The No Disclaimers Book Tag!

Being the kind of person that apologises to a chair if I bump into it, I feel like a post like this presents a bit of challenge. But I am nothing if not determined! I saw this first on Booktube and then on the splendid Strange Storyteller 🙂 So I’ve decided to do it myself… with no disclaimers!

  1. Which trope(s) in books annoys you the most?

The Chosen One (unless it’s flipped on its head), love triangles (especially with cheating), really put off by instalove these days (and any kind of “mating”… eww even using that word makes me feel a bit sick). And I’m sorry to say a lot of these end up in the Throne of Glass series (which explains why I outgrew it):

  1. Which writer(s) do you feel is overrated/overhyped?

Damn, this is hard, because most of the time I can see why other people like things, even if I don’t. Still, I trawled through my goodreads and came up with an answer: Divergent. I don’t get why this was so hyped. Granted, I feel like I added to the interest by reading the whole damned series… but I never thought it was worth the hype. The concept never made a lot of sense to me and I didn’t think there was a good enough reason to make a dystopia around this topic. I couldn’t imagine a society ever taking things to this extreme and wondered at the justification for it (usually there’s some kind of social commentary that underpins a dystopic system). Turns out I was right: it seems like the whole concept was made up on the fly, since (*spoiler alert*) the dystopic city in the story was set within a dystopic world that agreed dividing people up based on 5 traits was a dumb idea. Basically it was a waste of time and wouldn’t recommend it.

  1. What are your least favorite books you’ve read since joining BookTube blogging?

Ah well I blame myself for this one, cos I first saw a book review saying that this wasn’t worth the hype… but I read the Foxhole Court anyway. Either way, I don’t get why this is so popular in blogging and on booktube. Funnily enough, a lot of people that love this series tend to call out other books for being “problematic”… when this is super dodgy?! I don’t get the appeal. 

  1. What is a terrible ending that ruined an otherwise quality book?

Oh gosh I hate the series enders Hand on the Wall (a dull solution to a mystery is a killer), Queen of Ruin (undermined the interesting dystopic concept) and Ashes to Ashes (fails to deliver the promised redemption arc).

  1. Which fictional character(s) do you wish was not killed off?

I have to agree with the Strange Storyteller’s answers- I didn’t like Finnick Odair’s death and I didn’t think most of the later Harry Potter deaths were necessary (as much as I hate to admit it, the deaths of Sirius and Dumbledore work for the story). And there’s always that death in Crooked Kingdom– that totally, totally works- and yet I wish hadn’t happened…

  1. What are some of your bookish pet peeves?

Politics in books (isn’t it bad enough in the real world?), moralising (ugh), pretentiousness (double ugh) and books that are just set up (why waste my time?!).

  1. What are some books you feel should have more recognition?

Great question! Some new(ish) books to whet your palate 😊:

The first is a sizzling collection of poetry, the second is a hotly-paced thriller and the last is a lush contemporary. All of these would make great holiday companions!

  1. What are your thoughts on censorship and banning books?

Hell no! Not acceptable! It’s obviously perfectly fine to choose not to read something or decide you don’t want to support an author, but banning books?! That’s just fascistic.

  1. Who do you tag?

Zezee, Journey into Books, Kat @Life and Other Disasters, Sam @Rivermoose Reads, Meghan, Book Forager, Read Betwixt Words and anyone else that wants to do it!

And that’s all for now- do you agree or disagree with my answers? Should I have put in disclaimers for some of these? 😉 Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May it be May 2021?!

(not actually trying to make a LOTR reference… though who am I kidding that’s totally a reference 😉)

Hello all! Very very very exciting news! All my work-stuff paid off and I got a new job in libraries! I’m going full time!! And I’m really, really happy about it!!! Not sure where my blogging will be at while I get into the swing of things- WE SHALL SEE (she says ominously 😉 ) Please bear with me!

