Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Delighted it’s December 2022!

Hello all! Hope you’re all starting to feel festive… I know I am!

Now that we’re all warmed up, we can get cosy talking about the books I read last month… which isn’t that many since I had a bit of a slumpy month. Oh well, there were still some gems in there! Starting with…

Toymakers– ah here was a delightfully crafted fairytale-esque fantasy. Set in a magical toyshop, from the 20s and beyond, this tells the story of a young runaway and the family (and enemies!) she finds within the shop walls. As it transpires, there is a whole world secreted away in the heart of London, holding mysteries and mischief and a smidgen of mayhem in store. Like a Russian doll, this was full of hidden histories and stories within stories, tucked within the plot. These links with real world events brought the tale to life and made for a more powerful narrative. This isn’t a story of a children’s game after all- but the very real tragedy of world wars and man’s inhumanity to man. At the same time, it is a delightful parable of invention and being different and the enchantment of being different. So gloriously written it made me hold my breath at times, it truly transported me back to the wonder of childhood, seeing magic in all the little places. A little overlong, yet the charm was enough to hold my attention to the end. Just perfect for first frost!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Psychopaths Anonymous– a tongue in cheek take on what it’s like to be inside the head of a psychopathic killer, this was remarkably fun considering the subject matter. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously… which is why it works! I will say this is largely character-driven, with the plot happening much later into the book, but when the plot is directed by a murderer it’s at least eventful enough to keep interest. Admittedly, I did have to suspend my disbelief when it came to said murders, since I felt like there were SO MANY times she would have been caught (there are cameras everywhere! And witnesses!) I also found parts a tad repetitive and it’s a struggle to care for people who do not care themselves! That said, I had a (surprisingly) enjoyable time with this. If you’re a fan of thrillers, I think you’d be crazy not to try it 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Book Eaters– well this filled a craving I didn’t know I had. As much as I normally shy away from fantasy that verges on horror, I’m glad this book caught me in its snare. A monstrous, inventive and twisty debut that gobbled me up and swallowed me whole. I felt submerged in its dark and disturbing world. I was taken in by this story of how love makes monsters of us all. I devoured every page with relish.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Kingdom of the Feared– moving onto the frightfully disappointing 😉 This has been an interesting series for me. I loved the first book, but the second book left me unconvinced about the new direction it was headed. Sadly, my fears were well-founded. I was left disappointed with a lot of decisions with this book. While I liked the fiery fury and there were some cool new elements, I this was a bit of damp ending to a promising idea. Like a TV show that keeps raising the stakes (now there are goddesses! And the devil! Oh my!) I missed the earlier simplicity of the story that appealed to me in the first place. It basically dismantled the original concept in favour of the NEW and SPECTACULAR (that didn’t seem quite so spectacular to me). And, as much as it tried to return to the concept of a murder mystery, it was hard (if not impossible) to be invested in a character who wasn’t in the previous books and had so little bearing on the current plot. I found so much of it anti-climactic and a little cliché. Plus, the marital drama and erotic scenes made it feel far from its YA origins. I seriously question how much a 14-year-old would relate to this?! Having discussions with parents and teens in person, it doesn’t seem like it. It seems like yet another miss-marketed adult fantasy. Now, after all my moaning, I have to admit this wasn’t a terrible book. Just not one that was worthy of its promise.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Wolfsong– I was also expecting this to be a howling success- but sadly it left me feeling a little grizzly. As much as I enjoy Klune’s style, I couldn’t get over the romance centring on a TEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD mating with an adult. It seemed like the author took all the wrong inspiration from Breaking Dawn. This book just gave me the icks way too often. I don’t need to read some weird, overlong sex fantasy.

Rating 2½/5 bananas

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World– finally, I finished off the month with a tough book to read, yet a necessary one. Advertised as a thriller, I still had to read it in small increments, because the subject matter is so heavy. A forgotten history that seems to have been ignored due to the uncomfortable questions it raised, this was no easy read. What struck me most was how, even after the escape, it was so difficult to actually do anything about the mass murder of Jews. The warning signs were there and the alarm bells were rung- but no one listened before it was too late. It’s a terrible indictment against humanity and makes me think about the atrocities currently happening around the world that people are turning a blind eye to.

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!

Hope you all had a good month and enjoy the upcoming holidays!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Now it’s November 2022!?

OOF- where has this year gone?! Being an adult is kinda hard, so I went to a Sasha Sloan concert and at least I look cool now 😉

Hope everyone had an excellent Spooktober! My sister threw a Descendants themed party- so you know I had a great time 😉

Speaking of creepy, this was largely a month filled with thrillers, with a handful of romance thrown in to keep things spicy!

