Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – January 2023

Hello all! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Here’s to a LOVELY 2023!

I’m feeling fresh and chill after all that SNOW last month!

Cannot believe it’s a new year!! Let’s hope it’s a brilliant time for books, blogging and entertainment! Are we all ready to rumble?! Cos I certainly am!

Do Revenge– well this was a bit of a mess- but an enjoyable mess nonetheless! I had a lot of fun with this chaotic revenge drama… as long as I didn’t think about it too much. The characters flipflop between being good and evil, likeable and unlikeable. And I liked going along for the ride- until of course it overdid it and accelerated right off the tracks. I don’t know what it is about movies like this going one twist too far- yet this very obviously had one (or two depending on your perspective) twist too far. Another massive downside was how keen this campy, absurd movie was to get THE MESSAGE across. I saw one review saying that the good thing about this movie was that it didn’t take itself too seriously- however I don’t think that’s true at all. I think the problem is it takes itself way too seriously. It was trying too hard to be a #MeToo story that it didn’t follow through with the twist. Instead, it went with the obvious villain and the supposed “girl power” ending that didn’t feel earned. Like I said, this is an enjoyable movie. Just don’t think about it too much.

Lore Olympus Volume 1-3– now here’s a classic case of too much of a good thing. I was super impressed by this modern graphic novel retelling of Hades and Persephone. In some ways it wasn’t true to the original- yet the elements that were transformed would work much better for a modern audience. It was sensitive and the poetic licence was intelligently done. Plus, the plates in this book were utterly gorgeous. HOWEVER, this does take slow burn to a whole other level. As much as I liked these books, I don’t feel like finishing this series, because it quite simply doesn’t go anywhere. I would’ve thought after 3 volumes there would be more to the plot than this. So it’s an impressive feat and worth a go- but ye gods wrap it up already!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Boyfriend– there’s no way around it- this just was not a great book. There were easily better twists available than the *spoiler alert* boyfriend being a secret sociopath after her money. Now that I’ve told you the ending, I’ll tell you the beginning: it’s about a woman who has forgotten the last 3 months of her life and her new boyfriend (who it transpires she made up). Given that the main character had amnesia, she could’ve asked this guy to play her boyfriend for money. Or she could’ve been the sociopath. Or really anything other than the obvious and boring af answer. Sadly, this book ended up being completely forgettable. All I can say to this book is: it’s not me, it’s you.

Rating:2/5 bananas

London’s Number 1 Dog Walking Agency– this book had me bouncing around with joy! Witty and full of fun doggy characters, it had me barking out laughter left right and centre! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the personalities in this non fic book (both human and doggy). There were some lovely, memorable moments (some that even made me tear up). And while this book is obviously for dog-people, I’d also say that it can win over even the surliest of dog-detractors (just as the book proves that a dog can eventually win over any person when they set their mind to it 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Diamond Eye– I don’t want to be too hard on this book, so I will say straight away that there were a lot of things I liked about it. There was some sharp characterisation and a strong sense of setting. Once again, Quinn proved she could bring a historical landscape to life. This time it is Kyiv during WW2- which absolutely makes for explosive drama. The disappointing thing about this book is that it doesn’t stay in wartime Kyiv. Instead, we are sent flitting off to the United States for an assassination attempt that (spoiler alert) never happened (but is that really a spoiler alert given we all know it didn’t happen?!) Personally, I prefer smaller scale stories, where you get down in the dirt with people trying to survive. Once you start bringing in real history, real people and real events… well then you lose me. Because there’s no point (in my mind) to creating a drama around an event where we all know the outcome. The stakes are so incredibly low because we know what’s going to happen from the start. So having this very uninteresting non-event be the climax of the book simply wasn’t exciting for me. Still, as much as I lost my patience by the end, I did get swept along with the story for most of it.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Half a Soul– sweetly romantic, this regency faerie tale was exactly what I could’ve wished for. Without being smutty or corny, it takes the historical landscape and sprinkles a pinch of magic to transform it into a delightful read. Not only did I love the characters and the story, but I also really admired how the faerie land was styled. It was faintly ridiculous, with an air of Wonderland. A quirky and dangerous place that captured my imagination. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for fantasy romance (and aren’t remotely impressed by the usual faerie love stories flying around these days).

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!

Schooling Lessons in Chemistry

Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to be that person dumping on a popular book again. Unfortunately, Lessons in Chemistry really tried my patience- particularly after I waited 6 months for the reserve to come through- so I guess you’ll all have to sit through my lecture 😉   

Fundamentally, I’d say this book’s biggest problem is that it’s a bit precious. In many ways, it reminded me of Love on the Brain- minus the fun. The author has a MESSAGE and she won’t let you go until she’s rapped you over the head with it. She may as well have forced us all to write lines: the past was patriarchal, the past was patriarchal, the past was patriarchal… ad infinitum.

