Monkey at the movies – Marvel Phase 3: FINALE!

monkey at the marvel movies

It’s finally here: my super-late, overlong, fangirly reviews for the last few movies in Marvel Phase 3! I reviewed all the other movies in Phase 3 back in March (and Phase 1 and Phase 2 before that). And now here we are *dun dun dunnn*. Get ready for some HOT TAKES and (possibly) *controversial* opinions…

captain marvel

Captain Marvel– Okay definitely going to be *controversial* with this review, cos I didn’t like this movie at all. A lot of the criticism (and in turn praise) for this film has been its blatant political activism and similar complaints about the lead actress. Now, personally I think Bree’s a pretty good actress buuut she just wasn’t given anything interesting to do and the activism was definitely this movie’s downfall. It’s unquestionable that the agenda for this movie drove all the plot points- you can tell who the villain will be and who the goodies are just by playing the identity politics game (even if it doesn’t make any logical sense from the opening gambit, I just knew what the twist was gonna be). And of course, the main character is a woman so, by modern Hollywood standards, that means she’s a plank of wood with no personality and no weaknesses. Because of course. As a woman, I couldn’t be more bored of these bland non-characters, but who cares what I think, writing Mary Sues ticks the *strong independent woman who don’t need no man* box, so we should all stand up and applaud! Sorry, I know I’m getting salty- alas there just wasn’t anything I liked about this movie. And no, you don’t need to watch it to enjoy Endgame. It’s probably too late to spare anyone the snoozefest, but I can safely say you can ignore the marketing on that front.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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Avengers: Endgame*spoilers*, of course, because this has been out for ages (also I have *a lot* of thoughts!) This was epic! And it felt like such a great send off for the original Avengers. From the powerful opening scenes, Endgame doesn’t pull any punches. We’re given a chance to feel brief elation and then snapped back to despair as we realise this hasn’t changed anything. For a while, we’re left stewing in that failure- which really sets the bleak tone and gives weight to everything our heroes consequently do. I love how this incredibly fantastical movie made me feel that there were true stakes at play. And that’s when we get our solution: time heist! Which allows for a super fun adventure to ensue. Of course, the emotional wheel doesn’t stop turning and there are still some tear-jerking moments to come. And while the structure of the film is unusual- relying heavily on everything that’s come before- I definitely felt the weight of every single decision. That’s the massive achievement of this film- it doesn’t just give you a rundown of the previous movies- it’s makes you invested in this last hurrah. The tension rises and rises, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the final act.

Now, having said the stakes were high, my personal preference would’ve been for Tony to risk his present timeline for the sake of the world- proving that he put the fate of the world above his own happiness and therefore experienced the greatest amount of growth… however I understand why the writers decided to table that idea in order not to have the whole story play out as “would you kill baby Thanos” (a question they answered well). And I thought that, ultimately, Iron Man’s ending made perfect sense. To me, it’s a massive part of his character that he wasn’t going to stop until it killed him- but I was glad that when he finally met his end it was for someone else’s sake.

I did also like the Cap’s ending- it was sweet and the best possible outcome for him. Black Widow’s though… ahhh!!! Sorry, lost for words. It was a heartwrenching scene and made the most of the character. Also, I’ve gotta admit, after seeing Captain Marvel I was *so relieved* it wasn’t just the Carol Danvers show. It would’ve been such uninspiring storytelling to have her just zap everything better- especially cos that would’ve taken away from all the original cast (plus, no amount of other characters saying “I like her” will make me magically like her). The new characters were incorporated brilliantly: I was ecstatic when Tchalla, Spidy and the rest came back; I was cheering them on when they were running the gauntlet and I loved the epic battle to the death!

Honestly, there was only one part of the movie I wasn’t happy with: Thor had become a shadow of his former self. And I don’t mean that he was pushed to the limit like the other characters. I mean, it felt like the writers decided they didn’t like his character much… so his entire arc consisted of gaining weight and making dad jokes. It was pretty unsatisfying and left a bad taste in my mouth if I’m honest.

