna die… yeah this really took some risks!) Plus, it happened to have one of my favourite tropes- going out into the unknown and coming back changed. And yes, there is quite a lot of exposition here, but this is Frozen, so I let it go 😉

Annnnd that’s about it. In terms of reading, I’ve been in a bit of a slump (which I’m trying to be forgiving of), so there aren’t going to be too many this month. Let’s get to it:

unhoneymooners

Unhoneymooners– this was a fun hate to love story and just the ticket right now! It especially worked for me that all their antagonism was based on a long-standing misunderstanding (which makes *so much sense* in context). Oddly enough, while I enjoyed the romance, the best part for me was the (thoroughly unromantic) DRAMA at the end. What can I say? Apparently, I read romance books to see people get mad at each other… That said, I think this is upbeat and really strikes the right tone if you need something entertaining.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse 5– Argh I didn’t know this was stream of consciousness when I picked it up! I was lulled into it by the amazing opening line and first chapter… but it soon became really disjointed and I just hate this writing style- sorry! It didn’t help that a lot of this was a diatribe (and I’m not a fan of moralising books either!) Plus, while I’m not anti an anti-war message, *drops voice to a whisper* I didn’t think this was nearly as ground-breaking as he thought it was. I kinda get why this is popular and my sister the monkey baby liked it… but it just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

reading lolita in tehran 

Reading Lolita in Tehran– wow, Nafisi has a beautiful way with words. The second I picked this up, I felt the atmosphere of suffocating beauty. I understood her love of words and books. I felt transported to Tehran, like I was in the room with the book club, like I was walking around in her memory. It was an incredibly evocative memoir. The one issue I did have was that the structure could be a little disjointed, so I got a little lost at times. That said, I very much appreciated her the way her interpretation of literature tied into the text. In fact, it was almost better that the title book (Lolita) is one I don’t like. While I’ll always struggle with its content, Nafisi opened my eyes to its subversive and defiant heroine, and I respect that. More so, I respect what a brilliant teacher the author is to bring me this fresh understanding!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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

call it what you want

Call it What You Want– This was a surprising delight. I picked it up and I found myself so wrapped up in the story that I finished it in one sitting- the first time that’s happened in ages! The characters and conflicts were so well done that they felt real. And even though this was a contemporary, there were no easy answers or comfortable resolutions. In fact, this was a layered narrative, feeding in mythic elements from tales like Robin Hood, while also embracing real world issues. Of course, the downside of such a thematically rich and complex contemporary is that there wasn’t as much finality to it as I might have liked. Still, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would and I’d say that’s a success… but you can call it what you want 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you’re all staying safe and well!

The Girl and the Stars *Sparkled*

*I received this from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the hot take is all me 😉*

the girl and the starsAnd my hot take is that this is an EPIC start to a new series! Intriguing and with chilling breadcrumbs scattered along the way, I had so many thoughts on the opening alone! From the instant I picked up the book, I was immersed in the world of the Book of the Ancestor once more, I was gripped by the icy setting, I was struck by the promise of something a little different… and I wasn’t disappointed.

With its fantastical edge and carefully balanced storytelling style, the writing was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I felt like I plunged a thousand feet into another world.

Even more so, I was stunned by the world building. Though you don’t have to read Book of the Ancestor (as much as I recommend it!) to get to this bad boy, it is set in the same world. And this book doesn’t simply resurrect the world of Red Sister, it excavates deep into its bones and plants something new. Out of that story, we get an entirely new fantasy to capture our imaginations. There were fascinating developments in the lore; there were intriguing hints at all that is to come. This was a substantial expansion of the world- and it came from the most unexpected of directions. And it was a most welcome distraction in the current times.

The characters were interesting as well- particularly Thurin. Yaz herself stood out, not just because of her powers, but for her inspirational grit and determination. I will admit that I did have some trouble connecting to her as a main character- though I cannot say for certain where this disconnect came from and I have a sneaking suspicion this is because of my mood while reading, so please bear that in mind.

