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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May it be May 2021?!

(not actually trying to make a LOTR reference… though who am I kidding that’s totally a reference 😉)

Hello all! Very very very exciting news! All my work-stuff paid off and I got a new job in libraries! I’m going full time!! And I’m really, really happy about it!!! Not sure where my blogging will be at while I get into the swing of things- WE SHALL SEE (she says ominously 😉 ) Please bear with me!

Other than that, we’re also starting to see the light (okay maybe only the outside of pubs 😉 ) in England. Hopefully, hopefully things will start looking up soon! *CHEERS!*

With the application/interview, I’ve fallen into a bit of a reading slump, so haven’t got a lot to talk about this month. But there’s still some gems to share. First though, I watched a fab film:

Karate Kid– have you ever rewatched something 20 or so years later and it’s like experiencing it for the first time? Well, this is what it was like to rewatch Karate Kid. It felt faintly familiar and comforting- and yet I was delighted by how fresh it felt. Feel good and with strong characters, it’s one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a long time (twenty years or so I’d say 😉). I loved the spirit of the story and the goodie vs baddie themes. It’s got some real depth to it as well- teaching the viewer not to simply become what we hate- but be something better. It’s very powerful stuff and incredibly inspiring 😊

The Happiest Man on Earth– you perhaps won’t expect to find a holocaust memoir to be one of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read- but that’s exactly what this is. It’s obviously hard to read at times and has some harrowing stories, however ultimately this was a beautifully life-affirming read. A real quick read, I was shocked by some of the revelations and at times wondered if this was the unluckiest man on earth. And yet- and yet somehow he managed to survive. More than that, Jaku built a life for himself and his family. He never allowed himself to become less than human- no matter what circumstances tried to strip that from him. He is a shining example of humanity.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Tiny Beautiful Things- compiled of letters to and from an agony aunt dubbed Sugar, this had the miraculous ability to be in part a touching life-advice and part memoir. Though I didn’t agree with every piece of advice, the warmth and sweetness behind Sugar’s every word was undeniable. I will admit that I did find I had to take some of the letters with a pinch of salt- some of the suggestions were a bit too saccharine and out of touch with (my) reality. That said, I think I got a lot out of reading this- not just for the author’s take, but the immensely powerful stories of everyone that wrote to her. And, after reading this, I very much look forward to reading the author’s fiction.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Then She Was Gone– I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I just really like Lisa Jewell’s books. Yes, they’re not traditionally thrilling thrillers; yes, the “twists” are more than a little obvious. AND YET, even if I can sense the exact steps the narrative will take towards its conclusion, I just really appreciate the journey. Focusing more on the lives of victims than villains, this book was very much focused on the explosion of horror into a normal life. Though absorbing, it was not for the typical reasons I find a thriller absorbing. Rather I was compelled to witness an unravelling of the cruel realities that make up so many crimes. Jewell imagines lives touched by tragedy with startling empathy. And of course, Jewell always has that magic way of making her characters real and genuinely good.

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

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Court of Silver Flames– I have issues; I really don’t know why I read this book. I knew very well that I was unlikely to enjoy it- I was dissatisfied with the ending in ACOWAR and thought ACOFAS was a waste of time. So, I should’ve known this wouldn’t be for me. Still, the ending of the series had left me wanting more… And I didn’t get that here. Unless you count lots more of Maas’ infamous sex scenes. Lots and lots of sex scenes. Ones that I didn’t find particularly sexy (somehow talk of “impaling” doesn’t exactly do it for me). Unfortunately there isn’t much to say beyond that. The story was a kind of formless blob. The plot was all over the place. Apart from the “romance” (*ahem*), it’s just a jumbled mess. Many times I questioned, where the hell is this going? (Minor spoiler: in a freakishly Breaking Dawn direction apparently). I did think the ending was saved by a moment of grace and proof that the whole story had been in service of character development (even if it didn’t seem that way while I reading). This somewhat saved the reading experience for me. That and the fact that, as a character, Nesta occasionally grabbed my attention… except when she was moaning “boohoo it sucks to be an all-powerful immortal”. Honestly, I have to hold my hands up and admit it was my fault for reading this in the first place. I really need to have some s(h)elf control and stop picking up books from this author- for my own good!!

