Malibu Rising was BLAZING HOT!

Hot off the press, Taylor Jenkins Reid newest novel burns bright. With a sizzling start, in 80s Malibu, we catch the embers of a rager. Before we can even get our head above water, we know things are going to end in flames.

Introduced to four famous siblings, hosting this party, slowly getting to know their distinct personalities, as their pictures build up in waves. From their tumultuous origin stories to the present riptide that sweeps them up, it becomes apparent that this is a book about heartbreak. Surprisingly for a book about surfers, there’s zero chill- which is more than fine by me.

Because below the glossy surface of the writing, there is immense depth to this book. More than I ever expected. There’s such a whirlpool of emotion, I was thrown off balance and sucked under. Here’s a story that takes you far out to sea, showing all the ways a heart can hurt. And damn, it resonates.

Summery and frothy, the story fizzes like champagne. In typical Reid fashion, it’s utterly unique and so totally her style. Evocative and powerful, I could practically taste the salt, sand and sun of her words. And, without taking any easy turns, it delivers an epic ending.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

So, have you read Malibu Rising? Do you plan to? And do you also love Taylor Jenkins Reid novels? Let me know in the comments!

Lights, Camera, Action: Survive the Night Rolls into Twisty Territory!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the excitement featured is all me***

*Fade in*

Let’s set the scene: it’s the 1990s, it’s night and our main character is in a car with a man who may very well be a serial killer. It doesn’t help that she has a history of “seeing movies in her head” aka she’s not sure of what’s really playing out before her eyes. And if that sounds tense to you, you’d better climb in cos it’s gonna be one crazy ride.

Told uniquely in a movie-script style, I found it hard to be certain what was really playing out. With such an unreliable narrator, it’s easy to feel lost in the dark. I will admit that the style was somewhat distancing, making it hard to connect to the characters. Yet nonetheless I was gripped, as the story swerved in maddening directions and drove towards a bonkers conclusion.

As if through headlights, I could see some of the dangers coming, but Sager still pulled some curveballs. And WHAM-BAM-THANK-YOU-MA’AM those twists sent me into a tailspin! Skidding off into something of a melodramatic end, it may not have pleased every reader, but I have to say I was satisfied.

So, expect something a little bit larger than life, because this homage to movies does not hold back.

*Fade out*

*End credits*

4/5 bananas

Have you read this? Do you plan to? Are you a fan of Riley Sager novels? Let me know in the comments!

The Ivies was a Killer Read!

Who wouldn’t kill to get into an Ivy League College? Well, most people obviously 😉 But at Claflin Academy, there’s plenty of suspects when a student with a coveted place at an Ivy is brutally murdered. With biting humour and plenty of drama, Donne’s new YA thriller instantly grabbed my attention and refused to let go.

From the juicy opening, the tension sizzles. The voicey style gives you a direct insight into the main character’s point of view and helps you get to know her (largely irredeemable) cohort. As the twists came thick and fast, I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know everything.

Because this group of teens have more than their fair share of secrets. There’s no way I could have seen all the twists coming- which was precisely what I wanted from this book. And then there was the big reveal- *highlight for spoilers*- DAMN Donne did the secret sociopath well. It’s breadcrumbed nicely, but not too obvious. Personally, I also loved the motive, because it’s not straightforward jealousy (which I think some people have misunderstood). It’s actually a pretty clever reason.

For me, the ending completely hit the mark. I liked that it wasn’t too clean. Again, a bit spoilery, but I don’t know why people expected the main character to grow in this one- it’s not that type of story. I liked that this didn’t hold back and went with the boldest outcome. I don’t want my thrillers to pull their punches.

There is politics in the book- but for once I didn’t find it entirely off-putting. Perhaps this was helped by the fact it was in first person. And that her views only add to Olivia’s characterisation as an insufferable hypocrite (did I mention that the characters aren’t all that likeable?)

This was everything I want in a YA thriller. And of course, it was dead fun.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Books That Ought to Come with a Box of Tissues

Often, when I give out certain books at the library I think “damnnn I should give them tissues with this one”… which is why I thought I’d share some books today that need to come with a serious TEARJERKER WARNING. I’ll be brief to avoid spoilers (and hopefully spare you some of the inevitable pain these books bring up).

Code Name Verity– I recommend sitting back, listening to the audiobook and grabbing the tissues, cos this is gonna be an emotional ride.

The Book Thief– just in case you haven’t heard of this book’s reputation for making people cry, then consider yourself warned.  

Thousand Splendid Suns– are you human? Do you have tear ducts? Then this book about women under the Taliban rule is gonna get you good.

Bright Side– I defy you to get through this book and not sob! I knew this was supposed to be sad, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how attached I’d be by the end.

Second Chance Summer– I’ve never given this book a second read, because the first time it destroyed me.