The Getaway– I was reasonably surprised that I enjoyed this- even though I’ve been looking for a book like this for quite some time! It’s an isolated thriller, set on an island, where the (mostly wealthy) guests are killed off one by one… What’s not to like? Aside from having an entertaining premise, the characters are intriguingly well drawn, with plenty of secrets up their sleeves. The best part of this book for me was the fact it had a Rupert Murdoch stand in- because seeing the media mogul in an “And Then There Were None” style thriller was exactly what I needed.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Love on the Brain– this made me remarkably happy- even if it wasn’t the smartest book I’ve ever read. For one thing, it’s not a very good version of the enemies-to-lovers trope, since it solely relies on miscommunication to pull it off. In fact, it relies on miscommunication for way too much of the book. Plus, it had some ridiculously woke views that made very little sense even by woke standards (I don’t know who decided that it’s okay to decide women and minorities are bad at taking tests and so shouldn’t have to do them… but it comes across as pretty offensive to me and an amazingly bad take). Even funnier was the fact the main character had an AOC t-shirt (never understood why anyone would stan a politician- but o-kay). Also, it’s bizarre to forgive someone who slept with your fiancé because she told you it came from a place of jealously- hOW iS ThAT An ExCuSE?!? Oh dear- I’m making this sound like I didn’t like it. Still, I swear there were plenty of good parts! The humour was on point for one! And I loved how she slowly realised how much in common they had. Finally, huge bonus points for not being Kylo Ren fanfic 😉 It’s a flawed book- but I did have a good time with it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Verity– well, it’s quite hilarious to me that I found Hoover makes a far better thriller writer than a romance writer. I guess it tells you something about how scary I find her idea of a love story 😉 Following a desperately broke ghostwriter and her job to finish a bedbound (and potentially insane) famous author’s series, this mind-bending thriller will absolutely get inside your head and make you question everything. In fact, I’m still asking questions long after I finished it- which is the sign of a great read. While I guessed some of the twists, I never could’ve figured out the reasons behind them. Other than being a little dark for my taste, it was the perfect thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Deadly Waters– so, this twisted Me-Too thriller started off swimmingly, then it sank below my estimation. The idea of a girl killing off rapey and gross frat boys by feeding them to crocodiles was too juicy for me to pass off. The only trouble was the overlong writing and repetitive preachiness meant it just wasn’t snappy enough to keep up the excitement of the premise. There were some great moments (and I particularly liked the satirical edge to the patronising uni’s response “be careful of crocodiles”). Unfortunately, the author seemed to think we wouldn’t get the message if she didn’t beat us over the head with it. I struggled to return to this book after a while. So, see you later alligator, this book was just an average read.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Dark Objects– here’s a solid mystery, with well-drawn characters and an excellent final twist. This follows a professor of crime scenes who only ever works on cold cases… being drawn into a live case and finding herself embroiled in the outcome. There’s some atmospheric writing, good attention to detail and a killer plot. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out bits and pieces along the way. Sadly, the author couldn’t pass up a few opportunities to moralise and throw in some random plot points (minor spoiler: I’m really not sure why the author wanted to have the aside of the teenage daughter attempting suicide… I feel like it was just to keep the audience on their toes and because it’s topical? But I feel like it’s a serious enough topic not to be an aside in a book like this). Otherwise, it was a very satisfying read, with an outcome that actually makes sense!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Ballad of Never After– ahh this was precisely what I needed!! A fun, frothy, fantasy romance, this sequel is packed with romance and curses and tricksy characters! I just loved where Garber is taking this series, introducing more mysteries and some background myths. I was definitely along for the ride as this took some unexpected turns and didn’t end up where I expected. The only downside I’m finding to this series is that I’m enjoying it too much to take notes!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Bullet That Missed– Osman returned to form with this third book in the Thursday Murder Club series. While I did enjoy the sequel, I personally found this one far superior, with new characters to grow attached to and the most substantial mystery yet. I loved how this explored even more of the former spy aspect- especially the links it had to spying on the Soviets. There was something so unexpected and heartwarming in that subplot that it made the book all the more joyous for me! And best of all, I really appreciated the double meaning to the title… which I won’t reveal to you, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Rating: 5/5 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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – OOH IT’S OCTOBER 2022!

Hello all! Hope you had a splendid September! Mine certainly was! As I mentioned in my previous post, I needed to take a couple of weeks off from blogging for a very good reason…

Annnd that wasn’t all! I also went back to Scotland for a few days (which inspired some more paintings I’ve been sharing over on insta) Needless to say I’m a bit zonked! 

And there’s more to come on the travel front soon! But for now- onto the books!

Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting– by golly, I’m smitten. This regency inspired comedy of manners was incomparable. Following a wicked young schemer who wishes to snag a rich man, this is not your conventional love story. Full of mischief and wit, but it also had great characters and a swoonworthy romance. I loved how it maintained a sense of history whilst also having a modern twist. A really fun and well written drama for those who are fans of Bridgerton… And also those who are decidedly not fans! 

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Our Crooked Hearts– be still my beating heart! This witchy wonder was straight up one of the best books I read last month. From creepy beginnings, we are introduced to a haunting mystery, intertwining past and present. Beyond the beautifully crafted writing is an intense character study, shown through dysfunctional familial relationships and the dark side of sisterhood. More than anything I loved how this exemplified the ways we are crammed into spaces and forced to be half of ourselves to please others… Even though that often leads to disappointment for both parties. A coming-of-age story like no other, I definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a ghostly tale to keep them up this Halloween season!

Rating: 5/5 bananas 

Fire and Blood– oh dear. This was a struggle. I nearly DNF’d it many times (I should’ve just DNF’d it). For some reason, GRRM decided to write this as a dull maester would have written it and it is, in fact, rather dull. Even though it’s about warring dragon factions… annnd writing that out makes me even more disappointed that this didn’t work as a book. Yet with the distance the narration provided, it was impossible to connect with the story. And, to be honest, I can’t see any way that I’d ever have connected to any of these characters. They were all vile. Which made me realise that the Targaryen dynasty wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. That, coupled with the gratuitous violence and the insane level of brutality toward women, made me look at Game of Thrones in a whole new light… and that’s not a good thing. I had a fair number of reasons to be attached to the original story- but with everything Martin puts out, I’m less and less interested.

Rating: 2/5 banana

Run Time– this was actually kinda fun… until the clock ran down to a disappointing end. With a voicey storytelling style, this tells of an actress whose career has hit the rocks. So of course, she goes to a remote filming location with a bunch of odd people she doesn’t know, for a weird script that seems to bear too much resemblance to the disturbing goings on. Surprisingly, the heroine in this isn’t a total idiot (one of my least favourite thriller tropes) plus it also had a sufficiently creepy isolated setting (one of my favourite thriller tropes). It also had a great story-within-a-story concept. So it should’ve been plain sailing. Unfortunately, the plot ended up being a little too convoluted and what started as an intriguing premise faltered. While there were a few good (but guessable) twists, the finale wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could have been.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Gallant– and V E Schwab strikes again! With this spiky, spectral, dark fairy tale. In this voicey narrative, the silent lead takes us to the shadow world of Gallant and face the dark secrets that have plagued her family for generations. In typical Schwab fashion, it’s a sharply written and intriguing adventure.  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Book of Night– it’s dawned on me that I’m unlikely to enjoy YA author’s first foray into adult fiction. Not once have I absolutely adored their adult novels the way I’ve loved their teen lit. And that’s fine- but also disappointing. All this is to say, Holly Black’s attempt didn’t work for me. As much as there a cool magic system and a solid plot, I simply wasn’t wowed by it. Largely this came down to the writing- which felt flat and relied on far too much telling for characterisation. This left the heroine and her love interest seeming only skin deep, which in turn left me struggling to connect with their romance. Which was a problem considering this was fundamentally a romance. Ultimately, this had the makings of a great book, but missed the mark. 

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Belladonna– erm well this one turned a little toxic. I was all set to fall in love with this intoxicating YA fantasy mystery… And yet sadly this went from deliciously intriguing to a dull affair that turned my stomach a little. Let me explain. To start with there were a whole host of interesting premises: an entire house of poisoned guests; a lifelong series of fatal accidents for all the heroine’s nearest and dearest; a connection with a paternal and protective death. But the story didn’t exactly follow any of those plots. Instead we were supposed to be fascinated by some hastily introduced relatives who didn’t seem to care one jot for the protagonist. And even if I had been more interested in the shoddily spun mystery or the main character’s attempts at etiquette, then I still would never have been here for the romance. Spoiler alert: it’s a literal love affair with death?! And, particularly as he’d followed her around since she was a baby, this love affair left me a tad uneasy. Call me crazy, but I just don’t go for the immortal old dude dating someone he’s known from birth. So sadly, as much as there were parts I liked, this is not the story for me. 

Rating: 2½/5 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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – So Stoked for September 2022!

Hello all!! August was AWESOME frankly and I’m sad it’s over! But here’s to an equally great September! Before I say goodbye to the summer, let’s just look at some of the highlights of the last month! Starting with…

Hiking the Seven Sisters 😊

Finally going to the Word on the Water bookshop

Seeing the Inspiring Walt Disney exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Best of all, I went to see my friend in Edinburgh!! We had a great weekend and she gave me a grand tour of Scotland: going up to Stirling, the Highlands (with a wee bit of a Harry Potter tour), rambling round Edinburgh and catching a few shows on the Fringe! I was so grateful she got us tickets for Foil Arms and Hog (love their stuff on Youtube and it was great to catch them live!)

Also managed to see the Jersey Boys in the West End amongst all of that!! Anyway, I didn’t manage to watch much TV with all that running around, but I did see one movie…

Emma– for some reason, I really thought I wouldn’t like this adaptation, but I was pleasantly surprised. While there were some very (very very) strange decisions in places, I have to admit this worked so well tonally. Played off as a comedy, I found myself genuinely chuckling throughout. The casting was fantastic; the chemistry between the leads excellent. I particularly liked how the pair came across as squabbling children. The characters of Emma, Mr Woodhouse and Mr Eliot were captured particularly well. I even found the romance between Harriet and Mr Martin compelling. And of course, as you may have heard from other sources, the costumes were top tier. I also really LOVED the soundtrack. It did get a little over the top and the nosebleed was a particularly annoying way to ruin a romance scene. Yet, little touches, like when Emma goes to Mr Martin, made this one of my favourite Austen adaptations. Although, let’s be honest, an Emma adaptation is hard not to love 😉

Okay- onto the reading! I went on a bit of a thriller bender this month (unintentionally) so that’s what’s going to hog these reviews (but of course keep an eye out for the contemporary in there, cos it’s a good one 😉)

The Woman in my Home– I feel like this is definitely fodder for people who liked the Tinder Swindler, but yeesh, way too much of this hinges on everyone being stupid. I feel like it’s worse that the people who know that the (spoiler alert) dude who seems to good to be true is in fact a conman just confront him. Because what is the point in that?! It meant that there was no real surprises, since, shockingly, the conman doesn’t take too kindly to being blackmailed. But all works out well in the end (it’s just one of those thrillers where we’re owed a happy ending apparently). Honestly, I’m struggling to say anything positive about this stunningly average book.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The It Girl– here’s a book that’s far from average however. With a dual timeline spanning from the protagonist’s days in Oxford University to working in a bookshop in Edinburgh, the setting had the perfect atmospheric vibes for a dark academia thriller. I was enraptured by this cold-case story, trying to figure out who killed her friend all those years ago. And, like many of her books, the characters were an interesting study. I will admit that the suspect was a little obvious- however the how and the why were particularly clever. Definitely a book that proves why Ware is the It Girl in the thriller world.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Reading Allowed– when I saw a book fall onto my desk about what it’s really like to work in a library I *had to* pick it up. I mean, dudes, that’s my jam. And I really did like that this shares the realistic stories. It was pretty cathartic knowing that, up and down the country, we’re experiencing much of the same things. Still, I couldn’t quite say I loved this book, since sadly the writing was pretty bland. I wish that I could recommend this more, because library stories are much funnier than this makes them out to be. But I guess you had to be there 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

