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 – ahh it’s August 2020!

monthly mini reviews version 2

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!