Other than that, we’re also starting to see the light (okay maybe only the outside of pubs 😉 ) in England. Hopefully, hopefully things will start looking up soon! *CHEERS!*

With the application/interview, I’ve fallen into a bit of a reading slump, so haven’t got a lot to talk about this month. But there’s still some gems to share. First though, I watched a fab film:

Karate Kid– have you ever rewatched something 20 or so years later and it’s like experiencing it for the first time? Well, this is what it was like to rewatch Karate Kid. It felt faintly familiar and comforting- and yet I was delighted by how fresh it felt. Feel good and with strong characters, it’s one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a long time (twenty years or so I’d say 😉). I loved the spirit of the story and the goodie vs baddie themes. It’s got some real depth to it as well- teaching the viewer not to simply become what we hate- but be something better. It’s very powerful stuff and incredibly inspiring 😊

The Happiest Man on Earth– you perhaps won’t expect to find a holocaust memoir to be one of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read- but that’s exactly what this is. It’s obviously hard to read at times and has some harrowing stories, however ultimately this was a beautifully life-affirming read. A real quick read, I was shocked by some of the revelations and at times wondered if this was the unluckiest man on earth. And yet- and yet somehow he managed to survive. More than that, Jaku built a life for himself and his family. He never allowed himself to become less than human- no matter what circumstances tried to strip that from him. He is a shining example of humanity.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Tiny Beautiful Things- compiled of letters to and from an agony aunt dubbed Sugar, this had the miraculous ability to be in part a touching life-advice and part memoir. Though I didn’t agree with every piece of advice, the warmth and sweetness behind Sugar’s every word was undeniable. I will admit that I did find I had to take some of the letters with a pinch of salt- some of the suggestions were a bit too saccharine and out of touch with (my) reality. That said, I think I got a lot out of reading this- not just for the author’s take, but the immensely powerful stories of everyone that wrote to her. And, after reading this, I very much look forward to reading the author’s fiction.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Then She Was Gone– I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I just really like Lisa Jewell’s books. Yes, they’re not traditionally thrilling thrillers; yes, the “twists” are more than a little obvious. AND YET, even if I can sense the exact steps the narrative will take towards its conclusion, I just really appreciate the journey. Focusing more on the lives of victims than villains, this book was very much focused on the explosion of horror into a normal life. Though absorbing, it was not for the typical reasons I find a thriller absorbing. Rather I was compelled to witness an unravelling of the cruel realities that make up so many crimes. Jewell imagines lives touched by tragedy with startling empathy. And of course, Jewell always has that magic way of making her characters real and genuinely good.

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

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Court of Silver Flames– I have issues; I really don’t know why I read this book. I knew very well that I was unlikely to enjoy it- I was dissatisfied with the ending in ACOWAR and thought ACOFAS was a waste of time. So, I should’ve known this wouldn’t be for me. Still, the ending of the series had left me wanting more… And I didn’t get that here. Unless you count lots more of Maas’ infamous sex scenes. Lots and lots of sex scenes. Ones that I didn’t find particularly sexy (somehow talk of “impaling” doesn’t exactly do it for me). Unfortunately there isn’t much to say beyond that. The story was a kind of formless blob. The plot was all over the place. Apart from the “romance” (*ahem*), it’s just a jumbled mess. Many times I questioned, where the hell is this going? (Minor spoiler: in a freakishly Breaking Dawn direction apparently). I did think the ending was saved by a moment of grace and proof that the whole story had been in service of character development (even if it didn’t seem that way while I reading). This somewhat saved the reading experience for me. That and the fact that, as a character, Nesta occasionally grabbed my attention… except when she was moaning “boohoo it sucks to be an all-powerful immortal”. Honestly, I have to hold my hands up and admit it was my fault for reading this in the first place. I really need to have some s(h)elf control and stop picking up books from this author- for my own good!!

Rating: 2.5/5 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!

Spring Cleaning Book Tag!

Time for me to clean up my blogging act… by doing a tag I wasn’t tagged for 😉 But I found this over on the amazing Zezee’s blog a while back and it looks like a fun substitute for doing any actual spring cleaning my bookshelves 😉 (And if, like me, you’d rather be stacking the shelves this year rather than clearing them out, then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND checking out Zezee’s fantastic blog- it’s packed with fab tags, reviews and hauls that’ll have you rushing out to the bookstores! 😊)

This tag was created by booktuber Jen @ Book Syrup.

THE STRUGGLE OF GETTING STARTED: A BOOK/BOOK SERIES THAT YOU HAVE STRUGGLED TO BEGIN BECAUSE OF ITS SIZE.

