Feel Good Reads for Stepping Out of a Funk – *Books with Positive Vibes*

Because if books can’t help, what can? I was looking for lists of books that can really help get you out of a funk and couldn’t find one that quite fit what I was looking for, so naturally decided to write my own. I have tried to look for books in a range of genres and moods- but all of them should be equally life-affirming! Enjoy!

Obviously, Man’s Search for Meaning goes without saying (reread it recently, still brilliant). But if you’re looking for MORE MEANING- then why not try Frankl’s recently translated series of lectures on the subject? Life-affirming and uniquely insightful, I feel like this is the perfect place to turn if you’re searching for wisdom.

Eat Pray Love– I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s non fic- it’s honest, hearty and very inspirational. This globe-trotting memoir is so much more than a simple journey- it’s about rediscovering hope and finding your way into healing.

Furiously Happy– if you need an out-of-the-box non fic about mental health, then this could make you furiously happy! I laughed so much at this book and found it so unusual.

A Man Called Ove– the way I’d describe this book is as an adult version of Up, in book form! This deals with dark subjects, in a moving and ultimately uplifting way. Focusing on friendship and the power of human kindness, this book shines a light on all that is good in the world.

The Flatshare– what I love about this quirky romance is that it doesn’t just focus on finding new love- it’s also fundamentally about overcoming past hurts and heartbreak.

Bookish and the Beast– this fairy tale has always had elements of second chances- and that’s really evident in this retelling. Coupled with an exploration of opening your heart to new possibilities and coming to terms with what has passed, this is my favourite in the Once Upon a Con series so far.

Afterlife of Holly Chase– okay, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t mention this book again until next Christmas rolls around, but I can’t help it! I love this retelling of A Christmas Carol! It perfectly captures the spirit of the original, whilst also giving it new life. Just do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy ready for the next holiday season!! If you don’t, I’ll haunt you!

Clap When You Land– in this moving contemporary YA, Acevedo shows us how hardship can bring us crashing down to earth, and yet also uplift us.

Bright Side– this one may be more of a kicker, so make sure you have tissues handy. It’s a beautiful romance about seeing the bright side in hard situations. Give it ago (when you are emotionally ready to have your heart ripped out).

Words in Deep Blue– I adore the way this book delves into grief- with such heart and deep thoughts. One of the most cathartic books I’ve ever read, it shows that there really is a road to recovery if you seek it.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– layered with moving stories, this unforgettable epistolary novel is about people rebuilding their lives after they’ve been shattered by WW2. It demonstrates that there is life and love to be found after disaster.

And that’s all for now! Do you agree with any of the books on this list? And do you have any uplifting recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – March-ing FORWARD Through 2021!

Hello all! I’m back!

First, I want to say a sincere thank you for all your kind words and well-wishes while I was away. I wasn’t having the best time and it really meant a lot. Second, I do want to apologise for being dramatic- especially in a time like this. I’m very sorry to have worried anyone- that was not my intent with the hiatus post and I hope I reassured anyone in the comments. Third, I know I promised an explanation- however, on reflection, I don’t want to put more bad energy out into the atmosphere (look at me getting all kooky 😉 ). All I need to say is that things are better and I’m gonna get on with my life (thank goodness for yoga/books/friends/more yoga eh). So, yeah, I’m looking forward to blogging more again, but please be patient with me as I try and get back into the swing of things. Since I scrapped all my Feb posts and this is the first thing I’m writing in a while, not sure what my schedule will be like- we’ll see!

Now all that’s all out the way, onto the post!

Fate: The Winx Saga– oh gosh I don’t care what anyone says, this was wicked fun. My sister and I loved this as children- and both of us enjoyed this incarnation too! To be fair, the first ten minutes were kinda messy, but it got so much better. And it was even more fun being familiar with the story. When the BeaTRIX character got introduced I was like I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE! Minor spoiler, however I also loved the tricksy changeling twist- it’s better than the adoption story. Bloom’s backstory is so so dark- yet it manages to stay true to the original. That’s what I like most of all: how this captures the spirit of the cartoon and manages to do something different. My favourite part is that it really shows off the female friendship (whilst making it a bit more mature). So, if you enjoy supernatural teen shows, then definitely check this out if you haven’t already!

