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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October 2020!

Hello all! I hope you all had a good month! Mine was… a bit up and down if I’m honest. I had some work-related-stress-that-is-now-resolved, but thankfully also managed to chill out…

Okay, maybe not the chilled, but I did get to go to the seaside for the day… 

And rather randomly, I went to Stonehenge as well…

So, I guess it’s swings and roundabouts! Here’s hoping Spooktober’s calmer than its name, because I think we’ve all had enough scares this year! 😉 But on that subject, I do have a couple of chilling things to review first…

Mr Jones- this is just a quick recommendation for people interested in historical movies. It’s a wonderfully shot, horrifying revelation of the Ukrainian Holodomor. I will say a quick warning that it is very graphic and disturbing– but worth watching if you can manage it.

Prussian Nights– sticking to dark and depressing (for the time being), this was actually darker and more depressing than I thought it would be. Told from the perspective of the Russians entering Prussia during WWI, this details their crimes, remarkably from the perspective of the war criminals themselves. For me, that makes it all the more worth reading if you’re at all interested in moral psychology and understand the importance of getting inside the heads of people that do evil things… If this is not a topic of interest, skip it. While not as hard to read as something like Ordinary Men, it’s not an easy read. I also found the verse-form, while making it more digestible, meant that it felt a bit jarring with the content.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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House of Blood and Earth– I said a few months ago I thought I’d outgrown this author… and unfortunately I was right. While I did like the opening and found the world somewhat intriguing, I never quite clicked with it. I also didn’t enjoy the romance- it was less Feyre/Rhys and more Aelin/Rowan. It didn’t help that the story was mostly a straightforward murder mystery crossed with a paranormal romance- which isn’t the kind of story I gravitate towards. Despite the setting, it felt a little too mundane at times. To be fair, there were some killer plot twists and I can see why people liked it… just not my thing.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Blood and Honey– I’m afraid I was disappointed with this one too! It started off so sweet and tangy that I lapped it up, devouring page after page, until all I had to do was gulp down the final chapters. Unfortunately the joy had soured by that point, for the simple reason that the story didn’t need to exist. This is what happens when a story that could’ve been told in one book turns into two… and then three! Not only did this remind me of YA series of yesteryear, with its bloated middle book syndrome, the ending also left a bitter taste. Highlight for spoiler: we literally have the evil mother cackling madly and saying “this isn’t over!” as she leaves. I also wasn’t a fan of the gods intervening. It didn’t help that the plot was meandering and the romance already resolved in the first book- there just didn’t feel like there was as much at stake here… not when every single threat is resolved at the turn of a few pages. Other than the speed of the story, I’ve still no clue why this is marketed as YA, because the characters come across as being in their twenties… and very modern twenty year olds at that. It’s not the worst book in the world- but I can’t say I’d recommend it.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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The Switch– I went into this with pretty low expectations, as everyone seems to think this isn’t as good as the author’s debut Flatshare… and yet somehow I thought it was even better? As fun as Flatshare was, I think this had the some even sweeter notes. The grandma-granddaughter switch made for just as entertaining a setup and the story adorably charming. I didn’t realise quite how invested I would get in the twilit romance- which was partly thanks to the fact that Grandma Eileen was basically the best character. I did really like how this dealt with deeper topics and found its resolution touching.  This was the definition of *FEEL GOOD*- which was just the ticket!

