Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – March

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Gosh, 2019 has got off to quite the start! I actually felt January went so quickly, while February for me was THE MONTH THAT WOULD NOT END- and the irony that it’s the shortest month of the year was not lost on me. Between work, family visits, more WORK, furiously editing my WIP and my laptop dying, it was a wild month where I sadly didn’t get to be on the blog as much as I wanted (don’t know if this month looks much better… we’ll see). Anyhoo, that’s a little glimpse of what’s been going on behind the curtain- time for the BOOKS! I’m a bit behind on reviews at the moment, but that’s okay cos I’m about to whizz through a few now!

a gentleman in moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow– this was a well-crafted, excellently written book, with realistic characters and moving relationships… but for some reason I just didn’t fall for it the way I wanted to. Technically speaking, it’s effectively structured with good use of foreshadowing and has heart-warming elements reminiscent of Backman. I haven’t the faintest idea why I didn’t connect with this as much as I wanted to- it’s very much a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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night of cake and puppets

Night of Cake and Puppets– ahh now this did capture my imagination. With a fairy tale feel, Taylor delivers yet again. The story is set in the world of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and is told from Zuzana’s perspective. In this deliciously atmospheric story, the reader’s led through Prague on a romantic journey. Sweet, zingy and delightful: this is one to savour. It also features illustrations from Jim Di Bartolo (Taylor’s husband) and adorable acknowledgements from them both. If you’re a Laini Taylor fan and need a little piece of her prose to tuck into before her next book, then I can’t recommend this GORGEOUS little book enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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the painted veil

The Painted Veil– I very much admired the crisp writing style and characters in this story- it’s clear how much control Maugham had over language. The only problem I had with this book was that I’d seen the movie already (it’s good btw) so I knew more or less what was going to happen and didn’t get that much out of it as a result.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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think twice

Think Twice- the sequel to Don’t Even Think About It- where teens get telepathy from flu shots- was almost as good as the original. For the most part, I enjoyed it and flew through it like I had superpowers. A few things disappointed me in terms of the relationships, yet I still loved the tone and thought it was an entertaining story. The ending was especially clever!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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if theres no tomorrow

If There’s No Tomorrow– this got pretty emotional by the end, though it wasn’t always an easy ride. At first, it was hard to like the bland as white bread (her words not mine) main character. And while it was written in an impassioned style, there were times when the descriptions were yawn-worthy and what people were saying could sound like something out of a PSA (public service announcement). The romance was also badly timed- and pointing it out didn’t make up for that issue. Still, it definitely got to me and had some sweet moments.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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the lie

The Lie– this was the biggest disappointment of the bunch. I picked it up on a whim at the library, cos I liked the premise and the opening was very gripping. That said, it quickly went off the boil. All the mystery and foreshadowing didn’t lead anywhere particularly interesting. I will say it dealt with shellshock rather well and the author had a brilliant command of language- her voice, word choices and control of the narrative were all excellent. Sadly, I just didn’t feel the story lived upto that.

2/5 bananas

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

Muse of Nightmares was Visionary!

muse of nightmaresIt’s hard for books to live upto their predecessor- especially if said predecessor was a book like Strange the Dreamer. When a book plays havoc with my emotions like that one did, you can safely bet I’m going to be HERE for the sequel… but also nervous because how can a book live up to perfection, build on everything it did well AND satisfactorily conclude a duology all at the same time?!!? Well, never fear, Muse of Nightmares is here! Somehow this book did all those things- which obviously means I’m completely crazy about it. Prepare for some serious GUSH. *You have been warned*.

“Once upon a time there was a silence that dreamed of becoming a song, and then I found you, and now everything is music.” 

The second I picked this up, I was instantly re-immersed in the beautiful world and story. I felt as if I had just put down the last book and had been holding my breath until I returned for more. In fact, that’s how I felt the whole way through this book. From the beginning, I was lulled into Laini Taylor’s lustrous narrative. I did not want to wake- no matter how intense or maddening or complex the plot became.

