My favourite memoirs!

I’m very excited for this post, because one of my great joys in reading these days discovering people’s true stories. There will be some crossover with my must read non fics, because, well, I can’t help it! 😉 I will, however, resist the urge to mention Man’s Search for Meaning for the millionth time… although I kinda just did 😉

Eat, Pray, Love– part self-help, part memoir, this was really worth reading. Not just because it offers a trip across the globe at the budget price of a book, it also offers a lot of positivity and spiritual guidance.

This is Going to Hurt– this one absolutely will sting a bit. Not just for the personal stories, but how it points to the current state of the NHS and what a junior doctor goes through. However for all of the discomfort and emotional moments, this does offer some medicinal humour to make the pill less bitter.

Educated– I didn’t review this, because the experience of reading this was so unusual that I couldn’t quite pin down my thoughts. What’s interesting about this memoir is that Westover doesn’t give her retrospective feelings or impose her will on the writing- she let’s you draw your own interpretations from events. It is a unique way of telling a lifestory and all the more compelling for it. It also happens to be a memoir that occupies my thoughts long after reading.

Infidel– it’s been a long time since I mentioned this- however I can’t think of many books more important. This is the origin story of a champion of free speech and a woman of tremendous courage. Before this, she was a refugee, an intellectual and a former member of the Dutch parliament.

March– I read this in the graphic novel version. And I found this moving and important and well worth reading.

Maus– speaking of graphic novels, this was a book that proved to me how great the format can be. It was heartbreaking, powerful and original. I loved how this intertwined Spielberg’s parents painful experiences with his own story growing up with them. It was beautiful how the narrator came to understand them with the telling of it. I can’t recommend it enough.

In Order to Live– I’ll admit I had this in the last list, but I simply couldn’t leave it out! Park is a North Korean defector and she gives a peek behind the iron fences of that regime. Her perseverance in the face of such adversity is inspiring beyond belief.

Wild Swans– this family epic made me so emotional. Spanning three generations of Chinese women, it gives a close look into China’s history, including of Maoist China. It’s not just worth reading for the personal stories, but for the significance of the history. It can help understand the modern context of China.

Man in the White Sharkskin Suit– oh this one made me cry- for many, many reasons. Telling of the 20th Century exodus of the Jews from Egypt, it has a personal touch, developing Lagnado’s relationship with her family across its pages. Beautifully written, it was not a book I expected to love quite as much as I did, and yet it had a great impact on me. 

Becoming– I listened to the audio version of this and completely get the hype around it. What’s interesting is I found the parts pre-presidency far more compelling (mostly because, for good reason, there were a lot of things in those 8 years she couldn’t talk about) and I recommend it more for her story than anything else. 

Inheritance– this is a book I read recently and can’t get out of my head. In this genealogical detective story, Shapiro discovers the truth about her parentage. Fundamentally, it is asking the question “who am I”, but I felt like it was answering the question “who are we”? It explores everything that goes into making us who we are and how we guide each other through life.

*BONUS!!!*

I Partridge, We Need to Talk About Alan- AHA we have a winner! Okay, yes, this isn’t a real memoir, but it is a damnably hilarious parody of celebrity memoirs! Definitely worth a read- but all the more fun if you’re at all familiar with the character Alan Partridge!

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And what are your favourite memoirs? Let me know in the comments!

Book I read thanks to blogging (that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise)

Okay, yes, this post could easily go on forever! Which is why I (mostly) decided to go with books *directly* recommended by individual bloggers- which actually makes this post a DOUBLE WHAMMY of recommendations for reviewers as well as books!! *SURPRISE!!* This was so hard to narrow down- which is why I decided in advance I’m going to need to do multiple posts on this! Watch out for those in the future! For now, let’s jump straight into it…

Red Rising– I’ve read so many books on the *spectacular* Kat @Life and Other Disasters suggestions, so much so I could have filled an entire post with just those! Nonetheless, I chose this, because I didn’t have much space in my life for sci fi before this 😉 It’s a bloodydamn brilliant series-an adult Hunger Games, with heavy Roman inspiration… in space! And in case that wasn’t enough, it’s got characters to die for! I can’t thank Kat enough for this rec!!

Prince of Thorns– the GREAT Drew @Tattooed Book Geek is another person who I could feature again and again! I had to pick this, cos I never would’ve tried grimdark if not for Drew’s regular recommendations for this book. In fact, this is one that year’s earlier I thought was not for me. AND YET, now that I’ve grown older (though perhaps not wiser) I’ve found the cleverness and weight in series like these. And I have Drew to thank for that!

Wolf in the Whale– okay, I’m going to be a bit boring and say I had multiple cool recs from the lovely Liis. However, my reason for picking this *chillingly beautiful* read is that I’ve basically never read anything else like it! And the reason I even heard about it was because of Liis’ fantastic review!

Ten Thousand Doors of January– I can’t seem to shut up about this book, because it’s an open and shut case of how good it is! And, as I’ve mentioned before, it was all thanks to the wonderful Witty and Sarcastic Book Club’s riveting review!  

