Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – I’m Feeling February 2022!

Hello all! Long time, no monthly mini posts! But 2022 is bolting out the gate- so I’d better get started talking about some of the things I’ve been reading and watching! Let’s begin with the TV/movies I’ve seen lately- some of which I loved and one I LOATHED…

Cobra Kai– I was so so sceptical about this show. I thought it was just another cashgrab, deconstruction of a classic… but that’s not what this turned out to be at all. Because there’s so much depth to this story and it does every single one of the characters proud. It’s not simply a redemption story and it’s not just a way to ruin our childhoods by showing that the hero was really the villain all along. No, this shows that while the villain can be the hero of their own story, everyone needs to make an effort and work on themselves. Not everything is black and white. Not everything is as straightforward as it seems. This heartwarming show is genuinely moving. Plus, it’s also pretty kickass and crazy dramatic.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window- what a BLAST! Such a great parody of recent thrillers. It was very obviously side-eying the likes of Woman in the Window. Because of this, you can guess the ending fairly quickly- but that didn’t stop it being a joyous satire. It has some truly laugh-out-loud moments. In fact, every time the trailers rolled, I was chuckling to myself. And Kirsten Bell KILLED IT as the lead!! I will say it was a bit gory at the end- I couldn’t even watch through my fingers at some points- however this also gave me Woman in the Window flashbacks 😂

Don’t Look Up– look, if you like propagandistic movies by elitist schmucks who claim to be the “little guy” then… I don’t know what to say to you. Even if you’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid and don’t mind being patronised by a very-obvious-analogy for climate change denial, you may end up being bothered by how Hollywood acts like all these groups aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet. I don’t know what planet you’re living on- but world leaders and celebrities and media outlets all seem happy to fly around the world on private jets to espouse the same “we’re all gonna die” talking points. I didn’t need to watch a boring, unfunny, hectoring movie to hear that same message from the same damn people so that they can justify raising taxes for the poor. Gotta love Hollywood- the moral arbiters of the world…