All the Bright Places– this book about mental health issues is as bright and cheery as a smack in the teeth. Don’t do what I did and read this in public (unless you like having strangers side eye you while you sob).

Sisterhood Everlasting– I can’t even talk about this one, it still gets to me. After three books to get to know the characters, saying goodbye to them like this is pure AGONY.

Noughts and Crosses– this alternate history Romeo and Juliet kills me every time. It’s so good. And so so so devastating.

A Monster Calls– a beautiful book about grief (that will rip your heart out and make you sob).

Song of Achilles– yeah this Iliad retelling will just wallop you in the *feels*. *Oof*.

So, have you read any of these books? Do you agree? And what books do you think need to come with a box of tissues? Let me know in the comments!

Awesome Audiobooks- Books That Need to be Heard!

Increasingly, I’m listening to more and more audiobooks. When I’m exercising, when I’m cooking, when I’m on my way to work, I can cram in some more reading time by cramming some headphones in my ears 😉 And best of all, audiobooks can often make the reading experience all the more thrilling! That’s why I decided to recommend some of my absolute favourite audiobooks for everyone that loves audiobooks already- and for everyone else who just needs a little nudge to get started!

Sadie– this is the story that switched me onto audiobooks. Poignant, pacy and heart-breaking, the main character’s voice resonates most strongly in the spoken word. And with the construct of a podcast woven into the structure, the audiobook works as the perfect medium. Ultimately, this opened my eyes to what audiobooks could be… and I’ve never looked back.

Daisy Jones and the Six– the audiobook is the way to go for this one. With the multiple narrators, all putting in powerful performances, this the best way to experience the story by far. Designed as the individual recordings of different band members, discussing the height of their fame in the 80s, this was a whole lotta rock n’ roll. And, sound being integral to the story, it doesn’t hurt that all the voice actors are easy on the ears. I virtually listened to this in one sitting.

The Salt Path– for me memoirs lend themselves really well to audiobooks- especially when read by the author. One of my most recent listens, I was blown away by the beautifully evocative writing and stunning settings along the coastal path. Hearing Winn’s struggles and revival in her warm voice was a powerful experience.

Becoming– again, I really enjoy listening to people tell their own stories. And this was obviously no exception. I really appreciated hearing Michele Obama’s life story in her own words- particularly, funnily enough, her time before she became First Lady.  

Where the Crawdads Sing– admittedly, I am including this because I just adored the story. But really, this was a pleasure in every way. And being read this book was utterly transporting.   

Wolf Hall– frankly I was intimidated to read Wolf Hall- which is why I picked up the audiobook. And not only did it help me get through this great tome, but the excellent voice actor made it thoroughly engaging. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. And despite its length, I barely noticed the time passing. Personally, I recommend this format if you’re on the fence about the series! (cos it’s damn good!!)

Code Name Verity– what a wonderful story to listen to. Read by two actresses, this historical narrative is in equal parts gripping and moving. The performances are perfect- down to the different accents and intonations. For me, it enhanced an already brilliant book. Just maybe try to listen at home (because you don’t want to get all teary-eyed while walking down the street like me 😉).

Diviners– you won’t believe how good this audiobook is until you have a listen. An EMMACULATE performance and an excitingly spooky tale, I got goosebumps listening. January LaVoy (one of my favourite voice actors) abso-positutely brings Libba Bray’s atmospheric series to life.   

The Afterlife of Holly Chase– and if you haven’t had enough of the dead, I definitely recommend this oddly-light-hearted romp through the afterlife. With a performance to die for, this Christmas Carol retelling is really worth a listen.

Aurora Burning– I wish I’d listened to the first one this way (one day I will). For now, I can HIGHLY recommend the audiobook version. Using a full cast, this definitely took off in an exhilarating direction and made you feel for everyone. I just can’t wait to listen to the finale this autumn!!

And that’s all I’ve got… for now! What about you? Do you enjoy audiobooks? Which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below! I’m dying to hear your recommendations!

Loudly Proclaiming My Thoughts on the Quiet At The End of the World

When I started reading this book I was lulled into a false sense of security. Initially, I believed it to be a cleverly done concept, following the aftermath of a pandemic that caused human infertility. As gloomy as the setting was, I found myself absorbed by the melancholic tone and intriguing ideas. And if nothing else, I appreciated the schadenfreude that our current apocalypse situation wasn’t quite as dire. I liked how it engaged with archaeology of the present, mining social media to uncover both individual histories and an entire global reaction to a crisis. While it lacked some prevalent aspects of our recent reaction to a pandemic (eg humour), I was impressed that the author had been able to predict how some people would react to an existential crisis. I liked the social media acted as a time capsule for this moment. I thought it was showing us a Black Mirror style possibility of people turning to apps to fill the void inside themselves.  