The person I actually liked the most, surprisingly, was one of the villains. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found his tone delightful and even wise at times. It was a clever touch and left a deep impression on me.

Plotwise it’s a non-stop thrill ride, hurtling by so fast you won’t have time to stop and think about where it’s headed. By the time it came to the end, I was breathless I’d completely lost sight of this world. Then, just when you think it’s all over: BAM! The twists hit out of nowhere and they’re powerful. The strong opening was undoubtedly matched by a brilliant ending. Best of all, I can see that it’s all building to something spectacular. It makes for a bright start to a new series!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

So, do you plan to read this? Or have you read the Book of the Ancestor? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – April

monthly mini reviews version 2

Well now that we’re living in the end times/our dystopic nightmares/a peculiar alternate reality, it feels a bit odd to talk about books… and yet we all could’ve guessed that us bookworms were bound to bury our heads in books as things fall apart 😉

I myself have been putting together an end of the world playlist (including: End of the Line, Over and Done With, Thriller etc.) and been bunkering down to read (sod all else to do anyway, since most of my work has been put on hold and most of us are currently under house arrest).

spam jail

In all seriousness, I hope you and your families are all okay, wherever you are in the world ❤ Thankfully everyone I live with is in good health, though I’ve had other issues created by this ongoing crisis, which have taken me away from blogging. So, thanks for all your patience and for continuing to stick with me ❤

Now that the (somewhat unusual) life update is out of the way, let’s get back to the books, shall we?

sea witch

The Sea Witch– this was a decent, if ultimately uninspiring retelling of the Little Mermaid. While I appreciated the use of Danish, giving the story some much needed authenticity, other aspects of the writing were a little colourless. Plus, parts of the story drifted by a little slowly. That said, I did like some of the twists and how it took the story in a darker direction than I anticipated. Yet, I will say that after that one bold turn, it seemed like the ending could have gone to greater depths. Instead, it sort of washed over me and left me wanting. Not a bad book by any means, but not brilliant.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

eat pray love

Eat Pray Love– I often don’t like to talk about memoirs, because it feels too much like critiquing someone else’s life, but I got so much out of this, I thought it was worth sharing. Upbeat and positive, I instantly warmed to the author and was happy to take a globetrotting trip with her! I loved the locations, each offering something different: Italy fattens you up with joy; India gives you the opportunity to open your mind; Bali offers friendship… and more! Admittedly, I didn’t connect with some parts, because I’m not a very spiritual person (despite loving yoga) but I still found reading this was a surprisingly positive experience. More than anything, it fed my wanderlust and makes me ache to travel more… though for now I think we’ll have to be satisfied with books!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

this is how you lose the time war

This is how you lose the time war– the only downside to this compact time travelling story is that it whizzed by so relatively fast, I felt like I didn’t lose any time at all! Despite its length, this was packed with things to love: it had a compelling concept, awesome opening, beautiful writing, wonderful references and heartstopping romance. I heartily recommend giving it a go- whether you like sci fi or not.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

queen of ruin

Queen of Ruin– well it’s never a good sign when you get to the last page I thought “at least it’s over”. I really liked the first instalment in this duology… but unfortunately this didn’t live up to that- either conceptually or in terms of character. It felt like this story was just tacked on to round off all the events of the last book- which, while often the case with YA sequels, was disappointing to say the least. Unlike the Grace and Fury, where I was impressed with the characterisation, this had no character progression. Apparently, the characters had done their developing in the last book, so didn’t need to go anywhere emotionally here. The romance was pretty much sorted at the end of the last book, so it was no surprise how it all resolved here. And all the other plotlines were resolved very quickly (though they took longer here to get going!). The only “new” aspect for this book was characters taking inopportune moments to jump on the occasional soapbox- which I didn’t appreciate. Nothing about this made me buzz with excitement and it left me a little cold.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

sometimes I lie

Sometimes I Lie– well this was an unusual read. When Alexa Donne mentioned it on her channel, her impression seemed to be “I’m not sure what to make of it”, so I thought I’d read it and see what I made of it… and I think my conclusion is I’m not sure what to make of it! It was well written and twisty and unpredictable. Even if I felt like I got a handle on it at times, the story would turn in the next moment and go in a different direction. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it- it was a little too dark to say that- but I do think it was a strong and memorable thriller. In the end I settled on…