“Her voice would die before she ran out of rage. She could scream a hole in her throat and come unravelled, fall to pieces like moth-chewed silk, and still, from the leftover shreds of her, the little pile of tatters, would pour forth this unending scream.” 

And it was pretty relentless. New dimensions to the story made it feel as mind-trippy as a tour through Inception. I liked the addition of the sister’s story, I appreciated the detailed origins of the gods and I couldn’t get enough of the insights into the Ellen’s past. Most of all, I loved how this book both answered mysteries and revealed other areas of exploration.

“…that’s another story.”

Because one of my favourite parts of this book is the way it hints of other worlds and stories. Both of tales past and yet to come. I was seriously fangirling over Taylor’s references to the seraphim Daughter of Smoke and Bone and little links she was making to possible other works in the pipeline. It just made me squeal with delight to know that Laini Taylor basically has an extended universe now. It’s really no secret that I’ve adored everything I’ve read by Taylor so more- and the idea that there’s more to come? AHHHH! Celebrations all round!

“There was a word from a myth: sathaz . It was the desire to possess that which can never be yours. It meant senseless, hopeless yearning, the way a gutter child might dream of being king, and it came from the tale of the man who loved the moon.”

I’m in awe of this lady, because her skills as a writer are unparalleled. If I could have, I’d have memorised every. line. of. this. gorgeous. book. Every sentence was sensational; so many of the individual word choices rolled off the tongue. And yes, I am that impressed with this writer, even at the micro level. And no, it’s not over the top- it’s just that good 😉

“Now it was back, and it felt, as it ever had, like calligraphy, if calligraphy were written honey.”

As a story, this really took the main characters on an emotional journey. In part, it was a tale of pain and trauma and grief. Yet, underpinning that were lessons of recovery. There were times it was so exquisite it made my soul ache for these wonderful, wonderful characters. I felt everything with them and for them.

“It’s the mind. It’s the most complex and astonishing thing there is, that there’s a world inside each of us that no one else can ever know or see or visit.” 

And not just for the protagonists- the side characters were so well drawn as well. I especially liked how the antagonists from the first book were fleshed out and given room to grow. Thyon was humanised so much more; Minya’s mind set was explored with real psychological depth and given the headspace to evolve before our eyes- so much so I ended up relating to her more than Sarai and the ever-perfect Lazlo.

“Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s eye yourself.”

In the end this gave me everything I wanted from this book- and more. One could say I enjoyed the hell out of Muse of Nightmares 😉 Naturally, I’m giving it:

5/5 bananas

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

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 9

Hello all! Welcome back to my quote challenge post! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m doing it on a “favourite first lines” theme. And as with a lot of tags, there are rules to break:

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the lovely Anna @My Bookish Dream! I’m so excited to share Anna’s dreamy blog today (see what I did there 😉 ) I love her fantastic wrap up and reviews- she’s such a great voice on the blogosphere that I know you’ll fall for her style as much as I have! Go check her out!

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I’ve talked a lot about classics in these first line posts- but not enough about my other love: fantasy. Laini Taylor is, for me, the pinnacle of what I love about the genre. And this line captures everything, everything I love. It tells you the concept, captures the mood and hints at the lyrical style. Basically, I adore it.

I tag:

Jay, a Novel Glimpse and Bibi’s Book Blog

Have you read the Daughter of Smoke and Bones? Let’s fangirl over it in the comments!

Reverential for Strange the Dreamer

strange the dreamerThis book was everything I hoped it would be. From the exquisite and striking opening to the excruciating ending, I was absolutely absorbed in this. As I have come to expect from Taylor, the writing was so quotable and the world building beautifully distinct.

“We are all children in the dark, here in Weep.”