… except that was not where it was going at all. Because when the twist came (*spoiler warning*) that the world was inhabited by the robot-baby devices created to help with feelings of loss, the last two humans on earth decide to advocate for robots as the next stage of evolution. You see, in the story, human extinction is a shame, but not the end of the world, because robots would be more responsible with the planet- yay?!

To me, this is entirely nihilistic and human-hating. There is a heavy-handed implication that people shouldn’t have been so selfish as they went extinct and should have thought about keeping the robot babies “alive” (whilst ironically showing that the robot babies are prone to the same foibles, so aren’t exactly an upgrade). There is the oh-so-typical modern guilt imposed upon the reader that humanity should repent its existence. Then there is the message that humanity can just be replaced and isn’t worth fighting for- which didn’t sit well with me- because, well, I love humanity.

To my mind, this narrative speaks to a deep sense of self-loathing. Any attempt at nuance is drowned out by this underlying emotion. I know there are people out there who think that robots would make an adequate (or even superior) replacement to humanity- yet I am not one of them. I do not think that an entity that shares the same consciousness, but have a different aesthetic, would be an improvement. I do not think that immortality, giving an endless amount of time to achieve less (and without any of the moral qualms to hold it back), would be an improvement. I do not think that a human’s value goes bone-deep.

I think to go down this “perfectionist” line of argument is somewhat dangerous. I think it is troubling to suggest the world would be better off without humans. And it is most disturbing to see this idea presented to teens without any kickback. When one reads YA like this, it is unsurprising that so many young adults are depressed and anxious. I would have been- if I wasn’t so infuriated.

I respectfully disagree with the author calling this “uplifting”. It seems more death cult-y to me. Though the author clearly has talent, I was less-than-enamoured by the end:

Rating: 2/5 bananas

So, dare I ask, what did you think of this book? Have you read it? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – just in time for June!

Hello all! Hope you all had a marvellous May- I’ve enjoyed two lovely long weekends and (finally) some sunshine!! The funny thing about leaving the house more is that somehow I’ve made more time for movies… so there will be a separate post for that at some point, cos I have *opinions*. Also, I’ve been giving out a lot of bananas for books this month- but I don’t care, because they all deserved it! Let’s see why shall we?  

The Summer Job– starting with a sizzler for summer time. I loved this fresh and fun book, all about a girl who takes a summer job… that isn’t hers. Whisked away to the Scottish setting, I thoroughly enjoyed all the talk of food and wine. The love interest was an absolute cinnamon roll and the story had a joyful flavour. I like how it explored friendship with some depth. It was a perfect palate cleanser and ideal for fans of Beth O’Leary.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

In a Dark, Dark Wood– despite hearing this is not Ware’s best, I enjoyed this more than I expected I would. While there were some repeats of plot points from her other books, particularly its And Then There Were None vibes, it still had nice twists and turns (which I can’t reveal cos they’re *spoilers*). The one thing I did have an issue with was the main character’s motivation to go to this hen weekend in the first place- because I certainly wouldn’t have set foot there! I think it could have been fleshed out more. There were also some loose ends. Clearly, Ware has tightened up her plots since this, yet it was a good fix to tide me over till her next release (more of this please!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Transcendent Kingdom– this reminds me why I read lit fic- because this was *glorious*. The story itself is a snapshot of what it’s like to grow up as a new migrant in America, yet zooms in on one individual family’s story. It’s so beautifully written that I glided through the prose. Though it has a fragmentary and non-chronological structure, I couldn’t stop reading. The unusual form was handled masterfully, dissecting the emotion and presenting it to the reader. I’m starting to adore everything this author writes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Bone Shard Daughter– sadly this didn’t quite do it for me. Despite the cool world building and the intriguing perspective of the bone shard daughter, I didn’t have much interest in the rest of the story or characters. I feel like this would have been far more immersive if there had been fewer points of view and expanded on the elements that worked.

