Little Women 2019 was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT!

Well, Hollywood has done it again. They’ve ripped the heart and soul out of a classic story and called it an adaptation. Much like how Anne With an E, decided to go in the gritty and grim direction (and practically discarded the heartwarming story it was based on). This time though, it’s not so much darker (though there is a murky edge to the adult scenes) as it is all about “feminism”. And by that I mean, the angry, twisted, bitter kind with an undertone of man-hating. Great. Just what we needed.

Look, I get it. Little Women has so so many adaptations already that it’s hardly surprising the writers wanted to change things up and go in a different direction. Only, the logical thing to do in my book would be to *write a different story*. Not hijack something well loved and destroy it. But here we are- because Hollywood gotta make that coin and nothing sells like ruining everything we love.

What amazed me more than anything was how they desecrated the characters. They did them all dirty- but for some reason the worst changes were reserved for Marmee of all people. The loving matriarch is barely recognisable in this version- with a simmering resentment and rage under the surface… Because that’s what we needed?! I don’t understand what it is about “feminist” writers these days who seem to think anger is the solution to everything. Not grace or kindness or anything typically feminine. This is a Marmee stripped of love- who says to her wounded husband back from the war “now I can be angry at you in person”. This is a story that celebrates vice over virtue- the very antithesis of the original story. And characters like Marmee are just used as voice pieces for modern views.   

And then there’s what they did to Jo. Ironically, despite this supposedly focusing on more of the March sisters as a whole, this story is framed by Jo’s writing endeavours. For some reason, there was an ongoing focus on how it would be consistent for her not to fall in love and marry (something it’s not that hard to imagine for such a big-hearted character) but somehow not inconsistent for her to change her mind about Laurie?! Even though, it’s really clear from the story how different and ill-suited they actually are. And never mind that it ends up ruining Amy’s romance. And that it makes Jo seem petty for trying to take him back after rejecting him. And it throws a grenade into the heart of the sisterhood (which THIS MOVIE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HIGHLIGHTING MORE GAH!!) It’s a weird and unnecessary change that doesn’t work.

Add in the terrible deconstructed ending, where the kiss in the rain is purely imagination and you’ve got yourself a depressing version. Yes, shocker, we like happy endings here. It’s far better than whatever they were going for with this cold, bleak, sad conclusion that left me wanting. As beautiful as it is to see a book come together, I don’t love this story for its take on ambition. I love it for the joy and the wonder and the fact that reading about this family feels like a warm hug. Incidentally that’s why it works so well that the book starting with a small-scale scene of the little women playing. We feel like we’ve stepped into their world. This, with its choppy structure and disrespect to the original characters, is a miserable reimagining of something beautiful- and we don’t need it.

Rating: banana peel

So, have you seen this adaptation? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

So, I Rewatched All the Harry Potter Movies…

And now I’m gonna give my rambly thoughts- so buckle up cos it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…

Straight away, I have to admit that these were MUCH BETTER than I was thinking they were going to be! My god I was a harsh critic as a kid! To think I didn’t like them very much back then- and yet watching as an adult I had a great time?! I know, I know, I’m really contrary. But I’m pleased to say my experiment to rewatch them all really paid off! They were a helluva lot more entertaining than I remember! (and a whole lot less ex-crucio-ating 😉 okay I’ll see myself out now 😉)

And yes, they’re not 100% true to the books, yet they have their own charm. As much as there’s still the problem where you have to explain things to people when they haven’t read all 7 books (aka my mum) I have come around to the idea that they don’t have to slavishly follow the books. Of course, I still think the books are better, but these movies can satisfy a chocolate frog craving (just as long as you don’t try rewatching them immediately after a rereading marathon like I did once!)

The biggest surprise to me was how much I enjoyed the first two movies. To be perfectly honest, I was so put off by some of the *ahem* (awkward) child acting- particularly in Philosopher’s Stone- that I never gave Columbus enough credit for capturing the sense of wonder and magic and fun in the early films. As much as I understand why they changed direction for the darker turn the story takes, I found the tone of the first couple of films really suited the series openers.