The Hive– social media and murder collide in this thriller, as Charlotte Goodwin lets the public decide the fate of her ex-boyfriend: should he live or die? An absolutely gripping new thriller, with a fantastically performed audiobook. Focusing on the themes of sisterhood, the characters are what shone in this story. Because more than commenting on the foibles of social media, this book asks the question what would (or wouldn’t) we do for the people we love? I did see some of the twists coming, yet the last twist caught me out. And above all, I loved that it was more than just a thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Act Your Age, Eve brown– of all the Brown sisters, Eve is literally the most fun. She’s flighty, unreliable and way too impulsive. Which makes for a great romantic heroine! And with her spontaneous and brilliant energy, her (mis)adventure turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp. With a pinch of hate-to-love and a dash of charm, this was a super cute finale to the Brown romance trilogy and I was here for it!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

One Last Secret– on the plus side, this absolutely delivers on revealing one last secret (and then another and then another). BUT unfortunately a lot of this book read like torture porn and was really hard to listen to (evidently I went with the audiobook version). The subject matter, from prostitution to (highlight for spoiler) child death, was a little on the dark side for me and I can’t say I enjoyed it. If you have a stronger stomach than me, you may get more out of this. Because I can definitely say the twists are worth the ride.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

The Disappearing Act– we all know the world of Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors- which is what makes this story of a missing actress so compelling. Yet the one issue I kept returning to with this book was why on earth did was the main character embroiled in this mess?!? Because this is one where you really have to suspend your disbelief for the mystery to work. Not many of us would traipse around a foreign city hunting for a stranger, after all. I also think the author forgot the golden rule of storytelling: we actually need to care about the people these things are happening to. I did enjoy the twist- yet struggled to get over the original premise. It would have made so much more sense if they’d had a real connection to begin with (and not a five minute awkward one pre-audition). Still, there was a very good twist. And, even if the messaging that success isn’t worth your soul was a little on the nose, it did deliver it rather well. Personally, however, I was most disappointed with the convenient finale that left it on too much of a hopeful note. Really I felt the ending could’ve done with a darker edge. But a round of applause for effort.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

That’s all for now! Some of those were pretty average, but there were some good ‘uns in there! Have you read any of them? What did you think of these? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – All in for August 2022!

Hello all! That was a WILD month! Over here in the UK, it was feeling hot hot HOT!!! But even with the crazy temperatures, I managed to drag myself out the house and do some cool things 😊 Right away, my month was off to a great start when a friend treated me to Jerusalem:

With incredible performances and an amazing script, I felt so lucky that this was my first experience at the theatre in years. A complex play, the story follows Rooster, who is on the verge of being evicted from his caravan. For all the rough edges, this tells of a purity beneath the grime. I particularly liked how the humour threw the darkness into sharp relief and made the experience fly by. And, ultimately, it softened me up for the gut punch at the end!!

Then I was lucky enough to go to Madame Butterfly- which was yet another stunning and moving Royal Opera House performance. Even more tragic than La Boheme, Puccini’s opera felt more real because the ending was so twisted.

Finally, I found myself on a witchy hike in the woods of Surrey!

Also, I never would’ve noticed this post box if it wasn’t pointed out to me, but can you tell what’s special about it?

Don’t Make a Sound– I don’t have much to shout about with this book. It had some cool moments of tension and kept me up reading all night, but was probably a little dark for me. Plus there were some things that stretched credulity. For instance, why when a police officer goes missing ON A MISSING PERSON’S CASE does nobody check where he went last?!??! Also, how are they not suspicious of the jumpy, creepy, elderly couple? I dunno, a lot of the people in this book had to be extremely stupid for the plot to work. That said, it did have a stellar final twist.

Rating: 3/5 bananas  

Bird by Bird– ehh this didn’t really take off for me. I love the title of this book… and not much else. Writing advice books aren’t really my jam, but I’d heard this was one you simply *had to* read. Annnd I don’t know why people think that. I guess the author is very assertive at telling you how right she is about everything (from writing advice to freedom fighters always being right apparently). Yet for me, this is just another prescriptive writing manual, with vaguely encouraging ideas like don’t be a perfectionist told in an irritating way. I just don’t see what’s so special about another writer saying that making it in writing is hard and to focus on characters over plot. You’ll hear the same advice for free on the internet.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