Except so much of this felt like tampering with history and had a peculiar sense of unreality. Not only is it written with such contempt for a world that is long gone, it also features a modern character masquerading as a woman from the fifties. She’s a woman out of time in such a way she doesn’t seem to fit the time period at all- which made me wonder why it was set in the past to begin with. The aesthetic of the 50s barely exists as window dressing.

Add to that the fact that much about Elizabeth is unlikeable and I had a real problem. Especially since I was clearly meant to root for her. We are supposed to take her quirks and unsociability as endearing and a sign of her perfection. She’s way ahead of her time (about 50 years or so) and loves making sure everyone else knows it (even if that means insulting any woman who finds pleasure in being a housewife). I think the idea was to have her be a static character, with everyone around her changing for the better… except she’s no Paddington bear and instead comes across as somewhat insufferable.

Aside from that, the general tone of preachiness began to grate on my nerves. There was a sense of female superiority, with lines like “marriage counsellors would go out of business if men just listened to women”. I also wasn’t impressed with the delusion that men and women are the same physically, so no need to separate for sports teams! I shouldn’t need to give a so-called science inspired book a lesson in biology (or common sense for that matter). If you’ve ever trained with a man, you’ll know this isn’t the case. I just don’t get why this book has embraced this idea- if it’s supposed to be feminist, then why must it go with the implication that the only way to be a successful woman is to be a man?! This coupled with the nausea for stereotypically female pursuits makes it seem like a book that doesn’t care for the feminine at all.

The plot was… middling. I found some parts cliché and designed to manipulate an emotional response (without actually managing it). That said, I was satisfied with how everything came together and even somewhat impressed by the ending.

All in all, this wasn’t the worst book in the world, it just lacked a certain pizzazz I’d expect from this kind of bestseller. Still, what makes me wonder about this book is how on earth has it been a massive success?!? Because every single person I talk to about it found it simply average. Yet the reviews seem positive online and it’s literally ***everywhere***. This really felt manufactured as a popular book- it certainly didn’t get to these heights organically. It’s very much a case of success breeding success- everyone is advertising it, so everyone reads it, so it gets more advertisement etc etc etc. I just don’t get why. One can only assume it’s because THE MESSAGE is on point for the publishing industry. And that’s a lesson for us all.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

So, have you read this bestseller? Did you get the hype? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Delighted it’s December 2022!

Hello all! Hope you’re all starting to feel festive… I know I am!

Now that we’re all warmed up, we can get cosy talking about the books I read last month… which isn’t that many since I had a bit of a slumpy month. Oh well, there were still some gems in there! Starting with…

Toymakers– ah here was a delightfully crafted fairytale-esque fantasy. Set in a magical toyshop, from the 20s and beyond, this tells the story of a young runaway and the family (and enemies!) she finds within the shop walls. As it transpires, there is a whole world secreted away in the heart of London, holding mysteries and mischief and a smidgen of mayhem in store. Like a Russian doll, this was full of hidden histories and stories within stories, tucked within the plot. These links with real world events brought the tale to life and made for a more powerful narrative. This isn’t a story of a children’s game after all- but the very real tragedy of world wars and man’s inhumanity to man. At the same time, it is a delightful parable of invention and being different and the enchantment of being different. So gloriously written it made me hold my breath at times, it truly transported me back to the wonder of childhood, seeing magic in all the little places. A little overlong, yet the charm was enough to hold my attention to the end. Just perfect for first frost!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Psychopaths Anonymous– a tongue in cheek take on what it’s like to be inside the head of a psychopathic killer, this was remarkably fun considering the subject matter. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously… which is why it works! I will say this is largely character-driven, with the plot happening much later into the book, but when the plot is directed by a murderer it’s at least eventful enough to keep interest. Admittedly, I did have to suspend my disbelief when it came to said murders, since I felt like there were SO MANY times she would have been caught (there are cameras everywhere! And witnesses!) I also found parts a tad repetitive and it’s a struggle to care for people who do not care themselves! That said, I had a (surprisingly) enjoyable time with this. If you’re a fan of thrillers, I think you’d be crazy not to try it 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Book Eaters– well this filled a craving I didn’t know I had. As much as I normally shy away from fantasy that verges on horror, I’m glad this book caught me in its snare. A monstrous, inventive and twisty debut that gobbled me up and swallowed me whole. I felt submerged in its dark and disturbing world. I was taken in by this story of how love makes monsters of us all. I devoured every page with relish.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Kingdom of the Feared– moving onto the frightfully disappointing 😉 This has been an interesting series for me. I loved the first book, but the second book left me unconvinced about the new direction it was headed. Sadly, my fears were well-founded. I was left disappointed with a lot of decisions with this book. While I liked the fiery fury and there were some cool new elements, I this was a bit of damp ending to a promising idea. Like a TV show that keeps raising the stakes (now there are goddesses! And the devil! Oh my!) I missed the earlier simplicity of the story that appealed to me in the first place. It basically dismantled the original concept in favour of the NEW and SPECTACULAR (that didn’t seem quite so spectacular to me). And, as much as it tried to return to the concept of a murder mystery, it was hard (if not impossible) to be invested in a character who wasn’t in the previous books and had so little bearing on the current plot. I found so much of it anti-climactic and a little cliché. Plus, the marital drama and erotic scenes made it feel far from its YA origins. I seriously question how much a 14-year-old would relate to this?! Having discussions with parents and teens in person, it doesn’t seem like it. It seems like yet another miss-marketed adult fantasy. Now, after all my moaning, I have to admit this wasn’t a terrible book. Just not one that was worthy of its promise.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Wolfsong– I was also expecting this to be a howling success- but sadly it left me feeling a little grizzly. As much as I enjoy Klune’s style, I couldn’t get over the romance centring on a TEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD mating with an adult. It seemed like the author took all the wrong inspiration from Breaking Dawn. This book just gave me the icks way too often. I don’t need to read some weird, overlong sex fantasy.