Winter Rose- McKillip is an author I’d never heard of until I started blogging (perhaps she’s not very well known in the UK?) but I frequently saw her recommended on the BRILLIANT Bookstooge’s site. So much so that I simply had to check her out. And I’m so glad I did- her writing has a beautiful, dreamlike, fairy tale quality. Her stories sucked me in. She’s not the easiest author to come by across the pond, but I’m happy to go out of my way for more of these bad boys!

Neverending Story– by contrast, Neverending Story is one I’d definitely heard of! But, it was thanks to a recommendation from the *fab* Zezee that I finally adventured into the wilds of this book. And it truly was wild! This book doesn’t just take you on a journey into a fantasy world, it takes you into the very heart of books and shows us their beauty.

Beowulf– another story I was (of course) aware of- and yet I was thoroughly intimidated out of reading. But I needn’t have been… thanks to the fantastic Joelendil’s suggestion of trying the Seamus Heaney’s translation. I loved every moment of this.

V for Vendetta– I never would’ve attempted graphic novels if not for the *stupendous* Lashaan @Bookidote’s personalised recs- so I owe him a great debt! And this is a stellar example of his suggestions- emotional, clever and with a unique artistic style. If you crave graphic novel suggestions (and many other books besides) you’d be a fool not to check out his reviews!

Exquisite– I had a hard time recommending just the one of the many, many books the MARVELOUS Meggy @Chocolatenwaffles got me to read! I really credit her with encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and start me on thrillers with her exquisite reviews! And this was a real zinger- sublime writing and intriguing twists. I was hooked on this read… almost as much as I’m hooked on Meggy’s suggestions!

Bright Side– contemporary romance is another genre I didn’t read… until I came across the delightful Deanna @A Novel Glimpse’s blog!! And thanks to her glowing mentions over the years, I put this on my tbr (with a caveat that I must be prepared to be in a weepy mood). Once again, this was a book that blew me away (and made me go through a considerable number of tissues!)

Secret History– I was so reluctant to try this book, because sadly Goldfinch wasn’t for me. AND YET, I saw an inspiring review on the amazing Meltotheany’s blog and I simply had to know more about this murder mystery told in reverse. And you know what? She was right- this one’s a winner!

Huntress– I’ve had a weird relationship with historical fiction- let’s just say a writer-who-shall-not-be-named put me off for half a decade 😉 BUT thanks to the AWESOME Beware of the Reader and her suggestion on my blog, I just had to see what all the fuss was about! And gosh, this was far better than I ever could have imagined. Gripping from beginning to end, I fell in love with the characters and was *so invested* in their stories! Can’t recommend this- and the Beware of the Reader blog- highly enough!

Before I go, as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a few books that I was inspired to pick up after seeing them more generally round the blogosphere, just to give a tiny sense of how many good books you can find from blogging (in case you don’t already know):

So, have you read any of these? Did you like them as much as I did? What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever received from blogging? And do you plan to check out these lovely people? Let me know in the comments!

Most Unique Books I’ve Really Enjoyed!

There’s nothing new under the sun… except for these beauties! Originality is so hard to come by- and even harder to pull off without a hitch- which is what makes these unique reads special. There’s no two books the same here! And I can recommend them all for very different reasons:

Illuminae– this series has such a  u n i q u e  format!! It felt a little far out at first- but I soon got swept up in this spectacular space opera. The plot, the characters, the romance, the villains, the drama- all had me on the edge of my seat. It was such a ride!!

Horrorstor– designed like an Ikea catalogue, this was funny and entertaining and horrifying all at once. I was surprised by how much I liked this, considering I’m not much of a fan of scary stories or furniture for that matter 😉

The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- this would be original for the premise alone: Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. But this cross-genre novel goes further than that, exploring complex and unexpected themes. It was completely different to anything I’ve ever read before.

Homegoing– I loved the way this innovative cross-generation epic progresses the story with a character from each generation. It had so much scope! 

Secret History– a murder mystery told in reverse, it is all the more compelling for it!

The Trial– there’s a reason the term Kafkaesque exists- no one writes quite like Kafka. This is an oddly prophetic novel… emphasis on *odd*.

Master and Margarita– equal parts strange and sublime, I’ve never read anything quite like this. Surreally realising reality, this is an unusually philosophical read that will make you question everything.  

Life of Pi– similarly (and yet totally different) Mantel challenges the very notion of what is real with this survival novel.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– using old, unusual photographs, Riggs builds a very peculiar narrative indeed. Simultaneously an alternate history of the holocaust and an adventure fantasy, it’s not your typical read!

Wolf in the Whale– I simply had to include this for its unique subject: when the history of Inuits and Vikings collided. It feels refreshingly different.

Night Circus– I’ve seen a lot of books compared to the Night Circus– but it’s a pretty impossible feat, because nothing is like Night Circus. The structure, writing and world are all completely original. Don’t believe me? Pick it up for yourself and you’ll see how unbelievably delightful it is.