Where the Crawdads Sing– don’t be fooled by the short review, I listened to this on audio and was transfixed from beginning to end. Part murder mystery, part coming of age, this book unravels the secrets of a girl living alone in a swamp. Exploring themes of isolation, prejudice and being an outsider, it’s the kind of story that nests in your thoughts. While it stays rooted in the Cove, I felt swept up by the journey. With each turn of the plot, I felt like I was drifting further upstream, deeper into this unknown and unknowable territory. I felt the setting come to life; the characters were vividly real. I don’t know what more to say without spoiling it, so I’ll leave it there: because this is a book you simply must experience for yourself. Everything about this was remarkable.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Memory Police– unfortunately this was not the most memorable story. Far be it for me to police art, but this novel was a little muddling. Essentially, this was an allegory for a totalitarian regime. At first, I found its simplicity had a certain power. I liked the mysterious names and enigmatic curiosities. However, as the narrative progressed, it got exceptionally weird and I started to lose my way. While I liked the story within a story aspect, it wasn’t particularly ground-breaking. And I couldn’t understand the main character’s profession (writer) given the context. Perhaps the meaning was a little bit too elusive for me- however it ultimately felt like it was failing to tease out the ideas that already exist Orwell. I already understood how totalitarian regimes get power from erasing the past without reading the book.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Bitter– this was not what I expected- yet I don’t resent reading it in the slightest. Whilst I expected this to be a very typical thriller, this was far more discursive about empathy than I thought it would be. This voicey novel forces us to understand the view of a borderline-stalker-y, lonely old woman. And rather than having the explosive twist you’re waiting for, it’s more of an emotional tug on the heartstrings. Which, if you saw the description, you wouldn’t expect at all. It was far more of an interesting peek into someone’s mind and an exploration of how someone might become bitter. The only downside to this voicey novel turned out to be how hard it was being in this character’s head. Otherwise, an intriguingly different novel.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Echo North– what a wonderful book. This fairy tale retelling blends East of the Sun and West of the Moon and Beauty and the Beast… and offers something entirely original. Don’t expect your typical, beautiful YA heroine. It actually fulfilled the promise of doing something different with the original story. There were was plenty of magic and some really charming ideas here- I especially adored the book mirrors. I was incredibly impressed with the ending as well- threading all the little details of the story together. And I thoroughly enjoyed the dreamy tone. I wolfed it down in one sitting. It’s severely underrated and underappreciated.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Fatherland– unfortunately, I found this read a bit pointless. Maybe this is something I’m being a bit of a hypocrite about, however, as an alternate history story detailing “what would have happened if the Nazis won”, this was almost too historical (I know! I’m the one always complaining that alternate history is too ahistorical!) The problem was most of the story was just recounting history… and then restoring the proper historical status quo… so what was the point? I did like the idea of uncovering the hidden crimes of a nation and shattering the illusion of a perfect society- it’s just it didn’t really do more than that. Plus, considering we already know that the Nazis were evil, it’s not exactly revelatory. I just think this could have gone a lot further (especially considering I have always maintained that the Nazis would’ve just kept murdering different races until they were stopped). I don’t want to be too harsh, however, as a lot of my meh feelings for this book could come down to the fact that the writing style just wasn’t for me. I failed to connect with the characters and that severely impacted my reaction. Objectively, there were some visceral descriptions and it was quite pacey.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Wife Upstairs– there was a lot to like about this modern take on Jane Eyre/the mad woman in the attic trope. From the beginning, I appreciated the Southern gothic tone and layers to the narration. The unreliable narrator twists the plain Jane character into someone more intriguing and cunning. The story subtly developed in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It’s not an in-your-face dramatic thriller, but it certainly had enough to keep me gripped. The nods to the original could be a little on the nose, though personally I enjoyed them all. The one issue I had, without getting into spoilers, was that the ending was a little far-fetched and hard to buy. But I still highly recommend this for fans of the original and thriller addicts.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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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 all had a good month!