Oh easily the Malazan series- I’m just terrified of book series that are so GINORMOUS!

CLEANING OUT THE CLOSET: A BOOK AND/OR BOOK SERIES YOU WANT TO UNHAUL.

Truly Devious– I feel guilty about this cos I don’t usually like to get rid of pretty hardbacks… but I was so disappointed by where this series ended up. As a murder mystery, it didn’t deliver the killer twist I was looking for and so I’m axing it from my shelves.  

OPENING WINDOWS AND LETTING FRESH AIR IN: A BOOK THAT WAS REFRESHING.

Tea Dragon Society– just so cute and the perfect palate cleanser. I enjoyed every second 😊

WASHING OUT SHEET STAINS: A BOOK YOU WISH YOU COULD REWRITE A CERTAIN SCENE IN.

Could I just remove the whole weird sex goddess part from Wise Man’s Fear? And, is it just me, or did all that bragging make you doubt his prowess? Seems like he’s overcompensating for something…

THROWING OUT UNNECESSARY KNICK-KNACKS: A BOOK IN A SERIES THAT YOU DIDN’T FEEL WAS NECESSARY.

Blood and Honey– this wasn’t just middle book syndrome- this was Why The Hell Did This Instalment Exist Syndrome. There was no plan for this to be a trilogy and it should have stuck to that plan. This entire book was filler and it felt like a complete waste of time.

POLISHING THE DOORKNOBS: A BOOK THAT HAD A CLEAN FINISH.

I love a polished ending! One of my *favourites* lately was the one in Where the Crawdads Sing… but I can’t talk about it cos of spoilers! (but seriously do yourself a favour and read it!!)

REACHING TO DUST THE FAN: A BOOK THAT TRIED TOO HARD TO RELAY A CERTAIN MESSAGE.

Ahh I hate moralising books! Gotta go with one of the worst culprits: Inspector Calls. I did a deep-dive investigation to get to the root of its evils a while back- and it was painful. But if you want to be preached to, then this is the play for you!

THE TIRING YET SATISFYING FINISH OF SPRING CLEANING: A BOOK SERIES THAT WAS TIRING YET SATISFYING TO GET THROUGH.

Hmm I don’t tend to read tiring series- yet I can say that there’s a helluva lot of Misery to get through if you try the Blackwing series (I hope someone in the comments has read the book, otherwise that was a waste of a great pun 😉). This series is a surprisingly hard-hitting, emotional read.

LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT SPRING: TAG 4 PEOPLE YOU WANT TO DO THIS TAG.

Kat @Life and Other Disasters, Rivermoose Reads, Journey into Books, Bookstooge and anyone else that wants to do it!

Have you been spring cleaning your books? Any you would like to clear out? Let me know in the comments!

Was Game of Thrones Always Going to Disappoint Me?

It’s the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones… and I wouldn’t have noticed if not for this video on its ruined legacy. And it got me thinking a couple of things- 1) how did time fly so fast and 2) was GOT ruined or was it always designed to go up in wildfire? Obviously, I won’t be using this post to address the former, just the latter 😉

Before GRRM superfans tar and feather me- I’m not trying to take away the series’ merit. Don’t get me wrong: I love the world building, the characters and fascinating themes. However, speaking to my own personal taste, reflecting on some of the concepts does make me wonder if I was always going to wind up unhappy with the ending.

Game of Thrones was always a divisive series. Barely an episode could go by without some kind of critique or scandal. And this is not an accident or merely the showrunner’s doing. Going off of Martin’s own interviews, much of the series is designed to be a counterbalance to traditional fantasy. The traditional fantasy that I, and many other mainstream audiences, love. Lord of the Rings, for instance, is famously hopeful, inspiring and the prime example of good triumphing over evil. Though it has tragic elements, it certainly does not hinge on them. When we set out from the Shire we are assured of a safe(ish) resolution.     