Rating: 2.5/5 bananas

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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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Springing into April 2021!

Okay, one of these days I’m going to announce a comeback and properly do a comeback. What with work, getting to see my brother for the first time in 6 months (yay!) and a few other things, I’ve not had time to do bloghopping like I wanted to. I’m gonna try and juggle things around so that I’m able to do that… *fingers crossed*.

On the plus side, I’ve been more creative lately and experimenting with new artsy ideas, which (hopefully) will mean I’ll be posting more on Instagram soon.

In other news, I rearranged my bookshelves while I was doing my spring cleaning (and I must say they’re looking rather purty… possibly cos I can see even more of my favourites when I look at them 😉)

And as you can imagine I read some *amazing* things that I’m excited to share. But first… film time!

Descendants I don’t know if I’ve mentioned these movies before, but I rewatched the entire trilogy with my sister last month, so thought I’d mention (/remind everyone) how much I adore them! If you like cutesy and fun Disney channel movies, then I highly recommend them. It’s about the kids of Disney villains being allowed to live with heroes… and as you can imagine shenanigans ensue. Everything about these are great: the concept, the dance numbers, the songs, the characters… Even my mum (whose age I won’t disclose) loved them. By far the best kid-friendly entertainment from Disney channel 😊

Always and Forever, Lara Jean– Oof this was a disappointment for me. I know the book divided some opinions- however I personally I loved how it moved away from the romance a little, focused more on failure and captured more of a coming-of-age vibe. The movie didn’t do that for me- it was ALL about the romance. Sure, her relationship had featured in her dreams, yet it had been much more about connecting with her mother’s life and wanting to follow in her footsteps. That was taken out in favour of done-to-death themes like miscommunication and very, very important issues (like trying to find their “couple song”). I also disliked how it removed the down-to-earth aspects of having them try for more accessible colleges… instead doing the typical Hollywood thing of focusing on top unis. Call me crazy, but I liked that this was a normal, quirky couple rather than the VERY BEST MOST TALENTED HIGH SCHOOLERS IN THE COUNTRY (like we’re used to seeing in every single teen movie). If you were one of the people that didn’t like the book, I’m sure you will enjoy this adaptation more. And if you were one of the people who did like it you can still find it enjoyable… provided you lower your expectations.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken/Vow so Bold and Deadly– I actually promised myself I wasn’t going to continue with this series… and look how that turned out! Can’t say I feel bad about that, because I really liked the second book. Even though I enjoyed Harper as a main character, I was surprised to find I liked the new perspectives much, much more. It seems I wasn’t as attached to her as I thought. I thought the new princess and court was fascinating and was intrigued by the direction of the story. The issues I had suspending my disbelief were resolved… more or less. Unfortunately, the promise faded a little bit in the finale when a lot of the old characters came back. I was even less interested in them than I was before and the lacklustre villain was back (cue muted *dun dun dunnn*s all around). It was fine as a conclusion, yet I stand by my original stance that this series isn’t really for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas  

