Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Let’s FREAK OUT cos it’s October 2021!

Hello all! Hope you had a great month! Mine was jam packed! And after all the lockdowns and everything we’ve been through over the last year, I have to admit I’m appreciating it more than ever. The little things like going to see friends, having meals out and going on day trips are a real treat. My favourite things this month include going to see LIVE MUSIC- which was especially great at the Blues Kitchen in Camden…

(I promised my sister I’d share a cartoon I did for her)

And I finally, finally got to return to the Royal Opera House to hear the Magic Flute 😊

Plus, I went the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, where I got to feel like a witch for the day. I don’t want to raise your expecto-patronums too much, but I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. It was so good that I may do a post entirely dedicated to it!

Lastly, I went on trips to Bath and Windsor- which were both very unique (and cake filled) days 😊

The House in the Cerulean Sea– delightful and quirky and sweet, this romantic fantasy definitely gave me the warm fuzzies. I loved the writing style- it was simultaneously light and colourful. And the characters were really bright sparks. I especially loved the anti-Christ (and I’m not just saying this because I may never have this opportunity again 😉). I also really appreciated the story being told from Linus’ perspective, with an inspector’s eyes, introducing us to the world detail by detail. Through this, we uncover a whimsical world filled with wonder. We find a house that inspires imagination and a reality packed with magic. Slowly, as the story unfolds, he opens up to this beauty. For as much as he may seem like the boring middle manager type, we find he truly has a heart of gold and there is much more to him than a lot of people assume. It just goes to show you can’t judge by appearances- and I love that message! Of course, this book is a very obvious parable, which I don’t normally like, yet I was overcome by the cuteness factor here. I also did notice that this promised a fair amount of moral relativism… though it (thankfully) doesn’t deliver that in the plot. A joyous and romantic read!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Rock Paper Scissors– I always enjoy Feeney’s books- and none more so than her latest. Showing that marriage is a dangerous game, this book is all about choices. Artfully using different points of view, the story follows Mr and Mrs Wright on their wedding anniversary. Yet, up in the Highlands of Scotland, something is about to go very, very wrong indeed. Genuinely tense and terrifying at times, the story had me gripped. And just when I thought I had all the answers, it turned at the last moment. Not everything was as it seemed on paper. I loved the sharp ending and I was very happy with how it all came together (well, as happy as you can be with a grizzly thriller). 

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

The Foundling– I really liked this book. It brought an area of history I knew nothing about to life. Once again, Stacey Halls focused on the plight of women in a meaningful and significant way. It was written with such kindness that I was unsurprised by the sweetness of the ending. I just find Hall’s books quite lovely. 

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Instant Karma– oof this wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought this was going to be about a girl who gets the power of delivering instant karma and that would be the central conflict of the story. INSTEAD, the story was centred on a biology project and an animal rescue centre… which would’ve been fine if that’s what I’d been expecting. To make matters worse, the instant karma, while a fun trick, didn’t really serve much purpose to the story. The actual plot was filled with twists that were easy to guess and not as exciting as the premise could have been. I felt like there was the outlines of two decent stories in this, but not enough to make one enjoyable book. It didn’t help that the most of the characters were insufferable- especially the protagonist. I barely understood her motivation throughout (I’ve never taken to characters who want to be successful purely for the sake of being successful) and found her lack of empathy infuriating at times. I also didn’t enjoy being in the company of some of the background characters- one of whom was painfully holier-than-thou. And even the nicest character- the love interest- does something utterly unforgivable. Not to mention the romance, which I didn’t see working out. While there were cute moments that made me smile, I couldn’t see what they had in common beyond raging hormones. Overall, this was fine, but didn’t possess the magic I hoped for. 

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 2.5/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

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

monthly mini reviews version 2

🎵 …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.

hamilton

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!