Monthly Monkey Mini Review – January: A Very Christmassy Selection and Bookish Bingo Wrap Up!

monthly mini reviews version 2

Hello all! We are now in 2019!!!

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What did I do to see out the last year? Well gorged myself on chocolate of course 😉

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Not necessarily an accurate representation, I just wanted to draw this 😉

Now last month (and year!!!) I mentioned I was participating in the wonderful Mim Inkling’s bookish bingo– which she hosted to celebrate 6 months on the platform! I had a lot of fun doing it and tried to keep peeps updated- but now it’s time for my wrap up. It’s gonna be a long one- so strap in!

wicked deep

Wicked Deep– this subtly spooky book really delivered the goods. The writing was atmospheric, the unique characters were interesting and the story was pretty twisty. I especially liked that Penny, the protagonist, felt hollowed out- that ended up linking into the plot in a clever way. I very much appreciated the cool setting and the witchy aspect to the story. My one issue with the book was that the romance fell into instalove territory (it didn’t help that the story addressed how fast this was because pointing out issues doesn’t really stop them feeling like flaws). Other than that, I was powerless to resist the Swan Sister’s allure. I suspected where it was going- but I wasn’t disappointed. It felt like I was plunged straight into the story and didn’t take a breath again until the end.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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  • A spooky read
  • A book that I borrowed (from the library)

coco caramel

Coco Caramel– I used to love this author and definitely recommend it for younger authors- so no shade here, I’ve just outgrown it. Some of Cassidy’s books can be slap bang in the middle of the YA category, but this one was closer to the MG group (although at this point who knows what gets classed as YA?) Anyway, Cassidy has a sweet way of writing and this does take you on quite the ride (with plenty of snacks along the way 😉 ). I did enjoy this by the end- much to my surprise- which speaks volumes about my maturity level. Usually there’s more of a balance between light and dark elements though.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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  • Something sweet
  • Something foodie

one day in december

One Day in December– honestly, this reminds me why I struggle with adult books sometimes. The “love triangle”/quadrangle in this book wasn’t so much that irritating trope we all know and hate- it was straight up cheating *sarcastic yayy*. Unfortunately this made me feel really conflicted about this book. I kind of ended up writing a list of pros and cons to try and clarify it to myself

  • It’s addictive
  • Love that it spans years- it gives it some scope
  • No matter how ridiculous it is, that ending is amazing and makes my sappy heart beat

Cons:

  • SO MUCH CHEATING
  • No real reason for her divorcing her husband.

So yeah… that was inconclusive. Some aspects were enjoyable, others not so much. I kind of get both sides of the love-hate train for this one- but in the end for me it was a great big “MEH I’ll hop off this bus”.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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  • Book with a month in the title
  • Book with a white cover

after the fire

After the Fire– this was an incredibly engaging read. I’m fascinated by the subject of cults and this filtered an inside-view through an incredibly engaging heroine. I particularly loved the gradual build of information and character. The interactions the protagonist had with both the therapist and FBI agent were brilliant- especially in the way they showed a build-up of trust. While it was heavy going at times, it was addictive and I was desperate to uncover all its secrets. I flew through this 500 page book. There were also logical explorations of Parson’s behaviour and the reasons for the mc’s PTSD (highlight for spoilers: it was exactly right to show the development of his sociopathic tendencies and the PTSD she had from killing someone was a wise decision). I’m kind of sad I don’t have more to say on this very accomplished book- I was just too absorbed to write notes!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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  • A book that won an award (YA Book Prize)

warriors into the wild

Warriors: Into the Wild– this was incredibly cute and funny at times. I definitely recommend this as an adventure for kids. Ultimately, this was not totally for me, though I see why people like it. Even if I didn’t connect, I’m not the target audience so I don’t suppose it matters.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • With an animal as the main character
  • A children’s book

academic curveball

Academic Curveball– so, you guys have probably seen that I really like Jay’s other books, which is why, even though this isn’t typically a genre I pick up, I felt compelled to read it. And of course, I was instantly rewarded. The opening captured me with its excellent use of voice. I really loved the characters- everyone in this seemed so full of life- not least Nana D! Every relationship was so well handled and made them more likeable. As the story went on, the drama amped up, making me keen to read more. The trickle of information kept that tension going right up until the last page- where, *whoa*, that ending was quite the curveball. While I definitely want to read more, I’m still not entirely sold on the cosy mystery genre- we’ll see how I get on in the future!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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  • Book with an athletic theme
  • A genre you normally don’t read

comedy of errors

Comedy of Errors– this had some fun word play and toyed with mistaken identity- much like many other Shakespearean comedies. And that was my main issue- while fun, this didn’t especially stand out to me. Plus, the mixed up identities in this one made zero sense- not that it matters 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • A poem or play

cosy christmas chocolate shop

Christmas at the Chocolate Shop- nothing about this blew me away- the characters, writing and story were all a bit on the okay-bordering-on-cliché side. Still, it fulfilled on a few major promises: chocolate, cosiness and Christmas.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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  • A book with a Christmas theme

art of hygge

Art of Hygge– I’ve been curious about this Danish practice for years- especially since it’s been taking off in the UK. On the positive side, this was a super quick read and has some inoffensive ideas. On the negative, it’s one long list with information you could get online. Maybe if you get the urge for lavender bags or paper snowflakes stick to google. Also it’s not hard to get things like flowers regardless. Some of the recipes were quite fun, but other advice went something like this: step 1- go to shop, step 2- by flowers, step 3- shove in vase with water. I’m not being flippant- it really is that silly! Rest assured, I do not need to be told to go for a walk. Or to watch a feel good movie. Or to read a book. Though I suppose that’s not bad advice- go read books guys, just not this one 😉