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Yes to Life in Spite of Everything– I mentioned this book briefly last month. These newly published lectures reinforced a lot of the life-affirming messages from Frankl… and took them further. It taught me about how we find happiness, even in hard times and because of the struggles we go through. We learn about ourselves from how we deal with hardship. It is a necessary and important part of life. We cannot erase our pain, for without it, we would not be who we are. We can (and should) find meaning in every part of our lives- even the parts we do not wish to look at closely. Life is in its own right meaningful and beautiful. Beyond the personal guidance, this also has a significant message for society, arguing against collective guilt (which I think is something we would all benefit from today). To put it simply: HELL YES TO THIS BOOK!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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The Fire of Joy– what a pleasure this collection was! So many of the poems lit me up with joy. And I really appreciated the (often personalised) analysis after each one. As it’s a collection of poetry that’s designed to be read aloud, I hope one day there will be an audiobook. Either way, I want a copy of my own now and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Lovely War– I have to say I loved the tone of this book. It’s a great idea to nestle WWI love stories inside the perspectives of the Greek gods. I really liked the way the narrative was told from the points of views of all of these “witnesses”. Oddly enough, though this stylistic choice was the book’s greatest asset, it did make me feel a little distant from the mortal characters. That said, it held a certain magic and I thought the ending was truly beautiful.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Blade Runner– I don’t read much classic sci fi and I often don’t love it… but I really appreciated this one! It was completely engaging from beginning to end and dealt with such interesting questions. Predominantly revolving around the topic of empathy, the narrative asks us where our limits are, what kinds of people gain our sympathy and where are our shortcomings. The story doesn’t give us any straightforward answers. The protagonist is rocked to his core with these concepts… and yet he is unable to move beyond the person he is at the beginning of the story, with the ending mirroring the opening. It is a very clever story. The one thing that I can say Phillip K Dick got wrong was that January 2021 wasn’t nearly as advanced technologically and was far more dull than he envisaged 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Anxious People– I have a little trepidation to say I didn’t expect that much from this book… but I’ll boldly say this blew me away! To put it simply: this is a heartwarming story of a bank robber (yes, you read that right!) The story held me hostage for a day- I could not stop reading! It was compulsive, witty and made me laugh so many times. I loved the portraits that Backman drew of so many unique types of people. I felt like I was in the room with them, getting to know them each in turn and loving them for being so delightfully human. I couldn’t stop thinking about the book afterwards (and raving about it to everyone in earshot… and dragging some people over who were just minding their own business to tell them how great this book was!) By far my favourite Backman… so far!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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I Found You– this hit me in a much more emotional way than I expected (which could also be a result of when I read it). Though it’s largely told from the perspective and (missing) memories of a man, this ended up being a striking story of women’s issues. Dealing with very dark themes, it also managed to bring some heart to the story, making me connect with the characters in a way that I don’t often do with thrillers. I think the biggest shocker for me was how I was so moved by it. It felt less like a psychological thriller and more a tale of love and loss. I’ve seen some complaints on goodreads about how slow paced it was and I get it… but I also didn’t care in this case.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

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Girl A– I don’t get what was the big deal with this book- sorry! And if I’d known what this book was actually going to be, I wouldn’t have picked it up. Largely that comes down to mismarketing. Why was it compared to Gillian Flynn??! Why was it described as a thriller when it wasn’t remotely thrilling or suspenseful? Were we reading the same book?! This was a literary fiction about child abuse… and I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known that. I don’t know why publishers constantly have to dress books up as something entirely different to what they are- all it means is that they find the wrong audience and irritate readers. And this book was not for me in any way. I didn’t enjoy the internal monologue-y style- I felt it resulted in too much telling and distanced me emotionally from the characters. I also hated how the narrative structure jolted from past to present and from perspective to perspective in the space of a paragraph- it was so confusing to read! I’ve also read the same story many times… done so much better (unfortunately I can’t give examples because of spoilers). I’ve also enjoyed many slower paced thrillers (see above)- yet sadly this one did nothing for me. I didn’t hate it, I just wish I hadn’t bothered with it.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Thorn– this was a very sharp take on the Goose Girl. As a retelling, it was unique. It spun the tale from a different angle, laying out how the princess does not crave power and would rather escape into obscurity. This cleverly explores the question of agency, making her more than just a victim of circumstance. It is also an empowering statement- even if victims allow people to take advantage of them, they truly have the power to take back that control at any moment. It shows both sides of passivity- the strengths and weaknesses. The story itself delved deep into the idea of how survival is strength. As you can probably tell, I really appreciated how unusually developed the characters were in this YA. Definitely recommend for fans of YA retellings!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – March-ing FORWARD Through 2021!

Hello all! I’m back!

First, I want to say a sincere thank you for all your kind words and well-wishes while I was away. I wasn’t having the best time and it really meant a lot. Second, I do want to apologise for being dramatic- especially in a time like this. I’m very sorry to have worried anyone- that was not my intent with the hiatus post and I hope I reassured anyone in the comments. Third, I know I promised an explanation- however, on reflection, I don’t want to put more bad energy out into the atmosphere (look at me getting all kooky 😉 ). All I need to say is that things are better and I’m gonna get on with my life (thank goodness for yoga/books/friends/more yoga eh). So, yeah, I’m looking forward to blogging more again, but please be patient with me as I try and get back into the swing of things. Since I scrapped all my Feb posts and this is the first thing I’m writing in a while, not sure what my schedule will be like- we’ll see!

Now all that’s all out the way, onto the post!