Gilded– for me, this book was a rare and golden experience. When I first picked it up, over a year ago, I wasn’t in the mood and thought it wasn’t going to be for me. But, not being able to resist the pull of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, I decided to pick it up again and, lo and behold, it was absolutely magical! I simply loved how it wove the story, threading together the plot in an unusual way. Up close I could not see where the story was heading- and yet when I stood back the beautiful tapestry was clear. It’s one of my favourite Meyer books to date and I’m looking forward to the conclusion!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Dark Queens– this is real life game of thrones and I am here for it!! Exploring the forgotten and erased parts of the dark ages to life, Dark Queens is centred on the rivalry of two powerful queens during the Merovingian dynasty. While this was a time period I knew virtually nothing about, I found myself completely gripped by the political intrigue and inner workings of these kingdoms. More than that, the book centres on the memory of these now-mythical queens, who were written out of the history books for their gender. I found it fascinating to follow how they both seized and ceded their power, learning of the personal struggles at the heart of their rule. If I had one criticism of the book, I’d say that I do not share the author’s admiration for their ruthlessness and ambition, just as I would not for the male rulers at the time. That said, this is easily one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Heck it’s one of the best books I’ve read! Even if it doesn’t have dragons 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Why Did You Stay?- How do you follow up a great book like that? With great difficulty. While I appreciated the basic premise that women are often conditioned to accept shitty relationships for the sake of “romance” (see the likes of Beauty and the Beast to Grease), I was not as impressed by this book as I wanted to be. Unfortunately, Humphries’ jolty style and sloppy structure make it hard to focus on her unfolding epiphanies. I feel like the book would have benefited from cutting down- at the very least. And, as much as I liked that this raised some awareness of toxic relationships and people’s reaction to it (with that awful shaming question “why did you stay?” ringing in the ears of so many) I did not feel like this went nearly far enough. While this is just one story, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a missed opportunity to talk about why people get stuck and perhaps how to get unstuck (hint: that question doesn’t help anybody). Still, I did particularly like the epilogue and its summations.

Rating: 3/5 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!

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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – I’m Feeling February 2022!

Hello all! Long time, no monthly mini posts! But 2022 is bolting out the gate- so I’d better get started talking about some of the things I’ve been reading and watching! Let’s begin with the TV/movies I’ve seen lately- some of which I loved and one I LOATHED…

Cobra Kai– I was so so sceptical about this show. I thought it was just another cashgrab, deconstruction of a classic… but that’s not what this turned out to be at all. Because there’s so much depth to this story and it does every single one of the characters proud. It’s not simply a redemption story and it’s not just a way to ruin our childhoods by showing that the hero was really the villain all along. No, this shows that while the villain can be the hero of their own story, everyone needs to make an effort and work on themselves. Not everything is black and white. Not everything is as straightforward as it seems. This heartwarming show is genuinely moving. Plus, it’s also pretty kickass and crazy dramatic.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window- what a BLAST! Such a great parody of recent thrillers. It was very obviously side-eying the likes of Woman in the Window. Because of this, you can guess the ending fairly quickly- but that didn’t stop it being a joyous satire. It has some truly laugh-out-loud moments. In fact, every time the trailers rolled, I was chuckling to myself. And Kirsten Bell KILLED IT as the lead!! I will say it was a bit gory at the end- I couldn’t even watch through my fingers at some points- however this also gave me Woman in the Window flashbacks 😂

Don’t Look Up– look, if you like propagandistic movies by elitist schmucks who claim to be the “little guy” then… I don’t know what to say to you. Even if you’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid and don’t mind being patronised by a very-obvious-analogy for climate change denial, you may end up being bothered by how Hollywood acts like all these groups aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet. I don’t know what planet you’re living on- but world leaders and celebrities and media outlets all seem happy to fly around the world on private jets to espouse the same “we’re all gonna die” talking points. I didn’t need to watch a boring, unfunny, hectoring movie to hear that same message from the same damn people so that they can justify raising taxes for the poor. Gotta love Hollywood- the moral arbiters of the world…

Once Upon a Broken Heart– ohmygosh, I’m so happy I picked up this book! I was hesitant, because, well, my feelings about Caraval aren’t exactly a secret. But this was EXACTLY what I needed. Fundamentally a fun fantasy, this fulfilled my every forgotten desire for YA. Playing with the idea of fate and gods in a way that is totally unique, this was a wild ride from start to finish. I loved the way the story starts so unexpectedly- with a HUGE blunder from our main character! This is just the kind of entertainment I was looking for and that I’d have enjoyed once upon a time when I was a teen 😉 I can’t wait for book 2!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

I Have Something to Tell You– don’t bother reading this book. Unless you want to spend the whole time wondering what is even the point of all this?! This is a murder mystery that really isn’t much of a mystery at all… because *spoiler alert* everyone can tell who did it EXCEPT FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER (who also happens to be the murderer’s defence lawyer). And why is she the only person on the planet who thinks he’s innocent? Well, because he has sexy eyes. Greatest defence in history, amiright??! Seriously though, this was peculiar for plenty of reasons. Not least to say that it’s ALSO OBVIOUS that the main character’s husband betrayed her… not that there’s any point to that subplot other than to set up a terrible ending where the main character shacks up with the killer only to discover he was guilty all along. Gah!! And if you read all those spoilers, I haven’t ruined the book for you: I’ve saved you from wasting your time.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

Six Crimson Cranes– ach I had such high expectations for this… but sadly this is the kind of book that didn’t quite float my boat. While it had a fiercely dramatic opening, it kind of slid into mediocrity after that. Possibly because the most interesting character (the dragon) was side-lined for most of the story. And once the initial conflict was initiated, it plodded along in a muted fashion. I didn’t really take to the secondary conflict… which is a big issue because (*spoiler alert*) that was the actual conflict. The potentially fascinating villain was just trying to help her all along (which is basically the worst trope ever)- replacing her with some generic fantasy threat I didn’t care about. And it used flimsy tropes like false memories in an attempt to trick us into seeing the villain in a sympathetic light… which still didn’t work since her actions at the start were the equivalent of kicking a puppy. That said, I feel like I’m the one kicking a puppy by not liking the book, because it does have such an optimistic view. It just left me feeling flat. While not a bad book, unfortunately the ending undoes a lot of what I liked about it in the beginning.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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