I don’t know what there is to say about Lazlo Strange, the main character, other than I *loved* him. Everything from his name to his looks to his personality was perfectly drawn. I was rooting for him from the second he was introduced. I don’t want to go into spoilers, but his ridiculous drive to help even his enemies made him one of the most adorably selfless characters I’ve ever come across and I think I will always, always rate him as a favourite now.

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming.” 

And ugh I was definitely against his nemesis Thyon. While Taylor expertly showed us where he was coming from and made his motivations understandable, all I wanted to do was hit him over the head with a giant book. He was the worst kind of villain, because he didn’t just steal tangible objects… he stole dreams. His cruelty reminded me of the pain of plagiarism and I saw this as a clever allegory for intellectual property theft.

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around”

Miraculously, I was as invested in Sarai’s story. As the Muse of Nightmares (another great title), her powers were so imaginative and really added another dimension to the storytelling.

“If you’re afraid of your own dreams, you’re welcome here in mine.”

The romance in this really worked for me, especially as it was a slow burn. I squealed so loudly when they finally got together.

“I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite. And I hope you’ll let me be in your story.” 

Of course, the mysteries and stories of Weep really worked for me as well. While I did see one of the plot twists coming a mile off, I did not know what would happen and would have never pictured that finale. It was an agonising torment to see where it went- and I really can’t wait for book 2!

5/5 bananas

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This is why Laini Taylor is one of my favourite authors! I’ve never deducted a single banana from her books… so forgive me for the very biased review 😉

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

And you can check out my thoughts on the sequel Muse of Nightmares here

Resurrecting Daughter of Smoke and Bone

So as you may gather from my title, this was a reread for me last year. And OH WHAT A REREAD IT WAS. Not only was this a stunning book, but I also buddy read this with the lovely Being a Book Nerd. She’s such a sweet person and I had so much fun discussing this as I went along- be sure to check out her blog!

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

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Anyway, I figured a chill review was in order. From that perfect opening line I was completely in love again. In fact, I highlighted the whole first page on my kindle, cos it was just so unbelievably gorgeous!!  Heck I highlighted whole chapters, even, it was just so quotable. It’s lyrical, surprisingly witty and sucks you right in.  Laini Taylor is a MASTER at her craft. There’s no doubt about it. I couldn’t actually believe how stunningly well written this is (even though I already knew that 😉 ).

“Sketchbook,” Zuzana commanded, holding out her hand like a surgeon for a scalpel.

I had forgotten so much, but the second I started reading I was practically punching the air with a “THIS IS WHY I LOVE IT!” More than anything, this was exemplified by the brilliant characterisation. I was cheering every time a hero character turned up and booing all the baddies- it turned into quite the panto in my bedroom 😉 What’s wonderful about the characterisation here is how simply Taylor builds an entire image in a single sentence. Right from the start, we learn that Karou, for instance, is not easily scared and can handle herself. Even more than that, there’s so much loaded into single sentences, that it creates a picture within seconds:

“Zuzana arched an eyebrow. She was a master of the eyebrow arch, and Karou envied her for it.”

In the above quote, you get two-for-one characterisation- it is a stroke of brilliance! Forgive my geeking out, but one thing I love about rereads is how much more you can appreciate the details and artistry the second time round. And my goodness there is so much to dissect here. Because there are so many subtle things, subtly woven into the fabric, you could not notice the first time round. Of course, they give an impression, but if you want to get the most out of this book, it’s worth another look.

“Oh, good, Pestilence is free,” said Karou, heading towards the sculpture. Massive emperor and horse both wore gas masks, like every other statue in the place, and it had always put Karou in mind of the first horseman of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, sowing plaque with one outstretched arm.”