Whereas GRRM promised us bittersweet. And if it is to be a counterbalance to the likes of LOTR then by golly that must be some BITTERsweet ending. Most of the plot points have tragedy written all over them; there is barely a glimmer of optimism in all the books. The best we could hope for is our favourites not dying and maybe, just maybe getting their revenge! In the words of Ramsay Bolton…

That’s not to say all tragedies are disappointing. In the usual ebb and flow of a tragedy, there is often a highpoint that alleviates the characters’ (and the readers’) suffering. Think Tess and Angels’ blissful summer in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Of course, we know this lovely moment cannot last, yet we can delude ourselves into thinking it will, and this gives us our catharsis. Game of Thrones never really does that. Romantic moments are often told from another perspective or tarnished by the realities of the situation (eg Daenerys may fall in love with Khal Drogo, but she’s also raped by him first).

There’s a reason every moment of “happiness” is framed this way. And that’s because it’s working from a principle of being *realistic in the postmodernist sense*. It’s fundamentally endorsing the idea that meaning is found where you place its value. In the world of Game of Thrones, there are no heroes and villains, there is no good vs evil, there is no right and wrong. There is no objective truth- merely the matter of where you place your sympathy. GRRM takes the morally relativistic view that all his characters will inevitably fall to the dark side… And frankly none of their struggles matter because of that. No happy ending is/was ever possible in this series- for anyone. Which is not so much tragic as it is depressing.

As much as I can appreciate this for its uniqueness, it’s not exactly satisfying. That’s not the point of this story. Rather, it’s designed to push boundaries, subvert our expectations and make us question the genre. While we like to blame D&D for the subversive elements, subversion is pretty much woven into the fabric of the narrative. And that has its upsides… and its downsides. Because sometimes there can be narrative consequences when you try to challenge an existing idea.

Inevitably you may question the story that’s making you question everything. I for one don’t think every concept in GOT makes sense. The critique of Aragorn becoming king, for example, is flawed. Because, I happen to think that if he’s capable enough to get an army of dead people on his side, then he’s perfectly capable of hiring some plumbers to set up a sewage system (and I have no idea why GRRM thinks otherwise). It is entirely possible for a leader to be strategic on the battlefield and with the treasury (and there are historic examples of this). This may seem like nit-picking, yet this is such a foundational element to the story, that it leaves me questioning will I ever be satisfied with the outcome of this series? These issues nag away at me and could indicate that this series was never for me in the first place.

Of course, this whole post is somewhat premature. No matter what I think I know, I have to add the caveat that I don’t know the actual ending (none of us do). There are some incredible theories mapping out sensational conclusions and GRRM’s finale could end up putting even those to shame. So, this post could be meaningless when the final book comes out. Personally, I very much look forward to being proved wrong 😉

So, what do you think? Are you optimistic about GRRM’s ending? Do you have doubts like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Iron Raven Was a Somewhat Steely Start to a Series

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the opinions are all my own***

iron ravenWell I’m going to be very blunt straightaway: this reads more like a series continuation than a series opener. Sure, there are plenty of introductory elements and there is a focus on setup, yet it’s really grounded in all the books in the Iron Fey that have come before. While I actually read the Lost Prince first, then was able to go back and experience the books that came before, I personally don’t think you will get much enjoyment out of this new book without already knowing the characters. Not only is this book banking on nostalgia, it doesn’t do much in the way of helping readers get to know existing characters. Most of the players in this story already have rich backstories and their reintroductions really serve as reminders rather than a catch you up. And as a fan of the series, that didn’t put too much of a dent in my enjoyment, because I already love them so much.

So really, all of this is to say if you like YA fantasy and you haven’t tried the Iron Fey series, I strongly recommend it!

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On the plus side, all the things that Kagawa does well are here. I loved the tone, the descriptions, the immersive setting. I fell back into her world easily. While there are hints of developing darkness, that’s mostly overshadowed by the light voice. As a fan of Puck and Kagawa has made the character her own, it was an absolute pleasure to get the story from his perspective. I also appreciated Nyx as a new character and think her past could be potentially interesting. The one big issue I had was that the romance felt rushed and unearned.

Other than that, it was a good read. Not my favourite in the series, but a diverting enough addition.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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So, have you read this or any of the other books in the Iron Fey Series? Do you plan to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Springing Some Lovely Spring Reads on You!

Hello all! Just a quick post today of some Spring-themed books- enjoy!

Secret Garden- I mean, this list would be incomplete without it, wouldn’t it? It’s the most Spring-y Springtime book that I could have sprung on you!