Wilder Girls– this is a hard one to pin down. In parts it’s a straight horror; other parts read more like a Sapphic romance; and sometimes it just feels like a straight retelling. For all those, it’s not your usual YA.

Scorpio Races– no one writes quite like Stiefvater. Not only is her world building very original, this is so atmospheric, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of reality.

Phantom Tollbooth– eccentric and charming, I can’t think of another book to compare it to… because there isn’t one! Playing with language and just plain playing around, this is one of my all-time favourite children’s books.

Good Omens– all of Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s works are so OUT THERE, I didn’t know which one to spotlight… so I decided to go for the one where the great duo teamed up! The concept for this post-apocalyptic story is wildly different and so much fun. And, of course, as you’d expect from these two authors, it’s also completely hilarious.

And that’s all for now! Do you like or dislike any of my picks? And what books have you read that stood out as unique? Let me know in the comments!

Cool Books About Creativity!

In honour of Nanowrimo, I thought it would be fun to share a few books that feature creativity! Here are some inspiring and insightful reads for you:

Enchantment of Ravens– there were a lot of things I appreciated about this book, but one of my favourites was how it handled “craft”. It actually managed to make mortality special in a way that was completely unique. I appreciated this charming refrain more even than the actual magic!

My Name is Asher Lev– while I admit I disliked the main character for sacrificing everything- including his family- for his art, I do think it’s great that it explored this theme in such a deep way. Potok’s beautiful writing doesn’t hurt either.

Eliza and her Monsters– there’s lots to write home about with this contemporary- the friendships, the way it explores family and how it tackles mental health topics. But most of all, I love how it gives a modern twist on the topic of creativity. The protagonist is the creator of a popular webcomic- looking at all different sides of the topic, from internet culture to the pressure of success to the challenges of finding an ending. Even better, it does all of this in a creative way, bringing the story to life with fun illustrations.

Angel’s Game– while Shadow of the Wind is a book about reading, its sequel explores the topic of writing. In his haunting way, Zafon doesn’t try to glamorise the process, showing all its gritty frustrations and realities and struggles. You won’t just be enraptured by the setting, you will fall into the very atmosphere of the writer’s world.

Little Women– everyone and their mother knows (and loves) this classic. And one of the many, many reasons it’s so loved is for Jo- who is an inspiration to all young, budding writers. As much about her failures as her successes, Alcott shows us why we can’t be stuck in our ways as creatives and how we have to learn to adapt.  

I Capture the Castle– writing is a theme in this book in more ways than one. We see creativity in this book from multiple perspectives- the book is replete with creative types. Trying to achieve dreams is written into the very spine of the book, beginning with an artists exile and ending with the possibility of revival.

Daisy Jones and the Six– in this realistic story, you really get the vibe of the rock ’n roll movement. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time; it’s a real mood. I got so much out of the way this book describes creativity. And, with the fantastic narration in the audio version, I felt like I was listening in as an honorary band member – not just a groupie.

With the Fire on High– this is the kind of unusual take on creativity we don’t often get to taste. With its creative culinary skills, this book shows us how creativity can take you beyond your circumstances and how a dash of spice can brighten up your life. An absolutely delectable read.

Big Magic- as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a charming non fic that will give you a little push to be creative, if you need it.

So, have you read any of these? Were you inspired by them? Do you plan to? And what are your favourite books about creativity? Let me know in the comments!

Alias Grace was a Gem Hidden in Plain Sight

I committed a cardinal sin with this book: I started watching the TV show first. I know, I know, that’s a crime as a bookaholic! Truth be told, I did it because I was on the fence over whether I wanted to try more Atwood. While I was impressed with her writing in Handmaid’s Tale, the actual story wasn’t for me. But then Netflix went and tempted me with this beauty.

Telling of a notorious murderess, this is an intriguing historical murder mystery. Pacey and languid in equal parts, I found myself racing to the end of the book and the show at the same time! (such that the two are blurred together in my mind). The lilting tone of the writing and the specificity of the imagery took me on a journey. My only issue is that Atwood has an aversion to speech marks for some indecipherable reason- the only consequence of which is to blur the words on the page. But otherwise, I was captivated.

Twining real life events with hints of the supernatural twists the tale into a unique patchwork-puzzle. Even with all the pieces, it’s impossible to solve… and for me that makes it a little bit special. The text never fully commits to vindicating or condemning Grace- and for me that is the perfect solution. I am sure there are feminist interpretations (indeed I’ve seen a few) that blame all the negative male behaviour for everything bad the women do… and yet neither the book nor the show fully commits to that argument. Which is a good thing- not least because this would take away the responsibility (and therefore power) of its female cast.

And, because of this ambiguity, I can’t stop thinking about it. I confess after finishing, I fell down an (unsatisfactory) research rabbithole, trying to get to the bottom of the true story! One thing’s for certain, Grace has been haunting me ever since I first caught her eye.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? Do you plan to? And what Atwood (other than the Handmaid’s Tale) would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2020!