Burn Our Bodies Down Sparked Plenty of Intrigue

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but any spicy takes are all me!***

burn our bodies downThere’s no two ways about it: this is an unusual book. At its heart a mystery- yet with its heavy dose of the supernatural and its hints of horror, this isn’t you run-of-the-mill YA. It’s surreal, speculative and a little out there. But what can you expect from the author who gave us Wilder Girls? And yes, I feel it’s necessary to compare it to the Wilder Girls, because I’m beginning to feel like this author is doing so much of her own thing, she’s only truly comparable with herself… and that’s rather thrilling.

Despite a somewhat meandering (but still intriguing) start, the plot has potency. The author has a real gift for drawing you into her world and vividly set the scene. Not to mention the characters she casts to bring the story to life- they are all fractured in their own way, yet reflect back parts of reality. They carry the oddness and the moody tone. Again, it doesn’t quite remind me of anything else.

Then there’s the mystery itself. Full of those kind of jump scares that keep you on your toes and creepy realisations that set your hair on end. The mash-up of genres is interesting, giving answers and raising more questions still. I got a sense of a mythic elements, threading through the narrative. I did see some of the outcomes coming- though that hardly matters. It’s the kind of story that enjoys giving you bits and pieces- just so the slow-dawning terror of what is really going on can freak you out all the more. Plus, this does give you a more tangible ending than Wilder Girls (though I can’t actually decide which one is ultimately more unsettling).

And that’s really all I can say about it without getting into spoilers. I wrote a lot of things down in my notes that make no sense out of context (which is unfortunate, because it’s quite funny reading them back and seeing how my brain coped with the all the *whoas* this book delivered 😉).

I easily burned through this in a day and got more than a few chills along the way. And it definitely stands out as something a little bit different. (Also I have to mention how incredible I think that cover is!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? Do you plan to? Or have you read the author’s other work? Let me know in the comments!

An Honest Report on Code Name Verity: It Soars Above Expectations!

code name verity20th January, 2020

Report #CodeNameVerity

Truly, this is one of the best WW2 books I’ve ever read. Saying that this reveals the realities of being a war time spy and pilot fails to do it justice- for what this story really manages to record is the untold depths of real friendship.

audiobook2The first thing I need to state for the record is that the audiobook was excellent. Both performers were *on point*. I felt they captured the voicey nature of the writing and gave a strong sense of setting through their acting. They brought the vivid characters to life with their delivery- capturing every little piece of their personalities, from Verity’s wry humour to Maddy’s goodness. I also really appreciated their regional accents! (actually, that’s just one example of the authenticity here)

Second on the agenda: this was an exceptionally well written novel. I loved how it was structured- giving us clues and then decoding the narrative. I also really liked the construct of confessions and reports- complete with interjections. It added so many layers to the story, showing that the truth is not always so straightforward. Annnd I have to be careful with my words, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Plot-wise, this was terrifically thrilling. It flew from intense descriptions and emotional moments, right into action. Employing all kinds of tricks and turns- so you never knew what was going to hit you next. While it was possible to predict the ending, you were only given a glimpse from a bird’s eye view. By the time it was upon me, my heart was already freewheeling towards the ground.

Most of all, however, I wasn’t expecting this book to have quite as much depth as it did. For it didn’t just make me feel, it made me think as well. It dealt with complex issues in a way I rarely see in YA.

This was honestly wonderful. I just can’t keep my feelings for this book a secret; I love everything about it (even the author’s afterword!) And that’s all there is to say about it.

“Kiss me Hardy!”

– O. L.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Forgettable Books- Books I Can’t Remember… Though I Definitely Read Them (I think)

This has to be one of the most challenging posts I’ve ever written. Not because it’s going to be well thought out or involve any skill whatsoever… but because (for obvious reasons) I don’t remember which books I’ve forgotten! 😉 But I scavenged through my goodreads and found some books that I remember reading… however don’t remember anything about them.