Rating 2½/5 bananas

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World– finally, I finished off the month with a tough book to read, yet a necessary one. Advertised as a thriller, I still had to read it in small increments, because the subject matter is so heavy. A forgotten history that seems to have been ignored due to the uncomfortable questions it raised, this was no easy read. What struck me most was how, even after the escape, it was so difficult to actually do anything about the mass murder of Jews. The warning signs were there and the alarm bells were rung- but no one listened before it was too late. It’s a terrible indictment against humanity and makes me think about the atrocities currently happening around the world that people are turning a blind eye to.

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!

Hope you all had a good month and enjoy the upcoming holidays!

The Constant Princess Gave Me A Constant Headache

Oh dear. I’ve done it again. I picked up a Philippa Gregory “historical” novel and only have myself to blame for reading it.

As usual, Gregory’s gifted us with a book that’s historical nonsense (unless you count being based on an account from the 1960s as accurate). Other than having a hilariously bad scene where Catherine of Aragorn craves “salad”, Gregory decided to make her first marriage to Arthur far more significant. Which could have been potentially interesting- except that it muddied her motivations and was poorly executed. In attempt to make things interesting, Gregory decided to shorten the lifespan of an already short-lived romance by squeezing in a badly done enemies-to-lovers subplot. Since they are only together for such a short time, it’s hard to be invested in this supposedly great love affair that overshadows the rest of Catherine’s life. It’s even more daft that this motivates her want to be queen, because Arthur’s dying wish is for her to marry his 10-year-old brother?! Aside from how unbelievable this all is, it actually takes away the sting of Henry’s later betrayal, since it’s repeatedly made clear she never loved him anyway and was only using him to be queen. It would have been far more powerful for her to be telling the truth- but then we wouldn’t have had a trademark terrible heroine to despise throughout the course of the book.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how *utterly awful* Catherine is as a character. I’m not saying the historical figure was particularly likeable, but jeez. When she’s not praying to her lost love for guidance, she’s harping on about how she deserves power because it’s “god’s will”. There’s no actual reason beyond that, no depth and nothing to root for. She is simply a power hungry, warmongering coloniser with an appetite for spilling Moorish blood.

Which, incidentally, brings me to Gregory’s brand of feminism: the kind where the best kind of woman is the worst kind of man. To use the woke phrase, as it’s rather fitting for a change, all she displays is toxic masculinity. Catherine is a meddlesome bore begging for holy wars, with a violent streak a mile long, seeking to dominate anyone and everyone. There is not a single trait that makes her likeable. It’s astounding to me that Mantell could take a historical figure like Cromwell and make you love him- and yet Gregory could do the inverse to Catherine of Aragorn (but then Gregory is no Mantell).

If all this isn’t enough to put you off, there’s also the problem of the plot being all over the place. Again, to use an unfavourable comparison, Mantell managed to beautifully craft a story that spanned decades, cleverly building to a deliciously clever destination. With this, you get a plot that’s got no focus, feels disjointed and fails to come together. This book manages to make one of the most famous divorces of all time duller than dishwater. It’s a sloppy structure not worthy of the story it’s telling.  

And naturally there’s also some vomit-inducing scenes with the king lusting after his daughter-in-law. Because this is history with the icky bits added in. Whatever would make the grossest version of events has to be there- this is a Philippa Gregory book after all. 

It’s no wonder Gregory put me off historical fic for so long. I don’t know why she has it in for history and must make up the worst possible versions of it- but there you go. This was not remotely enjoyable- but on the plus side it’s not her worst book- and that’s saying something!

Rating: 1/5 bananas 

Oof- dare I ask- have you read this book? Did you like it? Were you as bored as me? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Now it’s November 2022!?

OOF- where has this year gone?! Being an adult is kinda hard, so I went to a Sasha Sloan concert and at least I look cool now 😉

Hope everyone had an excellent Spooktober! My sister threw a Descendants themed party- so you know I had a great time 😉

Speaking of creepy, this was largely a month filled with thrillers, with a handful of romance thrown in to keep things spicy!