I will happily admit that I have always loved the third movie the most. It’s atmospheric, tight narratively and hits the spot emotionally. As much as I could’ve done with a deeper Marauders scene- I still think the movie is as close to perfect as it could be. Sadly, I wasn’t as keen on the fourth one (and not just because of the weird haircuts). I STAND BY THE FACT THERE SHOULD’VE BEEN A QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP MATCH SCENE!! Also Gambon is a tad OTT here (though I didn’t hate him this time round and liked the fact they chose someone entirely different to Harris- at least this way it didn’t feel like he was acting in his shadow!) I think there was enough to like about the fifth one that I won’t complain about it and the sixth was less fun than I remembered! Maybe because the “romance” scenes made me wince harder (all I’ll say with regards to shipping is that Draco and Harry are the only ones with good chemistry… 😉). And of course, it hardly needs to be said that the 7th was the dullest- by a considerable distance (my goodness the tent scene reminds me why I don’t like camping… so boring!!) The conclusion is good… even if I personally think the way Voldemort died is a little unclear.

Anyhoo rant over. Overall, I had a fantastic time rewatching these. I really appreciated seeing all the beautiful details on screen- especially after going to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. You can really see how much love has gone into these productions. And that’s a wrap on my thoughts on the Harry Potter movies- conveniently just in time for the reunion (which I won’t actually be watching 😅)

What do you think of the Harry Potter movies? Do you love them or loathe them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies – My Favourite Films in 2021!

Hello all! Seeing as I talk about all my other favourites, it’s only fair to share the best things I watched this year (not including rewatches of course!) I’m going to whizz through them, so get your popcorn out and let’s dive in…

Raya and the Last Dragon– somehow I forgot to say how great Raya and the Last Dragon was!! And it was probably my favourite movie of the year! It’s been a while since I’ve appreciated an animated movie this much 😊 It’s very much its own story, with rich characterisation and fun visuals.

Cruella– this was a lot more fun than I was expecting! Yes, it’s somewhat bonkers… but that’s kind of the point! It had a rocking aesthetic and a killer storyline 😉 I don’t know how, but it actually made me root for one of the most baddies of all time.

A Simple Favour– this was the biggest surprise of the year- it was #MuchBetterThanIExpected. Commenting on social media as much as providing a fun thrill ride, this slick story kept me feeling engaged. And I also loved the French soundtrack!

Karate Kid– I’m counting this as a new movie to me, because I literally didn’t remember anything about it. It’s a good old-fashioned stick-up-for-yourself kind of story! I love the messages in this movie and was on the edge of my seat by the end.

Taken– yes, I’m very late to the party. But wow- this was intense! I don’t think I took a breath the entire movie! This is how an action flick should be!

And that’s all folks! Have you seen any of these? Did you have a favourite film this year? Let me know in the comments!

Taking a Whirl into the Wizarding World at the Warner Bros Studio Tour!

Hello all! As I mentioned recently, I went and had a magical time at the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour! And since I had a truly wicked time, I thought I’d invite you all to hear all about it. So grab your Hogwarts acceptance letters and let’s take a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

But before we get started BE WARNED: there will be dragons!

Of course, I will be breaking the Statute of Secrecy, but to confundus you a little bit, I won’t be telling this in the exact order of the tour. Rather I’ll be going in narrative order… which is why we’ll be stopping off at Diagon Alley first! This enchanting street was more wondrous than I ever could have imagined!

Yet, in order to enjoy all the delights Diagon Alley has to offer, we may need to steal away to Gringotts Wizard Bank. Here, I had deep aparecium for the craftsmanship and vision of the set designs. It was truly awe inspiring.

Now we are well equipped, we’d better hurry to Platform 9 ¾ and climb aboard the Hogwarts Express…

… so that we can ascendio up to Hogwarts 😉

Jokes aside, I was truly stupefied by how *charming* everything was!

I was bombardo by beautiful details everywhere I turned…

And totalus impressed by all the props.  

I even got to try my hand at flying and playing quidditch 😉

Yet not everything was fun and games- because things took a dark turn once we headed inside the Forbidden Forest…

I mean just look at that face!! 😉 But the drama was far from over- and there were some big surprises in store (don’t watch the next clip if you don’t want to see spoilers!)  

Once all my mischief was managed, I took a well-earned break, having some butterbeer and fulfilling my lifelong dream of getting a Chocolate Frog (because of course I wanted a collectible card!!!) And, as if by magic, the card I got was the one I would’ve wanted most in the world… Roweena Ravenclaw!