Now, *big disclaimer here*, not all of these are bad books. There’s lots of reasons I might have forgotten them. For starters I like to forget as much as I can about books I plan to reread in a futile attempt to recapture the magic of reading them for the first time. Secondly, it might just have been pre-blogging/a really long time ago (part of the reason I love doing reviews is so that I don’t forget everything about a book!)

Anyway, that out of the way, I’m going to jump into it- starting with the most recent and going back in time:

Starless Sea– I read this book? No, seriously, I did read it, I swear. However, as soon as I finished a sentence/page/the whole darn book, I was left with only fragments of images. My mind became a bit numb to the very verbose style. There isn’t a lot of plot to speak of and I didn’t feel any connection to the (quite surface level) characters. Now, I’m sounding really harsh, but there were reasons I kept going with this story: it’s beautiful in parts and its premise centres on loving stories. It wasn’t my thing, yet I kinda knew there was a chance of that going in (hence it wasn’t on my disappointing books list).

Unwind– this is one that annoys me. Not because I remember something particularly egregious about this book… but because I don’t. What irks me is that I really liked Shusterman’s writing in Scythe and so am curious about his other works. And I’ve heard people I trust swear this one is great. ONLY I GAVE THIS 1* 5 YEARS AGO AND I DON’T KNOW WHY! I’d love to know if I was wrong about this book… yet I’m far too scared to pick it up again because there was probably a reason I didn’t like it. Maybe I should just read a spoilery review.

Slated- I’m including this cos it’s ironic 😉 This is a book about not remembering who you are, from way back in the dystopia craze. What’s really confusing to me is that I apparently didn’t like the first one… but ended up liking the rest of the series? Which is super weird and unusual for me- especially when it comes to YA dystopian series. Let’s be real though, I’m going to have to be content not knowing why cos I doubt I’ll ever pick it up again.

A Gathering Light– by contrast, I remember really like the atmosphere for this one. And not much else. And I have very little to say about it… Except that this is one I constantly see in libraries and have frequently been tempted to read it… only to remember I already have!

Across the Nightingale Floor- this is another one that haunts me. Mostly because I’ve seen people talking about this and been curious to try again with the series (mostly because of the setting). I’ve even put the rest of the series on my TBR in hopes I will get to it one day (I won’t).

Red Necklace– I really like this author… however this is not one of her memorable works. It can’t have been that good, to be honest, since I’m fascinated by this era and would’ve remembered *something* if it was.

Passage to India– okay, this is one I distinctly remember reading. I was in a post-essay writing haze at uni (I’d pulled an all-nighter because I was a masochist/bad student). And I remember being in the tutorial and talking about the book… I cannot for the life of me remember what I said. I don’t know if I kept my copy, so I can neither confirm or deny if I annotated it as well (I swear I remember nothing about this book! It’s like my mind sinks into a memory hole whenever I think of it!) Most bizarrely of all, when I looked up the synopsis I was confused cos I didn’t remember anything it described happening and had inserted false memories into the story. I should probably reread it to get to the bottom of this mystery (but I won’t).

King’s General– by contrast to a lot of the books on this list, I definitely want to reread it (in fact this came to my attention because I thought about how much I want to reread it and had the rather pleasant realisation that I don’t remember much about it). I read this back in my Du Maurier phase and loved it. And while I have the plots of my two favourite Du Mauriers imprinted on my brain, apart from certain aspects of the history and setting, I don’t remember this nearly as well. And I’m so excited to re-experience this one!

Wind Singer– okay, I’m cheating by including this one, since there are parts (particularly to do with the beginning and ending) that I remember very well. However, I don’t remember all the details in between and actually would love to reread this one! (but am also scared it won’t be as good as I remember!)

So, have you read any of these? Did you find them more memorable than I did? And can you recall any books you don’t remember? 😉 Let me know in the comments! (And if you know what I mean, but can’t think of anything on the spot, feel free to come back later or make your own post! 😉)

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – January 2021: A New Year Update!

Hello all! We did it! We made it to 2021!