A few things stood out to me that I hadn’t noticed before. Like the understated hints of magic, the biblical references and the absolute attention to detail. One line in particular of Karou appraising the decor had me chuckling in context: “An angel, of all abominations!”(which I realise now is only funny to people who’ve read it). More than that, I adored how the real world history of the setting blended into the world of Taylor’s creation. Having been to Prague now, I could appreciate the way Taylor captured the atmosphere even more (actually this book is the reason my friend and I went to Prague in the first place 😉 )

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“Fairy-tale city. From the air, red rooftops hug a kink in a dark river, and by night the forested hills appear as spans of black nothing against the dazzle of the lit castle, the spiking Gothic towers, the domes great and small. The river captures all the lights and teases them out, long and wavering, and the side-slashing rain blurs it all to a dream”

Now, here’s one of the *biggest* differences. The first time round I thought it was instalove, until right at the end of the book. Highlight for spoilers: obviously, knowing about Karou’s former life this time round, seeing breadcrumbs for that scattered throughout the text, I could only think of it as ingenious this time round. In short, for those that haven’t read the book and are scared off the second they see the word “instalove”, it really, really isn’t. The romance is actually one of the biggest selling points of the series.

“We dreamed together of the world remade.” 

In terms of plot, there’s a lot going on, whilst also being a slow burn. I do think it picks up the pace later on, but the best thing about this book is actually the flashback sequence at the end- without spoilers, that twist *was not* something I saw coming the first time round. Like I said however, for the rereader, there are enough clues to see how perfectly the story has been laid out. I did think it ended rather abruptly- which explains why I sped through the series the first time cos leaving it there and *not knowing* is painful- so the one downside is not having time to complete the whole series again.

“Once upon a time, there was only darkness, and there were monsters vast as worlds who swam in it.”

All in all, there’s a reason why this is one of the rare series I’ve given a perfect rating:

5/5 bananas

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

5 Book Series I Gave 5/5 Bananas

So I mentioned in my last post that I very rarely give books 5 bananas. Now, since I rarely give books 5*, imagine how much rarer it is for me to give an entire series 5*- in fact I’ve had a look through my goodreads and there are only 5 complete series I’ve given this too. Often I’ll like one book in a series more than others, sometimes the series will go downhill and from time to time I’ll end up loving a series I didn’t initially enjoy. Even though there are loads of series I’ve absolutely adored, very few series have actually made it onto this list. (I’m beginning to think I’m just a tad too strict about giving out bananas- maybe it’s the covetous monkey in me- I don’t know) Shockingly there are just *5* series on this list- and here they are:

Red Rising Pierce Browns

Red Rising– Okay, so this is the most recent one. You can read all about my insane love for this series here, here and here. (this is me trying- unsuccessfully- not to ram it down your throats anymore than I already have :p )

Invisible

Invisible

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone– I read this wayyy back in 2014- and it is the last time I rated an entire series 5*. And boy was it deserving of that. Not only was it phenomenally well written, but it was so damn clever! I loved the world she created and all the characters in it. All those books were pure poetry and I am delighted to include it on this list- or any list!

Invisible

wind singer

Wind Singer– I feel like I’m going back in time by mentioning this series. It is so long since I read it, that I can only remember the emotions it provoked in me and just snippets of the plot. But what a riot of emotions I remember getting from this- it moved me to tears and got me reading at a pace akin to Usaine Bolt running the 100m. I recommend this to everyone- including me- note to self: this is due a reread!

Invisible

sabriel

Sabriel– I’m cheating with this one, cos I thought I did give all the books 5*, but when I checked my goodreads apparently I didn’t give the second one 5*. I don’t agree with that rating at all- this series is so legendary and I have such fond memories of the Abhorsen trilogy as a whole that I *had to* include it in this list.

Invisible

northern lights

Northern Lights– gosh- here’s another one that makes me ridiculously nostalgic. I’ve reread this series so many times- and it never ceases to amaze me. It is exquisitely written, so beautifully drawn, and the world building is beyond compare- if you haven’t read it then you *need* to check it out. I give it all the bananas!!

Invisible

all of the bananas

And that’s it for now! I’m holding out hope that more book series will join this list soon (V E Schwab- I’m counting on you!!) and I would be happy for your suggestions! What book series have you given all 5* to? Let me know in the comments!