Rating: 4½ /5 bananas

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How To Stop Time– speaking of lovely stories- it looks like I’ve discovered Matt Haig! (I know, me and every other person on the planet 😉). There was a lot to love about this. For a book about stopping time, it sure whizzed by fast. I loved the multi-timeline structure- I was impressed by how well it flowed and how much it packed in. I felt a little bit mixed about the characterisation. The main character’s melancholic tone added some melodrama. And I wasn’t a fan of him meeting famous people throughout history- especially writers- as it felt like they all adopted Haig’s voice (bearing in mind, they left behind quite a lot of work, so we have a vague sense of what they might sound like/believe/say). It threw me out of the story, because I never bought it was them. And while I felt there could have been more time developing the second romance, I did like the first romantic storyline and liked the way it handled the father-daughter relationship. Ultimately, I had a great time with this quick read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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The Humans– I liked this even more than How to Stop Time. This is the story of an alien falling in love with humanity. It kept making me laugh out loud- which is rare for a book! Haig had such a clever use of voice here, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the narrator… even though logically there were reasons I shouldn’t have. That’s his genius. I also loved the characterisation here- even seemingly insignificant side characters gave the story so much heart. I can safely say this was *out of this world* 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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The Other Woman– the author pulled a fast one on me with this one… and I loved her for it! That’s exactly what I want out of a thriller! What makes it even better is I had all the clues at the very beginning and guessed the direction it was going… only to be completely blindsided. Jones certainly knows how to toy with her readers. I’m not going to say anymore than that (thrillers are so hard to review without spoilers!) other than to say give it a spin if you fancy a quick romp.

Rating: 4½/5 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 – ahh it’s August 2020!

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

orangutan in the great outdoors

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

orangutan yoga

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

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

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

alice network

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

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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loveboat taipei

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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fountains of silence

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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nevermoor

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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his and hers

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

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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who did you tell

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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clap when you land

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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the library book

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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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’re all staying safe and well!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Just About Made it to June

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Well there goes another tumultuous month where I’ve had both more and less work… (no that isn’t a contradiction and yes that makes total sense!). Cos of that, I’ve been falling behind on blogging a bit. Annnnd it’s just a weird time overall- so much so I don’t really know what to report anymore- do you? 😉 I haven’t watched as much on the small screen lately- though I do have one *awesome* recommendation coming right up…

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love wedding repeat

Love Wedding Repeat- well this was a pleasant surprise and *exactly* what I/we needed right now. I was expecting a straightforward rom com- but this was a lot more entertaining! Funnily enough, in many ways this was a fun spoof of weddings, showing us what it’s really like… (and dare I say showed us what we’re not missing out on 😉). Genuinely hilarious, with some great characters and charming acting- I highly recommend this if you fancy a (tv) trip to a destination wedding… or even if you don’t!

And that’s all I’ve got in terms of films! Luckily, I have been reading a fair amount:

letters to the lost

Letters to the Lost– this had a great premise, beautifully executed. Two characters are brought together by letters at the side of a graveyard. Now, I will admit, I have read similar things before (which, after I spelt out the concept, feels more surprising). That said, it was very well done- the writing is wonderful and the story captures the theme of grief. The characterisation was especially strong, with everyone feeling like real people. What I particularly liked was how they felt close to stereotypes- but ultimately defied that in a refreshing way. I do recommend this if you’re looking for more contemporary, though I (marginally) preferred Call it What You Want.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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exquisite

Exquisite– okay, I’m just gonna get the clichéd pun out of the way: this was exquisite. It’s true. I can’t help saying it! I discovered this brilliant book over on Meggy’s marvellous blog and I’m so excited to say Exquisite more than lived up to expectation! I loved this on a line by line level- the writing and references are beautifully crafted. More than that, it was an incredible psychological thriller. From the offset, this was excellent at building mystery. The story starts in a women’s prison, with the knowledge that one of these women harmed the other… yet we don’t know which one it was or how. So begins a journey into the obsessive minds of two protagonists as they fall in love, knowing full well that this love turns toxic before the end. Both characters take turns at likeability, making for a genius presentation of narcissism, placing the mask of deceit on each of them. Only over time, tiny inconsistencies are revealed and the disguise is lifted. While there are parallels in each of the tales, I began to sense that one of the narrators is gaslighting the reader. Then as the story draws to a close, it begins to get surprisingly meta. No spoilers, but this has a book within a book in a most unique way. By then, you know where the story is heading- but the creep factor is up and that compels you to the end. It is the kind of chilling that makes your go cold… as in, my tea literally went cold, cos I was so absorbed in this book I forgot to drink it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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stranger on the beach

The Stranger on the Beach– I have a real thirst for thrillers at the moment- luckily books like this are quenching it. Initially, if you’d have told me I’d love this book, I’d have said you must be pulling my leg. I wasn’t at all keen on the writing style: the use of past tense was done in such a foreshadowy way that it was kind of annoying. Still, I felt a storm brewing, and had to read on. It wasn’t until the first lightning bolt twist that I understood… Annnd it frustrates me no end to write a review like this, but I really can’t say much more for fear of spoilers. All I can say is every device is here for a reason and each revelation comes like a thunderclap. Everything that didn’t make sense at the start is clear by the end. This one snuck up on me like a stranger in the night… and was much cleverer than I gave it credit for.