Anne of Green Gables– another classic I can’t help but associate with Spring! So much of this story resonates with Springtime and the great outdoors.

The Wind in the Willows– children’s books really fit with Spring for me- and who could forget this charming story? Adorable and fun and showing the magic of the natural world (yes there really are talking badgers and moles 😉), this is one to (re)visit at this time of year.

The Hobbit– there are so many reasons Tolkien reminds me of Spring! Of course, Tolkien Reading Day takes place at the end of March. And for me personally, it’s when I first read the series and it became an annual tradition to reread around Easter. Most importantly of all, the book itself is a reminder to get out and go on an adventure… or maybe just go for a really long walk 😉

Iron Fey series– again, I associate this author with Spring. Mostly, it is because her descriptions sing with life and fresh excitement every time. It was very hard for me to choose between her different series for this- yet I decided to go old school because these books have such a strong seasonal pull. And fantasy just works at this (and every) time of year!

Book of Atrix Wolfe– McKillip is so powerful at creating atmosphere. Both books I’ve read I strongly associate with nature and hints of magical change.

Far from the Madding Crowd– nothing makes me think more of fecundity and lush settings than Hardy. I chose this particular book, as I often think of it as the happiest of Hardy’s books and for me that fits more with this time of year (*read happiest of Hardy’s books = still contains tragic elements 😉).  

Chocolat– this very indulgent read begins around Lent and explores human desires and passions- if that doesn’t make you think of Spring, I don’t know what will.

Tea Dragon Society– if you’re still craving something sweet, then this children’s graphic novel will be perfect for you. I read it recently and enjoyed every second. The story is so charming and the illustrations just lovely. It actually whizzes through all the seasons, yet for me there’s something so cosy about this that makes me think most of Spring.

Fire of Joy– something about Spring makes me turn to poetry. I happened to read this collection recently and appreciated the commentary that came with every poem. What also makes this perfect for this time of year is how these are poems designed to be read aloud. Just something about turning these over on your tongue made me feel a sense of renewal.   

Poetry by Keats– ah Romantic poets are perfect for this time of year. They make you want to dip your toes into awe-inspiring nature and new love. By rights, I perhaps should have suggested Blake for renewal or Wordsworth for his natural inspiration, but for me Keats is King!

So, have you read any of these? And which books do you most strongly associate with Spring? Let me know in the comments!

Kindred- A Masterpiece That’s Unlike Any Other!

kindredWhat a book! I didn’t know much about it going in, except that it was about time travel. From the brilliant, brilliant opening I was sucked into the story, as I began to get an inkling that I was in for something special. Fast forward a few pages later and I found my footing in the unusual structure. For the most part, it is a chronological story from the perspective of the heroine, though this involves jumping back and forth in time.

Unusually for a sci fi, the style reads more like a classic or historical fiction. Yet at the same time, it was so so gripping. Full of action, it kept me on the edge of my seat, unsure what would happen and scared for the consequences of each choice. I especially loved was how the rules for the time travel were quickly and simply established- yet the discussions surrounding it are endlessly complex.

What’s interesting is how the main character does not come across as a straightforward heroine. However nice it would have been to read a story of wish-fulfilment, she doesn’t simply storm into the past and fix everything. Instead, we see how she is often motivated by selfish desires and is forced to bear witness to the collateral damage of her choices. It raises the idea that as much as we would like to believe we would save history… we probably wouldn’t or couldn’t. And actually this is a more empathetic way of showing the victims of history: not only would we not do better, we’d probably do worse. Many times the protagonist recognises that she could not have made the choices her forebears did with dignity. And uncomfortable as it may make us, this discomfort is far more telling. We see deep inside the main character’s head, understanding, so that we might understand ourselves better.

This is easily the best time travel books I’ve ever read… heck it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Springing into April 2021!

Okay, one of these days I’m going to announce a comeback and properly do a comeback. What with work, getting to see my brother for the first time in 6 months (yay!) and a few other things, I’ve not had time to do bloghopping like I wanted to. I’m gonna try and juggle things around so that I’m able to do that… *fingers crossed*.

On the plus side, I’ve been more creative lately and experimenting with new artsy ideas, which (hopefully) will mean I’ll be posting more on Instagram soon.