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

the guest list

The Guest List– I was surprised by how much I liked this. At a remote island off the coast of Ireland, where guests have gathered for a wedding, readers are invited to witness to a murder. Introduced to multiple perspectives, we are given a sense of the bride, the groom and many of the partygoers. As the story progresses, flipping from timelines before and after the murder, it soon becomes apparent that many characters have more than a few reasons to commit a serious crime… and we still don’t know who the victim is yet! Compelling throughout, the tension amps up, until we’re given more than a little slice of satisfaction. This was a masterclass on how to lead a reader on a merry dance. I do pronounce this book a worthy thriller!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: Does It Stand Up to Public Scrutiny?

so you've been publicly shamedAs you guys may well know, I’m not a fan of call out culture. So, when I heard about the concept of this book, I was happy to perhaps get a more concrete understanding of how it works, why we do it and maybe even how to stop it. Unfortunately, while an interesting read, this wasn’t everything I hoped it would be.

To start with, the opening was a lot like the Ted Talks I’ve seen by the author- discussing Justine Sacco at length and describing how he got into the subject. Not terrible, but not great either. I was quite enjoying some of the stories Ronson collated, so couldn’t complain too much, even as the book branched off into areas I wouldn’t have expected (from gay porn to Nazis).

Then, about a third of the way through, as it started to explore more psychological angles, I started to get more into it- the mention of the Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment in particular had my curiosity peaked. However… this ultimately ended up being the book’s biggest weak spot. Because, there was a sensationalised moment in Ronson’s account, where he seemed to be reaching towards “I’ve debunked the whole thing”, when of course he knew, and any barely-brainy reader would know, he had not. This was based on the fact that he got a quote from the worst of the prison guards, who claimed to have been “only acting” and that he thought he was doing something good. Now, of course, aside from it being a well known fact that people lie, as one psychologist responded it doesn’t actually matter to the people you’re torturing if you were acting- the result is the same (hence, this doesn’t prove that the guards were somehow not doing anything bad after all). Ronson then came to the well-trodden conclusion that people often do the worst things when they think they’re in the right (no shit, sherlock). I began to realise that this was not such a serious work of non-fiction after all (it did not help that Ronson tried to amp up the drama by referring to the fact that Zimbardo wasn’t replying to his emails- as if this somehow lent credence to the idea that he was *onto something*- when it was clear Zimbardo was merely too busy to reply to silly enquiries).

I then noticed other ideas that were not explored so well- particularly as it delved into the criminal side of shame. It dawned on me that it was bizarre to have a book exploring faux pas and tasteless jokes on one hand… and plagiarism, fraud, attempted murder and manslaughter on the other! It seems to me that the author didn’t see the value in shame as a motivator for remorse (I’d even go so far as to say these are two very different concepts: one is internal and the other social).

Still, there were some useful ideas in this. Certainly, some of the people doing the shaming thought they were still in the right- even after the public they baited turned on them. His exploration of crowds, though not ground-breaking, was good to include, especially as he mentioned the concept of feedback loops (people getting a positive response, so they keep doing it). It brings me back to an idea I’ve had for a while: we shouldn’t reward the people who do the shaming. I also did appreciate him going into the idea that people don’t actually want apologies- they want destruction- so it is best not to engage.

The ultimate conclusion wasn’t all that inspiring: all of this was leading up to the big reveal that “mortify” comes from the word “mort”, ergo to shame someone is to kill them (a concept I learnt in primary school). So, okay, we shouldn’t shame people… but I hardly needed to read a three-hundred-page book to learn that. The randomness of the stories did not help this book seem as cohesive as it needed too. Personally, I found this a little too inexpert for my taste, too journalistic and a little naïve.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

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