And that was my journey into the world of Harry Potter. I hope you enjoyed reading all about it- I know I enjoyed writing this! It really reminded me how much I enjoy the story and sparked some nostalgia 😊 I can tell you this won’t be the last you’ll be hearing from me about the Boy Who Lived!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – August 2021!

Hello all! I had a really lovely month and hope you did too 😊 Been really busy, which is why I’m super late with this post, but let’s just overlook that 😂 Luckily, I’ve been out and about a lot more- the highlight of which was going to see a friend in Cambridge!

I also watched a couple of great movies last month…

A Simple Favour– this film was stylish, slick and a lot of fun. It wasn’t what I was expecting- in a good way. I thought it’d be a generic thriller about a missing woman, but this was a lot about the face we show to the world and influencer culture. It ended up poking fun at the way we see each other and how fickle our judgments can be. There was a lot more to the characters than meets the eye and was digging it (like a detective digs up clues lol 😉 #BadJokeAlert #I’mGoingAllInOnThisSocialMediaTheme #ButIDon’tKnowHowToHashtag)

Little Italy– sometimes you just need a deliciously cheesy rom com. It’s like a big, beautiful slice of pizza- comfort food at its best! And this did make me smile 😊. Focusing on a food fight that creates a feud between two Italian families, this was a (very) light-hearted take on Romeo and Juliet. Peppered with humour and a big dollop of awws, this was a really cute story. I did like the relationship between the two leads- though I actually enjoyed the romance between the grandparents more! Oh, and of course, the big side of watching this movie was it made me sooo hungry! Don’t make the mistake of watching this without a pizza of your own!

And now onto the books…

White Eagles/Firebird– I listened to these novellas on audiobook. Both of these were exciting, tense-filled dramatizations of being female fighter pilots in WW2- and I loved every second of them! White Eagle for me had a lot of heart and Firebird BLEW ME AWAY with the twist ending! Definitely recommend these for quick historical YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Catch– this thriller was a bit ridiculous. The Catch is about a father suspicious of his daughter’ fiancé who seems too good to be true- so of course this had obvious Taken vibes. For spoilery reasons I’ll keep to myself, the father doesn’t quite come across as Liam Neeson. In fact, I was convinced he was THE CREEP. And that ambiguity in a book like this could have been a good thing… but I’m just not crazy about characters, even in thrillers, stalking other people because they have “a feeling”. The other thing that bugged me was how frickin dumb all the characters are. There’s a point in the story that’s supposed to feel all claustrophobic, like the murderer is closing in on them and there’s nowhere to run… except that the character has a phone and lots of options!! Instead, said character decides the best thing would be to go to an isolated place with the person THEY ALREADY KNOW IS A KILLER!!! It doesn’t make any sense!! I have to admit though, as silly as this story seems, it was absolutely entertaining throughout. Kudos for keeping me reading when I was feeling slumpy! 

Rating: 3/5 bananas

House of Hollow– bold and bloody brilliant. Now if you’ve been around a while, you know I don’t like anything horror… but this completely broke all my rules. Because this was perfection. Gorgeously written and creepy af, this supernatural ghostly story had me all-a-tingle. Atmospheric from the start, I felt like I was knee-deep in the world Krystal Sutherland created. I even thought she did a fantastic job of nailing the North London setting and Celtic Scottish feel (which I say as someone who has lived in both places!) The only thing- and this is the tiniest of nitpicks- that pulled me out of the story was the amount of smoking in pubs (that’s been illegal since 2007, so I’m not sure when this was supposed to be set given all the social media?) Barring that, cos it doesn’t actually matter, this was a glorious read. I loved all the Hollow sisters- and definitely felt a deep connection to a literature boffin eager to find the right answer in a text! 😉  There was something simply intoxicating about House of Hollow. And that cover is to die for.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Mid-Year Monkey at the Movies

Hello all! As promised in my monthly wrap up, I have some mini movie reviews for you today. There’s a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly here (in that order) so sit tight, cos we’re in for a bumpy ride!

Carrie Pilby– charming, quirky and a lot of fun, this was thoroughly enjoyable. While it had indie vibes, it embraced classic storytelling. The character arcs were beautifully done- showing that even if Carrie is a genius, she doesn’t know everything after all. It also went further, showing how pain can reverberate across the years. All credit to the writers and actors, cos this was a super fun story. I’d happily rewatch it!

