Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2021!

Hello all! Can you believe we’re well and truly into the festive period?! But I have to say I’m loving soaking it up as much as I can this year! I’m trying to do more things that I enjoyed before the pandemic. Among a lot of things I’ve already mentioned, I’m excited to finally be going to art galleries again! And on that note, I went to the Wallace Collection for the first time to take a peek at the recently restored Swing by Fragonard.

This photo truly doesn’t do the piece justice! For such a small painting it sure does have a BIG IMPACT! Wondrously captivating and worth checking out if you ever get the chance!

In terms of tv, I’ve been getting well and truly wrapped up in the Wheel of Time. I know they changed things (which I don’t agree with) but I’m finding it easier to follow than Jordan’s writing, so I’m very into it. I just hope they continue making all the seasons of it so I don’t have to go away and read all the books (which, granted, I’m pretty tempted to do now anyway). And of course, I watched the second series of Tiger King– which somehow was even crazier?! Other than that, I’ve just been ploughing through the books!

Mrs England– and Halls has done it again! This is her best yet! With a hint of tragedy lurking in the background, this is a subtle take on the traditional English gothic. I loved the creepy vibes and atmosphere of the Yorkshire setting. More than simply a revival of the Victorian novel, this gives a new lease of life to the form. Beautifully written and with psychologically rich characters, this story recontextualises romantic notions of the past and reveals the dark truths behind classic “mad woman in the attic” narratives.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Hunchback of Notre Dame– well this book is magnificent. Jumping straight into the euphoric high of the Feast of Fools, this story quickly descends into the drama of 15th Century Paris. Under the gaze of Notre Dame, we are slowly introduced to the principle and challenged with our perception of good and evil. Much of the dark side of humanity is on full display and so many characters are morally ambiguous. For this is far, far from the Disney version. Stunningly written- particularly with regards to the description of place- this was powerful reflection of humanity’s strengths and deficiencies. With expert mirroring of the beginning in its tragic conclusion, there is an air of inevitability from the start. It delivers its emotional blows as every great tragedy should.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Owl Service– this is a bit of a new-old discovery. Someone I work with recommended I try Alan Garner books and WOW these books don’t mess about. Owl Service felt less like a retelling and more like it was possessed by a mythic force, like the legends of old were forcing their way into the story and taking control of the narrative. I liked the concept and the simplicity of the story. More than that, I liked how the characters weren’t mundanely pure and good children. Rather, they were little humans, full of the usual concurrence of good and bad. Way darker than any book I read when I was young, there’s enough creepiness in this to freak adults out (well, adults like me, who can only manage spooky stories in broad daylight 😉). Uncanny in the purest sense, I couldn’t help but feel like this was both unusual and oddly familiar. A masterstroke of mythical storytelling.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Elidor– if I had to summarise this book, I’d say it was a realllly twisted take on Narnia. Except much like the more recent the Light Between Worlds, it deals more with the aftermath of being whisked away to a magical world. It makes you question what is left after a formative (and in many ways traumatic) experience. Taking the extreme example of reluctant heroes- if they can even be called heroes- it explores the genuine human response to asking children to bear the responsibility of the world on their young shoulders. And the result is bleak and hard to come to terms with. It’s a bold coming of age story; it’s the best of YA (written before YA existed). And it does so much of what modern books try to do now- but it does it with a greater profundity and without contrived conclusions. Like the best art, it doesn’t lead you to simple answers and doesn’t propagandise its message. Like the best myths, the meaning is layered beneath mists of magic. You’ll have to figure out how to interpret it for yourself.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Wedding Party– this vowed to be great fun- but just didn’t live up to its promise. I do love thrillers set at destination weddings- it’s that wonderful cocktail of high hopes and long held secrets and dashed dreams. And this had all those ingredients and more. The characters were delightfully detestable- the bridezilla obsessed with her image, the weirdly obsessive friend and the catastrophically selfish sister. BUT unfortunately, so much in a thriller hinges on the ending. And after being driven mad by these *awful* characters for hundreds of pages, I wanted to see someone get theirs in a dramatic way and for a good reason… and sadly this just fell flat. The twist of who died and who dunnit just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas  

Before I Go to Sleep– this didn’t quite send me to sleep… but it came close. Fairly predictable and a bit far-fetched, I wasn’t really sold on this story about a woman who wakes up every day with no memory. Granted I never really love amnesia stories to begin with- however this was an especially irritating example. Because I don’t have a problem with my memory, so leaving massive plot holes and contradictions doesn’t work for me. Even if you excuse them by saying the main character just didn’t remember telling other people vital facts. Also, I get that the protagonist reading from her diary was central to the plot, yet it hardly makes sense to have her reading it at crucial moments, when, say, she suspects there’s a potential psychopath on the other side of a door. Just leave- then read the diary. Make her think she’s made it safety before she settles in for an explanation. I’ll also never be a fan of villain monologuing at the end OR a weirdly unearned happy ending. And to top it all off, it’s really obvious to me this was written by a man trying to get inside a woman’s head, because women aren’t typically hyper-conscious of how much space our boobs take up. Stop being weird dude.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The Appeal– a murder mystery like no other, this is a story you’re going to have to figure out a lot of it on your own. Told through a collection of emails, this crime novel forces the reader to put on their thinking cap and work through a series of clues. With interjections from two investigators, you can slowly come to the truth of who was murdered and why. I have to say I was ridiculously impressed by the format and style of the genius thriller. I was also very happy with myself for working out bits and pieces along the way. Normally, I might find it disappointing to guess twists, however in this case I was inordinately proud of myself and satisfied that I’d been reading between the lines closely enough to get some of it right! I whizzed through this so fast, having enormous fun along the way! I definitely recommend giving this a go if you enjoy mysteries, thrillers or just having a good time. I hope you get as much out of it as I did- break a leg!

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!

I Can’t Keep Quiet About the Silent Patient!

silent patientWhich is why I have to SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS THAT YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK (seriously, it’s really good). Telling the story of a woman who killed her husband and the psychotherapist who can get to the reasons why, The Silent Patient is a book a lot of people have been talking about. And it’s easy to see why.

I picked this up after discovering The Maidens and was quickly drawn into this mystery. The book lends itself to the audiobook format. Michaelides has a brilliant ability to capture different voices, cleverly contrasting the artist’s diary with the doctor’s more clinical notes. I felt like I was inside the psychotherapist’s head, watching with horror as events unfolded.

And once again, the classics references were on point. The myth of Alcestes was artfully incorporated into the plot and used to illustrate difficult themes. It helped to capture the sense of heartbreak and betrayal, exhibiting the realism behind these thrillers. Because these books are better than simply pure entertainment- they have hidden depths. They are filled with pain and truth and snapshots of beauty.

And of course: a fabulous twist (which I won’t be spoiling for you! You’ll just have to read it!!) It was neatly done and boldly executed. I have nothing but good things to say about this book!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

5 bananas

So, have you read this? Do you plan to try it? Let me know in the comments!

The Maidens Had Me in its Thrall!

maidensDo you like twisted thrillers? Do you like books that don’t play it safe? Well then, I have a recommendation for you! The Maidens is dark academia meets mythology meets murder. Something of a marmite book, it seems to have divided some critics for its out-there plot and unusual style. And I have to admit, it’s a little bit mad… but that’s kinda why I liked it.

There was something uncanny that swept me up in the story. The atmosphere seeped through the pages and into my mind. Listening to the audiobook, I felt like I was stepping into a liminal space, teetering on the edge of reality. Written with tremendous skill, it incorporated Greek mythology and literary references without being ham-fisted and by using them to enhance the characterisation. Personally, I loved the use of the Persephone/Demeter myth. Remarkably for a thriller, I was as interested in the powerful portrayal of grief as I was in the ensuing drama.

Deeply entrenched in Greek tragedy, the themes it draws on are no accident. They are woven into the narrative as if by the Fates themselves. From the topic of family to vulnerable women, the dark truth is foreshadowed. And for all that I could see some flaws in the narrative- like some pointless (and obvious) red herrings- I still couldn’t stop reading.

I will admit that in some ways the finale is a little left of field, but I actually liked it for that! While the ending isn’t clearly signposted, with no obvious breadcrumbs or clues, it is clearly mapped out through other narrative hints and subtle cues (highlight for spoiler: I heard someone say that they didn’t think Sebastian was written as a narcissist, but I disagree, as there were moments in her memories where he was being cruel, yet these were cleverly rose tinted because of Marianne’s love and grief). In many ways, the mystery was more meaningful because of just how twisted it was. And that’s why if you’re looking for a thriller that’s a little different, I’d suggest giving this a go.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

4 bananas

So, have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2021!

Hello all! Time is going weirdly fast, or is that just me? October flew by in a whirlwind of pumpkins and chaos! Most importantly, of course, I read a lot of great books this month, so let’s jump straight into it!

The Shadows Between Us– this was the definition of fun fantasy! A Slytherin love story with fake dating and intriguing political plots, I couldn’t help but be enraptured. Never knowing who to trust, I was swept up in the unfolding drama. And with its fresh take on fantasy, I was quickly drawn into the lush and shadowy world of Shadows Between Us. Oh and of course the romance was TO DIE FOR! I listened to this romp on audiobook and definitely recommend it for people who are looking for a (somewhat dark) romantic YA fantasy!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

Kingdom of the Wicked– I’m not sure how much I can say about this other than I FRICKIN LOVED IT!! A witchy, demonic story set in Italy?! YES PLEASE!! I mean, there was dark romance, a story of vengeance, magic and FOOD DESCRIPTIONS!! You have to know that I WANT A SLICE OF THAT ANY DAY OF THE WEEK! I’m so sorry that I can’t do this book justice- I just haven’t read fantasy I’ve enjoyed as much as this in a while and simply devoured it. So so good- I definitely want to try more from the author now (can anyone tell me if Stalking Jack the Ripper is as good as this?)

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Any Way the Wind Blows– ah- now I have to admit this was a little bit on the disappointing side. I did wonder if I was just in the wrong mood when I picked it up, which is always possible, but I still can’t explain why it took me AGES to get through this book, even though I already love the characters and am invested in their stories. Well… all except Shepherd, who I don’t really care about enough to read about him in such detail. And as much as I don’t always mind predicting the twist, I found this one a tad obvious. I didn’t quite get as many warm fuzzies with this as I usually do with this series- though I did enjoy it overall and it’s not a bad conclusion (and luckily may not be the finale anyway).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Tweet Cute– it’s back to reality with this heart-squeezing contemporary. Centred around a twitter war over cheese toasties of all things, this is a brilliant take on enemies to lovers! Plus, with its secret app elements, I felt like this was a genuinely fun update to Gossip Girl (absolutely mean that as shade towards the new Gossip Girl). Naturally, because I am a very cheesy person, I loved all the grate puns and jokes. I gouda say this book did not take itself too seriously- it just got cuter and cuter. This was all around brie-lliant. (Okay, I’ll stop now 😉)

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Night She Disappeared- I listened to this on audio (as I often find Lisa Jewell books work so well that way) and was definitely swept up in the complexities of this suspense-thriller. Once again, Jewell delivered a story that was far more about the people going through hell, rather than just being simply plot driven. I did like that the investigator character was a mystery writer herself- that added a nice dimension- however the one thing that made no sense to me was that (minor spoiler) she somehow didn’t spot a reference to her own book!!! How did she not remember writing it?! Anyway, this was bonkers (in a good way) and as emotionally resonant as I’ve come to expect from this author. Looking forward to whatever she writers next!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

We Watch You– and last but certainly not least, I’m very excited to recommend a book by our very own brilliant blogging author, N S Ford! Engrossing from the start, this multi-perspective book about a stalker (or potentially stalkers) was definitely a thrill ride. Each of the characters was distinctive and it was intriguing to get to know them… especially as the stalker seemed interested in targeting them for the things they loved the most. I won’t say anymore because *spoilers* except to say that the ending was unusual and took me by surprise! Kinda wish I’d had my antennae up earlier and paid more attention to the hints!

Rating: 4/5 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!

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 – 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!

When I Read the How and the Why

the how and the whyWhy hadn’t I heard much about this book? It is such a hidden gem! Centring on themes of identity, this tells the story of a theatre nerd teen trying to find answers about her adoption. It is an old-school coming-of-age story in the best way; it is the kind of story that wraps you up in its arms and gives you a great big hug! Listening to this audiobook absolutely made my heart sing!

Not that this gives you a glossy-version of reality. No, this is the kind of contemporary that doesn’t hold back. This is not some fairy tale- it’s about realising the value of real life and coping with the hand you are dealt. Dreams don’t magically come true and that’s okay. Sometimes it hurts and that’s okay. Everyone, as it turns out, has skeletons in their cupboards (and their family trees). Personally (and I know this won’t be the case for everyone) I loved that this wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows the whole time- I think it’s a good thing to have a counterweight to the Hollywood narrative we’re often spun. Because life isn’t easy- but it sure as hell is beautiful.

And that’s what this book really shows. Hand’s book dances into the spotlight and announces to the world the importance of friends and family- with *jazz hands*. It is cute and sweet and full of forgiveness. It hits all the right notes emotionally. I just loved the little touches and the big finale… Which admittedly left me longing for more (/to go back to the beginning and start again!)

Overall, there was a lot more to this than I thought there would be. I’m grateful that this came into my life at precisely the right moment- it’s almost as if the entire world conspired to help me find it and the universe unfolds as it should…

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

4.5 bananas 

So, have you read this book? Do you plan to now? Let me know in the comments?

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Sleeping Through to September 2021!

Hello all! I don’t know about you, but August was a bit of a blur. I’ve been so busy that I couldn’t even say where the month went. What I can say for certain is that I enjoyed getting rained on in Rye 😉 Such a cute town, with quaint architecture and lovely places to eat! 😊

Okay, moving on to tv and movies… which I didn’t watch much- except rewatching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (delightfully bonkers) and Cruella (delightfully wicked! Loved the aesthetic and music!)

Which just leaves me with the books I read!

Thursday Murder Club– this was just as fun as I thought it would be! Centred around a group of seniors who investigate cold cases, this quirky crime novel was absolutely delightful. What I most appreciated about it was how much heart it had. I liked the way that clues were used to tell individual stories, fleshing out characters, rather than simply moving the plot forward. One was so beautiful, it made me cry. I also liked how (almost) everything came together at the end, linking the ending to the beginning. A lot of fun and worth listening to on audio!  

Rating: 4½ bananas

Nightingale– Read this if you want your heart broken a million times over. This was a moving wonderfully done WW2 novel, focusing on the occupation in France. I listened to this on audiobook and was actually crying in the street because of it! And I didn’t even care! I just wanted my beloved characters to make it through to the end. The descriptions were so powerful and immersive, I felt like I was living their story. An absolutely beautiful read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

A Kind of Spark– this MG book was simply perfect! The story of an autistic eleven-year-old who just wants to get justice for women who were persecuted in witch trials. In many ways, it reminded me of Wonder, telling kids okay to be different and stand out. I loved how this focused on friendship and family. A must-read for children and adults alike! 😊

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Familiars– hubble bubble toil and trouble- this historical fiction had more than a hint of charm. Set in 1612 around the looming Witch Trials, I loved how this focused on sisterhood and friendship above all. I happily whizzed through the story, appreciating its subtlety. As the plot developed it became more tricksy and devilishly dramatic, until something had to give. The enchantingly ambiguous ending was brilliantly crafted and spelled my love for the book. I know I’m bound to read more from this author now!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas  

You and Me on Vacation– this one didn’t quite take off for me. While I found the concept fun- two friends who go on holiday together every year have one last chance to fall in love- I was mostly just irked by the storyline. I prefer rom coms where there’s actual obstacles and didn’t understand why these lovebirds weren’t together. I also didn’t like that Sarah- the male love interest’s on-again-off-again-ex- was made out to be the “bad guy”. She (rightly) gets upset that her bf goes on holiday with the female lead over and over again… and we as the reader know that said female lead has a crush on the bf and is constantly trying to break them up. So, it made it pretty hard to root for the female protagonist. Luckily, there’s no actual cheating, but it still felt ickily close to emotional cheating. And while it was good that the protagonist apologised for messing with this other girl’s relationship, it was resolved by Sarah saying “oh without you around as an obstacle we fell apart quicker”… which I didn’t like either. I’m just a bit tired of romances that let people off the hook for being shitty people just because. It tells me that they think love is simply wanting someone more (which seems more like entitlement and narcissism to me). It’s not a terrible book, but I felt like I needed a break from rom coms after.