Still, it was a genuinely funny movie at times, it packed so much in and it did a great job of paying off allll the creative work that had gone into this saga. Marvel really rewarded its fans for sticking with this super long serialised story. I for one was certainly glad of time I invested in the franchise.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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spider man far from home

Spider Man: Far From Home– okay so you should probably all know I have a soft spot for Spidy, so I had to watch this. And it was a good time! It was laugh out loud, really enjoyable and it was the best movie to follow on from Endgame. Not just cos it had a lighter tone, but because it tied into Iron Man really well. I liked that this was a way to really let us feel his sacrifice again. One downside of this movie was that the twist was SO FRICKIN OBVIOUS. I mean, it was great that Peter Parker got to be smart in this movie- but gosh how could he be so dumb!! I guess you could play it off as him being a kid- which was done well to be fair. But yeah, that villain wasn’t in the slightest bit mysterious. Having said that, it was a fun movie, with cute moments (loved every scene with MJ!) and the ending was sweet. To be honest, I could’ve let the whole predictable element slide if not for those end credit scenes… The first one wasn’t so bad- it was just frustrating knowing we’re not going to get a Spider Man movie that actually pays it off. The second one I didn’t like at all though because I liked the role Nick Fury had in the movie (even if he had acted out of character). So yeah, kinda left feeling *irritated* knowing that Spidy is out of the MCU. I was entertained though, so…

4/5 bananas

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Okay, these were on the most part positive viewing experiences… whichhhh is why it’ll probably come as a surprise that I’m pretty much done with Marvel movies. To be frank, I will always be interested in any Spider Man films and I want to see the last Guardians story play out, but I’m not enthused by most of the upcoming characters. Without Spider Man taking up the helm of Iron Man and with Captain Marvel poised to take on the leadership mantel and whatever role the wizard-or-whatever Dr Strange is playing, I can’t say I’m interested. Not to say that I don’t think other people will have fun with them (and I sincerely hope they make everyone that goes to see them very happy). But personally, I think Endgame is a great note on which to bow out.

So, have you seen these movies? Do you plan to? And what are your thoughts on future Marvel movies? Let me know in the comments!

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Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – September

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Well, August was both very quiet and ridiculously busy for me. The highlight was that for my mum’s birthday- where not only did we make plenty of cake, but we all got to fulfil a lifelong dream by going to see the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. It was *magical* (I swear, if you’re ever within 100 miles of this, you should drop everything and go see!!)

monkey baby and orangutan at the opera0003

Funnily enough, it was a month of ballet, since my sister the Monkey Baby kindly wangled me a few free classes. Me and my two left feet weren’t any good, but I had fun (also I have turned it into an excuse to make another cartoon 😉)

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(I can safely say this is an accurate portrayal of how dainty I am IRL)

Anyhoo, I did read quite a lot buuuut I don’t feel passionate enough to review a number of them. So, *shrugs apish shoulders* only gonna just talk about a handful…

summer that melted everything

Summer that Melted Everything- I suppose this isn’t much of a hot take, but this book has the most beautiful writing. Somehow it comes across as natural, whilst also creating extraordinary imagery and transporting the reader beyond the bounds of this world. We are taken to another time and place, situated in a surreal landscape where anything is possible, and forced to reconcile ourselves with very real issues. I don’t know if this is a spoiler, but it’s not about the devil at all, it’s an exploration of the Aids crisis. And with that come some very interesting thoughts about the human psyche. Admittedly, there’s not much in the way of plot and an awful lot of this is designed to deliver the author’s opinion… and yet I was okay with that. It reminded me of Steinbeck. Sure, the author is opinionated, but when you can write like this, who cares? Now, I won’t suggest that all the opinions in the book are the author’s (obviously) but some of the views can’t be substantiated- it took the concept of sympathy for the devil too far for me when defending the indefensible- I just don’t see “have you ever lost control” as much of an argument. I do think, however, that it’s important to look into the heart of evil, if only so we know what not to do. And this was certainly a fascinating vehicle to take us on that journey. The story simmers from beginning to end, finally releasing in a cool torrent that takes the edge off. I’d say there are not many writers of this calibre in this generation, but really there aren’t many in any generation.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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astonishing colour of after