In other news, I rearranged my bookshelves while I was doing my spring cleaning (and I must say they’re looking rather purty… possibly cos I can see even more of my favourites when I look at them 😉)

And as you can imagine I read some *amazing* things that I’m excited to share. But first… film time!

Descendants I don’t know if I’ve mentioned these movies before, but I rewatched the entire trilogy with my sister last month, so thought I’d mention (/remind everyone) how much I adore them! If you like cutesy and fun Disney channel movies, then I highly recommend them. It’s about the kids of Disney villains being allowed to live with heroes… and as you can imagine shenanigans ensue. Everything about these are great: the concept, the dance numbers, the songs, the characters… Even my mum (whose age I won’t disclose) loved them. By far the best kid-friendly entertainment from Disney channel 😊

Always and Forever, Lara Jean– Oof this was a disappointment for me. I know the book divided some opinions- however I personally I loved how it moved away from the romance a little, focused more on failure and captured more of a coming-of-age vibe. The movie didn’t do that for me- it was ALL about the romance. Sure, her relationship had featured in her dreams, yet it had been much more about connecting with her mother’s life and wanting to follow in her footsteps. That was taken out in favour of done-to-death themes like miscommunication and very, very important issues (like trying to find their “couple song”). I also disliked how it removed the down-to-earth aspects of having them try for more accessible colleges… instead doing the typical Hollywood thing of focusing on top unis. Call me crazy, but I liked that this was a normal, quirky couple rather than the VERY BEST MOST TALENTED HIGH SCHOOLERS IN THE COUNTRY (like we’re used to seeing in every single teen movie). If you were one of the people that didn’t like the book, I’m sure you will enjoy this adaptation more. And if you were one of the people who did like it you can still find it enjoyable… provided you lower your expectations.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken/Vow so Bold and Deadly– I actually promised myself I wasn’t going to continue with this series… and look how that turned out! Can’t say I feel bad about that, because I really liked the second book. Even though I enjoyed Harper as a main character, I was surprised to find I liked the new perspectives much, much more. It seems I wasn’t as attached to her as I thought. I thought the new princess and court was fascinating and was intrigued by the direction of the story. The issues I had suspending my disbelief were resolved… more or less. Unfortunately, the promise faded a little bit in the finale when a lot of the old characters came back. I was even less interested in them than I was before and the lacklustre villain was back (cue muted *dun dun dunnn*s all around). It was fine as a conclusion, yet I stand by my original stance that this series isn’t really for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas  

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Yes to Life in Spite of Everything– I mentioned this book briefly last month. These newly published lectures reinforced a lot of the life-affirming messages from Frankl… and took them further. It taught me about how we find happiness, even in hard times and because of the struggles we go through. We learn about ourselves from how we deal with hardship. It is a necessary and important part of life. We cannot erase our pain, for without it, we would not be who we are. We can (and should) find meaning in every part of our lives- even the parts we do not wish to look at closely. Life is in its own right meaningful and beautiful. Beyond the personal guidance, this also has a significant message for society, arguing against collective guilt (which I think is something we would all benefit from today). To put it simply: HELL YES TO THIS BOOK!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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The Fire of Joy– what a pleasure this collection was! So many of the poems lit me up with joy. And I really appreciated the (often personalised) analysis after each one. As it’s a collection of poetry that’s designed to be read aloud, I hope one day there will be an audiobook. Either way, I want a copy of my own now and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Lovely War– I have to say I loved the tone of this book. It’s a great idea to nestle WWI love stories inside the perspectives of the Greek gods. I really liked the way the narrative was told from the points of views of all of these “witnesses”. Oddly enough, though this stylistic choice was the book’s greatest asset, it did make me feel a little distant from the mortal characters. That said, it held a certain magic and I thought the ending was truly beautiful.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Blade Runner– I don’t read much classic sci fi and I often don’t love it… but I really appreciated this one! It was completely engaging from beginning to end and dealt with such interesting questions. Predominantly revolving around the topic of empathy, the narrative asks us where our limits are, what kinds of people gain our sympathy and where are our shortcomings. The story doesn’t give us any straightforward answers. The protagonist is rocked to his core with these concepts… and yet he is unable to move beyond the person he is at the beginning of the story, with the ending mirroring the opening. It is a very clever story. The one thing that I can say Phillip K Dick got wrong was that January 2021 wasn’t nearly as advanced technologically and was far more dull than he envisaged 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Anxious People– I have a little trepidation to say I didn’t expect that much from this book… but I’ll boldly say this blew me away! To put it simply: this is a heartwarming story of a bank robber (yes, you read that right!) The story held me hostage for a day- I could not stop reading! It was compulsive, witty and made me laugh so many times. I loved the portraits that Backman drew of so many unique types of people. I felt like I was in the room with them, getting to know them each in turn and loving them for being so delightfully human. I couldn’t stop thinking about the book afterwards (and raving about it to everyone in earshot… and dragging some people over who were just minding their own business to tell them how great this book was!) By far my favourite Backman… so far!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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I Found You– this hit me in a much more emotional way than I expected (which could also be a result of when I read it). Though it’s largely told from the perspective and (missing) memories of a man, this ended up being a striking story of women’s issues. Dealing with very dark themes, it also managed to bring some heart to the story, making me connect with the characters in a way that I don’t often do with thrillers. I think the biggest shocker for me was how I was so moved by it. It felt less like a psychological thriller and more a tale of love and loss. I’ve seen some complaints on goodreads about how slow paced it was and I get it… but I also didn’t care in this case.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