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

The Woman in the Window– there are lots of angles through which to view this film: voyeuristically curious about the scandalous background of the author; from the perspective of a reader who read (and maybe even enjoyed) the book (like me); or just as someone who likes watching a good thriller. Yet none of those angles will make this film any more enjoyable. Because this film shows up all the shockingly awful decisions in the book. Without the flashy writing, the story just doesn’t seem to work. It’s convoluted, it’s poorly signposted and it’s all over the place. And none of the fancy camera work changes that. Even with modern technology, you can’t beat the likes of Rear Window (which this poorly tries to imitate). What made for an entertaining read (pre-authorial baggage) made for painful viewing.

Rating: 1/5 bananas

The Dig– eh- this wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either. While the performances are good and the story decent, I found this forgettable. Mostly, because no one has a character arc. NO ONE. Either the protagonists or the people around them should change… but that’s not the case in this film. The protagonists have static arcs. The vague antagonists- who oppose the main archaeologist over class- continue to do so by the end. The only reason I was engaged in this movie was because Sutton Hoo is interesting- yet I don’t see why this couldn’t have been a documentary.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

Mary Queen of Scots– boy-oh-boy this takes liberties with history. It goes too far in my book, presenting Mary’s Catholicism as a marginalised belief… when it was the conservative and powerful position. To make matter worse, her faith is also portrayed as tolerant, having her say things like “we all go to the same heaven” and to a male character “you would make a lovely sister”. Even Queen Elizabeth I is oddly sentimental. It’s all in the name of woke feminism- which does not make for a logically coherent historical drama. But who cares about that when you can score brownie points, amiright?! In fairness, the history is *bonkers*. Looking up what actually happened kept me engaged throughout the movie- and damn, if they’d just gone with that, it would have been an excellent film. The problem is, they tried too hard to make Mary a flawless heroine, when she is better suited to the role of a tragic Shakespearean figure, whose fatal flaws are her undoing. BUT NO- the movie has to insist her dismissing every councillor makes her clever. And that it’s somehow everyone else’s fault when they turn against her. Oh and it’s also great to be compassionate (even if it costs lives). It’s funny, because the film is designed to be anti-English, yet to my mind, all it did was show how useless Mary was as a leader (even while carefully glossing over Mary’s plots to take Elizabeth’s throne, somehow trying to make her seem conciliatory). The juxtaposition of her rule with Elizabeth’s doesn’t help to make a case for her reign. This is exemplified in the scene where Mary and Elizabeth meet (which of course is entirely made up). Mary calls Elizabeth her inferior and says “I’m your queen”- to which Elizabeth takes off her wig and says “your gifts are your downfall”. Frankly this makes no sense- 1) because there’s NO WAY Mary could have said that to Elizabeth and lived another 20 years and 2) because the logical response would’ve been “says the woman who’s just lost a kingdom”. She didn’t lose the kingdom because she was pretty FFS- she did so because she didn’t know how to rule. It’s just so ironic that this is the best case they could come up with for Mary Queen of Scots. If they hadn’t been trying so hard to be woke and refusing to acknowledge a female character’s flaws, this could’ve been a damn good drama. Ultimately however, as much as I enjoyed how it was shot, the acting, the history, it was a colossal waste of time. 

Rating: 2.5 bananas

That’s all for now! Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them? Am I being too harsh? Let me know in the comments!

All the Adaptations I’ve Loved and Hated

Hello all! inspired by the recent Shadow and Bone adaptation, I decided to make a list of TV and movie adaptations I feel strongly about. As you can imagine, this could’ve been an absolutely ginormous list, so I decided to stick to best and worst adaptations (in my opinion of course 😉). So there’s nothing here I feel lukewarm or so-so about. I also didn’t include adaptations where I hated the books to begin with (Divergent, Twilight) or where the book series hasn’t finished yet (GOT). And, obviously, I have to be familiar with the original series.

Let’s get started with my favourites:

The Lord of the Rings– well, obviously. These movies were a massive part of inspiring my lifelong love of reading. And I’m one of those people that prefers the Lord of the Rings movies to the books (sacrilege, I know, but they’re my favourite films of all time).  