Astonishing Colour of After- whether you like this book will come down to how purple you can take your purple prose. Cos I shouldn’t even say “purple prose” for this- it’s more like a lilac-lavender-infusion of imagery. For me, not all the images worked, but when they did it was most definitely *astonishing*. When the language landed, it was exquisite. It allowed the story to soar above expectations. It nested in a family tree woven with lovely moments and messages. They were stitched together in a complex tapestry, a true work of art, which superseded nature in its beauty. I particularly loved the idea of being “changed by a ghost”, how the theme of memory was handled and the way this tied into culture. Having said that, there were times when it was a little overwhelming and clouded the simpler intentions of the narrative. And some of the plot wavered with superfluous narrative constructs- for my part, I’m beginning to tire of the “patriarchal/oppressive figure doesn’t want me doing art” trope- it’s a little tiresome and overdone (though I don’t doubt such ignorant people exist, I just wish protagonists would swiftly put forward a coherent argument against the view that *you can only succeed in the sciences*, rather than having a book-long unnecessary conflict with their otherwise reasonable parents). Personal opinions on that aside, this was a layered contemporary that deals with grief in a unique way and is well worth the read!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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lock every door

Lock Every Door– this book unlocked a primordial fear of powerful creeps. I loved the story within the story aspect (I nearly always do 😉); I appreciated the unique (to me) setting. I raced through this rather gothic book as if I was genuinely trapped inside the Bartholomew. Now, I will say that I guessed the twist in chapter 1. In fact, I figured out the second twist midway and got every plot beat down before I got to it in the narrative. I can’t tell you why, for fear of ruining the entire plot, but it’s signposted and if you’ve read other books with a similar twist, you’ll get it too. Also, highlight for minor spoilers ahead, the main character is not the sharpest knife in the drawer- she was trusting to the point of absurdity, she let the obviously dodgy guy know she was suspicious and didn’t RUN when the alarm bells in her brain were already going off. Although I have the benefit of having read more than one book in my life- presumably if she was into modern thrillers to know that it’s always the privileged white dude these days 😉 If she’d had that knowledge, there’d have been no plot. Having said all that, I can’t fault the execution and have to congratulate Sager on successfully stealing a night’s sleep from me 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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milkman

Milkman– oh the mixed feelings! I appreciated much of the themes and subject matter. The setting was particularly well done: the judgemental, closed community had a suffocating edge to it, the backdrop for the gossip gave the story a true feel of danger lurking, and the town’s inhabitants felt real. It definitely made me feel like I was in the thick of the Troubles. I was glad to have read this after having made my trip “over the water this year”. In spite of this strong sense of time and place, however, I can only give it credit for reminding me of a history worth caring about, rather than inspiring me to care in its own right. I was initially also taken by the writing style- I liked that it wasn’t quite literal and the ambiguity of using identifiers instead of names gave it a clever (and somewhat unsettling) lilt. Yet, as much as the writing style was distinctive, it also bogged down a lot of the telling. Much of the narrative came across as too convoluted and dense. Ultimately, it didn’t blow me away, but it’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination and it’s certainly pushing boundaries with the way it was told.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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gentleman's guide to vice and virtue

Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue– well this is a bananas books- in some good ways and some not so good ways! Unpopular opinion time: this contemporary take on the Grand Tour is both fun and incredibly silly. While the romance is sensational, the rest is pretty much shocking. Granted all of this was given away in the marketing, but this book is scandalous by 18th century standards… in that I couldn’t buy that this was supposed to actually be the 18th century?! Kudos to the author for doing her research and creating an elaborate backdrop for her story, but this pantomime impression divided the stage into villainous representations of history, versus some 21st century ideals in fancy dress. And, as much as the writing occasionally made me chuckle, too often it had me laughing for the wrong reasons (apparently certain biological functions cure women of squeamishness guys 😉). Then there were the (*ahem* these guys totally didn’t step out of the 21st century) heroes. Monty is simultaneously foppishly adorable and entirely unlikeable. Felicity is so acerbic that there’s no chance of me reading the sequel in which she stars. And Percy was thankfully more than his laundry list of identifiers- although perhaps too idealised to feel real. There’s an ongoing joke about the boys being clueless and seriously THEY’RE FRICKIN CLUELESS (I envisaged them as modern-day trust fund babies… which didn’t help me make sense of the fact they’re still breathing by the end of the book). I also didn’t feel like they got proper character growth- rather we were dealt far-too-frequent “teachable moments” instead because *18th CENTURY IDEAS ARE BAD* (who’d have thunk it)- alas this isn’t a substitute since I was just as irked by their personalities at the end as the beginning (le sigh). Regardless, the plot did plod along reasonably well and that romance was ridiculously good:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Oof that last review got a little longer than I intended… Anyhoo, 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 – August

 

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Well somehow we’ve managed to whizz through July- the month Wimbledon and strawberries and cream!

