Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – June 2022!

Hello all! Wahey it’s summer time!! And time for another monthly mini reviews 😉 (what a segue that was 😉) Last month was wild– packed with work events, general chaos and some hiking! Bluebell season was in full bloom out in Kent- have a look at these beauties:

Now, I have to admit I didn’t have an amazing reading month- I was choosing a lot of the wrong books, DNFing left right and centre, and didn’t have a lot to say about what I did finish. That said, I’ve cobbled together an interesting range of books here:

Jade City– this is definitely well written… but my god it’s not for me. I just didn’t care enough about the characters and found the plot too slow for the word count. I’m just not that into hundreds of pages of political machinations without any real excitement. I did find that it picked up somewhat by the end- though sadly I’m not invested in the story enough to continue with the series. It’s a shame, because the concept of an Asian inspired magical mafia sounded really cool. But I think for this kind of fantasy saga, I have to care more about the family, otherwise I’m just not going to be fussed if they’re all bumped off.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

Three Daughters of Eve– ahh now this was more like it. Shafak is quickly becoming a new favourite author. I feel like I sink into her storytelling and get swept away into her world. Beautifully written, with such real characters, this story provided a fascinating view of Turkish culture and multicultural Britain. I will admit that I didn’t love this as much as Island of the Missing Trees– simply because there was a lot going on. Don’t get me wrong, I was on board for a lot of the interlocking plots- from its intriguing exploration of academia to female friendship to tyranny. I even liked the supernatural dimension and how it showed how familial trauma haunts us. I just felt like having a mugging at the beginning and (highlight for spoiler) gunman at the end was too much all in one day!! Otherwise it was really excellent.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The One– what a great thought experiment this was. In this alternate reality, it’s possible to find your soulmate by simply taking a DNA test. This story explores the stories of five individuals who’ve found their match… and all the pitfalls that come along with that. I loved the ideas this brought forward. It definitely covered every single conflict imaginable in these circumstances. I especially appreciated how distinctive each of the characters and their challenges were- it kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next! This book made me gasp, it made me wince and it sent shivers down my spine. I will say that for me this had a bit too much of an ick factor to give it five stars- I think there’s just something about this author’s style that makes me a bit squeamish!! But top marks for ideas and execution.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

The Sense of an Ending– by far, this was the most unexpected delight of the month. A Booker Prize Winner about a middle age bloke looking back on his past and struggling with the typical lit fic issues, I didn’t necessarily think it’d be my thing. And yet this was a poignant and intriguing read. In this story, we follow a man reflecting on the suicide of his friend many years earlier and trying to retrospectively make sense of it. Being inside the protagonist’s head, however, we learn far more about him and his habits than the friend, who is reduced to the periphery and poorly understood. What’s really interesting about this book is how the main character is actually quite unlikeable and yet rather endearing in his increasingly desperate attempts to insert himself into a narrative that isn’t his. In a way, I felt this was almost a critique of the pretentious lit fic character who describes life in unearned and highfalutin terms. Over the course of the novel, we understand his frustrations and inability to come to terms with his rather average life. A life that contrasts the youthful desire at the start to be distinguished and special (and the kind of person who wears his watch on the inside of his wrist). Somehow I think this book manages to evoke the affectations of literary fiction, whilst fundamentally undermining it. Which is probably why it’s one of the few Booker Prize winners I’ve actually enjoyed. It also didn’t hurt that it wasn’t overlong 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

And lastly, I thought I’d share a quick recommendation:

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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May 2022!

I had a really good time with family and going out 😊 Shoutout to Macka B who I saw at the Jazz Café- I had an absolute blast!

And in other news, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the SUPER TALENTED SARAH for sending me this *gorgeous* Easter Bunny card! You have to check her out on her blog and Instagram because she is such an incredible artist!

Though I’ve been busier this month, I did manage to read more and I have lots to share 😀 So let’s jump into it!

Free Guy– what a fun, joyous experience this movie was! It’s kind of Lego Movie meets Truman Show- but not as dark as either of those 😉 I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m just gonna say go watch it if you want to see a movie that’s funny, action-packed and heartfelt all at the same time! I enjoyed every minute of this!

Short and Sweet: 101 poems– here’s a very quick recommendation! I loved this small collection of poetry. Starting off short and getting sweeter, every poem in here lives up to the promise. Even to the last, which is the shortest and sweetest of them all 😉 Definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for a tasty, little morsel of poetry to tide you over.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Island of the Missing Tree- I’ve found it! A literary fiction masterpiece I actually loved! It’s been such a long time since I discovered a literary fiction author I can get on board with- and Elif Shafak is certainly someone I want to read more from. If you told me before reading this that I’d love a book featuring the perspective of a tree, I’d have thought you were barking up the wrong, well, tree. BUT the power of this writer is such that she could enchant me from any angle. Her writing was so lyrical and stunning that I was transported through time. It took me beneath the surface, to the very roots of the Cypriot civilisation, intertwining current affairs and personal histories with ancient mythology. I could practically taste every description and feel every moment as if I was there. And, like waiting for the seasons to change, the story bears fruit with a most beautiful ending. It really was a remarkable book.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