Not to be totally underwhelming after that, but I don’t have a whole lot to report about the start of 2021. I do want to check in and give a quick New Year’s Update about my blogging plans for 2021… which are essentially that I’ve not made any plans. Basically, in the dread year that was 2020, I didn’t give myself much time off from anything… which has led to me being pretty burnt out and wanting to do things a bit differently. I just don’t know what that means as of yet 😉 There will likely be fewer posts in January while I figure things out.

Tiny Pretty Things– I appreciated some things about this as an adaptation, since it was a good take on the book (which admittedly I didn’t enjoy all that much). Think Pretty Little Liars– but with some cool dance sequences. For a TV show, it’s not bad at all. Plus, if you need some crazy teen drama in your life, then this is for you. And, what’s great is that you won’t have to wait goodness knows how many seasons for the mystery to be solved. The one thing that really bugged me was how this portrayed ballet as some right-wing bastion… which, c’mon, really? *eye roll* Suffice to say, it’s a pretty left-wing industry… though I guess that wouldn’t have fit with the America-bashing the show was going for. Alas, everything in TV has to have a smidgen of *I hate the West* propaganda these days.  

Bridgertonthis was the perfect pulpy tv to watch over Christmas break (and third lockdown *sigh*). It’s basically Gossip Girl in Regency England! Well, an alternate history version of Regency England (and even then it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief). Either way, I was hooked cos this packed in the DRAMA! There’s fake-dating and hate-to-love here. There’s light-hearted fun and stress and *emotions*. And there’s a mystery (that thankfully we’re not left in the dark about for season 2… oh please TV gods give me a season 2!). I actually read the book because of this and had some issues with it… suffice to say this was better!

Fire Child– I picked this up, cos I loved Ice Twins when I read it a couple of years ago. This was good… but not as good. It had a lot of the same strong elements: the creepily remote location, the strong writing, the growing intrigue. The one thing that stopped me from loving it quite as much was the odd ending. It worked… just about… maybe. It made sense of somethings, but it was also a bit far-fetched. Ah well, I guess I liked the journey, if not the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Accidentally in Love- oh my goodness, this had the worst. love. interest. ever. Everything about him was unpleasant- he’s mocking, rude and snobbish. And turns all this around on her to say “we’re the same!!” Just the dream guy for every gal, amiright? I just don’t understand how the main character fell for him. While this was objectively just the kind of fun-ride romance I should have just leaned back and appreciated, I just couldn’t root for this couple because the male lead was SO AWFUL! Also, this won the award for weirdest metaphor of the month- why would you say you’re “pacing like an expectant father” about a potential love interest coming over? That conjures a strange image.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Roanoke Girls– okay this is not usually the type of book I like. Well, I didn’t enjoy it, but in this case, that’s the point. It’s little literary, mystery. Though it’s not really a puzzle you have to solve- it’s far more about discovering the trauma and characters coming to understand it. It was superbly written and completely disturbing- the kind of book I wish I hadn’t read in public, because it kept making me jump. And while it’s not technically horror, horrifying is the only way to describe it. It made my blood run cold.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Keeper of the Lost Cities– don’t let the rating fool you- I liked this a lot. It was a very easy and enjoyable read. It’s a great start to an MG series about a girl that discovers she is an elf and gets to join their secret world. That said, there were things that bugged me. My biggest issue was that, although the protagonist Sophie has bundles of personality, she also had far too many abilities. There’s literally nothing she can’t do- and for me that leaves her teetering on special snowflake-dom. And while there were enough mysteries, action and the promise of very real danger to keep me reading through the first book, I doubt I’d pick up the rest of the series because of that. I just prefer the kind of protagonists that have more flaws and fewer talents. I’d still recommend it if you want to try more MG fantasy- though it’s not a complete winner for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all have a good New Year!

Books that gave me a hangover

Usually when I finish a good book, it whets the appetite for another. Yet, on rare occasions, I am so intoxicated that I cannot read another one. These are just a few books that *ruined* me for others:

Wuthering Heights– heady and romantic and doomed… the kind of story that you can’t easily shake. It’s one of the first books I can remember giving me a hangover (when I was, I’ll admit, underage 😉). 