Rating: 5/5

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school for good and evil

School for Good and Evil– I really liked the premise for this one: two girls, who get whisked off to a fairy tale school to be either good or evil. What I appreciated even more is how nothing is as it seems- especially in terms of characters. Chainani takes the concept of the villain being the hero of their own story and runs with it (and prepares to do battle with the idea!). I also liked how successfully (and uniquely) the author did the underconfident “reluctant” heroine as a counterbalance. It was an interesting way to tackle the topic of good and evil with some complexity, even for children, though it did leave some questions unanswered. This did sag a little in the middle for me and I saw the ending coming- but I still enjoyed it. And, to be fair, I think I’d have enjoyed it a great deal more as a kid.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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ella enchanted

audiobook2Ella Enchanted– As you guys may know, I have a real soft spot for Cinderella retellings- and this one was especially special! It upped the magical content, the world building and the spirit. I loved how spunky and defiant Ella was in this- even under a curse where she has to be obedient. I also happened to listen to the audiobook version of this, which I particularly enjoyed and thought was really well done. The way the various fantasy languages were performed added an extra fun flavour. One thing I really liked- and this is entirely down to personal taste/isn’t the most popular opinion- is that I liked how different this was to the film adaptation, cos it means I feel like I can appreciate both of them for what they are and that they don’t detract from each other. Regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie, I do think this offers a unique perspective on the traditional tale! As a diehard Cindy fan, I was satisfied 😊

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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poet x

Poet X– experimenting with form and language, this is a story of a girl finding her voice through poetry… and it’s told through a series of poems! I personally liked the use of verse and interesting imagery choices (I was tempted to imitate it for this review, but I can’t write poetry for toffee 😉). I was pleasantly surprised to find how strong a sense of character, development and even plot that we got in this structure (and in the limited space). Definitely worth checking out if you like YA contemporary. Plus, I also read her more recent book and liked it even more- review to come soon!

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’re all staying safe and well!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Lovin’ a Little February

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Well, January was a peculiar month for me and I’m pretty glad to be jumping into February. Been a bit busy in work/life, which meant (horror of horrors) I ended up falling into a *dreaded book slump*. And, equally bad, I just couldn’t keep up with blogging. I really want to promise that I’m going to do better this month buuuut I have family coming to stay for a week, soooo we’ll see. I do have some great posts planned- so monkey *fingers and toes crossed* that I can get to them! Okay, now all that’s out the way, let’s get to the good stuff:

art of war

Art of War– this is easily one of the best things I’ve ever read. Really, I cannot state that enough. Informative, thought provoking and surprisingly poetic, there’s no end to what you can learn from this legendary work. Every word is so valuable that I ended up highlighting everything (which, admittedly, is not the smartest thing to do, especially since it made my notes unreadable 😉). There were so many gems, which, being a fantasy dork, I enjoyed applying to random fictional battles in my mind. For instance, I really don’t think Jon Snow understood this rule in the battle of the bastards: “By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach on his own accord; or by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near”. Of course, this is the kind of book perfect for anyone interested in politics or strategy- but what’s brilliant about the Art of War is how it can easily be applied to across all fields and to life in general. So, if you’re a person living in the world, then this is the book for you!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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beautiful fran laniado

Beautiful– who’s up for a beauty and the beast retelling from the perspective of the fairy who puts the curse on the prince?! Well you should be! By fellow blogger, the lovely Fran Laniado, this retelling has a unique concept and definitely fulfils it. One of the best things about Beautiful is the consistent, fairy-tale-feel to the tone. Plus, I liked the humour throughout. There was a bit too much exposition for me personally, which slowed down the plot, especially getting to the inciting incident. But overall, I loved the original take and thought it was a great point of view to tell the story from. This was a fun, quick read for anyone who likes fairy tale retellings!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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stillhouse lake

killman creek

Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek– I’m going to save people a lot of bother and say that you basically have to read the two books together. Because I didn’t know that going in and felt like Stillhouse Lake was a little incomplete. That said, if you do read both books, you’ll be left satisfied. This is definitely a gripping and entertaining and intense thriller- with some wild turns! I will say that I listened to the audiobook for the first one and the narration was so good that I ended up enjoying it more, so if you can manage it, that’s the way to go!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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serpent and dove