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Girl A– I don’t get what was the big deal with this book- sorry! And if I’d known what this book was actually going to be, I wouldn’t have picked it up. Largely that comes down to mismarketing. Why was it compared to Gillian Flynn??! Why was it described as a thriller when it wasn’t remotely thrilling or suspenseful? Were we reading the same book?! This was a literary fiction about child abuse… and I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known that. I don’t know why publishers constantly have to dress books up as something entirely different to what they are- all it means is that they find the wrong audience and irritate readers. And this book was not for me in any way. I didn’t enjoy the internal monologue-y style- I felt it resulted in too much telling and distanced me emotionally from the characters. I also hated how the narrative structure jolted from past to present and from perspective to perspective in the space of a paragraph- it was so confusing to read! I’ve also read the same story many times… done so much better (unfortunately I can’t give examples because of spoilers). I’ve also enjoyed many slower paced thrillers (see above)- yet sadly this one did nothing for me. I didn’t hate it, I just wish I hadn’t bothered with it.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Thorn– this was a very sharp take on the Goose Girl. As a retelling, it was unique. It spun the tale from a different angle, laying out how the princess does not crave power and would rather escape into obscurity. This cleverly explores the question of agency, making her more than just a victim of circumstance. It is also an empowering statement- even if victims allow people to take advantage of them, they truly have the power to take back that control at any moment. It shows both sides of passivity- the strengths and weaknesses. The story itself delved deep into the idea of how survival is strength. As you can probably tell, I really appreciated how unusually developed the characters were in this YA. Definitely recommend for fans of YA retellings!

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!

*All the Banana* Predictions and Forecasts! #2

Do you guys remember me doing this post previously? Nah- neither did I. I took *way too long* to get round to reading all my predicted 5* reads- but I’ve finally done it! So, even if this is far less relevant than it was supposed to be, I’m going to update you:

Dark Age– as predicted, this was a massive success! I love this series and this one seriously raised the stakes. I can’t wait for the finale.

Wayward Son– also a success! Very different to the first and somewhat meandering… and yet it worked for me. It moved the plot in an interesting direction- looking forward to seeing what that is!

Ninth House– a fair 4* read. This didn’t have much in common with Bardugo’s other work and it was good to see the author branch out.

Crowfall– obviously a success 😉 This grimdark series was great. Beyond its vivid writing and world building, it had a strong emotional heart.

Night Country– not quite as sensational as Hazel Wood, though I did enjoy reading it. And I still have faith in the author and am looking forward to reading Tales of the Hinterland soon.

Starsight– 4*. While I didn’t fall for this quite as much as the first, this was a solid sequel. The spy subplot is not my favourite direction the story could have taken. I feel like *spoilers for book 1* finding out all of humanity is locked up in a prison, should make you feel small and powerless. And this didn’t do that, so it didn’t quite land for me.