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(obviously, this is not an accurate portrayal: if I’d been at Wimbledon, especially if I’d been playing, I think people might have noticed the giant orange primate 😉 still sometimes these cartoons act as wish fulfilment and it was a great tournament!)

I did take a step back from the blog last month, for some not-so-serious-but-still-a-pain personal reasons. But I’m happy to have squeezed in my giveaway– if you haven’t seen it yet and would like to enter there’s still time!

mythos

Mythos– wow- Fry has a real way with words- no wonder he’s such a national treasure! He awes you and makes you chuckle and delights you with his stories! It was a pure pleasure to read and appealed to my classicist heart. He knows so much, about so many topics- which I’ll admit at times was a bit of an *information overload*. But that’s not a bad thing- it gave me plenty to think about. I loved how the myths were woven together- he drew connections wisely, teases more to come, and ultimately entraps you in his wondrous tales. Whether I agree with every take is somewhat irrelevant, cos as Fry states, retellings shift the narrative to suit the teller. No two people will come away with exactly the same impressions from the originals- and so each telling is recreating them from scratch. And I love that idea as a basis for this project. Plus, I believe he leaned on Ovid, so I can hardly complain 😉 Mythos was a real treat and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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behind her eyes

Behind Her Eyes- oh the mixed feelings!! I was initially really taken in by this story. I liked the clean, easy writing style. I appreciated the switching timelines to create interest and tension. The jagged edges of secrets were poking through the narrative from the start. I guessed only bits and pieces of where it was heading. BUT- and here’s the kicker- there’s a reason you won’t be able to guess it all. Because the twist breaks all the rules of a thriller by being completely unbelievable. Maybe it’s the fault of knowing genre conventions to well, or maybe it’s just knowing enough about the topic of astral projection that this was wayyy too far beyond the realms of plausibility for me. So, sure, they were right to market this as #WTFThatEnding, because you’ll never get it before the end- but that’s because it doesn’t have a logical answer (I saw the most brilliant review on GR if you want an edgier take) I’m trying to avoid being spoilery, because I feel like this is something I could have done with knowing before getting into the novel. My warning to future readers is: don’t go into this book looking for realism. There’s a chance you might like this if you’re expecting something a bit more paranormal. You might find it fun if you’re along for the ride and don’t think too much about it (or secretly believe lucid dreamers have superpowers- fun fact: I’m a lucid dreamer, so unless I missed that day “in training”, there’s no magic to it 😉 ). Personally, while I was gripped throughout, I ended up feeling cheated, which is why I only gave it a slice of banana over 3*:

Rating: 3¼/5 bananas

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the marriage pact

audiobook2The Marriage Pact– this isn’t the worst book ever and would understand if people enjoyed it… that said I’m about to do nothing but bitch and moan about it. For starters, I listened to this on audiobook and my enjoyment was somewhat impacted by the fact that the voice actor did made every female character sound super cringey. A slightly bigger problem, however, was that THE CULT ASPECT MAKES NO SENSE. And that’s not a spoiler, because a) it couldn’t be anymore stereotypically cultish if it tried and b)  they jokingly call it a cult when it’s introduced. What’s bizarre about that is they pretend to have a back-and-forth debate over whether it is in fact a cult throughout the book- as if there’s any room for disagreement. What’s EVEN MORE bizarre is that, though they know it’s a dodgy organisation from the off, they join anyway?! Why would anyone want to be part of a club which dictates the minutia of your relationship? Exclusive or not, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to sign up. Aside from the odd party (emphasis on the odd- cos you can expect to be weighed, measured and found wanting at one of these auspicious events). I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure cults are sneakier at getting their claws into people and I’m baffled that this wasn’t more thought through. Anyway, as you might expect from their jumping headfirst into this shitshow, the main couple is a pair of bloody idiots. I particularly hated Alice- especially as she was so often framed as “perfect” and then falling short of that perfection (obviously). Add in antagonists who are all “the ends justify the means” clichés and you have a truly terrible cast. Yet the thing that really lost me was when this got faux philosophical- I mean, this is a silly thriller about a highend cult- call me crazy but I’m not looking for deep discussions about the “purpose of marriage” here. It didn’t help that the whole premise of what makes a good marriage came from a flawed vision of the unattainable Hollywood-style romance and I couldn’t help but think of Dr Jordan Peterson saying “what makes you think you want a relationship so you can be happy?” (it’s far more fascinating what he has to say on the matter, I can assure you, but the gist being research indicates relationships fail if they’re too negative BUT ALSO if they’re too positive). Anyway, back to this bonkers book, the ending was also spectacularly stupid: simultaneously predictable and underwhelming. There were a lot of more interesting places this idea could have gone. I did agree with the choice they made- which (since we’re getting all faux philosophical) basically came down to “do you want to be powerless and free or powerful and authoritarian”. For me, the answer’s a no-brainer. Just like my rating:

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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magic bites

Magic Bites– I enjoyed this, though I’m not sure it was totally for me. I can say for certain that it’s really well written and I get why people love it. Kate Daniels was a very cool character, with lots of personality in her voice. The story really came to life for me when Curran was introduced. The one thing (that I noticed) as a flaw was that there’s a lot in this world to get your head round and it’s kinda all dumped on your plate at once. Still, I had a great deal of fun with this:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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summer of impossible things

The Summer of Impossible Things- what exquisite writing this has! And what a concept! There’s a mysterious film to this story, which had me turning page after page with increasing intrigue. The magical realism aspect totally worked for me as well. I’m not sure that I can pin down the wonder of the story in words. I will say, some of the subject matter weighed heavily on me and I guessed where it was going- but it was worth the journey regardless. It also had a surprisingly happy ending. Ultimately, it may not have been a story built on entirely possible things, but it was beautiful.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the flatshare

The Flatshare– I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I ended up loving the quirkiness and ENJOYED THE HECK out of the story! I particularly loved how they bonded through notes- it was such a clever idea and gave it a modern love story feel (whilst buying into the age-old romance concept of having people fall in love through the written word and loving each other for who they are inside). For that alone, this was utterly heart-warming. It helped as well that the subplots were deeper than I expected. In terms of character, I wasn’t sold on Leon’s choppy voice to start with- yet found it grew on me and characterised him well. It also did a great job of contrasting Tiffy’s bubbliness, which came across in every bouncy sentence. Their meet-cute was hilariously sweet as well. The only real downside for me was that Justin was a little cartoonishly evil. Other than that, this was an entertaining summer fling- definitely recommend for romance lovers!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the woman in black

The Woman in Black– this was deliciously creepy and compelling. Mysteries unfurl in the misty atmosphere as Hill draws us through her wickedly dark tale. Be warned: there’s no great twist or trick, just tragedy. Still, while this is not the most shocking story- it is the telling of it that makes it special. The writing was impressive: all the work was being done under the surface, legs kicking where you can’t see and all you have is the impression of floating through this magnificently drawn setting. The voice was like an apparition, thrilling and powerful throughout; the descriptions were vivid and tinged with horror. I lived in fear of each turn of the page and fresh encounters with her. I’ll admit I had trouble reading this one at night; I can safely say the Woman in Black had me thoroughly spooked- so job well done!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Phew, that was a little longer than usual. Some of those reviews definitely got away from me! 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!

The Kiss Quotient and the Bride Test add up to a marriage made in heaven!