Serpent and Dove– ooh this was deliciously dark. I was so glad the author decided to actually explore the concept of evil witches- it made the line between good and evil murkier. And the writing was bewitching- from the opening line I was under its spell. I also really liked how French culture and history was integrated into the world building. My one quibble with the book- which stopped it being a 5 banana read for me- was how bonkers some of the plot points were. I thought the marriage twist was a little absurd and the villain’s monologue was too much (it was the kind that actually gives the heroine a reason to fight back). For the most part though, the story was a lot of fun. Even if some ideas were obvious, there was enough here that was unique to help me fly through it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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uprooted

Uprooted– I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last: this is a very beautiful book. Enraptured from the start, I found myself drawn to the immersive, folkloric world. I loved the characters- who felt simultaneously believable and fairy-tale-esque. I wouldn’t say this was easy going though- it’s a dense book, which takes you on many twisting journeys and feels a little disjointed at times. I did like the plot, but sometimes it felt all over the place. Still, well worth the read and I *finally* get the hype!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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beneath a scarlet sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky– it took me a while to get into this, because it has an unusually calm start for something set in WWII. That said, it soon gets explosive, dramatic and emotionally charged. I found the people in this book fascinating (I hesitate to call them characters since they’re based on real people). I particularly thought we were given a vivid picture of the Nazi officer. And I really liked the musical motif throughout. From Boogie Woogie to Nessum Dorma, these refrains left a lasting impression when coupled with historical events. I wasn’t wholly bowled over by the last part, where it gave a rundown of where everyone ended up, but I do understand why that was necessary to bookend the story. Ultimately, this was a worthwhile read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – January: “There’s a million things I haven’t done…”

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🎵 …but just you wait… 🎵

Okay, if you haven’t guessed already, last month I went to Hamilton! And YES I want to sing its praises! Because, *wow*, I’ve not seen many things that have the power to reduce an entire audience to tears.

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Anyhoo, unfortunately for me, that title does have a bit of a double meaning, cos I’ve been very busy, not done a lot of blogging lately and you may have to wait around a little while 😉 As a lot of you know, I moved last month, and that was fine… until it wasn’t 😉 It didn’t help that I was without internet for large parts of the month. Plus, you know, end of the year running around. So, I’m trying to catch up (gonna try posting less to make more time). Thank you so much for all the well-wishers who wrote such sweet messages on my last monthly minis post- and please bear with me- I’ll be back to my usual bananas-self in no time 😉

children of blood and bone

Children of Blood and Bone– well this is why I often skip the splashy YA titles these days- cos I found this just okay. While there some nice twists and turns to the story, it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before (*especially if you’ve watched Avatar). The weakest point for me was the characters. Even though this is a hefty tome, I still managed to feel like the characterisation was not given room to breathe. Inan was by far the most interesting character… and yet, even with his internal conflict, I didn’t feel like his character was handled well (highlight for spoilers: dude legit murdered someone and burned a village to the ground!!). Sure I’d have been up for him getting some kind of redemption arc, but he actually needed to be given time to redeem himself and I don’t think he was right for the role of Love Interest! This was definitely a case of characters being led by the plot, not the other way around. Especially with regards to Zelie, who seemed to just hold the position of Typical Heroine. That said, I did fly through it. And the world building was something special- definitely the star of the show for me. Largely, I think this was just a victim of being too hyped and didn’t have that spark I expected it to. Still, while this isn’t a gamechanger, I can see why fans of YA fantasy would enjoy it.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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truths and triumphs of grace atherton