The Getaway– I was reasonably surprised that I enjoyed this- even though I’ve been looking for a book like this for quite some time! It’s an isolated thriller, set on an island, where the (mostly wealthy) guests are killed off one by one… What’s not to like? Aside from having an entertaining premise, the characters are intriguingly well drawn, with plenty of secrets up their sleeves. The best part of this book for me was the fact it had a Rupert Murdoch stand in- because seeing the media mogul in an “And Then There Were None” style thriller was exactly what I needed.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Love on the Brain– this made me remarkably happy- even if it wasn’t the smartest book I’ve ever read. For one thing, it’s not a very good version of the enemies-to-lovers trope, since it solely relies on miscommunication to pull it off. In fact, it relies on miscommunication for way too much of the book. Plus, it had some ridiculously woke views that made very little sense even by woke standards (I don’t know who decided that it’s okay to decide women and minorities are bad at taking tests and so shouldn’t have to do them… but it comes across as pretty offensive to me and an amazingly bad take). Even funnier was the fact the main character had an AOC t-shirt (never understood why anyone would stan a politician- but o-kay). Also, it’s bizarre to forgive someone who slept with your fiancé because she told you it came from a place of jealously- hOW iS ThAT An ExCuSE?!? Oh dear- I’m making this sound like I didn’t like it. Still, I swear there were plenty of good parts! The humour was on point for one! And I loved how she slowly realised how much in common they had. Finally, huge bonus points for not being Kylo Ren fanfic 😉 It’s a flawed book- but I did have a good time with it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Verity– well, it’s quite hilarious to me that I found Hoover makes a far better thriller writer than a romance writer. I guess it tells you something about how scary I find her idea of a love story 😉 Following a desperately broke ghostwriter and her job to finish a bedbound (and potentially insane) famous author’s series, this mind-bending thriller will absolutely get inside your head and make you question everything. In fact, I’m still asking questions long after I finished it- which is the sign of a great read. While I guessed some of the twists, I never could’ve figured out the reasons behind them. Other than being a little dark for my taste, it was the perfect thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Deadly Waters– so, this twisted Me-Too thriller started off swimmingly, then it sank below my estimation. The idea of a girl killing off rapey and gross frat boys by feeding them to crocodiles was too juicy for me to pass off. The only trouble was the overlong writing and repetitive preachiness meant it just wasn’t snappy enough to keep up the excitement of the premise. There were some great moments (and I particularly liked the satirical edge to the patronising uni’s response “be careful of crocodiles”). Unfortunately, the author seemed to think we wouldn’t get the message if she didn’t beat us over the head with it. I struggled to return to this book after a while. So, see you later alligator, this book was just an average read.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Dark Objects– here’s a solid mystery, with well-drawn characters and an excellent final twist. This follows a professor of crime scenes who only ever works on cold cases… being drawn into a live case and finding herself embroiled in the outcome. There’s some atmospheric writing, good attention to detail and a killer plot. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out bits and pieces along the way. Sadly, the author couldn’t pass up a few opportunities to moralise and throw in some random plot points (minor spoiler: I’m really not sure why the author wanted to have the aside of the teenage daughter attempting suicide… I feel like it was just to keep the audience on their toes and because it’s topical? But I feel like it’s a serious enough topic not to be an aside in a book like this). Otherwise, it was a very satisfying read, with an outcome that actually makes sense!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Ballad of Never After– ahh this was precisely what I needed!! A fun, frothy, fantasy romance, this sequel is packed with romance and curses and tricksy characters! I just loved where Garber is taking this series, introducing more mysteries and some background myths. I was definitely along for the ride as this took some unexpected turns and didn’t end up where I expected. The only downside I’m finding to this series is that I’m enjoying it too much to take notes!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Bullet That Missed– Osman returned to form with this third book in the Thursday Murder Club series. While I did enjoy the sequel, I personally found this one far superior, with new characters to grow attached to and the most substantial mystery yet. I loved how this explored even more of the former spy aspect- especially the links it had to spying on the Soviets. There was something so unexpected and heartwarming in that subplot that it made the book all the more joyous for me! And best of all, I really appreciated the double meaning to the title… which I won’t reveal to you, you’ll have to read 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!

Princess of souls had some spirit!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but I will be as transparent as always***

After the towering success of to kill a kingdom, I foresaw I would fall for a Rupunzel retelling by the same author.

Loosely inspired by said fairy tale, this ensnared some of my interest, but did not quite capture my heart the way I had hoped. 

The thorny matter is that the characterisation was frankly not as cutthroat as her little mermaid counterpart. Instead, we were gifted a rather pleasant heroine, which made her, well, a bit boring. Even though she too was a witch, I rather felt her thunder was stolen by more intriguing villains. 