The Man Who Died Twice– this was another pointless read I’m afraid :/ It felt like the author was just fulfilling a quota of getting a second book out in order to capitalise on the success of the first. There wasn’t enough about this book that was special in its own right to justify it as a sequel. Whereas Thursday Murder Club used the structure of a murder mystery to explore themes of aging and used the story to explore the characters in real depth, this felt like a tagged on overlong epilogue. And while there were still fun characters to work with, I felt like it missed the mark in terms of actually making me like the newer members of the cast and didn’t have the heart of the first book. And although the mystery was alright, I was frustrated that the disparate stories still didn’t connect. Irritatingly, all the things that I didn’t like about the first one were amped up (including the middle-aged attempts at wokeness and BBC-approved moralising). This was just an okay read- though I can imagine it being a fun TV series.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

Poison– okay, I don’t normally talk about rereads here, but I JUST WANT TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK (again) SO BADLY!!! This was one of my rereads from 2021- that I hadn’t planned on picking up again… if ever- because I just wasn’t sure it could live up to my memory of how good it was. And you know what? It was better. Not only was the tone utterly unique and stylised, but the characters were just as vivid and distinctive. The motivation and plot isn’t straight out of your usual YA fantasy. This takes stereotypes and twists them just enough to give them meaning and make them take on a life of their own. Wooding has such a brilliant understanding of life and stories, bringing them together in a magically meta way. This had even more clever twists than I remembered- so I’m glad I left it such a long time before rereading it. I almost felt like I was experiencing it for the first time, yet with a little hint of nostalgia behind that. I wish I could do a full length review- but I feel like it’s the kind of book that engrossed me too much to take proper notes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Cytonic– now this is what I’m talking about!! While I wasn’t super blown away by Starsight, I had enjoyed Skyward enough to give the series another go- and I was so pleased that I did. As Spensa mentions herself, a lot of the second book was taken up with being a fish out of water, which didn’t really work for me, but this was a return to form. Action-packed and with fantastic character development, it kept me hooked from beginning to end… even in a super strange environment where it’s hard to get your footing. But of course, Brandon Sanderson is the master when it comes to world building! I listened to this on audiobook and found the reading mesmerising- not least because I already loved the voicey style. It made me fall in love with the characters all over again. A great edition to the series that has me pumped for the next instalment!

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? 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 – December 2021!

Hello all! Can you believe we’re well and truly into the festive period?! But I have to say I’m loving soaking it up as much as I can this year! I’m trying to do more things that I enjoyed before the pandemic. Among a lot of things I’ve already mentioned, I’m excited to finally be going to art galleries again! And on that note, I went to the Wallace Collection for the first time to take a peek at the recently restored Swing by Fragonard.

This photo truly doesn’t do the piece justice! For such a small painting it sure does have a BIG IMPACT! Wondrously captivating and worth checking out if you ever get the chance!

In terms of tv, I’ve been getting well and truly wrapped up in the Wheel of Time. I know they changed things (which I don’t agree with) but I’m finding it easier to follow than Jordan’s writing, so I’m very into it. I just hope they continue making all the seasons of it so I don’t have to go away and read all the books (which, granted, I’m pretty tempted to do now anyway). And of course, I watched the second series of Tiger King– which somehow was even crazier?! Other than that, I’ve just been ploughing through the books!

Mrs England– and Halls has done it again! This is her best yet! With a hint of tragedy lurking in the background, this is a subtle take on the traditional English gothic. I loved the creepy vibes and atmosphere of the Yorkshire setting. More than simply a revival of the Victorian novel, this gives a new lease of life to the form. Beautifully written and with psychologically rich characters, this story recontextualises romantic notions of the past and reveals the dark truths behind classic “mad woman in the attic” narratives.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Hunchback of Notre Dame– well this book is magnificent. Jumping straight into the euphoric high of the Feast of Fools, this story quickly descends into the drama of 15th Century Paris. Under the gaze of Notre Dame, we are slowly introduced to the principle and challenged with our perception of good and evil. Much of the dark side of humanity is on full display and so many characters are morally ambiguous. For this is far, far from the Disney version. Stunningly written- particularly with regards to the description of place- this was powerful reflection of humanity’s strengths and deficiencies. With expert mirroring of the beginning in its tragic conclusion, there is an air of inevitability from the start. It delivers its emotional blows as every great tragedy should.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Owl Service– this is a bit of a new-old discovery. Someone I work with recommended I try Alan Garner books and WOW these books don’t mess about. Owl Service felt less like a retelling and more like it was possessed by a mythic force, like the legends of old were forcing their way into the story and taking control of the narrative. I liked the concept and the simplicity of the story. More than that, I liked how the characters weren’t mundanely pure and good children. Rather, they were little humans, full of the usual concurrence of good and bad. Way darker than any book I read when I was young, there’s enough creepiness in this to freak adults out (well, adults like me, who can only manage spooky stories in broad daylight 😉). Uncanny in the purest sense, I couldn’t help but feel like this was both unusual and oddly familiar. A masterstroke of mythical storytelling.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Elidor– if I had to summarise this book, I’d say it was a realllly twisted take on Narnia. Except much like the more recent the Light Between Worlds, it deals more with the aftermath of being whisked away to a magical world. It makes you question what is left after a formative (and in many ways traumatic) experience. Taking the extreme example of reluctant heroes- if they can even be called heroes- it explores the genuine human response to asking children to bear the responsibility of the world on their young shoulders. And the result is bleak and hard to come to terms with. It’s a bold coming of age story; it’s the best of YA (written before YA existed). And it does so much of what modern books try to do now- but it does it with a greater profundity and without contrived conclusions. Like the best art, it doesn’t lead you to simple answers and doesn’t propagandise its message. Like the best myths, the meaning is layered beneath mists of magic. You’ll have to figure out how to interpret it for yourself.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Wedding Party– this vowed to be great fun- but just didn’t live up to its promise. I do love thrillers set at destination weddings- it’s that wonderful cocktail of high hopes and long held secrets and dashed dreams. And this had all those ingredients and more. The characters were delightfully detestable- the bridezilla obsessed with her image, the weirdly obsessive friend and the catastrophically selfish sister. BUT unfortunately, so much in a thriller hinges on the ending. And after being driven mad by these *awful* characters for hundreds of pages, I wanted to see someone get theirs in a dramatic way and for a good reason… and sadly this just fell flat. The twist of who died and who dunnit just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas  