 

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Well, I have something to confess: I had a bit of summer fling last month and discovered a new favourite romance author. We’d better dive straight into these mini reviews, before I get all hot and flustered about this (now-not-so) secret love affair…

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The Kiss Quotient– wowee- this was love at first line! I read this in one sitting and let’s just say I was more than simply satisfied! Not only was this super steamy at times, it also made me unreasonably emotional. Because this was more than a top-notch romance: it delivered time and again on so many other levels. I think it’s the first time I have ever read a romance featuring an autistic lead and that aspect to the story blew me away. Added to this, I really liked how the family aspect and friendships were developed. This enjoyment was multiplied by exciting themes like the fake dating trope and even touched on the pressures of being single. The only reason this wasn’t a full-length review was that I was too absorbed in it and forgot to take notes. Happy to report, this one definitely lives upto the hype!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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bride test

The Bride Test– obviously once I was done with Kiss Quotient, I bounced to the next available book in this loosely connected companion series. Now, while I didn’t love this quite as much, I can safely say this gets really romantic!! Perhaps more so even than its predecessor. It was emotional. It was heartwarming. And it ended in squeals, lots and lots of squeals. And I LOVE-LOVE-LOVED how these books aren’t just about the romance- they are also about character growth. These are such well-rounded books centred around wonderful characters. As well as this, I have to say that I love how personal these stories are for Hoang- I appreciated reading these in the acknowledgements and it certainly shines through in the writing. All in all, you can’t go wrong with either of these. If you’re into romance like me and you pick these up- well you’re in for a treat!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So romance fans- have you read either of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – July

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

truly madly guilty

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

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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conversations with friend

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

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unexpected everything

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

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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devil aspect

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

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – June

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Hello all! I think I’m becoming a bit of an old record lately, recounting how busy I’ve been every month, explaining why I’m playing catch up and *yada yada yada*… Rather than dancing to that tune again, I’ll skip all that and just say if you’re interested in my adventures offline you can check out this post 😉 For everyone else, we can just get straight to the books, cos there’s a lot of them!

devil's thief

The Devil’s Thief– I am haunted by my disappointment for this book. It’s the kind of book I quite enjoyed reading, but look back on with irritation. Because it could’ve been so good! Following its powerful predecessor, this had a bold opening, with stunning prose, thus assuring me I was in for a treat. And yet somehow it didn’t manage to fulfil the promise. While there was some entertaining action throughout, the structure was ultimately more disjointed than The Last Magician and I didn’t feel as connected to it. There was far too much squabbling and I didn’t care for the characters as I should. I also felt that the romantic problems were repetitive and pointless- maybe because I’d just watched a video on the rule of three- or maybe because there’s only so many times you can read that Esta is *a strong woman* and Harte is *too old fashioned* (what with him being from a different time period and all). Problem is, this was not helped by the fact that Esta literally wasn’t listening to the fact Harte was possessed!! I’m honestly unsure about whether I should continue with this series now- despite the fact the twist at the end was decent and I’d kinda like to see how it all works out. It would be really great if someone could pop back from the future and let me know if it’s worth it 😉

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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emergency contact

Emergency Contact- do you know that feeling where you pick up a book and instantly know it’s not for you? Well I had that with this book. The second I’d started reading I knew. But I’d waited in a queue to read it on overdrive and now I had the (albeit not physical) copy, I was determined to finish it dammit! Annnd it was totally not worth it. I *hated* the writing style straight away- it felt like it was trying too darn hard to be down with the kids. And there was SO MUCH virtue signalling. Such as: “Never mind the karma of a total non-Jew stealing a book about the Jewish holocaust from a Jewish person.” Everything. Is. Wrong. With. That. Sentence. I can’t even will myself to dissect it. Or the time when she expresses her thoughts on Memoirs of a Geisha: “a book Penny adored until she discovered some rando white guy had written it”. Wow, stunning and brave 😉 I found Penny insufferably unlikeable and ergo did not have much interest in the plot/romance/much of anything to do with this. This is not to trash the book- I just think you can figure out within the first sentence/page/chapter whether this is for you or not. That’s definitely something I should have done. Moral of the story: I need to DNF more! Needless to say, I have not learnt that lesson quite yet 😉

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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a separate peace

A Separate Peace– “it’s an American classic”, I was sneeringly told by the person that recommended it. Now, that may very well have prejudiced me against the book, but I will still say I am not quite sure why it is considered an American classic. I never connected with the dry writing style; I thought the story lacked a certain punchiness. And this all culminated in a dull and unearned ending. Finny was, admittedly, an interesting character- it was just a shame he wasn’t explored as fully as he could have been. There were also some interesting ideas here- it was again a pity that they amounted to very little in the eyes of this reader, since they were conveyed in a textbook-style telling instead of showing. Most notably, telling me a moral at the end, without demonstrating it throughout the story feels cheap and pointless. Personally, I found this book a bit of a waste of time, though there was potential in it.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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otherworld

Otherworld– another in a string of bad books. However, the positive side of this one is I DNF’d it! That’s right! I finally learnt my lesson! Why was this the straw that broke this monkey’s back? Well, there’s a long list of reasons- not least that it felt like reading a string of clichés and recycled ideas. This was Ready Player One, only without the great voice and stand-out characters. The protagonist had ZERO personality (no, having a “kishka” does not count- it just makes you a racial stereotype- so thanks for that I guess?) We’re told over and over that the Otherworld is a *fabulous* place, but I never felt it shown in the flat descriptions. Perhaps if I hadn’t had a string of meh reads this month I would have been more inclined to finish it- but life is too short and I had little hope of it improving. Based on what I’d read so far, I gave it:

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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beautiful disaster

Beautiful Disaster– well the clue is in the title I guess 😉 Just so damn ugly and petty- though perhaps not as terrible as I was led to expect (although I do think a lot of the love interest’s behaviours wouldn’t fly today). Oh and heads up, the people in this all suck. Strangely, that wasn’t my biggest issue though. What actually spoiled this book for me is the weird structure- there are so many time jumps and issues with pacing. At points the characters would be in the middle of some crucial interlude in their lives, only to skip a few weeks. For me, this was incredibly jarring.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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panic

Panic– Lauren Oliver to the rescue! I am always assured that when I pick up one of Oliver’s books I’m going to be rewarded with a wonderfully written, interesting concept, entertaining read- and this was no exception! This was a thrill a minute and I really liked how the idea was handled. I also found the characters engaging enough and the twist solid. While this may not be her best book, I still enjoyed it and would recommend if you like her work.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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dark matter

Dark Matter– this was by far one of the best books I read all month. From the intriguing opening, this had a fast-paced intensity that made it hard for me to keep my breath. There are some creepy turns to this and it works out as a fascinating thought experiment. What I liked most about it was how Jason consistently chose to be the best version of himself (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it 😉 ) This was an absolutely wild ride, an exhilarating journey, with a bonkers ending- in the best kind of way!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Always Never Yours– this had both a unique and typical plot- which completely works in its favour. Often in YA contemporaries, whatever the characters are studying in school has some sort of bearing on the plot. But it’s usually rather a disappointment. How many times will we see a character studying Romeo and Juliet, for instance, only to be swept off their feet by someone they can’t have? This is always especially funny in a high school when they’re being all *melodramatic* high school about their performances and trying to fit in all 5 acts (when even professionals know to cut for time lol). Now, while I won’t say this was wholly original in that regard, it did miraculously flip the script a little by exploring the role of Rosalind. Even if the character of Megan sometimes made very little sense to me, I did appreciate this fresh take, especially as it allowed for the mc grow in courage, learning to take the lead, instead of always waiting in the wings. It was just a shame that (because of weirdly inexplicable girl rules?) she had to forgive a friend who betrayed her by the end of the story. For me personally, the protagonist was too nice in this regard, sacrificing her character development to be treated like a doormat. Frankly, I’m struggling not to rant about how all cheats are skeez-bags, so I’ll just skip to the fact that at least I enjoyed the mc’s romance and leave it at that.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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death comes to pemberley

audiobook2Death Comes to Pemberley– if I had to describe this in a couple of words, I’d sum it up as enjoyable fanfic. I won’t be pretending this is in any way highbrow, when in fact, it is so very, very silly. Personally, the sole reason I picked this up was that I’ve been in the mood for a lot of Austen lately and can’t seem to get enough of what actually exists in canon (anyone fancy building a time machine and fetching Austen from the past so she can write at least one more book?). So, naturally, what was I to do but check out a murder mystery set in Austenland? 😉 Nonetheless, one of its biggest failings is not that it insists on putting the characters of Pride and Prejudice in the most ludicrous of circumstances, but that it recaps the original so frequently and unnecessarily that the point is a little laboured. I confess, I have very little knowledge of fanfic, so perhaps someone can answer in the comments if characters excessively recalling the events of their past is a common theme in the genre? Regardless, I did have a bizarrely enjoyable time with this, mostly thanks to the atmospheric hold of the author and the rather pleasant reading from the audiobook narrator.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May