Once Upon a Broken Heart– ohmygosh, I’m so happy I picked up this book! I was hesitant, because, well, my feelings about Caraval aren’t exactly a secret. But this was EXACTLY what I needed. Fundamentally a fun fantasy, this fulfilled my every forgotten desire for YA. Playing with the idea of fate and gods in a way that is totally unique, this was a wild ride from start to finish. I loved the way the story starts so unexpectedly- with a HUGE blunder from our main character! This is just the kind of entertainment I was looking for and that I’d have enjoyed once upon a time when I was a teen 😉 I can’t wait for book 2!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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I Have Something to Tell You– don’t bother reading this book. Unless you want to spend the whole time wondering what is even the point of all this?! This is a murder mystery that really isn’t much of a mystery at all… because *spoiler alert* everyone can tell who did it EXCEPT FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER (who also happens to be the murderer’s defence lawyer). And why is she the only person on the planet who thinks he’s innocent? Well, because he has sexy eyes. Greatest defence in history, amiright??! Seriously though, this was peculiar for plenty of reasons. Not least to say that it’s ALSO OBVIOUS that the main character’s husband betrayed her… not that there’s any point to that subplot other than to set up a terrible ending where the main character shacks up with the killer only to discover he was guilty all along. Gah!! And if you read all those spoilers, I haven’t ruined the book for you: I’ve saved you from wasting your time.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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Six Crimson Cranes– ach I had such high expectations for this… but sadly this is the kind of book that didn’t quite float my boat. While it had a fiercely dramatic opening, it kind of slid into mediocrity after that. Possibly because the most interesting character (the dragon) was side-lined for most of the story. And once the initial conflict was initiated, it plodded along in a muted fashion. I didn’t really take to the secondary conflict… which is a big issue because (*spoiler alert*) that was the actual conflict. The potentially fascinating villain was just trying to help her all along (which is basically the worst trope ever)- replacing her with some generic fantasy threat I didn’t care about. And it used flimsy tropes like false memories in an attempt to trick us into seeing the villain in a sympathetic light… which still didn’t work since her actions at the start were the equivalent of kicking a puppy. That said, I feel like I’m the one kicking a puppy by not liking the book, because it does have such an optimistic view. It just left me feeling flat. While not a bad book, unfortunately the ending undoes a lot of what I liked about it in the beginning.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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The Man Who Died Twice– this was another pointless read I’m afraid :/ It felt like the author was just fulfilling a quota of getting a second book out in order to capitalise on the success of the first. There wasn’t enough about this book that was special in its own right to justify it as a sequel. Whereas Thursday Murder Club used the structure of a murder mystery to explore themes of aging and used the story to explore the characters in real depth, this felt like a tagged on overlong epilogue. And while there were still fun characters to work with, I felt like it missed the mark in terms of actually making me like the newer members of the cast and didn’t have the heart of the first book. And although the mystery was alright, I was frustrated that the disparate stories still didn’t connect. Irritatingly, all the things that I didn’t like about the first one were amped up (including the middle-aged attempts at wokeness and BBC-approved moralising). This was just an okay read- though I can imagine it being a fun TV series.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Poison– okay, I don’t normally talk about rereads here, but I JUST WANT TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK (again) SO BADLY!!! This was one of my rereads from 2021- that I hadn’t planned on picking up again… if ever- because I just wasn’t sure it could live up to my memory of how good it was. And you know what? It was better. Not only was the tone utterly unique and stylised, but the characters were just as vivid and distinctive. The motivation and plot isn’t straight out of your usual YA fantasy. This takes stereotypes and twists them just enough to give them meaning and make them take on a life of their own. Wooding has such a brilliant understanding of life and stories, bringing them together in a magically meta way. This had even more clever twists than I remembered- so I’m glad I left it such a long time before rereading it. I almost felt like I was experiencing it for the first time, yet with a little hint of nostalgia behind that. I wish I could do a full length review- but I feel like it’s the kind of book that engrossed me too much to take proper notes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Cytonic– now this is what I’m talking about!! While I wasn’t super blown away by Starsight, I had enjoyed Skyward enough to give the series another go- and I was so pleased that I did. As Spensa mentions herself, a lot of the second book was taken up with being a fish out of water, which didn’t really work for me, but this was a return to form. Action-packed and with fantastic character development, it kept me hooked from beginning to end… even in a super strange environment where it’s hard to get your footing. But of course, Brandon Sanderson is the master when it comes to world building! I listened to this on audiobook and found the reading mesmerising- not least because I already loved the voicey style. It made me fall in love with the characters all over again. A great edition to the series that has me pumped for the next instalment!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

Perfectly Imperfect Books

Books are like people. They’re temperamental, diverse and it’s the little things that make them special. Sometimes we love them inexplicably, warts and all. So today I decided to dedicate a list to the books that I love ALL THE MORE *because* of their imperfections. Here are my top ten perfectly imperfect books:

idiot1. The Idiot– so years ago when I reviewed this book I talked a little about how this book is technically a failed book about failure. I mean, it doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion, it swerves off topic on multiple occasions and the plot is a little all over the place. BUT if you asked me which books have had the most impact on me, this would be on that list. Sure, this book may have some pretty random tangents- but man, the philosophy espoused here is endlessly deep. So yes, this book may not be as polished as some of Dostoevsky’s other work, but it’s perfect in its own way.

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_cover2. Emma– okay this one’s cheating a little- cos I think this one’s practically perfect in every way. In fact, I recall a professor of mine describing it as such. And it’s true, because the moral of self-improvement, the biting humour, the character development and the structure of the novel are all perfectly balanced (I could literally go on forever- but if you want more details my review’s here). However, interestingly enough, what makes this so successful as a novel is how imperfect Emma is as a character- and for me that’s what makes it so great.