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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  • From the arts and crafts section

the twits

The Twits– so initially I wasn’t willing to read a book by an author I don’t like- cos, ugh, why must I suffer!? Then my sister had this brainwave of reading an author who I don’t like as a person, but enjoy their books. The logical choice was Dahl (if you want to know why, you can read this post). Anyhoo, I enjoyed the Twits. My first thought was “wow beards, guess I have to add that to the long list of things Dahl doesn’t like”. Also, Dahl has a very high disgust sensitivity. What I liked most about this was the amazing descriptions- especially the concept of being made ugly by your inner thoughts. Nonetheless, while I did appreciate its initial eccentricities, I did end up finding a bit bizarre by the end.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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  • A book by an author you don’t like

oranges for christmas

Oranges for Christmas– this book landed somewhere in the middle for me. It had some clean writing and I liked the imported German element- but there wasn’t enough differentiation in the dual perspectives’ voices. While I was glad this dealt with the topic of communism in Germany, I did feel it was too focused on the educational elements. And that’s coming from someone who wishes this topic was studied more. For a moment there, it did get emotional… and then that was swiftly disrupted by the idiocy of the mc. More than the actual book, I was moved by the description of the fall of the Berlin wall in the afterword. This didn’t blow me away- however I do still recommend it for people who like historical fiction and interested in learning more about time period.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • Historical fiction

And here are the ones I don’t have reviews for:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– feel free to check out my review here.

  • ARC
  • TBR
  • Part of a series
  • Other culture
  • A book you chose for the cover
  • Female author

circe

Circe– you can check out my review here.

  • A myth retelling

language of thorns

Language of Thorns- I liked this overall and gave it 4 bananas- HOWEVER I have some rather complex thoughts on it, so I’m gonna have to say *review to come* and leave it at that for now!

  • A short story collection

Okay- so my final bingo chart looks like this:

bookish bingo

Woot woot! I got all of them- plus Shadow of the Fox managed to get me a bonus ten points for fitting into more than 5 categories and I finished with 250 points.

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

I figured I would like Father Figure… And I was right!

father figureSome books start with a bang, others slowly build up in what seems like an orderly fashion- but don’t be fooled by the steady opening, such books can end with an avalanche of emotions and knock you off your feet. This was one such book. After Jay’s amazing debut last year, I was obviously excited to see what he came up with next. Now, this did initially take me some time to really get into, some parts clicking more than others, yet I very much appreciated the trickle of information, eroding any sense of stability I had, bit by bit.

The dual perspectives were done really well. There was plenty to latch onto with both stories and I found myself invested in both of the main characters- especially since both stories were so raw and emotional. Amalia was relatable and sympathetic; Brianna was incredibly likeable. I did get irritated with Brianna for not hearing Molly out- but I felt like this was a testament to how realistic the relationship was.

Speaking of things that were realistic, but I didn’t especially enjoy- if I had a friend like Shanelle, I wouldn’t need enemies. Me and bossy people do not mix- it’s the ultimate rock meets hard place- if someone tries to tell me what to do they’ll look like a cayote running into a brick wall. I can’t pretend that I liked anything about her: I hate nags, I can’t stand people that play games in relationships and woe betide anyone that tries to pressure someone into a relationship when they’re not ready. What can I say- I’m just not as agreeable as Briana and would have told her to eff off. Phew- glad I got that off my chest. THAT SAID, I did not see this as a criticism of the book, cos irritating or not, people like this exist and as I always say (sometimes 😉 ) eliciting a strong response means it’s more real. And I think it’s pretty clear from the way I’m talking about these folks that I felt they were very life-like.

Psychologically, I thought Cudney painted a striking picture of the bitter and resentful mother and the spiteful son. Both villains, for me, were spot on. I did unfortunately think that certain other additions were less believable- for instance I did not buy that about 90% of the men in the book were creepy pervs. There were just a few too many deeply unpleasant men and I needed more Jonah-type figures.

I loved the descriptive elements- more even than Watching Glass Shatter. The writing and imagery, as good as it was before, was vastly improved and struck a deeper chord. As the pace picked up, the drama became more harmonised and I was transported by the magnificent finale. I became more in tune to how the themes of the title wove into the narrative and saw how it was all interconnected from the start. The twists kept rolling and the story grew darker and things snapped into place. I don’t want to spoil anything- but believe me, it’s all about the ending with this one. Ultimately I got tingles from so many parts of the conclusion and felt just-stepped-off-a-rollercoaster giddy. It was that good.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Watching Glass Shatter Broke New Ground For Me

watching glass shatter

So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on here, but I’ve been experiencing a bit of an “end of year” slump. After months and months of reading at a breakneck speed, I’ve hit a bump in the road. Because, and I don’t know if you’re like me, when I read an insane amount a lot of that starts to blur together. I get to the point where it’s harder for things to stand out to me.

Annnd why am I talking about this? Well, this book broke through that barrier of samey-sameiness and did what so many books are failing to do for me right now. It was different.

The premise itself- the death of a patriarch, a child switched at birth, and a wait to find out the truth- gripped me from the start. Yet that was far from the only thing to keep me invested. Not only was the writing style crisp, clean and intriguing, but I also found that it was the characters which had me wanting more. Each one had their own distinct story, personality and secrets… There were so many secrets woven into the plot that I was hooked from beginning to end.

Now I don’t normally go for family drama, so it speaks volumes how *crazily* invested I got in this family’s drama. So much so that I was teary-eyed by the end and sorry to put the book down! While I did have a niggling point of contention with the ending, which I won’t mention for fear of spoilers, this was a powerful story of loss, family and honesty. James Cudney, who you can follow on here, did a fantastic job with his debut.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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