Hello all! Looks like we made it to November- hopefully all in one piece! Nothing too freaky happened to me in October… except starting a new job- which caught me by surprise! (in a good way 😉) Like a lot of people, this year’s been a bit rocky financially, so pretty relieved to have some more stable work to see me out to the end of 2020. Sadly, on that note, I may have to take a few more breaks from blogging (gosh so reluctant to just say I’m going on hiatus!) I’d love to be able to catch up on everything I’ve been missing out online, but I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.

gotta go to work! 😉

Emily in Paris– there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this: the stereotyping, the silly inaccuracies for cheap laughs, the *awful* (cheating) love triangle and the horribly unsympathetic lead… buuut I have to admit I had fun with it. It was a light, fluffy, silly rom com that made me laugh. So I’m sorry to the Gods of TV Taste- I enjoyed this more than I should have!

American Vandal– I watched this because I was obviously craving something a little more serious 😉 I loved how this sent up true crime documentaries. I still think that Sadie is the best for critiquing the way true crime doesn’t care about the victims- yet this did make compelling arguments about how filmmakers can expose people unfairly, ruin lives and not really help anyone in the long run (especially if society already has it in for them). Not just because it offered an interesting commentary on how so many of these documentaries can be unethical, but because it was a remarkably compelling story in its own right (even if the main mystery was “who drew the dicks on teacher’s cars?”). And it was all the more entertaining for being completely over the top!

City of Girls– after reading a couple of Gilbert’s great non-fiction books, I’d been hoping to read her fiction for some time now, because I hoped it would hold the same charm for me. Sadly, this did not live up to expectations. My biggest issue with City of Girls was that it basically read like a modern story with a vintage veneer. For all the costumes and hints of setting, I felt like too many characters were out of step with the time period. And while I loved the voice, because its expressive tone created so much character, I ultimately found the protagonist incredibly unlikeable. Sometimes this isn’t such a big problem- however in this case she was such an unconscionable cow that I was cheering on the person chastising her.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Inheritance– in this compelling memoir about discovering the secrets of her DNA, Dani Shapiro hands down the details of her life story. Part detective story, part journal of self-discovery, this is one of the most intriguing non fiction books I’ve ever read. Reading this, I was constantly annoying my family with exclamations of “oh my god!” (so beware reading this in a public place). On a personal level, it’s hard not to empathise- yet it also raises ethical quandaries that are not so easily put to rest. Do donors have a right to privacy or children have a right to know? It is no small thing to consider- especially if the potential cost is the lives of these very children. Then there are the questions of nature vs nurture- for if you find out your father is not your biological father, then who made you who you are? Surely both inform your identity in some way? Finally, and most significantly, there is an attempt to get to the root of one of life’s biggest issues: who am I? And I guess it was this central issue that made me relate- despite how unusual her story was. I couldn’t help but identify with her struggles to connect with her identity. I definitely knew what she was talking about when she referred to veiled anti-Semitism. Much of this hit me like a gut-punch. It’s a powerful and fascinating read that I would definitely recommend. Nonetheless, I have to warn you, even though the mystery of her parentage is solved by the end: the puzzles at its heart linger will linger long after you turn the last page.   

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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The Wife Who Knew Too Much– after reading Michele Campbell’s Stranger on the Beach, I knew this would be a strong thriller. And I was right… to an extent. For much of the book, I had no idea where this was going. I loved some of the legal drama woven in, but it dragged in the middle and I wasn’t quite clear on whether I was fully invested in the story. Yet, the author really hits the accelerator at 80%, taking a bit of a wild turn off a freeway. I was impressed with how much smart the twist was and liked the motive more than I expected. I especially loved how the title plays with you and has many different meanings. Ultimately it wasn’t my favourite journey, but I liked the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Spinning Silver– I’m struggling to weigh up my thoughts about this one. There were so many delicate threads that wove into an intricate design. There’s love, monsters, adventure, friendship and family- all seamlessly stitched together. Standing back from it I can see Novik certainly knows how to spin an elaborate tale! The author has such a talent for taking the villains of a tale and turning it around- and doing this with Rumpelstiltskin is a far more remarkable feat than Beauty and the Beast. What I especially liked was how the original was revealed to be simply the blood libel in disguise- which I had not realised before. Still, I did end up fairly conflicted about the Jewish aspect of the story- since writing another ugly-Jewish-girl-with-money story doesn’t exactly challenge stereotypes. But while I may have been a little sensitive to this, I don’t want to be too critical, especially as I am aware of the historical reality (ie Christians were not allowed to lend money and Jews were often not allowed access to any other profession). Plus, it’s an interesting enough spin. On balance, this was an excellent book, just perhaps not quite the right fit for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Ninth House- I’ll confess I took a risk reading this, because I wasn’t that sure I’d like it. I love the author, but have never been into horror. That said, with all the hype, the pull was to great to resist. And, even if it’s not my usual cup of tea, I’m glad I gave it a go! Straight away, I could see it was a good job this was classified as adult- it’s exceptionally dark. As has been widely discussed, there is a graphic rape scene that is hard to read. However, having read it, I can’t believe Bardugo was called out over it- maybe people should spend more time getting angry at the people that do evil things, not the people that write about them. Despite all the gore, what actually stood out was the story. Pacey, intriguing and hinging on different timelines- I was wowed by how it all came together. In fact, I was feeling pretty slumpy when I picked it up and still whizzed through it in a day! Galaxy, while dark and edgy, has enough shine to keep me interested. Darlington was considerably more fascinating than I first thought as well. But really it was all about that plot and killer ending for me.  