Jude the Obscure– after I finished this, I was so dumbstruck, all I could do was stare at the walls. I was completely unable to do anything, let alone read. It’s the kind of book that made me think “damn, never gonna do that again…” Needless to say, I don’t picture myself rereading it!

Sadie– there is no recovering from this any time soon- it delivers an absolute gut-punch of an ending.

High Lord– what started out much like any fantasy ended up breaking me. And I didn’t see it coming.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters– indeed there’s nothing quite like the perfect end to a series- and this dreamy Romeo and Juliet story of Angels and Demons was nothing short of *perfection*.

Winter of the Witch– I looked at my stats and didn’t remember any of the books I read after- they were all in its shadow. An enchanting end to an enchanting series.

Circe– I was so under this Odyssey retelling’s spell, that nothing measured up after. Circe completely captured my soul with its beauty and ingenuity.

Six of Crows– can you imagine what it was like not to have the next one when I finished this?? Such a brilliant series- but I recommend having both on hand at the same time (oh and maybe some tissues).

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– I couldn’t stop thinking about this after I finished. And now you’re going to have to deal with me talking about this over and over 😉 Not one I’ll be forgetting in a hurry!

Carry On– a Harry Potter parody is not the kind of thing I would’ve expected to give me a terrible book hangover- and yet I loved this so much, after I was done, nothing else would satisfy me than picking it up and starting all over again!  

With the Fire on High– there was something so simply satisfying about this that I just didn’t find anything else as appetising after. Nothing was quite the same. It’s the kind of contemporary YA that just hits the spot.

So have you read any of these? Do you feel the same way? And what books gave you a book hangover? Let me know in the comments!

Looking back on 2020 Resolutions- Success or Failure?

I find it almost hilarious to put “2020” and “success or failure” together in a sentence. 2020 has been a year… or 20 years in one, which is why I won’t even attempt to sum it up. I wish I could say I was someone who was productive in all the various lockdowns… but I wasn’t. And usually I find inspiration in my midyear’s resolutions to *keep going*… but I didn’t. I pretty much gave up with most of my goals early on.  Which is why my results are all over the place… 

Bookish

READ MORE NON FIC!

Starting off with a massive success- I have no idea how I did it, but I managed to read 26 non fiction books in 2020!!! This is an absolute record for me!!

Score: 10/10

(shame I didn’t cheat and add points to this in the mid-year post cos I could’ve done with picking up a few- even if I’d already read over my target…)

READ MORE CHALLENGING BOOKS!

Oof massive fail. I just wasn’t feeling this after Covid struck.

Score: 1/10

READ MORE POETRY!

Not a bad result considering I gave up on this too!

Score: 4/5

READ MORE PLAYS!

No idea how I did it… but I did it!! Really surprised and happy with this win!

Score: 5/5

DO SOME REREADING!

I did well here! Somehow I managed to read more than my target of 5! I’m especially happy with this cos I always enjoy rereading (but I wouldn’t do it if not for this challenge!) Every single one of these books was an absolute pleasure to revisit. Pratchett in particular was a real tonic! And I finally started rereading the His Dark Materials trilogy!

Score: 5/5

Non Bookish

DO MORE ART!

Ehh as I mentioned in my mid-year’s post, this was a poorly defined goal. I should’ve done more for it, but at the same time, I’ve done a gazillion cartoons this year (off the internet). I’m counting this as a win.

Score: 5/5

Do more yoga! 

So this is another big success! I completed three yoga challenges midway through the year and was actually inspired to keep going with another three challenges! So original challenge and extra credit combined gives me:

Score: 10/10

(if anyone’s interested in trying out the challenges, I did a bunch of the Yoga with Adriene ones- my favourites being Revolution and Home)

START A NEW WRITING PROJECT!

Done!

Score 5/5

I did have some stretch goals, but let’s face it, they were too much of a s-t-r-e-t-c-h!