Call Down the Hawk– this one could’ve gone either way. And as always, I did appreciate Stiefvater’s beautiful writing. It just didn’t quite blow me away.

Dispel Illusion– another success. Plus, I don’t need to time travel to tell you I enjoyed the trilogy’s conclusion as well. There can be no illusion that I enjoyed this sci fi series.

The Secret Commonwealth– either this was a very long short story or I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this… or both. Regardless it wasn’t five stars.

Small Spaces– I’ve read the first two in this series and gave them both 4 bananas. They were somewhat unsettling but also felt safely MG- definitely glad I picked them up.

And that’s all for my updates! Time to make some new predictions!

I decided this time around to go for books I’ve been planning to read for ages and already own, so hopefully it won’t take as long to get to! (barring any other unforeseen events that stop me reading again). Without further ado, here they are:

And one bonus book that’s not out yet:

Phew! Finally done this post! Hopefully next time I won’t take years to do a follow up 😉 Now want to know- have you read any of these books? Were they five stars for you? What books do you predict being your next five star reads? Let me know in the comments!

What Did I Think of the Longest Books I’ve Ever Read?

I’ve been thinking about endurance a lot lately- which made me (obviously) relate it back to books. There are many reasons a book may be a test of endurance- but today I just want to look at the most common reason: length. Powering through a tome can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s rewarding… and sometimes it’s really, really not. Let’s talk about some of my experiences:

Les Miserables– according to Goodreads this is longer than War and Peace– I don’t know how they figured it out. Either way, this was a fantastic book. There were parts that dragged, as you might expect of a book this long, but overall it was a stonkingly good read.

War and Peace– I challenged myself to read this a few years ago and was actually surprised by how much it blew me away. Highlighting the horrors of warfare, this book is an immersive and complex exploration of humanity.  

Game of Thrones– loads of GRRM Books end up on this list, so I decided to just mention the series. Personally, I think this books have an excellent grasp of character and the plots are completely invigorating… HOWEVER, *controversial opinion time*, I don’t think they justify their length. There is a lot about the writing style that I don’t like and could have been cut down for more brevity.

Atlas Shrugged– oof this is the most painful book on the list. Sorry, not into Rand’s dull propagandistic drivel. This didn’t feel like reading a story at all and was just painful to get through.

Count of Monte Cristo– contrast that with one of my faves- this book is so thoroughly entertaining. Don’t be put off by the length, it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read. And it has interesting things to say about what the thirst for vengeance does to you as well.  

Gone with the Wind– if you enjoy war dramas, there’s a fighting chance you’ll like this book. This didn’t quite do it for me. There were too many things my modern eyes couldn’t ignore and I couldn’t get past. Besides, it didn’t help that I hated the heroine.

Bleak House– there were a couple of Dickens in the running as well, but I decided to go with the one I liked most. Dickens is always good value entertainment and this is no exception. Full of vivid characters and a powerfully descriptive setting, it’s easy to visualise the Dickensian world. For me, this book has some distinct passages and images that have left their mark on me.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell– the only one on this list I DNF’d. Sadly, I didn’t connect with the writing style, so I can say it’s a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Wise Man’s Fear– ach this did not live up to its predecessor. With Name of the Wind, I felt the length was justified with just enough action and elegant prose. Yet here everything I liked was snuffed out and replaced with a smokescreen of pointless subplots. It didn’t feel like the overall narrative advanced at all: Kvothe ended up more or less back where he started, but with a few extra skills (chiefly swordsmanship and apparently being oh-so-fabulous in bed). I’m hoping this was just middle book syndrome and whatever sure-to-be-monstrous-sized tome follows it will justify its length.

Kingdom of Ash– I didn’t end up loving this finale quite as much as I thought I would, though I can’t entirely blame that on the length. To be fair to the book, every scene had a weight to it and felt significant. Unfortunately, plot isn’t the only thing that matters in a big book. In this case, there were simply too many characters and I couldn’t sustain an interest for all of them. Unrelated to length, I also didn’t like the *dramatic* perspective shifts, which I heard Maas say was to frustrate the reader. Frustrate me it did- I kept putting the book down, which meant it took me even longer to get through than it should have.  

As you can see, a bit of a mixed bag! Have you read any of these? Did you love them or loathe them? And what’s the longest book you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments!