Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – ahh it’s August 2020!

monthly mini reviews version 2

Hello all! Last month was a little bit better (by 2020 standards 😉)- I’m happier being out of lockdown here in the UK and glad to say I got out a little more.

orangutan in the great outdoors

Plus, there’s always yoga to keep me more positive 😊

orangutan yoga

One thing I did learn is if I say I’m taking a hiatus, I need to actually do it! (but what are plans this year, amiright?!) So I didn’t take a proper break, I just got worse at blogging- whoops!

Anyway, as much as I’ve been enjoying talking TV these last few months, I didn’t watch anything in July except season 3 of the Crown… which admittedly was fun for all the wrong reasons. I mean, I enjoy the “history”, but wow, this season took some serious liberties. Case and point calling the ex-king, who was a rather famous fan of Hitler and the Nazis, a progressive?! I wouldn’t get so excited about him meeting with Emperor Hirohito either (a questionable historical figure who at the very least signed off on allying with, you guessed it, Nazis). So weird to glorify a man who was friends with fascists late into his life. My guess is the whole look-at-royals-marrying-for-love subplot (even if Wallis Simpson was a Nazi sympathiser) was paralleled with Charles/Camilla so that we don’t blame them for their affair. It also got a chuckle out of me when Wilson (made to mirror Jeremy Corbyn) was a leftie (lol). But whatever, the show is royalist propaganda… so what can we expect? (I’m just being a grouchy Brit, it was still very entertaining).

What MADE MY MONTH was Taylor Swift’s surprise album drop: Folklore! I didn’t love Lover, but thank goodness for Folklore. This was just what I (and millions of fans around the world) needed. It offers sensational storytelling, lovely lyrics and some much-needed escapism. I could go on forever and always about how Swift took it to another level here and how I was enchanted by every. single. song- but for now I’ll just say that this is what I’m going to be listening to well into august (also my god I think I have new favourite Swift songs and this might even knock 1989 off its perch of best album!)

alice network

The Alice Network– yes, after reading Huntress last month, I had to hunt down another of Quinn’s books and fortunately I was able to instantly connect with the Alice Network (and no I won’t apologise for terrible puns 😉). It was, as you can imagine, another brilliant historical fiction. Well researched, it brought two eras of history to life, this time focusing on WW1 and the aftermath of WW2. Quinn had excellent control of both the timeline jumps and the multiple povs, creating a compelling story I couldn’t stop reading. The one issue I had was that I personally wasn’t as keen on Charlie as a main character and so didn’t enjoy her perspective as much or fully buy into her romance. However, it was still a very satisfying read. Tense in all the right places and with a brilliant finale, Alice Network delivers a fast paced, gut-wrenching spy novel.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

loveboat taipei

Love Taipei– okay, I initially didn’t get why this was so underhyped, but by the time I got to the end, I understood. This had some seriously dodgy elements… and yet I still kinda liked it? I know, I know- that makes no sense, just hear me out (or don’t- I wouldn’t blame you 😉). This had a love square and so-called friendship that’s MESSY af- but it was also very immersive and I completely believed the characters were real. Especially the main character, who was torn between what she wanted and what her family wanted for her. I thought it had a strong opening, concept and felt connected enough that I went along for the ride (however bad it got). Not sure I’d actively recommend it, but I’ll admit I enjoyed most of it (though perhaps not super into the how the romance panned out).

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

fountains of silence

Fountains of Silence– I had such mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the crimes that occurred in Franco’s Spain is an important story that needs to be told. Plus, some of the perspectives were powerful- particularly Puri’s. On the other hand, it wasn’t the smoothest read. As much as I pushed through it pretty fast, it could be a struggle, because I wasn’t interested by all the minutiae and stories. A lot could’ve been cut for a punchier plot. The ending, especially, could’ve been tighter. And, while there was some strong writing, this was far from Sepetys best. It didn’t sparkle enough for me and I only got a hint of the Spanish setting. In short, I think it’s good this book exists, I just think it could’ve been better.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

nevermoor

Nevermoor- The Trials of Morrigan Crow– people have been raving about Nevermoor for years- and I get why! What a clever, entertaining and funny work. The concept and world building were wunderful. The characters were really well drawn- there wasn’t a single case of a poorly sketched figure in sight- they all felt like real people. And wow that ending is basically the best! There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like. I am so excited to continue on with this story and I think this is the most *perfect* book for kids since Harry Potter!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

his and hers

His and Hers– this is a hard one to talk about, but an easy one to recommend. I loved how this thriller handled dual povs- it was so well done and absolutely added to the story. Flicking between Her perspective (an alcoholic, out of work TV presenter) and His (her detective ex-husband) we come face to face with a serial killer, as both are implicated in a spate of killings. As with all the best thrillers, this had plenty of “oh shit” and “wtf” moments. This pacey page turner delivers all the twists and turns. While I suspected some of them, there were many parts I wasn’t expecting. Most importantly, I had no idea whose story to trust. I did have some lingering questions, yet ultimately this really packed a punch.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

who did you tell

Who Did You Tell?– this was another solid thriller, featuring sordid secrets and a stalker. Again, I didn’t know how much of the narration to believe, with the focus on a recovering alcoholic. I really liked how this addressed the topic of alcoholism- cos it didn’t just use it as a crutch for the story or a convenience for the narrative. No, here it was about the trauma that is involved in substance abuse. This gave it some emotionality that I often don’t feel in thrillers. I also liked the slow reveal and clean structure. Plus, the final reveal was fabulous.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

clap when you land

Clap When You Land– written in verse, this was another flawless contemporary from Acevedo. I was prepared for heartbreak, but not for how heart-warming it would be. Focusing on the aftermath of a plane crash that reveals explosive truths, this was surprisingly action packed and I whizzed through it. It went beyond simply dealing with the topic of grief to take the story to even greater heights. The characters were not just shaken, but re-shaped by events. It was a beautiful journey and deserves all the applause. I’m really into every single one of this author’s releases!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

the library book

The Library Book– as you can imagine, a book that talks about how wonderful libraries are is preaching to the choir. So, unsurprisingly, I rather enjoyed this book of brief essays and stories about the glory that is the library. Being an anthology, there were of course parts I liked more than others (my favourite being the deeply personal one from Stephen Fry). It was amazing to read about all the ways it can change lives and the amazing benefits it offers. I liked that it put flesh on the bones of library life. Also, I rather like the reminder that LIBRARIES ARE A PLACE YOU CAN GET FREE BOOKS!! So, no, it wasn’t a life-changing read, but it was a little affirming. And yes, I know that there’s another more famous book (watch this space).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

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’re all staying safe and well!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Wow, is it July Already?

monthly mini reviews version 2

Wow, we’re firmly in the summer now, aren’t we? Where on earth has this year gone?

Actually, don’t answer that- the less said about it the better 😉

Having said that, June was pretty good and I’ll tentatively add that I hope July’s gonna be just fine too. As we’re coming out of lockdown here, I’m working more and getting to see the outside of these four walls for a change 😉 I’m (hoping) work is going to settle into something of a routine again soon. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to (try to) use July for a bit of a refresher, so I’m tentatively gonna say that I’ll probably be on the blog less. Not sure if I’ll take an *official hiatus*- kinda want to keep my plans casual at the moment (I think, if anything, the last six months has taught me that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry 😉)

But while we are here, I did want to say another massive thank you to you all for helping me to get to 6000 followers. I’m doing a little celebration where I react to your assumptions about me– so if you’d like to participate feel free to add your comments to the celebratory post or on this one if you like 😊 (I’m having a lot of fun with the ones people have already made!)

orangutan thank you

And I think that’s all the housekeeping for now! As I’ve been doing the last few months, lets talk about what I’ve been watching before we get into the books…

monkey at the movies 2

 

Last Kingdom Season 4– by now, you may have heard me rave about this super entertaining show. And if you haven’t, you may be confused as to why I’m in Viking dress 😉 Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, this series tells the story of Uhtred of Babenberg as he tries to reclaim his birthright and you can hear me rave about the first few seasons here and here. Just like the other series, this was tense and delightfully surprising. What I loved about this season is that it simultaneously gave us resolutions we’ve been waiting years to see… only for the story to about turn and go in a completely unexpected direction. With new settings introduced, I was happy to see the ongoing development of characters and relationships. By pure chance, there was a sickness subplot- which frankly had me shouting at the screen why aren’t you social distancing?! Regardless, every episode was an adventure. The only thing left to say is that I really need to catch up with the books already, cos I’d love to see where the similarities and differences are.