SORT THROUGH BOX OF STUFF

Yeahhh I still can’t believe I was in two lockdowns and didn’t manage to finish this… but there were reasons (I swear not excuses) that I didn’t. I mean, when I was doing nothing but working, I didn’t much fancy doing a clear-out with the limited free time I did have. Much better to just watch the Tiger King (yes I know I could’ve easily combined those two things shhhh). Anyway, this is over half empty.

Score: 3/5

Total Score: 48/60 = 80%

B

Ahh I’m actually really happy with that! Can’t believe I’ve scraped through with a B! I’ve done worse before and it wasn’t 2020… so I’ll take it! How have you done with your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments! And a ***Happy New Year*** to you all!

My Most Disappointing Reads 2020

We’ve made it! It’s the end of 2020! Luckily for me, books haven’t been such a big disappointment this year, so I haven’t made it to a full list of ten (for the second year in a row!!) As per usual, this is not necessarily going to be the worst books I read this year, just the most disappointing (amazingly, some books that I didn’t like surpassed my expectations and didn’t make it onto the list). I’ve only written reviews for some of these- which are linked- but a fair number will be the first (and last time) I’ll be talking about them… So enjoy the rants while they last! 😉

Girl Woman Other– this was undoubtedly the worst book of the year- possibly of any year- but it wasn’t as disappointing as some of the other books on this list. Partly because a) I shouldn’t have bothered reading it given my track record with prizewinners lately and b) I should have stopped reading once I realised the writing was so shocking (I did stop once, yet saw so much praise, I had to go back and see if there was any merit to it. There wasn’t). So, you see my expectations weren’t that high to begin with- however since I hated it this much, I couldn’t reasonably leave it off the list altogether. Putting it last is a compromise.

The Hand on the Wall– I was too generous when I reviewed this one, cos I wanted to like it so badly. But really, the solution to the mystery was not satisfying enough and too many subplots took over (*spoiler alert*: I didn’t invest all that time for it to be all about money). In truth, I should’ve seen the writing on the wall after book 2 plummeted into politics-ville.

Bringing Down the Duke– in retrospect, I don’t know why I hated this book quite as much as I did, because it really is supposed to just be a bit of fun. However, for me, something grated about the historical inaccuracies and I ended up not loving it as much as I wanted to.

Foundation– this was quite simply not my cup of tea- I didn’t enjoy the fact it was more philosophy than storytelling and didn’t click with the writing.

Slaughterhouse Five– this is another one that just wasn’t for me. Not just because it was a bit odd, but because I never enjoy stream of consciousness. I wasn’t the right reader for this book.  

Wait for Me– this would have been a fairly “meh” read if not for a couple of issues that really irked me. One, I’m not totally on board with the whole Nazi/German rehabilitated romance. It’s a weird trend that’s not to my taste. Two, the writing killed the atmosphere. There was very little sense of place except for the occasional “aye”. Worse still, the teens didn’t just sound modern, they sounded very immature. From the writing, I’d have guessed this was a MG, but the romance was a bit too much of a central focus for this to be aimed at 12 year olds. Either way, it’s safe to say I’m not the target audience for this book, so please bear that in mind.

Queen of Ruin– this was worse the more I thought about it. My biggest issue with this was the fact that characters need to grow in sequels… otherwise what’s the point? Especially in this case- where they didn’t finish the first story as the best version of themselves. After starting strong in book 1, Nomi had made a big mistake, meaning she needed to toughen up and stop being so naïve. Serena had gotten really tough in the first book, but it could have been interesting for her to learn to soften. It would’ve been great to see both characters meet somewhere in the middle and realise that both parts of their personality were important. Instead, nothing happened to their character arcs. It was all action and not-so-subtle lecturing. Very disappointing indeed, since it had so much potential as a series.