That said, I was impressed with the world building. Bold and richly devised, it sprung up in my imagination as a verdant creation. I thoroughly enjoyed being swept away to this tricksy land. 

I also found the plot fun. Though I wasn’t sold on the enemies to lovers aspect and wasn’t invested in the characters to love their romance, I did find myself swept up in the action. Pulled along by the powerful prose, I was unable to tear myself away from the book for long. 

Ultimately, this was a rather unique retelling, full of witches and ghoulies and all things foul (ie a light selection from spooky season 😉) yet not the most memorable read. 

Rating: 3½/5 bananas   

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – OOH IT’S OCTOBER 2022!

Hello all! Hope you had a splendid September! Mine certainly was! As I mentioned in my previous post, I needed to take a couple of weeks off from blogging for a very good reason…

Annnd that wasn’t all! I also went back to Scotland for a few days (which inspired some more paintings I’ve been sharing over on insta) Needless to say I’m a bit zonked! 

And there’s more to come on the travel front soon! But for now- onto the books!

Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting– by golly, I’m smitten. This regency inspired comedy of manners was incomparable. Following a wicked young schemer who wishes to snag a rich man, this is not your conventional love story. Full of mischief and wit, but it also had great characters and a swoonworthy romance. I loved how it maintained a sense of history whilst also having a modern twist. A really fun and well written drama for those who are fans of Bridgerton… And also those who are decidedly not fans! 

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Our Crooked Hearts– be still my beating heart! This witchy wonder was straight up one of the best books I read last month. From creepy beginnings, we are introduced to a haunting mystery, intertwining past and present. Beyond the beautifully crafted writing is an intense character study, shown through dysfunctional familial relationships and the dark side of sisterhood. More than anything I loved how this exemplified the ways we are crammed into spaces and forced to be half of ourselves to please others… Even though that often leads to disappointment for both parties. A coming-of-age story like no other, I definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a ghostly tale to keep them up this Halloween season!

Rating: 5/5 bananas 

Fire and Blood– oh dear. This was a struggle. I nearly DNF’d it many times (I should’ve just DNF’d it). For some reason, GRRM decided to write this as a dull maester would have written it and it is, in fact, rather dull. Even though it’s about warring dragon factions… annnd writing that out makes me even more disappointed that this didn’t work as a book. Yet with the distance the narration provided, it was impossible to connect with the story. And, to be honest, I can’t see any way that I’d ever have connected to any of these characters. They were all vile. Which made me realise that the Targaryen dynasty wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. That, coupled with the gratuitous violence and the insane level of brutality toward women, made me look at Game of Thrones in a whole new light… and that’s not a good thing. I had a fair number of reasons to be attached to the original story- but with everything Martin puts out, I’m less and less interested.

Rating: 2/5 banana

Run Time– this was actually kinda fun… until the clock ran down to a disappointing end. With a voicey storytelling style, this tells of an actress whose career has hit the rocks. So of course, she goes to a remote filming location with a bunch of odd people she doesn’t know, for a weird script that seems to bear too much resemblance to the disturbing goings on. Surprisingly, the heroine in this isn’t a total idiot (one of my least favourite thriller tropes) plus it also had a sufficiently creepy isolated setting (one of my favourite thriller tropes). It also had a great story-within-a-story concept. So it should’ve been plain sailing. Unfortunately, the plot ended up being a little too convoluted and what started as an intriguing premise faltered. While there were a few good (but guessable) twists, the finale wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could have been.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Gallant– and V E Schwab strikes again! With this spiky, spectral, dark fairy tale. In this voicey narrative, the silent lead takes us to the shadow world of Gallant and face the dark secrets that have plagued her family for generations. In typical Schwab fashion, it’s a sharply written and intriguing adventure.  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Book of Night– it’s dawned on me that I’m unlikely to enjoy YA author’s first foray into adult fiction. Not once have I absolutely adored their adult novels the way I’ve loved their teen lit. And that’s fine- but also disappointing. All this is to say, Holly Black’s attempt didn’t work for me. As much as there a cool magic system and a solid plot, I simply wasn’t wowed by it. Largely this came down to the writing- which felt flat and relied on far too much telling for characterisation. This left the heroine and her love interest seeming only skin deep, which in turn left me struggling to connect with their romance. Which was a problem considering this was fundamentally a romance. Ultimately, this had the makings of a great book, but missed the mark. 

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Belladonna– erm well this one turned a little toxic. I was all set to fall in love with this intoxicating YA fantasy mystery… And yet sadly this went from deliciously intriguing to a dull affair that turned my stomach a little. Let me explain. To start with there were a whole host of interesting premises: an entire house of poisoned guests; a lifelong series of fatal accidents for all the heroine’s nearest and dearest; a connection with a paternal and protective death. But the story didn’t exactly follow any of those plots. Instead we were supposed to be fascinated by some hastily introduced relatives who didn’t seem to care one jot for the protagonist. And even if I had been more interested in the shoddily spun mystery or the main character’s attempts at etiquette, then I still would never have been here for the romance. Spoiler alert: it’s a literal love affair with death?! And, particularly as he’d followed her around since she was a baby, this love affair left me a tad uneasy. Call me crazy, but I just don’t go for the immortal old dude dating someone he’s known from birth. So sadly, as much as there were parts I liked, this is not the story for me. 