Okay, that’s all I watched last month worth note (I know, I’m running out of TV!!) now let’s discuss some books!

silence of the girls

audiobook2Silence of the Girls– when I think about this book, the first thing description that comes to mind is lonnnng. Which doesn’t make sense, all things considered, since it’s a pretty short book. Perhaps this was in part because in the audiobook version, the narrator seems to savour every syllable, HOWEVER even speeding it up didn’t seem to take away the tedium. As much as I wanted to like this book, it just felt remarkably long-winded. So much is drawn out and dwelt on, in an attempt to make the reader more sympathetic to the Girls’ plight. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have the desired effect. In fact, I see this technique used quote a bit in fiction- but I personally never feel like excruciating pacing does anything other than bore me. Incidentally, the whole purpose of this book is to create sympathy for the Girls- as if the classic tale somehow leaves that out- except I never had trouble empathising with their plight in the original. In fact, Homer could draw tears from me with a single line in the scene with Andromache. So no, I wouldn’t say this book was necessary. The other problem is that the way this is told- going from tragedy to tragedy in muted tones- doesn’t allow for any catharsis. And, as much as Briseis was a boring voice for the narrative, I liked the voices of Achilles and Patroclus even less. Frankly, I also found the line “his story” wince-inducing- entirely missing the humanity of the original (and slightly bizarre considering it’s a myth). All that said, this is not a bad book (I know, that contradicts everything I’ve said, but it’s the truth). The writing had some balance and beauty to it. It achieved what it set out to- such that I cannot rightly give it below:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

the rumour

The Rumour- Ahhh this is a frustrating one to talk about, because I can’t really say all that much without spoiling it, so this review will have to be entirely made up of whispers and hints. There was one aspect I wasn’t keen on throughout- but the last twist redeemed that for me. There was plenty of great characters and suspicion at every turn. The only other thing I can categorically say is that if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you should give this a whirl!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

house of salt and sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows– another decent book that I just didn’t click with for some reason. In this case, I have murkier reasoning. For some reason, I imagined this would be a far more atmospheric read than it was, but, while the world had a hint of salt to it, it perhaps could’ve been peppered with more descriptions. It did have some good ideas and twists on the tale, yet the story itself felt a little convoluted. I also guess a lot of the story beats early on and wasn’t as impressed as I’d have liked. It ended up being more of a generic YA fantasy than I expected- which isn’t so much a fault of the book per se- it’s just that I tend to avoid those nowadays. Overall, this was pretty bland and could’ve done with more seasoning for my taste.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

ruin of kings

Ruin of Kings– Eh, this didn’t blow me away. I found the flipping between timelines and povs an interesting touch, building some suspense and layers of world building nicely… However, I ultimately don’t think it added to the story, which made it feel like a bit of a gimmick. To my mind, using a complex structure like that should be more purposeful (although, happy to hear from someone who could tell me, what *was* the point of that?). And for all the intricate plotting, I was still able to guess a great many of the twists early on. Other than that, my main sticking point was that I struggled to connect with the characters. As much as I was entertained by the plot, now more than ever I need to feel a strong, visceral reaction to the people I’m reading about… All of this is to say, I didn’t personally love this book, but there’s no reason other’s wouldn’t.

Rating: 3/5 bananas 

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

the huntress

The Huntress– well, I looked for it all month, but I finally found an absolute winner thanks to the brilliant Beware of the Reader, who suggested it to me and reviewed it so beautifully on her blog! This exquisite historical fiction, tells the story of Nazi Hunters going after the one and only Huntress. Like a Russian Doll, the narrative is nested in different timelines. Characters are slowly revealed and developed, as they circle each other in figure eights, giving the reader a sense of each personality in turn. And wow, what stories- they soar and loop and leave you breathless… until at last we come to the dramatic conclusion. Moving and mysterious, this made for a truly memorable read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

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’re all staying safe and well!