Unorthodox– ugh I hate even talking about this book… which is why this’ll be the first (and probably last) time I ever mention it. I didn’t have a good experience reading this. Not because it was shocking (which it is) or because it’s unfamiliar territory (which it is) but because I couldn’t quite find my feet with the narrative. A lot of things didn’t add up. After doing some research, I found a lot of claims disputed. Add to that the fact she deliberately changed (vital) parts of her story (sometimes to supposedly “protect the anonymity” of people… whose pictures she included). That’s just not something I’ve come to expect from “true stories” and made it hard to take the story at face value. It felt more like he-said, she-said rather than a typical biography and I don’t feel that comfortable getting in the middle of it. Let’s just say it’s an unorthodox way to write a memoir and leave it at that.

War of Art– not to be mistaken for the Art of War 😉 I don’t know why, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve already ranted about this, so I’ll keep it brief. I expected quite a lot from this book- especially after enjoying some inspirational books on similar topics- but it let me down faster than a whoopie cushion.

So- dare I ask- what do you think of these? Have you read any of them? And what were your worst books of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Books I successfully DNF’d #2

A few months back I did a post talking about books I successfully DNF’d. What I loved about doing that post is it encouraged me to give up on books I’d have otherwise powered through… So I decided to do another one for the other books I’ve DNF’d this year! I might even make a tradition of it (if I can keep up the DNFing that is). For now, let’s just jump into it:

Devouring Gray– at first, I thought there was no real reason to DNF this, cos I liked the opening and thought it was pretty atmospheric. Still, I hit a roadblock at 43% and couldn’t seem to get passed it. I simply didn’t care where it was headed and I was trying to have more pleasurable reads in the pandemic, so quit while I was ahead, thinking I could try it again at some point. I really wanted to like it, so a month or so later, I picked it up again… only to get stuck again at 15%. That’s when I realised the problem wasn’t in my head. I think there’s a serious pacing and character issue for me here.   

Fix Her Up– this really didn’t work for me as a “fake girlfriend/boyfriend” story. They started getting it on pretty fast- so it doesn’t really qualify. It also didn’t help that I didn’t find the characters very likeable. However, what absolutely killed this book for me was how awkward the descriptions were for the romance- things like rashes are just off-putting and shouldn’t be anywhere near a sex scene. Worst of all, while they’re making out, the male lead thinks she’s looking at him like she’s going to “harvest his organs”- how… sweet?

Hygge Holiday– I borrowed this for my sister, but of course, once it was in my hands, I thought I might give it a try too… I got a few chapters in before deciding “not for me”.

Nine Perfect Strangers– I borrowed this on overdrive, cos I loved Big Little Lies by the same author. Yet, after two weeks of struggling to get into it, I realised it wasn’t going to work. Sadly, the characters remained strangers to me and I just couldn’t connect with any of it. Plus, the reviews weren’t looking too positive, so it didn’t seem worth powering through. 

Angel Mage– this book did nothing for me, unfortunately. I got about 2/3 of the way in before I started skimming. At that point I knew it was only a matter of time before I DNF’d. I think I only had 10% left before I gave up.

The Secret Barrister– I couldn’t stand the longwinded pomposity. I quit after 2 (very long) chapters. I think he was trying to copy Kay’s success with a professional memoir… but this is nothing like This is Going to Hurt. It’s got none of the charm, humour or heart- just plenty of virtue signalling.

The Ragwitch– I just had a completely different view of what this book would be. I thought it was going to be a spooky story, but it was in actuality a slightly MG adventure story. Not a bad thing, but not the kind of thing I wanted to be reading.

Hot Milk– this is my latest (and really recent) DNF. I tried with this one, but I just couldn’t stick out the 200 pages to the end! Unfortunately, after a well-written opening, it just became a bit staid and samey and wasn’t doing anything for me. I’m blaming the morose tone and flat voice- after the year we’ve all had, I just didn’t want to be in this Debbie Downer’s head a moment longer.

Annnnd that’s all I have for now! Not bad for me- but could be better! Especially since there was a real stinker that I DNF’d and picked back up again (which will be mentioned in my most disappointing of the year).

But what I want to know is- did I make a mistake with any of these? If you’ve read them, do you recommend finishing? Or did you get more out of them? Let me know in the comments!