Rating: 3.5/5 bananas

Made You Up– this was the real deal! Telling the unusual YA contemporary about a girl with schizophrenia, it had a vivid energy. Though I cannot speak to its authenticity, it felt powerfully empathetic. I felt as if I was deep inside her head and hearing her struggles. I also liked the motif of photography for this story- it was a clever addition to the narrative. I do have to say that I found the middle a little hazy- yet the beginning and ending really worked for me. This was not as proficient as Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters, but a great story nonetheless!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Light Between Worlds– isn’t the title for this book just brilliant? As a reimagining of the aftermath of children finding their way into a Narnia-like-world, the concept of this story intrigued me straight away. Luckily, I was far from disappointed. While this does have flashbacks from the protagonists’ time in the Woodlands, this focuses more on what it means to return home. It is not an action-packed story, but a deep character study that holds its own magic. Focusing first on a Lucy-like character and then on a Susan stand-in, this was as much about sisterly relationships as it was about the abstract discussions of growth after trauma. I really liked how it reinvented the Lucy dynamic, showing how she’s actually got a great challenge to fit in after Narnia, which she can’t quite live up to. I also liked that this examined the treatment Susan gets in the later Chronicles of Narnia, showing that her path to trying to forget is just as understandable as clinging onto the past. It shows how we all struggle with trauma in different ways. And I was particularly impressed with how the story acknowledges that the greatest trauma comes from our own actions. Profound and well written, I found this a fascinating fantasy.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Road Trip– Beth O’Leary is back with another delightful contemporary! With two holidays for the price of one, five friends stuffed into a mini and plenty of history- this was one helluva ride! Jumping between “now” and “then”, you get a glimpse of the summer romance and then the less-glamorous aftermath. Thanks to this, you get to see some very contrasting settings and circumstances. It builds up the characters and relationships throughout the journey. The story soon goes off in a hilarious direction, making me laugh out loud and cheering me right up (even if a road trip isn’t on the cards for me any time soon). This ended up being far more than a second chance romance, exploring some difficult topics along the way. I was very sad to finish it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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!

Books About Renewal

Super quick post today- I just wanted to give some recommendations 🙂 As we come to the end of spring and move into summer, I thought I’d share a handful of books all about change and starting fresh- enjoy!

Where the Crawdads Sing– a beautiful story about a girl forced to keep picking herself up, brushing herself off and starting over- no matter what life throws at her. This deep character study is one of the best things I’ve read so far this year. It’s an exquisite exploration of overcoming loneliness and hardship. 

Happiest Man on Earth– in a similar vein, this true story is about going through hell and coming out the other side. No matter what the author suffered, he did not let it break him. It is one of the most inspirational and powerful autobiographies I’ve ever read.

Eat Pray Love– another memoir, this an account of rediscovery. It’s a quick read that everyone can find helpful- whether you find solace in eating, praying or loving. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine– this is a story of a woman who sets out to find love, yet instead discovers the importance of friendship and rediscovers herself. I loved Eleanor’s journey from beginning to end.

The Flatshare– I needed this book in my life. It is quite simply a lovely read, all about having to find an unconventional living arrangement… only to get way more out of it than anyone bargained for! It shows that life has a way of working out- even when things don’t go to plan 🙂

Beach Read– I love how this story uses writing as a powerful mode to deal with grief and cope with uncomfortable truths. It’s certainly a clever way to explore real character growth.

Words in Deep Blue– I will never miss an opportunity to recommend this heartfelt book. It’s a story of love and loss and finding happiness again. This gorgeous account of grief is a perfect antidote to going through a tough time, because it shows that, no matter what, we can come out the other side.

Anne of Green Gable– most people know the story of Anne, so it hardly needs an introduction. Yet, whether you’re late to the party like I was or just need a nostalgic boost, this uplifting story is perfect if you need a restorative narrative.

The Secret Garden– of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the *ultimate* story of revival. This book shows that things can always begin again.

Secret Countess– and finally, I thought I’d end with a fairy-tale-esque story of renewal. From luxury in pre-Revolutionary Russia to impoverishment, the heroine of this beautiful book must find a way to rise again. And that she does in a truly resplendent and graceful fashion.

And that’s all for now! Did you enjoy the books on this list? Do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments!

The Restorative Power of Reading

In the past bizarre (and frequently terrible) year, reading has kept a lot of us going. Whether it’s through escapism or giving me much needed life advice, books have proven their power to keep us going. I know for myself books have been a great escape.

For me, opening a new book or even starting a fresh chapter has been like pressing the reset button. It doesn’t matter which head I’ve stepped into for the time being- it’s a relief to see the world through a different lens. Because books don’t just lower stress levels- they frequently act as a handy Guide Out of Hell. They may not be able to slay a dragon (try throwing one at its head and see how far it gets you) but they can offer some good tips 😉

Books are educational in a million different ways, teaching us everything from empathy to philosophy to practical skills… and beyond! It’s the one leveller we have left when it comes to education, because it’s still an affordable hobby (make use of your libraries people!!) A simple pen to paper can restore balance to a human mind. It can give our thoughts a moment of harmony.   

Reading is a refreshing pastime. It doesn’t simply take you away- it gives you plenty of souvenirs. Trinkets you carry around for years, maybe without even knowing it, until at last you look in your pocketses and there’s the one ring… Okay maybe not that last bit! Yet reading does remind me every time that when you discover a new story, there’s no knowing where you might end up.

And yes, this is an indulgent post to write about 😉 I’m sure it will not take much to have bookworms agreeing that reading is a wonderful hobby- but every so often we just need to celebrate reading for all that it is.

Do you agree? Has reading helped you in the last year? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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!