Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – July

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So, we’re in July and maybe the heat is baking my brain… but is anyone else baffled by the way the earth continues to orbit round the sun faster and faster every year? Just me? Anyhoo, I hit a bit of a slump this month, so the most exciting part of my journey was rereading Carry On again (which OMG is somehow better than I remembered and if you don’t know why I can happily provide you with reasons to read it!) Sadly though, most of my new reads were a bit meh and I didn’t have a lot of thoughts on them… hence this is gonna be a quick post.

truly madly guilty

Truly Madly Guilty– as a lot of you know, I was blown away by Big Little Lies last year, so I had high expectations for this. Unfortunately, this took a lot longer for me to be truly invested and it was pretty slow going. HOWEVER, once the crazy shenanigans did get going, I couldn’t put it down. I’d say it was definitely saved by the last 30%. This ended up being a solid domestic thriller- if not the best in the world.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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conversations with friend

Conversations with Friends- oh gosh my thoughts on this one are not gonna gain me any friends, since this seems to be universally loved. I did not get on well with this at all. Generally speaking, this is the kind of okay writing I might give 2*, except that I couldn’t think of a single thing I liked about it. Like I said, the writing was fine, if a little lifeless, but what did me in was the lack of quotation marks. Bear in mind, this wasn’t a dystopia or sci fi where odd punctuation might have blended seamlessly with the story, this was just an attempt to elevate lame ass “conversations with friends” to something worthy of the title Literary Fiction (in case it isn’t obvious, I hate the title too). Well, in terms of fulfilling generic conventions, it got the whole pretentious-wanker-writer mc part down. Actually, everyone in this was pretentious, so that didn’t make her stand out. Speaking of which, the main character was a bore. And do you know how I knew this? She frickin tells the reader. Seriously. Don’t tell me your mc is a plank of wood because a) it’s telling not showing and b) you’ve instantly made me disinterested in her. I can’t exactly praise the plot either- too many dysfunctional relationships and nonsensical extra-marital affairs for my liking (none of their choices in this department made sense to me and they seemed devoid of logical, human emotions). One of the worst things though was that this was set in Dublin and yet the whole thing was so colourless it felt like it could’ve been anywhere. What a waste. Sorry, I can’t spare a banana for this one, just giving it a banana peel…

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unexpected everything

The Unexpected Everything– I enjoyed this, though it didn’t have that *sweep me off my feet* feeling that a lot of Matson’s books do. For me, there was quite a bit more potential here than it achieved. I did like the characters, but I wasn’t feeling the romance. Personally, I thought the random side character she was almost with (Topher) would’ve made for a more interesting choice (since it was a book about missed opportunities, getting back together with an ex she’d never given a chance to would’ve been more interesting). And funnily enough, I wasn’t the only one that thought this- I gave the book to my sister the Monkey Baby and she said the exact same thing. To top it off, I felt like the whole meet cute with dog walking was completely random. The family aspect was the emotional heart of the book- as is often the case with Matson- I just felt it was resolved too quickly. The friend drama was an entertaining subplot and thought it was especially realistic that it wasn’t fully resolved- I’m just allergic to texting in books and that bit got on my nerves. Still this book did have redeeming qualities. I always appreciate a good story within a story and the whole aspect with Clark having writer’s block worked really well. And though it might seem like I had a bad time reading this, I did enjoy it for the most part.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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devil aspect

Devil Aspect– here’s the thing: I liked the setting, the idea and the twist. Actually, make that LOVED the twist. It was pretty genius- the kind of ending that I never would’ve seen it coming, yet made total sense. And it was well written to boot. Which is why I feel pretty stingy with my banana rating, but, alas for some indefinable reason I just didn’t completely click with it. Unusually, this is the kind of book I wasn’t in love with, but would recommend anyway, because I do think other people will feel sparks flying with this one.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

Big Little Lies was a HUGE SUCCESS!

*Spoiler Free*

big little liesA while back I was in a MASSIVE slump- the kind that wouldn’t budge no matter what I read and wouldn’t allow me to read even the teensiest of books. I needed something a little bit different… And then I decided to give this a try. Now who’d have thought the cure for a slump would be a very dense, 450 page book? Not me! Before I tried Big Little Lies, I struggled at 300 pages. But honestly, this book ended up being my saviour! I was so gripped by it that I just couldn’t get enough of it!

On the surface, it was a murder mystery and centred round a primary school. I’ll admit, I didn’t find the prospect of competitive-mummy-drama all that thrilling- and yet, somehow, it was. The story builds from a point of seeming irrelevance, telling us of the incident from the angle of a bystander, withholding vital information. Told like a police report, the reader is clued in slowly, with hints ingeniously woven into the plot. All the way through the book, right upto the final reveal, we never know for certain who the suspects are and even who the victim is! This adds so much to the suspense and keeps you guessing the whole way through.

More than that, the gossipy tone of many of the characters drew me in and had me deeply invested in even the smaller mysteries. With writing that was simultaneously dark and witty, I felt like I was being led by the hand into a mysterious maze of drama and unexpected excited. Thanks to the third person limited narration, I saw inside some of the main player’s heads, with each one being given a distinctive and loud voice.

The book’s cast felt nothing short of *shiny*. I was instantly attracted to the lead trio. I was actually amazed at myself for clicking so quickly with the likes of Madeline- she felt like the sort of person I wouldn’t be close to in real life- and yet here I was drawn to her. She was just so ruthlessly herself. Invigoratingly so- to the point where I could completely understand how she could form friendships with Celeste and Jane- two people who couldn’t have been more different.

Both Celeste and Jane were wonderful characters in their own right and the development of their stories lead to some real depth I hadn’t expected from a story like this. In fact, it was thanks to their perspectives that all my previous expectations were subverted. I appreciated the way it allowed female friendships to blossom; I liked how it dealt with family drama in a way that felt authentic and not overblown. Sure, there were divorced and blended families, which led to some issues, but it wasn’t pure melodrama and there were signs of real love and beautiful bonds between them. Most importantly, however, Big Little Lies explored the subject of trauma in a raw and believable way. It dealt with characters trying to make sense of horrible situations, coming to terms with hardship and finding some resolution. As a result of this, they weren’t just painted as victims and designed to be merely gawped at. Instead, the people pictured at the centre of the chaos felt relatable, evolving through the continuous narrative, and allowing you to grow close to them.

While you become friendlier with a select few characters, you also got a flavour for everyone else involved. What was great was how they felt fleshed out, even though they were mostly described through a biased slant. Funnily enough, I particularly liked viewing characters from Madeline’s point of view. She certainly had strong OPINIONS (in all CAPS) about Bonnie (her ex-husband’s new wife) and Renata (her sworn enemy 😉 ). Viewing them through this lens made them seem more antagonistic and never knowing their true thoughts lent to the air of suspicion that surrounded these characters.

For all my biases, however, I never got close to guessing any of the plot twists. Everything was veiled so well, that it wasn’t until the curtain was pulled back by the author that I had the AHA moment (as it should be 😉 ). With a BIG showdown, all the truths came out. And somehow, masterfully, Moriarty managed to take this explosive ending and gently nudge it to a harmonious conclusion. For all the heretofore mentioned action of the story, it remarkably finished on a sweet note. I don’t know how Moriarty did it, but the whole experience felt crafted so that I would feel the *exact* right emotions and the *exact* right time. For that matter, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more if it had been designed especially for me– it was just that good!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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