One True Loves- I just loved this book. Very different to Reid’s more recent releases in (delightfully unusual) historical fic, this contemporary still captures the heart and emotionality and complex characters she is famous for. Like so many of her books, it has a melancholic beauty. Years after losing her husband in a tragic accident, Emma Blair is engaged again- the only problem is her husband has just been found alive and well. As you might expect from a premise like that, it’s emotionally very messy. And yet, appropriately so. It allows us to explore the question of soulmates in an unexpected way. For me, this is so intriguing as I’ve always believed in more than one “true love”. And I really like how this shows that every love is different and we are different in every love. There truly are many paths in life we can take- and they can all be right for different reasons. Using flashbacks, this also delves into the subject of grief, switching to second tense, which made me feel even more in tune with the emotions. In so many ways, this book is about fissures in the fabric of life and how we navigate when things get rough. Books like this show us that we don’t need to have all the answers. Oh, and that books always help 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Sword of Kaigen– books like this are why I keep giving out all the bananas. Heck, books like this are why I keep reading. This is easily the best book I’ve read so far this year. And I wish I’d taken more note so I could give it the full review it deserves- but I was too busy crying for most of the story. Because oof- Sword of Kaigen cuts deep. More than a story about magic, this is a fundamentally human story. Set in a fictionalised version of East Asia, this saga explores the Matsuda family as try to defend an empire. And what may seem like a straightforward story soon turns out to have unforeseen intricacies and waves of emotion. Though it is a sharp fantasy, with a cool magic system, it is the characters who shine. Their relationships and actions carry the story to epic heights and (evidently) produced a storm of feelings. It made me gasp, it made me sob (a lot) and it somehow it also made me smile. I do not have words to do this book justice- read it if you haven’t already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Win Lose Kill Die– for some reason there’s quite a few YA books about teens who would kill to get to the top… I wonder why? 😉 With its ultra-competitive academic environment, I couldn’t help but compare this to the Ivies. But where that is a more satirical take, this one had more of a slasher vibe with a HUGE body count. And while I don’t always go in for that, I did think this pulled it off. I didn’t love the writing, with its references to pop culture (and Riverdale of all things), but there were some parts I thought were cleverly done (which I can’t directly mention for spoilery reasons). I did guess the twist very early on- but the red herrings definitely threw me off the scent! All I can say then is: well played!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

Traitor King– So, this was a rather telling book. This biography tells the story of King Edward VI- but unusually focuses on after he abdicated. And while I can give this credit for being fair and balanced, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be fair and balanced about such an evil, racist, anti-Semite. So I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one: I’m not here for the “he gave it all up for love” narrative. And I am sick of people like Netflix posthumously doing his PR. He was a selfish evil traitor, who supported the Nazis and blamed Jews for the war. He would have sold England down the river if the Nazis had won. He was openly racist, writing for instance:

“Those with experience of regions where the population is predominantly coloured, realise that negroes in the mass are still children both mentally and morally and that while these liberal socialistic ideas of freedom and equality regardless of race or colour may sound fine theoretically, the forcing of these theories are to my way of thinking, both premature and dangerous so far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned…”

This is the person the Crown chose to venerate as “inclusive” (somehow having a black servant makes you “inclusive”… incidentally Wallis fired Johnson for wanting time to look after his kids). It’s sickening to me that the Duke of Windsor was given such a sympathetic portrayal by Netflix. And that it completely ignored any mention of how messy their relationship was- prone to fits of jealousy and rage and affairs. Not to mention the fact that, politically, he thought England was behind the times for not already having a dictatorship. Reading this confirmed what I already knew: this was not the greatest love affair of the 20th century. It was the lucky escape from a despotic king.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The No Show– this was a delight. Three women + one missing date = a recipe for another brilliant Beth O’Leary book! I felt like I connected with each of the women’s stories and fell in love in turn. Written with so much heart, this had me laughing through tears and hugging the book. I only wish I didn’t have to wait for the next Beth O’Leary book to be released- because this was her best yet!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Love Hypothesis– I theorised I would like this book… and I was right! This ticked so many boxes for me. Tropes like fake dating and secretly a sweetheart? Yes please! And I really liked the interesting setting and the fact that the female protagonist had *a lot* more going on than just her floundering love life. That said, there were a few things that kept this from fulfilling the perfect romcom formula. From a clinical standpoint, I never entirely warmed to Dr Carlsen and wasn’t convinced of his niceness. He was a bit of a cold fish and doesn’t do anything kind for anyone unless his (fake) girlfriend is involved (unless you count the car scene, which I don’t, because he came off as a showoff there). I don’t really love when a character’s only redeeming feature is that they’re nice to the person they want to sleep with. Speaking of which, I also didn’t buy the chemistry in the sex scene- it was weirdly chatty and went into odd anatomical detail… Not my thing! I wasn’t a big fan of the meta moments and wokisms either. Even so, my final hypothesis is: it was an enjoyable enough read and I’d happily read more from the author (if only that I might be able to work on my science puns some more 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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!