Rating: 2½/5 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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – So Stoked for September 2022!

Hello all!! August was AWESOME frankly and I’m sad it’s over! But here’s to an equally great September! Before I say goodbye to the summer, let’s just look at some of the highlights of the last month! Starting with…

Hiking the Seven Sisters 😊

Finally going to the Word on the Water bookshop

Seeing the Inspiring Walt Disney exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Best of all, I went to see my friend in Edinburgh!! We had a great weekend and she gave me a grand tour of Scotland: going up to Stirling, the Highlands (with a wee bit of a Harry Potter tour), rambling round Edinburgh and catching a few shows on the Fringe! I was so grateful she got us tickets for Foil Arms and Hog (love their stuff on Youtube and it was great to catch them live!)

Also managed to see the Jersey Boys in the West End amongst all of that!! Anyway, I didn’t manage to watch much TV with all that running around, but I did see one movie…

Emma– for some reason, I really thought I wouldn’t like this adaptation, but I was pleasantly surprised. While there were some very (very very) strange decisions in places, I have to admit this worked so well tonally. Played off as a comedy, I found myself genuinely chuckling throughout. The casting was fantastic; the chemistry between the leads excellent. I particularly liked how the pair came across as squabbling children. The characters of Emma, Mr Woodhouse and Mr Eliot were captured particularly well. I even found the romance between Harriet and Mr Martin compelling. And of course, as you may have heard from other sources, the costumes were top tier. I also really LOVED the soundtrack. It did get a little over the top and the nosebleed was a particularly annoying way to ruin a romance scene. Yet, little touches, like when Emma goes to Mr Martin, made this one of my favourite Austen adaptations. Although, let’s be honest, an Emma adaptation is hard not to love 😉

Okay- onto the reading! I went on a bit of a thriller bender this month (unintentionally) so that’s what’s going to hog these reviews (but of course keep an eye out for the contemporary in there, cos it’s a good one 😉)

The Woman in my Home– I feel like this is definitely fodder for people who liked the Tinder Swindler, but yeesh, way too much of this hinges on everyone being stupid. I feel like it’s worse that the people who know that the (spoiler alert) dude who seems to good to be true is in fact a conman just confront him. Because what is the point in that?! It meant that there was no real surprises, since, shockingly, the conman doesn’t take too kindly to being blackmailed. But all works out well in the end (it’s just one of those thrillers where we’re owed a happy ending apparently). Honestly, I’m struggling to say anything positive about this stunningly average book.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The It Girl– here’s a book that’s far from average however. With a dual timeline spanning from the protagonist’s days in Oxford University to working in a bookshop in Edinburgh, the setting had the perfect atmospheric vibes for a dark academia thriller. I was enraptured by this cold-case story, trying to figure out who killed her friend all those years ago. And, like many of her books, the characters were an interesting study. I will admit that the suspect was a little obvious- however the how and the why were particularly clever. Definitely a book that proves why Ware is the It Girl in the thriller world.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Reading Allowed– when I saw a book fall onto my desk about what it’s really like to work in a library I *had to* pick it up. I mean, dudes, that’s my jam. And I really did like that this shares the realistic stories. It was pretty cathartic knowing that, up and down the country, we’re experiencing much of the same things. Still, I couldn’t quite say I loved this book, since sadly the writing was pretty bland. I wish that I could recommend this more, because library stories are much funnier than this makes them out to be. But I guess you had to be there 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

The Hive– social media and murder collide in this thriller, as Charlotte Goodwin lets the public decide the fate of her ex-boyfriend: should he live or die? An absolutely gripping new thriller, with a fantastically performed audiobook. Focusing on the themes of sisterhood, the characters are what shone in this story. Because more than commenting on the foibles of social media, this book asks the question what would (or wouldn’t) we do for the people we love? I did see some of the twists coming, yet the last twist caught me out. And above all, I loved that it was more than just a thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Act Your Age, Eve brown– of all the Brown sisters, Eve is literally the most fun. She’s flighty, unreliable and way too impulsive. Which makes for a great romantic heroine! And with her spontaneous and brilliant energy, her (mis)adventure turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp. With a pinch of hate-to-love and a dash of charm, this was a super cute finale to the Brown romance trilogy and I was here for it!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

One Last Secret– on the plus side, this absolutely delivers on revealing one last secret (and then another and then another). BUT unfortunately a lot of this book read like torture porn and was really hard to listen to (evidently I went with the audiobook version). The subject matter, from prostitution to (highlight for spoiler) child death, was a little on the dark side for me and I can’t say I enjoyed it. If you have a stronger stomach than me, you may get more out of this. Because I can definitely say the twists are worth the ride.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