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton– okay, for starters, I’ve no idea why this was compared to Eleanor Oliphant in the description- because that’s not what this is. Yes, the heroine is an oddball… but that’s about where the similarities end. Grace may be strange, but she’s also unlikeable, self-centred, a music snob, uppity and difficult. It also wasn’t particularly heart-warming- not when so much of the plot revolves around cheating. Spoiler-that’s-not-really-a-spoiler: unsurprisingly the married man who cheats on his wife is a skeezeball- who’d have thunk it? 😉 I wasn’t particularly blown away by the friendships either- it feels more like everyone is there to help Grace out of her self-made problems and like she doesn’t do much for anyone else. Bad comps aside, this wasn’t terrible, it was fine. Plus, I did learn about cellos (though I refuse to spell it with an apostrophe- that’s too wanky, even for me).

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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toffee

Toffee– toffee really is the perfect metaphor for this book. This deals with some tough topics- including dementia and abuse- which can be tricky to chew on. BUT I defy anyone not to melt when confronted with this story. There is a soft edge to this hard narrative and I found it incredibly moving and very sweet. The writing style contained a bit too much fragmentation for my liking- but ultimately this was a solid book and worth reading for YA contemporary fans. I can see why it’s lauded.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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mrs dalloway

Mrs Dalloway– this one’s not easy to review… it certainly wasn’t easy to read! I will start by saying that I get why Woolf chose the stream of consciousness style for this- it gives the narrative a sense of urgency and movement and immediacy. And perhaps one could argue that this is more conducive to an intense emotional reaction… though that wasn’t my experience of the book in the slightest- cos I didn’t enjoy it at all. While the language was undoubtedly beautiful, especially with regards to imagery, it was so disjointed that it wasn’t even a remotely pleasant reading experience. Sometimes sentences meandered off in meaningless directions; headhopping felt like part of the course. It felt like I was witnessing a slice of chaos- and personally I prefer a little order to (even artistic) chaos. Because of this, it largely felt incoherent and irritating to me. And for that reason, I just couldn’t give it any more than:

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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Ah well, I’ve now finally finished the damn thing and can unhaul it 😉

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Dead Voices- I enjoyed this sequel more than I expected- especially considering how well the first one worked as a standalone. But this did exactly what a successful sequel should, mostly focusing on characters, giving them room to grow. The plot played out like a perfect game of chess and I really appreciated the solution. I felt like the Small Spaces was more focused on an emotional resolution, whereas this was a little more brainy. Plus, this got *bonus points* for maintaining that SuPeR CrEePy atmosphere.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Creeping Round My Feelings for Queen’s Thief…

So, this is a series I ended up having *mixed feelings* about. All respect to the author for writing such a unique and interesting fantasy YA- but WOW there were some things about the plot in the second book that I can’t get my head round. I’m gonna keep away from spoilers for the most part, and any I do discuss will be hidden from view (you can highlight for them as always 😉 ). Just be prepared for a long one, cos I’m gonna reveal my deep, dark thoughts here…

thief

The Thief– this was by far my favourite of the series and I’d recommend it regardless of the rest of the series. It worked well as a standalone and I just had an awesome time with the audiobook 😊 On the surface, it’s a simple quest story, trying to steal ancient treasure… but it’s so much more than that! As a fantasy, it also reminded me of Cinda Chima Williams- in the best possible way- the fantasy is effective, yet the strength is really the plot and characters. Ahh the characters in this one were *the best*. Each and every one of them. The plot did admittedly have some elements of predictability, however, I *loved* each and every twist and turn. It didn’t matter that I guessed the ending, because I thoroughly enjoyed being proven right. Plus, the way it tied together was TERRIFIC! Certain bits and pieces snuck up on me and were a total surprise! *Applause* all round! I also absolutely love the way the setting and myths are inspired by Greek mythology and by Greece itself, but also manages to be very much its own thing. This is the kind of book that will leave you with a big smile on your face!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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queen of attolia