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!

Spoopy Memes Book Tag! Versions 1 and 2!

Hello all! It’s that time of the year again… time to celebrate SpOOpY SeaSOn… WhooOOoOOOooooHHh! Last year the lovely Emily at Embuhleeliest tagged me in her Spoopy Memes Book Tag and I didn’t get the chance to do it- so I’m rectifying that by doing that one and the one from this year! (tbh I liked them both and couldn’t choose between them 😉) Thank you so much for tagging me! Let’s jump into the rules…

If you’d like to do this tag, please link back to this post so I can see your answers!

  • Feel free to use the banner above if you’d like, and I highly suggest you copy over the memes, as they give the questions context.

Time to get spooky! What books will you be reading to celebrate this time of year?

I love spooky season so much, I’ve actually made a tentative tbr!! At the time of writing this, I’ve already read a few, but I still have to read Winterwood, Ninth House and maybe even Gideon the Ninth!

Do you put up decorations for Halloween? If so, describe them! Even better, show them!

Oh dear, I’ve got to confess I’m pretty lazy when it comes to decorations (as much as I appreciate looking at decked out houses!) I usually just carve a pumpkin… sometimes not even that. HOWEVER, this year I do have a super cute bubonic plague plushie sitting on my desk that my friend got me… does that count? (probably not, since that’s it’s home now!)

What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? What made it so scary?

I struggle to read scary books (even children’s ones) so the first scary book I can remember getting through was Turn of the Screw. If I hadn’t had to read it for uni (and I hadn’t had all the lights switched on) I don’t know if I’d have finished it, because it’s so creepy!!

What’s the last book you read that truly shocked you, made your jaw drop, or made you chuck the book across the room?

This may be a shocker, but I’m going with a recent memoir I read called Inheritance. It’s about a woman who finds out in her fifties that her father isn’t her father- and I can’t count the number of times it made me gasp!

What’s a book that’s fallen out of the spotlight that you still really like and try get people to read?

Demon King– it’s not got the spotlight on it anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an electrifying fantasy series!

Are you dressing up this year? If so, what as? If not, what would be your costume if you were?

I’m not dressing up, but if I were, I’d dress up as a human! Cos humans are weird 😉

What is your opinion on the word ‘spoopy’, and memes that follow its theme?

It’s loads of fun- just like this tag! And on that note, time for PART 2!

Name a character that keeps repeating the same mistakes, despite having multiple opportunities to prevent them

I’m going left of field and picking some characters that IRRITATE ME TO DEATH- both Marianne and Connell from Normal People *repeatedly* cheat on their SO throughout the story… and for what? Why can’t they just be a couple? Maybe it made sense in the weird social dynamics of high school… buuut once you’re adults at the same uni/working in the same city- what’s the point of (literally) screwing over other people? What do they gain from it?

Name a book where the characters got their just desserts

The first character that popped into my head was Umbridge- because if anyone deserved to get chased by centaurs, it was her. That said, I don’t know if everyone in that book got their just desserts!! (RIP Sirius!!)

Name a book that tries to put a positive spin on something terrible

Man’s Search for Meaning– Frankl’s positive and constructive worldview is astounding, especially considering the horror he endured. This book doesn’t just shed light on his own experience, it can lead others out of their own personal darkness.

Name a book that delves into an existential topic

The Stranger- I just loved the dark humour in this. 

What trope or theme in a book do you really like that you don’t feel gets enough attention?

I love the trope where a character goes into the “wild” and comes back transformed. It’s a pretty common trope- you can see it in every fantasy from The Hobbit to Ravencry to Winter of the Witch, BUT not many people seem as lowkey obsessed with it as I am 😉

Name a character whose humour is consistently underappreciated by those around them

Oof I see this in books all the time and yet I struggled to think of the answer! Until at last the perfect character smacked me round the face and reintroduced himself: Jalan from Prince of Fools. He’s hilarious- but not everyone in the series appreciates that about him!

Name a book (or two or three) that has helped you get through this year

Books are always my go-to in tough times (so needless to say I’ve needed a lot of fluffy, escapist and fantastical reads to get through the dumpster fire that is 2020). I was completely transported by Once and Future Witches, I had a wild ride with Aurora Burning and Sorcery of Thorns was just a joy to read! 

What are your plans for Halloween this year if you celebrate it? How do you plan on spending what’s left of October?