Fate: The Winx Saga– oh gosh I don’t care what anyone says, this was wicked fun. My sister and I loved this as children- and both of us enjoyed this incarnation too! To be fair, the first ten minutes were kinda messy, but it got so much better. And it was even more fun being familiar with the story. When the BeaTRIX character got introduced I was like I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE! Minor spoiler, however I also loved the tricksy changeling twist- it’s better than the adoption story. Bloom’s backstory is so so dark- yet it manages to stay true to the original. That’s what I like most of all: how this captures the spirit of the cartoon and manages to do something different. My favourite part is that it really shows off the female friendship (whilst making it a bit more mature). So, if you enjoy supernatural teen shows, then definitely check this out if you haven’t already!

Where the Crawdads Sing– don’t be fooled by the short review, I listened to this on audio and was transfixed from beginning to end. Part murder mystery, part coming of age, this book unravels the secrets of a girl living alone in a swamp. Exploring themes of isolation, prejudice and being an outsider, it’s the kind of story that nests in your thoughts. While it stays rooted in the Cove, I felt swept up by the journey. With each turn of the plot, I felt like I was drifting further upstream, deeper into this unknown and unknowable territory. I felt the setting come to life; the characters were vividly real. I don’t know what more to say without spoiling it, so I’ll leave it there: because this is a book you simply must experience for yourself. Everything about this was remarkable.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Memory Police– unfortunately this was not the most memorable story. Far be it for me to police art, but this novel was a little muddling. Essentially, this was an allegory for a totalitarian regime. At first, I found its simplicity had a certain power. I liked the mysterious names and enigmatic curiosities. However, as the narrative progressed, it got exceptionally weird and I started to lose my way. While I liked the story within a story aspect, it wasn’t particularly ground-breaking. And I couldn’t understand the main character’s profession (writer) given the context. Perhaps the meaning was a little bit too elusive for me- however it ultimately felt like it was failing to tease out the ideas that already exist Orwell. I already understood how totalitarian regimes get power from erasing the past without reading the book.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Bitter– this was not what I expected- yet I don’t resent reading it in the slightest. Whilst I expected this to be a very typical thriller, this was far more discursive about empathy than I thought it would be. This voicey novel forces us to understand the view of a borderline-stalker-y, lonely old woman. And rather than having the explosive twist you’re waiting for, it’s more of an emotional tug on the heartstrings. Which, if you saw the description, you wouldn’t expect at all. It was far more of an interesting peek into someone’s mind and an exploration of how someone might become bitter. The only downside to this voicey novel turned out to be how hard it was being in this character’s head. Otherwise, an intriguingly different novel.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Echo North– what a wonderful book. This fairy tale retelling blends East of the Sun and West of the Moon and Beauty and the Beast… and offers something entirely original. Don’t expect your typical, beautiful YA heroine. It actually fulfilled the promise of doing something different with the original story. There were was plenty of magic and some really charming ideas here- I especially adored the book mirrors. I was incredibly impressed with the ending as well- threading all the little details of the story together. And I thoroughly enjoyed the dreamy tone. I wolfed it down in one sitting. It’s severely underrated and underappreciated.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Fatherland– unfortunately, I found this read a bit pointless. Maybe this is something I’m being a bit of a hypocrite about, however, as an alternate history story detailing “what would have happened if the Nazis won”, this was almost too historical (I know! I’m the one always complaining that alternate history is too ahistorical!) The problem was most of the story was just recounting history… and then restoring the proper historical status quo… so what was the point? I did like the idea of uncovering the hidden crimes of a nation and shattering the illusion of a perfect society- it’s just it didn’t really do more than that. Plus, considering we already know that the Nazis were evil, it’s not exactly revelatory. I just think this could have gone a lot further (especially considering I have always maintained that the Nazis would’ve just kept murdering different races until they were stopped). I don’t want to be too harsh, however, as a lot of my meh feelings for this book could come down to the fact that the writing style just wasn’t for me. I failed to connect with the characters and that severely impacted my reaction. Objectively, there were some visceral descriptions and it was quite pacey.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Wife Upstairs– there was a lot to like about this modern take on Jane Eyre/the mad woman in the attic trope. From the beginning, I appreciated the Southern gothic tone and layers to the narration. The unreliable narrator twists the plain Jane character into someone more intriguing and cunning. The story subtly developed in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It’s not an in-your-face dramatic thriller, but it certainly had enough to keep me gripped. The nods to the original could be a little on the nose, though personally I enjoyed them all. The one issue I had, without getting into spoilers, was that the ending was a little far-fetched and hard to buy. But I still highly recommend this for fans of the original and thriller addicts.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2020!