Queen of Attolia– sooo this one made my *happy feelings* disappear. And I get it, the author wanted to go in a darker direction, but this is SO MUCH DARKER. I rarely get squeamish these days, but this book made me queasy. I’d say it was Game of Thrones levels of dark… except there was a senselessness to the violence that even Martin doesn’t achieve. Worse still, this then meant the book hit some major roadblocks. I did initially think that the trauma was being well handled- it felt nuanced and honest and I didn’t mind that not everything added up to a straightforward recovery story… That was until the story went off in a direction that *made no sense* and dove off a cliff as far as I’m concerned. I’m sorry to say this, because for so many people the romance is what they love about the series, but… WTF?!?! Thing is, there were ways this could’ve made sense for the overall plot and hate to love is one of my favourite tropes, HOWEVER there are limits. And highlight for spoiler: this bitch literally cut off his hand. Because HE SMILED AT HER! Once one party in a romance is flinching away from the other and legitimately terrified, it doesn’t come across as romantic. It didn’t help that the romance came out of nowhere (although I really don’t think there’s any way to make the love interest redeemable). And no, this isn’t the kind of situation where you can play it off as “aww they liked each other all along”. It’s not sweet; it’s demented. I wasn’t crazy about the switch from first person to third person (incidentally moving the series away from being about just one main character). One of the biggest problems is it tried to soften an aforementioned hard-ass, *evil* character- and I just thought that was a tall order in this case. Everything else, like the world building and the writing, was even better than the first- I was just so frustrated with that big plot point. I ended up a bit all over the place with my feelings for this book, because as you can tell there were parts I despised, it’s just… I was still emotionally invested, moved tremendously at times and liked a lot of the story elements. It didn’t hurt that it had a very good final twist too. Because I was split down the middle on this one, I gave it:

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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king of attolia

King of Attolia– the good thing about this series is that they feel disconnected enough that I wasn’t totally put off by my negative feelings for the last one… The problem with this book was it wasn’t good enough in its own right to really grab my attention. The main character of this one was a guard and, *le sigh*, I never really fall for the stoic soldier type. Granted there were some entertaining elements- as much as I wasn’t interested in Costis, Gen was quite the performer. This did have clever plotting, but it was a sloooow burn and it didn’t feel like there was enough in it to warrant a whole book. Much of the story felt like build up for later books. I was mostly glad I read it, because I don’t know any other writer who pulls off political conspiracy as well as Whalen- the king could shock and play them off against each other in genius ways. I do think that if you’re more into court intrigue than I am, you’ll love this, so I wouldn’t write it off completely. But it wasn’t really for me. Sidenote though: loved the continued link to classics and the use of “wine dark sea” was the highlight of the book for me- bravo!

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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conspiracy of kings

Conspiracy of Kings– this was MUCH BETTER! I’d safely say, it was a return to the form of the original book. Sophos is, quite simply, more likeable and interesting and pleasant to read about. I enjoyed this immensely and found it far more engaging. While there was a lull in the middle, it picked up towards the end and I couldn’t stop reading. Again, this was about the political shenanigans, not just brute strength, which I have to say I greatly appreciated as an alternative to a lot of other fantasy. The twist was clever as well- and for once I didn’t suspect it! Ironically, my biggest complaint was that it didn’t have the stones to go in a darker direction. That’s right, I’m criticising it for not doing one of the things I didn’t like in the earlier book. There’s just no pleasing some monkeys 😉 To be fair, this was quite a different issue. Highlight for spoilers: this was one of those cases where the dead family members should’ve stayed dead- bringing them back served no purpose and cheapened the emotional costs of his failure. Because in this case there was actually a reason for this loss. It didn’t feel as senseless as the earlier brutality. On a more nitpicky note, I also thought that a lot of the people in this series have bizarre relationships. Too often, people don’t hate the people they should rightly hate. It wasn’t as bad as the issue in Queen of Attolia, but it was still noticeably strange to have certain people being all buddy-buddy. Still, most of the friendships were done well and I actually liked the romance here. RESULT!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Ultimately, this series was unusually up and down for me. I can safely say I’m glad I read it- because it’s so different from a lot of the typical fantasy fare out there- although I still have serious reservations about some of the story choices. And while most of the characters were amazing, there were others I wanted to punch in the face (at the very least).

Phew- that was a long one- thanks if you stuck with it! Have you read this series? Do you plan to? And, I’m curious now, are there any romances you just can’t get behind? Let me know in the comments!