Before I Go to Sleep– this didn’t quite send me to sleep… but it came close. Fairly predictable and a bit far-fetched, I wasn’t really sold on this story about a woman who wakes up every day with no memory. Granted I never really love amnesia stories to begin with- however this was an especially irritating example. Because I don’t have a problem with my memory, so leaving massive plot holes and contradictions doesn’t work for me. Even if you excuse them by saying the main character just didn’t remember telling other people vital facts. Also, I get that the protagonist reading from her diary was central to the plot, yet it hardly makes sense to have her reading it at crucial moments, when, say, she suspects there’s a potential psychopath on the other side of a door. Just leave- then read the diary. Make her think she’s made it safety before she settles in for an explanation. I’ll also never be a fan of villain monologuing at the end OR a weirdly unearned happy ending. And to top it all off, it’s really obvious to me this was written by a man trying to get inside a woman’s head, because women aren’t typically hyper-conscious of how much space our boobs take up. Stop being weird dude.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The Appeal– a murder mystery like no other, this is a story you’re going to have to figure out a lot of it on your own. Told through a collection of emails, this crime novel forces the reader to put on their thinking cap and work through a series of clues. With interjections from two investigators, you can slowly come to the truth of who was murdered and why. I have to say I was ridiculously impressed by the format and style of the genius thriller. I was also very happy with myself for working out bits and pieces along the way. Normally, I might find it disappointing to guess twists, however in this case I was inordinately proud of myself and satisfied that I’d been reading between the lines closely enough to get some of it right! I whizzed through this so fast, having enormous fun along the way! I definitely recommend giving this a go if you enjoy mysteries, thrillers or just having a good time. I hope you get as much out of it as I did- break a leg!

Rating: 5/5 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!

Mid-Year Monkey at the Movies

Hello all! As promised in my monthly wrap up, I have some mini movie reviews for you today. There’s a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly here (in that order) so sit tight, cos we’re in for a bumpy ride!

Carrie Pilby– charming, quirky and a lot of fun, this was thoroughly enjoyable. While it had indie vibes, it embraced classic storytelling. The character arcs were beautifully done- showing that even if Carrie is a genius, she doesn’t know everything after all. It also went further, showing how pain can reverberate across the years. All credit to the writers and actors, cos this was a super fun story. I’d happily rewatch it!

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

The Woman in the Window– there are lots of angles through which to view this film: voyeuristically curious about the scandalous background of the author; from the perspective of a reader who read (and maybe even enjoyed) the book (like me); or just as someone who likes watching a good thriller. Yet none of those angles will make this film any more enjoyable. Because this film shows up all the shockingly awful decisions in the book. Without the flashy writing, the story just doesn’t seem to work. It’s convoluted, it’s poorly signposted and it’s all over the place. And none of the fancy camera work changes that. Even with modern technology, you can’t beat the likes of Rear Window (which this poorly tries to imitate). What made for an entertaining read (pre-authorial baggage) made for painful viewing.

Rating: 1/5 bananas

The Dig– eh- this wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either. While the performances are good and the story decent, I found this forgettable. Mostly, because no one has a character arc. NO ONE. Either the protagonists or the people around them should change… but that’s not the case in this film. The protagonists have static arcs. The vague antagonists- who oppose the main archaeologist over class- continue to do so by the end. The only reason I was engaged in this movie was because Sutton Hoo is interesting- yet I don’t see why this couldn’t have been a documentary.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Mary Queen of Scots– boy-oh-boy this takes liberties with history. It goes too far in my book, presenting Mary’s Catholicism as a marginalised belief… when it was the conservative and powerful position. To make matter worse, her faith is also portrayed as tolerant, having her say things like “we all go to the same heaven” and to a male character “you would make a lovely sister”. Even Queen Elizabeth I is oddly sentimental. It’s all in the name of woke feminism- which does not make for a logically coherent historical drama. But who cares about that when you can score brownie points, amiright?! In fairness, the history is *bonkers*. Looking up what actually happened kept me engaged throughout the movie- and damn, if they’d just gone with that, it would have been an excellent film. The problem is, they tried too hard to make Mary a flawless heroine, when she is better suited to the role of a tragic Shakespearean figure, whose fatal flaws are her undoing. BUT NO- the movie has to insist her dismissing every councillor makes her clever. And that it’s somehow everyone else’s fault when they turn against her. Oh and it’s also great to be compassionate (even if it costs lives). It’s funny, because the film is designed to be anti-English, yet to my mind, all it did was show how useless Mary was as a leader (even while carefully glossing over Mary’s plots to take Elizabeth’s throne, somehow trying to make her seem conciliatory). The juxtaposition of her rule with Elizabeth’s doesn’t help to make a case for her reign. This is exemplified in the scene where Mary and Elizabeth meet (which of course is entirely made up). Mary calls Elizabeth her inferior and says “I’m your queen”- to which Elizabeth takes off her wig and says “your gifts are your downfall”. Frankly this makes no sense- 1) because there’s NO WAY Mary could have said that to Elizabeth and lived another 20 years and 2) because the logical response would’ve been “says the woman who’s just lost a kingdom”. She didn’t lose the kingdom because she was pretty FFS- she did so because she didn’t know how to rule. It’s just so ironic that this is the best case they could come up with for Mary Queen of Scots. If they hadn’t been trying so hard to be woke and refusing to acknowledge a female character’s flaws, this could’ve been a damn good drama. Ultimately however, as much as I enjoyed how it was shot, the acting, the history, it was a colossal waste of time. 