Okay, we’re moving into the final month of the year… and I’m ready to move on already. I ended up doing a project for work in November that just ate and ate and ate into my free time. Which means I don’t have a lot to report (other than I’m clearly stuttering through blogging right now). My plan at the moment is to end the year on a high… most likely just a sugar high 😉 Let’s not mince pies words, I’ve no idea what the last month of 2020 has in store, so I’m not going to promise anything! My only strategy is to keep calm and have a cookie…

Anyhoo, time to gorge ourselves on the great TV I’ve been watching…

The Queen’s Gambit this was the star of the month for me in TV! Like everyone with a Netflix account, I saw the advert, but didn’t think a drama about chess could hold my interest… shows what I know! I’m really glad I gave it a go, because this completely took me by surprise. Because it wasn’t just about chess (though that part was surprisingly amazing) it was an intense character study, focusing on the topic of obsession and addiction. All of which was captured in a way that made it feel like a real story. I loved the sumptuous setting, thought the lead’s performance was incredible and was impressed with the gripping storyline. I really recommend checking it out! (And all I want to know is whether the book is as good?!)

The Crown– well, I felt incredibly voyeuristic watching the Crown in season 4… which is my way of saying that, for all the inaccuracies, it was a strong season. Not just because the history around this is so fascinating, emotional and dramatic- but because there were some really good performances this year. I liked the take they had on Thatcher, thought showing Charles aging was a good idea and thought Diana was especially believable. The only episode I wasn’t keen on was the one about Fagan. I’m never a fan of turn-to-the-camera-and-preach moments, but this was made worse by the knowledge that the real Fagan couldn’t possibly have said all that since he was high on mushrooms, which messed with my suspension of disbelief. Other than that, it felt so realistic that a lot of the scenes this season made for uncomfortable watching. Yet, I can’t deny it was very addictive television.

The Plague– oof the subject matter for this one felt all too familiar. Okay, okay, we’re not dealing with the literal plague, but this was still pretty close to home. It’s incredible how this story not only crossed borders and has such depth of meaning in translation, but has also stood the test of time. It felt very universal. Trouble is, because of the current crisis, I did struggle to see the line between fiction and reality. I think I took a lot of this more literally than it was intended and lost (the probably considerable) metaphorical meaning. I’ll have to reread this again one day, when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Station Eleven– well, here was another book that was creepily like reality. So much so that I think the media used this book as their official guide on how to write about a pandemic. Anyway, I don’t know what made me pick this up in November, but I thought this was an impressive book. Again, I think this book might have been better if I’d read it before or after Covid. That said, there was a lot to appreciate about this book. I particularly liked how it flicked back and forth through time. And the story flew by at an alarming rate.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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I Know Who You Are- ugh this is one of those books I really wanted to praise… and can’t. Because the twist made me feel a bit sick to be honest. I’m going to spoil it in one word for those that want to know: incest. I mean, I should’ve seen it coming, but also why would I have seen that coming?! Yet, despite the stellar writing, there were some serious flaws in the narrative early on. Cracks that appeared out of nowhere and stretched any semblance of believability. There was just so much happening that it got really far-fetched. I kept thinking “surely this can’t all happen to one person?” And yet, it did keep happening. And happening. And happening. It was less like being kept on my toes and more like being forced to do a dance over hot coals. I could barely keep up with this crazy conga of ideas-smashed-together. And then there was that ending… and goddamn. No.