The Disappearing Act– we all know the world of Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors- which is what makes this story of a missing actress so compelling. Yet the one issue I kept returning to with this book was why on earth did was the main character embroiled in this mess?!? Because this is one where you really have to suspend your disbelief for the mystery to work. Not many of us would traipse around a foreign city hunting for a stranger, after all. I also think the author forgot the golden rule of storytelling: we actually need to care about the people these things are happening to. I did enjoy the twist- yet struggled to get over the original premise. It would have made so much more sense if they’d had a real connection to begin with (and not a five minute awkward one pre-audition). Still, there was a very good twist. And, even if the messaging that success isn’t worth your soul was a little on the nose, it did deliver it rather well. Personally, however, I was most disappointed with the convenient finale that left it on too much of a hopeful note. Really I felt the ending could’ve done with a darker edge. But a round of applause for effort.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

That’s all for now! Some of those were pretty average, but there were some good ‘uns in there! Have you read any of them? What did you think of these? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – All in for August 2022!

Hello all! That was a WILD month! Over here in the UK, it was feeling hot hot HOT!!! But even with the crazy temperatures, I managed to drag myself out the house and do some cool things 😊 Right away, my month was off to a great start when a friend treated me to Jerusalem:

With incredible performances and an amazing script, I felt so lucky that this was my first experience at the theatre in years. A complex play, the story follows Rooster, who is on the verge of being evicted from his caravan. For all the rough edges, this tells of a purity beneath the grime. I particularly liked how the humour threw the darkness into sharp relief and made the experience fly by. And, ultimately, it softened me up for the gut punch at the end!!

Then I was lucky enough to go to Madame Butterfly- which was yet another stunning and moving Royal Opera House performance. Even more tragic than La Boheme, Puccini’s opera felt more real because the ending was so twisted.

Finally, I found myself on a witchy hike in the woods of Surrey!

Also, I never would’ve noticed this post box if it wasn’t pointed out to me, but can you tell what’s special about it?

Don’t Make a Sound– I don’t have much to shout about with this book. It had some cool moments of tension and kept me up reading all night, but was probably a little dark for me. Plus there were some things that stretched credulity. For instance, why when a police officer goes missing ON A MISSING PERSON’S CASE does nobody check where he went last?!??! Also, how are they not suspicious of the jumpy, creepy, elderly couple? I dunno, a lot of the people in this book had to be extremely stupid for the plot to work. That said, it did have a stellar final twist.

Rating: 3/5 bananas  

Bird by Bird– ehh this didn’t really take off for me. I love the title of this book… and not much else. Writing advice books aren’t really my jam, but I’d heard this was one you simply *had to* read. Annnd I don’t know why people think that. I guess the author is very assertive at telling you how right she is about everything (from writing advice to freedom fighters always being right apparently). Yet for me, this is just another prescriptive writing manual, with vaguely encouraging ideas like don’t be a perfectionist told in an irritating way. I just don’t see what’s so special about another writer saying that making it in writing is hard and to focus on characters over plot. You’ll hear the same advice for free on the internet.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

Gilded– for me, this book was a rare and golden experience. When I first picked it up, over a year ago, I wasn’t in the mood and thought it wasn’t going to be for me. But, not being able to resist the pull of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, I decided to pick it up again and, lo and behold, it was absolutely magical! I simply loved how it wove the story, threading together the plot in an unusual way. Up close I could not see where the story was heading- and yet when I stood back the beautiful tapestry was clear. It’s one of my favourite Meyer books to date and I’m looking forward to the conclusion!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Dark Queens– this is real life game of thrones and I am here for it!! Exploring the forgotten and erased parts of the dark ages to life, Dark Queens is centred on the rivalry of two powerful queens during the Merovingian dynasty. While this was a time period I knew virtually nothing about, I found myself completely gripped by the political intrigue and inner workings of these kingdoms. More than that, the book centres on the memory of these now-mythical queens, who were written out of the history books for their gender. I found it fascinating to follow how they both seized and ceded their power, learning of the personal struggles at the heart of their rule. If I had one criticism of the book, I’d say that I do not share the author’s admiration for their ruthlessness and ambition, just as I would not for the male rulers at the time. That said, this is easily one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Heck it’s one of the best books I’ve read! Even if it doesn’t have dragons 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Why Did You Stay?- How do you follow up a great book like that? With great difficulty. While I appreciated the basic premise that women are often conditioned to accept shitty relationships for the sake of “romance” (see the likes of Beauty and the Beast to Grease), I was not as impressed by this book as I wanted to be. Unfortunately, Humphries’ jolty style and sloppy structure make it hard to focus on her unfolding epiphanies. I feel like the book would have benefited from cutting down- at the very least. And, as much as I liked that this raised some awareness of toxic relationships and people’s reaction to it (with that awful shaming question “why did you stay?” ringing in the ears of so many) I did not feel like this went nearly far enough. While this is just one story, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a missed opportunity to talk about why people get stuck and perhaps how to get unstuck (hint: that question doesn’t help anybody). Still, I did particularly like the epilogue and its summations.