Hobbit_cover3. The Hobbit– as you all know I *adore* this book. It was my gateway to fantasy and *arghh* it’s just so complex and amazing! BUT it does rightly get some criticism for being episodic. My response to that is this only adds to the story, since every episode moves the plot along, whilst containing its own unique message. The other criticism it gets is “it’s just a children’s book”- to which I say “eff off” or in more adult terms “if you haven’t learnt by now that there’s more to children’s books than meet the eye then you still have a lot of growing up to do” (see I can be mature 😉 ) Incidentally I should have known the movie franchise was doomed when Jackson said that.

ovid erotic poems4. Ovid’s Erotic Poems– OH GAWD I LOVE THESE- okay now I’ve got that out my system… These can be read in multiple ways- read it too literally and you might end up hating Ovid as a person- but if you get the subtext it’s one of the most hilarious books ever written. However, like most books that can be read in multiple directions, it’s easily either going to be one of the best things you ever read or the worst. Plus you may end up concentrating so hard on it that you develop a tension headache 😉

carry on5. Carry On– as a parody of Harry Potter, it obviously has to bear a lot of similarities with the original in order to work, but as is so often the case with satire, the humour is often missed by critics and I’ve seen this labelled “unoriginal” umpteen times. To that I would say, people need to do a better exploration of what satire is– but then getting undue criticism is also kinda a part of the genre too- so it’s a catch 22. Regardless, to me this is top notch stuff, plus it’s got Baz and Simon- nuff said 😉

poison chris wooding6. Poison– no one’s heard of this book, so I can say what I like about it- though *oh my goodness*, everyone’s missing out. This is one of the most impactful, clever books I’ve ever read and it will always be a favourite. But it’s weird- super weird- so I’m always reluctant to recommend it cos there’s a fifty percent chance people’ll love it, and a fifty percent chance they’ll say “what did I just read?”

aeneid7. The Aeneid– alright I’m stumped… I can’t actually think of any imperfections… Seriously… this is a tough cookie. The reason it’s on the list is that it was technically unfinished- but plebs like me will never be able to pick out its flaws, so I doubt it matters unless you’re a serious scholar. I guess I could say that my edition wasn’t perfect though (protip: never translation read of ancient poetry into English that’s been made to rhyme- unfortunately for me my lecturer insisted on it :/ ).

wuthering heights book8. Wuthering Heights– this one *had to* go on the list, because from a purely technical sense, this has some structural flaws, with an odd and maybe even out of place frame around the narrative and some pretty detestable characters BUT it also has some of the finest emotional moments in literature. No book has ever, or will ever, make you feel as wildly passionate as this. And it’s why, although I gave both books 5*, this one edges it out over Jane Eyre for me (which incidentally is a pretty flawless book). And speaking of emotions…

jude9. Jude the Obscure– ah Hardy- if you want to experience true pain, this is where you go. No one does tragedy like Hardy. So what’s its fatal flaw? Well, some people would say the way it deals with mental health… or doesn’t deal with it. You see, as I’ve mentioned before, there are two kinds of mental health in books- the would-be educational kind and the ones that present it as is. Personally my preference is for the latter, because if I want to be educated about mental health, which I frequently do, I go to psychology papers, not literature (not to mention that the “educational” kinds frequently fail). As for this being one of the darkest books in existence so be it. The world is frequently dark, twisted and bleak. Better that than preaching to me “suicide is bad” or “depression isn’t anyone’s fault”- yeah no shit Sherlock.

we were liars10. We Were Liars– first of all *no spoilers* but this book was perfection for me BECAUSE of the style, where ironically a lot of people don’t like this BECAUSE of said style. So I guess that’s the moral of the story here- what makes something perfect for one person may not work for someone else…

 

So what do you think about perfectly imperfect books? Do you have any books that you love in spite of their flaws? Let me know in the comments!