I’m planning on surviving it!!! 😉 Given how the last year’s been going, who knows if what’ll happen? 😉

Annnd on that terrifying thought, I’m going to love you and leave you! I tag anyone that wants to do this!

And for everyone else- do you enjoy spoopy memes? Let me know in the comments!

Books that will haunt me to the grave

… in a good way (sort of 😉). Because these are some of the most poignant, heartrending, memorable reads I’ve ever experienced. Let’s just get right into it!  

The Book Thief– I’ve been meaning to reread this for years, but I’m so haunted by the first time, I can’t quite bring myself to pick it up again. It completely broke my heart.

Heart of Darkness– the writing that is so hauntingly beautiful, it’s hard to forget. More than that, the story is such that every reread gives me a different impression. It’s a puzzle that I don’t know if I’ll ever solve.

The Stranger- an unusual book, I can’t quite shake it from my mind. When I look back on this book, I feel like I’m in a haze of mismatched thoughts. I don’t know what to think of it- and yet I can’t not think about it!

The Trial– it’s not just the weird, surreal atmosphere that gets to me with this book- the shocking part is how true it turned out to be. Kafka acted as a prophet with this book, reflecting the absurdity of Soviet-style show trials before they ever took place.

Homegoing– this is another story with exquisite writing- yet it’s the overarching narrative that lives in my heart. A disquieting story, it shows the intergenerational ghosts that haunt a single family, coming full circle at the end to put them at peace.

Beowulf– I don’t know what it was- the ancient words or the powerful translation by Heaney, but I felt this story thrumming in my bones. I don’t know if it was the obscurity or the familiarity of the epic- but it’s seized my imagination now and will not let it go.

Wolf in the Whale– this is a story that captured me with its sense of place, I feel like the visuals are imprinted in my mind and the harrowing tale is hard to shake. Fantastical, mythical and yet all too real, it’s not going to be for everyone, but if you do read it you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Between Shades of Grey/Salt to the Sea– yes I’m doing 2 for 1 here, because I frankly can’t choose between Sepetys most celebrated works. These evocative novels shed light on events a lot of people (including me) don’t learn about- and I love that they managed to be subtly interlinked as well.

All That Still Matters at All– I talk a lot about this poetry collection, because I just don’t feel like it gets enough attention. A hidden, Hungarian gem, this has a heartbreaking background and is well worth sampling.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky- ever since I read this book, I can’t quite get the plaintiff tune of Nessum Dorma, floating through the alps, out of my head. I will never forget this story of heroism in WWII and I salute the real life inspirations for it- they should not be forgotten.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles- Hardy stole my heart from the moment I read this, introducing me to his characters and world. I suppose I should be annoyed at how he toyed with my emotions, raising my hopes, only to lead me off into dark woods and dashing my dreams on a rock. But as devastated as I was, I’m not bitter about it! To my mind, it’s the perfect example of how a tragedy should be written.

So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And do you have any books that will haunt you forever? Let me know in the comments!

Settling in for Home Before Dark was… Unsettling!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but I’m the one trembling with excitement about this book!***

home before darkWelcome, welcome! Today I have a treat for you if you like something a little tricksy- let me show you around. Here we enter into a story that has all the hallmarks of a spinechilling thriller: a haunted house vibe, a tensely told plot and even hints of creepy children in the flashbacks.

Step over the threshold and this is a multi-storied narrative. It contains a story within a story in a unique way. For this is a story that takes place over two timelines- a mystery that unfolded twenty-five years earlier and led to a family fleeing in the middle of the night… and the present day where the daughter tries to uncover what the hell happened. Problem is, the main clue she has her (now deceased) father’s bestselling, “true” account… which she’s a little sceptical about.

And it’s this motivation that makes it such a compelling read. Not only is she clearly haunted by what happened in this house, she’s also troubled by her father’s runaway success story. Thrusting her into the spotlight, it made me think of the troubling trend of child stars. Her foundational motivation for getting involved in this case is unshakeable. Even better, her character is intrinsically built around resolving her childhood trauma. It really strengthens the story.

Of course, it’s not a cut and dry situation. Unlocking what happened uncovers revelation after revelation. The key is elusive. I kept feeling like I had all the pieces to the puzzle… yet couldn’t quite put it together. To complicate the matter even further, Sager proves that memory is not always to be trusted. The narrative becomes lost in the labyrinthine passages of Baneberry Hall. Then- suddenly- the answer pounces on you and throws you into a frenzy of “aha”s. This is, after all, the kind of thriller that makes perfect sense when you think about it.

So, needless to say my visit was an experience… one I won’t forget in a hurry! 😉 I hope you enjoyed that quick open house and got a taste for what’s inside! Do come back and visit any time! Please take some bananas for the road…

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

And let me know: do you plan on coming to stay?

What does my sister think of my recommendations? How much does our taste align? Interviewing the Monkey Baby – Fantasy edition!

Hello all! I have a very exciting post for you today… featuring my sister the ONE AND ONLY Monkey Baby!