Rating: 3/5 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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – (just about still) July 2022!

Hello all! Yes I am writing this monthly wrap up in the middle of the month… and what of it? 😉 Okay fair enough, I should probably explain that I accidentally took a little blogging break for some nice reasons (I’ve been on holiday! yay!!) and not-so-nice reasons (I’ve been ill again boo). ANYHOO, I did have a lovely June, wrapped myself in bunting for the Jubilee…

Okay not really, but I did have a lovely long weekend off, where I went to the suitably British Box Hill, which inspired the picnic scene in Emma

After traipsing around the countryside (not quite as gracefully as a regency lady 😉 ), I had some fun in London… because sometimes I forget how cool it is that I live here! The highlight of my June wanderings in the capital was going to the incredible Beatrix Potter exhibition at the V&A!

And of course, the holiday that I will doubtless talk about in another post!! Here’s a sneak peek before I jump into the books…

Book Lovers– this was a great summery read to get me in the mood for the hot weather! Emily Henry’s answer to Hallmark genuinely made me smile and laugh. A unique story playing with some typical romance tropes, it turned my expectations on their head and didn’t conform to type. And it was all the more satisfying for it!! What’s fun about this is that we finally get to see what happens to boyfriend/girlfriend who ends up as the rom com villain (you know the one: they’re the high-powered city-dwelling gal/guy who’s holding our main character back from living their truest life and finding real lasting love). Well, in this book, we get to see what happens to the person left behind, with real empathy thrown into the mix!!! (ya know, cos it’s not so nice to decide your long term partner, who you chose to date is a soulless villain for wanting to live in the city). And yeah, the main character here is kind of a jerk sometimes, but I’ll allow it, because everyone deserves a cutesy happily ever after in whatever form that takes.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Maybe in Another Life– someone recently told me that this was the only Taylor Jenkins Reid book that they’d read and that they didn’t enjoy it… sooo naturally I had to check it out. And she was totally right. I’m sorry to say this book was a bit of a waste of time. I wouldn’t have believed this is the same author who gave us such nuanced and fascinating characters, but there you go. Unlike with One True Loves, I wasn’t invested in either of the romances (but one less than the other). And I didn’t feel like the main character had much of a personality (beyond bemoaning having big boobs). I dunno, it wasn’t terrible, however I think you can safely skip this book and not miss out on any of the usual Jenkins Reid magic.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Hotel Magnifique– such a lovely place, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… Okay enough of that! Right away I have to say that this is another book that falls victim to the Night Circus comparison. Luckily for me, I had Caraval more in mind when I picked this up, so I was personally just relieved to find it better than that. I treated this like a fun YA, with some good ideas and a few dark tricks up its sleeves. Still, it was far from flawless, with too much overexplaining and exposition-y “let me tell you my life story” dialogue. I had an alright time reading this, but I doubt I’ll be continuing the series.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Only a Monster– finally a YA fantasy that I really enjoyed!! And a time travel story no less!! The concept is simple, but effective: the main character is from a family of monsters and said monsters are being hunted. Yet, we are given this information in a viscerally effective way that instantly had me rooting for the monsters (aka the bad guys). I will say that I found this more plot driven than character driven, which is less my thing, but the plot is so good, I wasn’t as bothered by that. Plus, the chemistry between the characters brought the narrative to life. I loved the dynamic between all the different monsters. And Len pulled off a difficult connection and backstory for the villain too. Overall, this was executed really well and definitely scratched an itch. This was an anti-hero story I could actually get behind!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Ariadne– this is going to be a very quickfire review, because I don’t have a lot to say about this other than it was very readable and hit the right emotional notes at the end. And my god look at that gorgeous cover!! I’m curious about her other book, just because she does explore some interesting female characters.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl– this was wholesome in an unusual and funny way. I really liked how this explored a topic and perspective not typically seen in YA contemporary (or adult contemporary for that matter!) And because of that, it was actually educational and could be really helpful to lots of teens. I will say that because of this function, it does lose some of the sheer entertainment points of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, but it was a solid story nonetheless. I did feel like the family drama was resolved a little bit too easily, yet the romance and friendship were handled in such a superior way that I can give it a pass for that.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Finnikin of the Rock– ahh reading this made my heart happy. Because who doesn’t love a little classic fantasy from time to time? Yes, some of the plot points were obvious and yes, it’s not got some flashy magic system, but MY GOODNESS it knew how to make my heart sing. You can rest assured that I’ll continue with this series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

That’s all for now! I think you might be able to tell my note-taking for books wasn’t that great this month… 😉 Regardless, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all had a good month!