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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Loveless– I wasn’t in love with Loveless I’m afraid. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I have a love-hate relationship with Oseman, but I do enjoy some of her books more than others and this one wasn’t for me. The biggest barrier to my enjoyment is that Georgia is a *horrible* character. I can’t speak for things like authenticity, but I can say that I don’t really like people that use their friends the way she did. Experimenting on the bestie she knew had a crush on her was a big no-no. And just in case that didn’t leave enough of a sour taste, she’s also the kind of person that doesn’t know the *VERY BIG RED LINE* between someone saying something you don’t like and physical assault. Call me old fashioned, but assaulting a stranger doesn’t make you brave (*unless you think bravery is faceless jackboots). At the same time, she’s the kind of cowardly hyper-agreeable individual that can’t tell a girl sobbing in her arms that maybe just maybe she’s not happy and should make some changes. Another issue for me was that, while the voice sounded authentically teen, it did grate on me as immature, because they were supposed to be uni-aged. That said, it could just be that I’m old and aging out of the category, so take that with a pinch of salt 😉 The only reason I didn’t DNF this was cos I had to read on for Rooney and Pip’s relationship. Their relationship was worth every bit of page time (and should’ve had more). If that would’ve been the whole book, I’d have loved it.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Majesty– I don’t have a great deal to say that I haven’t mentioned in my review for American Royals. This was just as fun, dramatic and entertaining as its predecessor! Picking up from where we left off, with a new American Queen, this launches straight into the action. And while this had some predictable elements, it still managed to surprise me! I loved that it didn’t go in the direction I expected and had plenty of exciting turns- particularly in the romance department. I enjoyed getting to know the characters even more than in the first one, as I was pleased with how far they’d come! Plus, I really like that this gives us the main antagonist’s perspective as well!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Labyrinth of the Spirits– I think like many people, I was sad to hear of Zafon’s passing this year. It made reading this all the more bittersweet. And it was already an emotional journey through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. As you will know, I love this story, so it was wonderful to see its conclusion. While it has a slow start, the building tension made it feel pacey. Slowly but surely, it weaves the mysteries from the previous stories together, drawing us into a labyrinth of secrets. It’s such a complex and dark story that you could easily get lost- and yet, incredibly, there is a light showing the way. Zafon gives us answers to questions launched in Shadow of the Wind. I realised by the end that we had the string to find our way through all along in the palm of our hands. I’m just so glad this story ended on such a strong note. I can now say that, even though each book acts as a standalone, it also really works as a complete series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Winterwood- this was the very *definition* of atmospheric, autumnal reads. A witchy story that winds through a wooded path. Intricately plotted, it has a mystery that uncurls like a forest fire and must be devoured… before it devours you! It was so compulsive, I had to keep reading and reading and reading. I loved the stylistic originality of the writing as well- a few too many authors miss the mark trying to be unique with their imagery, but Ernshaw knows how to hang a single word on a sentence to give it a breadth of beauty. The multi povs were done well and the spells added a touch of charm to the characterisation. My one minor issue was that the romance was a tad fast- I felt like it needed more chemistry and a deeper connection. And yet, I also found the broad strokes of it lovely enough that it didn’t detract from the pleasure. I also saw one of the twists coming, yet it was the kind of story I can appreciate if it’s done well. And this was the kind of story that was done well.  

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2020!

Hello all! Looks like we made it to November- hopefully all in one piece! Nothing too freaky happened to me in October… except starting a new job- which caught me by surprise! (in a good way 😉) Like a lot of people, this year’s been a bit rocky financially, so pretty relieved to have some more stable work to see me out to the end of 2020. Sadly, on that note, I may have to take a few more breaks from blogging (gosh so reluctant to just say I’m going on hiatus!) I’d love to be able to catch up on everything I’ve been missing out online, but I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.

gotta go to work! 😉

Emily in Paris– there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this: the stereotyping, the silly inaccuracies for cheap laughs, the *awful* (cheating) love triangle and the horribly unsympathetic lead… buuut I have to admit I had fun with it. It was a light, fluffy, silly rom com that made me laugh. So I’m sorry to the Gods of TV Taste- I enjoyed this more than I should have!

American Vandal– I watched this because I was obviously craving something a little more serious 😉 I loved how this sent up true crime documentaries. I still think that Sadie is the best for critiquing the way true crime doesn’t care about the victims- yet this did make compelling arguments about how filmmakers can expose people unfairly, ruin lives and not really help anyone in the long run (especially if society already has it in for them). Not just because it offered an interesting commentary on how so many of these documentaries can be unethical, but because it was a remarkably compelling story in its own right (even if the main mystery was “who drew the dicks on teacher’s cars?”). And it was all the more entertaining for being completely over the top!