Hi my precious bonbons- I hope you enjoy this discussion and my jelly belly thoughts!

Since she’s often the guinea pig for my recommendations (and we’ve spent an awful lot of the year locked in the same house together) I thought it might be cool to put it to the test! As you may know, I love seeing how my taste differs from other people and trying to be a bit more objective about the books I love. And, although this is a little close to home, you’ll still hear plenty of contrasting opinions from us!

To make this even more fun (for me 😉 ) I did this interview style! I’ll be the one in bold, asking the questions, while my lovely sister will be the one answering (henceforth known as MB). Hope you enjoy! Onto the interview…

Let’s start off with some of the big ones- what did you think of my recommendation for Laini Taylor? What do you think about her as an author?

MB: She’s a special human who writes magical content. Her romance is the mushiest. And she writes about cake- it’s so cute. I love Lazlo and moths.

But you hate moths…?

MB: Only in that world. She converted me to moths in that world- not in reality (in reality they’re the worst thing in the world).

And similarly, how do you feel about Katherine Arden’s Bear and the Nightingale series?

MB: I love the romance in that one, it’s really awesome. Their romance is so good between Vasilisa and the winter ice-freak. *Then mentions big spoiler that I’ve censored!*

I think the word you’re looking for is demon! 😂 You also loved Uprooted– I think that was even more to your taste than mine?

MB: It’s awesome. It’d be pretty cool to have magical powers to get dressed in different ways. That’s funky banana socks! I like Agniezka and the Dragon. The writing style is pretty and Novik ends it really well… *redacted for spoilers*.

And how about Night Circus? That became a favourite as well, didn’t it?

MB: Yeah that one is a favourite of mine, I love the magic. The circus is incredible. I wish there was a circus that existed like that. One that wasn’t just full of creepy clowns, because no one wants to go to a circus that’s just full of creepy clowns. Actually, on a complete tangent, I went to one at Winter Wonderland last year and that was actually pretty awesome. Getting close to that… well not really- 90% not there- but at least much closer than it used to be when we were kids, soooo.

*prompts her back on topic*

MB: In Night circus there are no clowns. And it’s just magical. And the romance was beautiful. And the ending is amazing… *starts speaking spoilers again*.

Hahaha you keep spoiling is the endings of books!

MB: It’s amazing- I can’t tell you anything about it- but it’s incredible!

Moving onto the Grisha Series- what are your thoughts about Shadow and Bone vs Six of Crows? You know I like Six of Crows better, but which do you prefer?

MB: Six of Crows was better. It was a more fleshed out story and the heist was better. The Grisha series was really good, but the romance was a bit meh. I actually wanted her to be with the evil one (spoilers).

It’s okay that’s not a spoiler- you didn’t say who the evil one was. I thought you preferred the shadow and bone series for some reason.

MB: No I really didn’t. As in I liked it a lot, but I thought he was a bit naff and I thought she was a bit naff by the end. Although her powers were really cool and I liked the fact *launches into a spoiler*… oh wait that was a spoiler.

Okay that’s quite cool- I thought we differed on that.

MB: Also Kaz is just the coolest- you can imagine he’s really cool in real life. (At the moment I’m mixing him up with another character in my mind- you know the magician from The Last Magician. He’s really similar. Kaz is better. But if you put them together it’s the best character)

Now we’re going onto a big topic- Throne of Glass. When it came to that we ended up on the same page- didn’t we? And we shipped the same people?

MB: Oh Dorian. She ruined that series. It had so much potential for so much cuteness! And how can you say no to a puppy? Dorian is a puppy and also he gives a puppy- how on earth do you choose anyone else when they give you a puppy? I don’t understand; it doesn’t make any sense. And Manon was awesome- that was a very clever addition- the whole witch thing was brilliantly done. Dorian and Manon should’ve been the main characters. She should make a whole separate book on Dorian and Manon. That would be the only book by her that I would read next… otherwise no. The only romance that she focused on was the one I didn’t care about.

The series fell off the tracks at the end.

MB: The series itself was ehhhhh…. It got very political and it copied Lord of the Rings (but in a way where I thought “I know that you’re trying to do lotr but it’s not lotr and you’re not Tolkien, so… stop.”) I didn’t really appreciate the politics. The whole ending of we’ll now build a democracy… Sorry, ending spoiler. Of course I’m down for a democracy but why do you have to bring it into a fantasy world? It’s like, okay, I don’t care. Say it for a sentence, if you really must, but it went on for ages, banging home about it. We know democracy is good, we’re not stupid. I don’t think you can meet many people nowadays who say “you know what I really want to do is go back to the middle ages and just be ruled by royalty and not have any freewill. That makes sense”.

I’m also happy I got you into Kagawa- you read all the Iron Fey and the first two Shadow of the Fox books in lockdown, didn’t you? What did you like about those?

MB: Oh Kagawa! She’s great! Iron Fey- oh my god. What’s his name- the one with the dark hair- I’m gonna die if I don’t know- look it up!