Rating: 2.5 bananas

That’s all for now! Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them? Am I being too harsh? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – just in time for June!

Hello all! Hope you all had a marvellous May- I’ve enjoyed two lovely long weekends and (finally) some sunshine!! The funny thing about leaving the house more is that somehow I’ve made more time for movies… so there will be a separate post for that at some point, cos I have *opinions*. Also, I’ve been giving out a lot of bananas for books this month- but I don’t care, because they all deserved it! Let’s see why shall we?  

The Summer Job– starting with a sizzler for summer time. I loved this fresh and fun book, all about a girl who takes a summer job… that isn’t hers. Whisked away to the Scottish setting, I thoroughly enjoyed all the talk of food and wine. The love interest was an absolute cinnamon roll and the story had a joyful flavour. I like how it explored friendship with some depth. It was a perfect palate cleanser and ideal for fans of Beth O’Leary.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

In a Dark, Dark Wood– despite hearing this is not Ware’s best, I enjoyed this more than I expected I would. While there were some repeats of plot points from her other books, particularly its And Then There Were None vibes, it still had nice twists and turns (which I can’t reveal cos they’re *spoilers*). The one thing I did have an issue with was the main character’s motivation to go to this hen weekend in the first place- because I certainly wouldn’t have set foot there! I think it could have been fleshed out more. There were also some loose ends. Clearly, Ware has tightened up her plots since this, yet it was a good fix to tide me over till her next release (more of this please!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Transcendent Kingdom– this reminds me why I read lit fic- because this was *glorious*. The story itself is a snapshot of what it’s like to grow up as a new migrant in America, yet zooms in on one individual family’s story. It’s so beautifully written that I glided through the prose. Though it has a fragmentary and non-chronological structure, I couldn’t stop reading. The unusual form was handled masterfully, dissecting the emotion and presenting it to the reader. I’m starting to adore everything this author writes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Bone Shard Daughter– sadly this didn’t quite do it for me. Despite the cool world building and the intriguing perspective of the bone shard daughter, I didn’t have much interest in the rest of the story or characters. I feel like this would have been far more immersive if there had been fewer points of view and expanded on the elements that worked.

Rating: 3.5/5 bananas

Made You Up– this was the real deal! Telling the unusual YA contemporary about a girl with schizophrenia, it had a vivid energy. Though I cannot speak to its authenticity, it felt powerfully empathetic. I felt as if I was deep inside her head and hearing her struggles. I also liked the motif of photography for this story- it was a clever addition to the narrative. I do have to say that I found the middle a little hazy- yet the beginning and ending really worked for me. This was not as proficient as Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters, but a great story nonetheless!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Light Between Worlds– isn’t the title for this book just brilliant? As a reimagining of the aftermath of children finding their way into a Narnia-like-world, the concept of this story intrigued me straight away. Luckily, I was far from disappointed. While this does have flashbacks from the protagonists’ time in the Woodlands, this focuses more on what it means to return home. It is not an action-packed story, but a deep character study that holds its own magic. Focusing first on a Lucy-like character and then on a Susan stand-in, this was as much about sisterly relationships as it was about the abstract discussions of growth after trauma. I really liked how it reinvented the Lucy dynamic, showing how she’s actually got a great challenge to fit in after Narnia, which she can’t quite live up to. I also liked that this examined the treatment Susan gets in the later Chronicles of Narnia, showing that her path to trying to forget is just as understandable as clinging onto the past. It shows how we all struggle with trauma in different ways. And I was particularly impressed with how the story acknowledges that the greatest trauma comes from our own actions. Profound and well written, I found this a fascinating fantasy.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Road Trip– Beth O’Leary is back with another delightful contemporary! With two holidays for the price of one, five friends stuffed into a mini and plenty of history- this was one helluva ride! Jumping between “now” and “then”, you get a glimpse of the summer romance and then the less-glamorous aftermath. Thanks to this, you get to see some very contrasting settings and circumstances. It builds up the characters and relationships throughout the journey. The story soon goes off in a hilarious direction, making me laugh out loud and cheering me right up (even if a road trip isn’t on the cards for me any time soon). This ended up being far more than a second chance romance, exploring some difficult topics along the way. I was very sad to finish it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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 all had a good month!