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I swear, every month feels like three at the moment. There has been so much *hecticness* I’ve been neglecting a lot of bloghopping/comments lately, so I’m sorry about that! Other than work (which I’ve is BUSY right now) family stuff took over a lot of April for me. Mostly cos my family celebrate Passover- to save you the spiel about that, I’ll just put a visual here…

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Also, for anyone that celebrated Easter…

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Passing over all that, let’s get to what we’re all here for: the books!

blood of the fold

Blood of the Fold– annnd we’re starting with one that was a tad disappointing. While I enjoyed the first two enough to want to continue the series, I was far less interested in this one. A lot of that had to do with Brogan- who was alright as a villain but didn’t measure up to Darken Rahl’s menace or the Keeper’s threat. I’m afraid I’m giving a very lacklustre review, but that’s cos the book didn’t inspire me to write too much down. Then again, sometimes it’s better to have less to say about a book…

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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bridget jones's diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary- I unfortunately have plenty to say about this one- none of it good. I’d say I was disappointed, but I expected nothing from this. Less than nothing. Especially after the films. Hated the writing style. Brings me onto: why’s my review written like this? Cos the whole damn book is written like this (no, you haven’t stumbled on my unfinished notes). And the funny thing is, I don’t think I’m even fragmenting as much. Though technically speaking it’s not fragmentation- it’s just incomplete sentences (mostly missing pronouns, which I’m struggling to mimic, cos my brain objects to this *argh-gravating* sentence structure). So, so very annoying. This is why I said there’s a serious reason not to go overboard in the style piece I did last month. It is also why people don’t go round reading other people’s diaries- it’s not to respect people’s privacy, it’s cos it’d probably be awful and barely literate. Moral of the story: don’t write. A whole. Book. Like this. (Also I know people will ask why read this if you had even an inkling it would be bad? Good question! It’s cos I saw it on one of those “100 books to read before you die” lists and then saw it on overdrive soon after- it seemed like destiny… sadly it was more like fate was conspiring against me). Ah well- at least I got a good idea of the character from this style: barely literate, self-obsessed and boring.

Rating: 1/5 bananas

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goose girl

The Goose Girl– ahh what a relief this book was. The writing was controlled, while faintly mythical; the story was sweet, but not too saccharine; the overarching plot emotional and yet delivers a happily ever after. That ending was particularly rewarding. I think this was technically a reread, though I don’t remember anything about reading it the first time, other than it happened some time in primary school and that I loved reading it back then too. This is a great middle grade and a must-read if you’re interested in the genre/have children in this age-range.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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immortal reign

Immortal Reign– alas- this was underwhelming too! To be fair, my biggest issue with this book was that I stopped caring about the series a couple of books back. It didn’t help that this finale was totally predictable and nothing special. It started off okay for me, but quickly descended into a great big bowl of MEH. Some of the characters I still like (Magnus); others I still dislike (Lucia). Some issues were resolved wayyy too easily. I’ll be honest, I just felt a little flat after. There were a couple of things that irked me and I’m gonna get into minor spoilers about it, so if you do want to read the Falling Kingdoms series now’s your chance to look away. The main issue I had with this book is really similar to my problem in the last book- and that’s the treatment of Gaius as a villain. I know that they went the route of having him semi-redeemed cos he was under a spell (ugh at that again, but whatever) BUT I don’t see how his kids and everyone that knew him would suddenly be cool with him/mourning his death when they only ever knew him as a bad guy!!! I found the *happy reunion* way too out there. Thank goodness someone came along and shot an arrow in his chest and put a stop to that ridiculousness. On the note of significant deaths though, I feel there was definitely room to kill off at least one central character (which would’ve especially helped it feel like there were some real stakes). Somehow though everyone, including the shitty characters, get to ride off into the sunset (metaphorically speaking- though in some cases sorta literally). *Sigh*- at least I got to finish the series I guess.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!