Stardust– this movie is *magical*. Again, it’s one where I actually prefer the adaptation to the book, because it’s just so damn good. I will happily rewatch this over and over!

Shadow and Bone– this may be a bold choice, since I saw this really recently (and isn’t a complete series yet). That said, going off of what I’ve seen so far, I think it both captures the best aspects of the Grishaverse and improves upon the source material. I can’t wait to watch more of it!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before– switching things up, this contemporary perfectly adapts the source material, bringing all the humour, quirky characters and sisterhood to the screen. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve rewatched it *so many times*!

Love Simon– this is another contemporary I love to rewatch. Personally, while I enjoyed the book, the film felt a little slicker and I got more out of it.

Atonement– I’ve made no secret of the fact I don’t love McEwan’s writing style… but I adore this film. It’s an exquisitely shot, beautifully acted historical romance, with a brilliant soundtrack. And even if that wasn’t enough to make me love it- I also love the slightly different ending. It worked so well for me.

Pride and Prejudice– there’s a lot of debate about the best Austen adaptation, but quite simply, this is it for me. I can happily rewatch/reread anything Austen related- yet this is the one I binge annually. It is just classic bliss.

Bleak House– another perfect adaptation from Andrew Davies, this TV series has such strong  Dickensian energy and brilliantly brings the story and characters to life.

And now let’s move onto adaptations I DESPISE- WARNING UNPOPULAR OPINIONS AHEAD!!!!!!

The Hobbit– well I have to start with the most egregious example of an “adaptation”. Because this butchers the source material and brings nothing good to the table. I won’t go on about this too much- as I’ve already discussed it at length– but this adaptation still makes me mad. It doesn’t help that the Hobbit is one of my all-time favourite books- yet I’m still amazed that they managed to mess it up quite this much. Choosing Peter Jackson to adapt this book- when he doesn’t even like the original story- makes no sense (even if he did a great job with LOTR).

Harry Potter– okay, *deep breath* everybody, I know this is an unpopular opinion. I’ve just never enjoyed these movies. I know that a lot of people are very attached to them, but I have remained the kinda disappointed, hipster child that couldn’t get on board with these adaptations. It certainly didn’t help that they left out huge things and changed a lot (though I do like the videos by Dominic Noble exploring all the ways they messed up on that front)- I just never vibed with them. I tried to rewatch them at the beginning of lockdown 1… and gave up after trying the first couple of movies because they weren’t for me. Maybe one day I’ll challenge myself and try again- yet I don’t see myself changing my mind- sorry!

The Golden Compass– there were actually things about the movie that I liked (most specifically, some aspects of Lyra’s portrayal). However, we all know this is nothing like the book, starting with the dumb title change. If you want to see an actually good adaptation (though not perfect) definitely try His Dark Materials… but in both cases I still recommend sticking to the books first and foremost.

The Mortal instruments– I mean, do I even need to get into why? This is just one in a long string of Hollywood badly adapting a YA series (and I’m only picking on it cos it’s the one where I’ve read the whole series and watched the adaptation). They messed up half the story and the way they did Valentine was laughable… and then they blamed fans for not liking it enough for a second movie adaptation.

Shadowhunters– okay, this one might also make people angry… but I don’t like the show either! For very different reasons. I hate the acting and the weird changes and the special effects look really unnatural to me. I gave up on this show very quickly and just watched the Malec scenes (cos they’re what it’s all about anyway). Still, I do think it’s astounding that there are two adaptations of the same story and I hate them both (maybe it doesn’t help that I’ve since gone off the source material too).

Always and Forever Lara Jean– annnd this also did everything I hate in Hollywood adaptations. With this one, I think it’s more of a shame, as I actually enjoyed the way the book series ended. It stripped the story of all its meaning and most of its subtlety. I wasn’t a fan of the second movie, but then I didn’t enjoy the second book. Worst of all, I felt like where the book finally brought the couple back together, this removed any remaining chemistry they had. Not worth watching.

My Sister’s Keeper– bit of a random throwback, yet I can never quite forget how utterly betrayed I felt by this adaptation. Changing the ending ruined everything this story had to say.

And that’s all I’ve got for now! Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? And what are your favourite book adaptations? Which ones do you hate the most? Let me know in the comments!

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 – 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 – 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!