(makes me pause to look up the name of the love interest)

MB: Ash! Ash is one of the best fairy prince characters ever. He’s just the coolest character and the whole journey to his soul is mind-blowingly good. That whole book is just… the best. Actually I don’t know why I sold it now I’m thinking of it, because I would happily reread it…

Except for the other half of the series is really meh, because she took the complete wrong path with the son. Because why why why did she have to make him evil. And then why does he have to be the (spoiler) the king of the in-between and he never has a romance. It should’ve been from his perspective. It’s just sad- they had potential to be really good- but I don’t really care about Ethan. He’s mortal and boring. But the first four were incredible.

I haven’t finished the Shadow of the Fox series- but the first impressions are that it’s cool. Yumeko’s the sweetest character and I like how she makes friends along the way. She’s a cute little fairy creature. She’s one of those little rabbits, a rabbit that makes friends, that makes you go aww.

I can’t remember what your thoughts were on Cruel Prince though? Did you like the conclusion?

MB: Oh oh ohhhhh! The first two were really good. I really liked the romance- they were a cute couple. And Jude’s obsession with getting power is really well portrayed. The whole sister thing is a bit messed up, but was well thought out. All of the relationships made sense. And I do think she ended it well. But I dunno, I think the third one was good- but it just needed MORE of it. MORE depth to the relationships. MORE to the plot. MORE fleshed out. It would just be juicier- if you don’t have any flesh in the apple, you’re not going to enjoy it). I’d still read more of her books, because I liked the whole fairy world that she created, with it being very tricksy and difficult to live in as humans.

Dipping our toes into sci fi, I also gave you Renegades- and since we’ve already talked quite a bit about that on here, I won’t make you repeat yourself. What I want to know is does it inspire you to try more Marissa Meyer?

MB: Oh Renegades was incredible. Yeah of course. There’s a whole other series… Oh her other stuff? Interestingly I don’t know if I can be bothered, just because there’s so many fantasy books and you’ve given me five more and I can’t think ahead. It depends what she writes about. Authors like Laini Taylor- heaven!– if she brought out anything, ANYTHING, I would read anything by you. For most authors it has to be about the topic. (Like Katherine Arden has written ghost stuff that I’m not interested in).

I was just wondering if you have anything else to say about it?

MB: Spoilers.

Also Adrian has the best power in the world. Although there’s Ronan. Adrian’s power vs Ronan’s power- oh lords- what would you choose?

That’s really hard.

MB: You can make anything in your dream and bring it out.

Or give yourself powers.

MB: It’s a little less dangerous if you have Adrian’s

That’s what I was thinking.

MB: Cos Ronan’s is really scary to be honest. And you’d have to have a lot of control. Whereas Adrian’s you don’t have to have that much control, you just have to get better at art, which is just a fun problem. Whereas Ronan it’s like “oh my god I have this insane amazing power and it could be amazing but it’s scary and beep”. If you could have full control of Ronan’s power possibly that could be better. But Adrian’s power is definitely the easier route.

We’re gonna talk about Raven Cycle now you’ve brought it up… I take it you like it?

MB: I thought it was pretty cool. And Blue and that posh boy Gansey- aww that was very cute. But I’m glad she did a whole spinoff on Ronan because he was the most interesting character.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing though, has it? Do you remember when I tried to get you into dark fantasy, like Sabriel?

MB: Yeahhhhh… nahhh… it wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t terrible, it was very well written, I was just like “yeah not into this”.

And you didn’t like Hazel Wood either- why not?

MB: Just no. I mean, incredibly written, very addictive, but not my thing. I don’t know why the heck you gave that to me.

I should’ve known better! (but at least you can be thankful I’m not giving you any grimdark…) You’re not as big of a fan of Carry On either, are you?

MB: It was fine. You just hyped it up way more than it needed to be hyped. It was cute and it was funny, but it was essentially just a rewrite, so… (although every book is technically rewritten). It was good. It was funny- but it’s not Laini Taylor. (There’s a stream here. No one lives up!)

thankfully, though, you liked all the Cinda Chima Williams books I’ve lent you?

MB: I remember it being incredible and addictive and the romance was awesome. It was really clever.

Oh and I loved the Heir series! I thought it was so sweet. I thought the whole music bit was amazing because, well obviously… So so cool to have magic in the instruments.

Which is a good note to leave on! Thank you very much Monkey Baby!

And after that all-round bananas post, if you want to check out more from the Monkey Baby, she now has a blog up and running! (shockingly not under the title “monkey baby”) It’s got a lot of lovely lifestyle posts and excellent discussions about her area of expertise (music!) I particularly recommend her thought-provoking post on the disparity in music education, useful posts for budding musicians on improving your rhythm, a great post on whether there should be a division in the types of music studied, a lovely post on taking breaks and of course her marvellous post on making time to read!

And now I want to ask you lovely people- what do you think of my recommendations? Have you enjoyed anything I’ve recommended over the years? Is there anything you hated or were a bit more meh about? Let me know in the comments!