City of Girls– after reading a couple of Gilbert’s great non-fiction books, I’d been hoping to read her fiction for some time now, because I hoped it would hold the same charm for me. Sadly, this did not live up to expectations. My biggest issue with City of Girls was that it basically read like a modern story with a vintage veneer. For all the costumes and hints of setting, I felt like too many characters were out of step with the time period. And while I loved the voice, because its expressive tone created so much character, I ultimately found the protagonist incredibly unlikeable. Sometimes this isn’t such a big problem- however in this case she was such an unconscionable cow that I was cheering on the person chastising her.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Inheritance– in this compelling memoir about discovering the secrets of her DNA, Dani Shapiro hands down the details of her life story. Part detective story, part journal of self-discovery, this is one of the most intriguing non fiction books I’ve ever read. Reading this, I was constantly annoying my family with exclamations of “oh my god!” (so beware reading this in a public place). On a personal level, it’s hard not to empathise- yet it also raises ethical quandaries that are not so easily put to rest. Do donors have a right to privacy or children have a right to know? It is no small thing to consider- especially if the potential cost is the lives of these very children. Then there are the questions of nature vs nurture- for if you find out your father is not your biological father, then who made you who you are? Surely both inform your identity in some way? Finally, and most significantly, there is an attempt to get to the root of one of life’s biggest issues: who am I? And I guess it was this central issue that made me relate- despite how unusual her story was. I couldn’t help but identify with her struggles to connect with her identity. I definitely knew what she was talking about when she referred to veiled anti-Semitism. Much of this hit me like a gut-punch. It’s a powerful and fascinating read that I would definitely recommend. Nonetheless, I have to warn you, even though the mystery of her parentage is solved by the end: the puzzles at its heart linger will linger long after you turn the last page.   

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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The Wife Who Knew Too Much– after reading Michele Campbell’s Stranger on the Beach, I knew this would be a strong thriller. And I was right… to an extent. For much of the book, I had no idea where this was going. I loved some of the legal drama woven in, but it dragged in the middle and I wasn’t quite clear on whether I was fully invested in the story. Yet, the author really hits the accelerator at 80%, taking a bit of a wild turn off a freeway. I was impressed with how much smart the twist was and liked the motive more than I expected. I especially loved how the title plays with you and has many different meanings. Ultimately it wasn’t my favourite journey, but I liked the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Spinning Silver– I’m struggling to weigh up my thoughts about this one. There were so many delicate threads that wove into an intricate design. There’s love, monsters, adventure, friendship and family- all seamlessly stitched together. Standing back from it I can see Novik certainly knows how to spin an elaborate tale! The author has such a talent for taking the villains of a tale and turning it around- and doing this with Rumpelstiltskin is a far more remarkable feat than Beauty and the Beast. What I especially liked was how the original was revealed to be simply the blood libel in disguise- which I had not realised before. Still, I did end up fairly conflicted about the Jewish aspect of the story- since writing another ugly-Jewish-girl-with-money story doesn’t exactly challenge stereotypes. But while I may have been a little sensitive to this, I don’t want to be too critical, especially as I am aware of the historical reality (ie Christians were not allowed to lend money and Jews were often not allowed access to any other profession). Plus, it’s an interesting enough spin. On balance, this was an excellent book, just perhaps not quite the right fit for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Ninth House- I’ll confess I took a risk reading this, because I wasn’t that sure I’d like it. I love the author, but have never been into horror. That said, with all the hype, the pull was to great to resist. And, even if it’s not my usual cup of tea, I’m glad I gave it a go! Straight away, I could see it was a good job this was classified as adult- it’s exceptionally dark. As has been widely discussed, there is a graphic rape scene that is hard to read. However, having read it, I can’t believe Bardugo was called out over it- maybe people should spend more time getting angry at the people that do evil things, not the people that write about them. Despite all the gore, what actually stood out was the story. Pacey, intriguing and hinging on different timelines- I was wowed by how it all came together. In fact, I was feeling pretty slumpy when I picked it up and still whizzed through it in a day! Galaxy, while dark and edgy, has enough shine to keep me interested. Darlington was considerably more fascinating than I first thought as well. But really it was all about that plot and killer ending for me.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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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!