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!

Howling My Appreciation for the Wolf Hall Series!

wolf hall bookI have to admit, I was really reluctant to try the Wolf Hall series. Though I’d heard nothing but good things from friends, fantastic fellow bloggers and colleagues, the first chapter is so brutally heavy going that I didn’t think I could make it through the first book, let alone the densely written stonker of a series. Still, after I was recommended it for the millionth time, I had a brainwave to try out the audiobook. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my recent foray into audiobooks, it’s that they’re terrific for tackling tomes. And whaddya know?! I fell hook line and sinker for this series.

After biting the inside of my cheek through the torturous first chapter, I was off. Taken far beyond the bounds of my imagining, deep into the heart of court life in Tudor England. It wasn’t so much that I could picture the setting- I was there body and soul. The richly depicted world, stitched together with exquisitely precise descriptions fully transported me. I felt like I walked alongside Thomas Cromwell, following to where his intelligent eye snagged. Picking over every detail for intrigue that would later become relevant.

For this is a story that is layered in a way that beguiles. Through the narrative, you are given hints and told to suspect every cast member- and yet it is always a surprise to find what is lurking in the round each corner. It is a story that builds on its tension and intricacies with every turn of the page, blotting out your expectations. It is, in short, a masterpiece.

Characterisation is where this series shines. I love how well Mantel paints psychological portraits with such subtle strokes. Each line on Cromwell draws us deeper into his psyche, illuminating his intelligence and strength, yet also the shadows of his vulnerability, humanity and even guilt.

And in some ways her portrayal of Anne Boleyn is even better. It’s an intriguing depiction- not quite like any other version I have seen before (and yet isn’t that always going to be the case for such an enigmatic figure as Anne?) Personally I really enjoyed this manipulative Anne, with her bursts of narcissistic rage, who has met her match in Cromwell. Strangely more captivating still is her transformation in Bring Up the Bodies as she tightens the noose around her own neck (spoiler alert 😉). While she sees the danger, she only digs her grave deeper, acting like a guilty woman. It’s almost as if she wrote the perfect script for her own demise. For me, it is the perfect depiction of a rise and fall.

bring up the bodiesOf course, so much of Cromwell’s own story hinges on this. He must continue to rise- or he will fall. It is an inevitability of a self-made man. And it is woven into the plot. Mantel is frequently careful with her words, giving the slightest hints of foreshadowing. Blink and you will miss them. We sense the tragedies waiting before they hit. We know that everything could turn on a dime. And that is precisely what happens in Bring Up the Bodies.

Every piece of the puzzle slots into place. The carefully laid out chess board marches to its bloody conclusion. It is sudden and entirely predictable- as all the best stories should be. It was acted out, just as Cromwell planned.

mirror and the lightNonetheless, there is a greater hand guiding the players. And that is the well-known fate of Cromwell, where the story winds up the story in The Mirror and the Light. Here, the languid pace slows even more, which makes sense as the stage lights dim. And yet, while I think it is an overall good conclusion, the time taken to tell it was not entirely necessary. It does not help that without Anne, the series suffers. But, I would not miss this ending- if nothing other than to feed my addiction. There is a sense that it circles back round to the start and that everything was leading to this point.

Wolf Hall dug its claws into me and recalled my passion for historical fiction. Beneath history there is a wealth of stories and Mantel is magnificent at telling them.

Rating: 4.5 bananas

So, have you read some or all of the Wolf Hall trilogy? What did you think of this beast of series? Let me know in the comments!

Heart Principle Struck an Emotional Chord

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- though the book-love is all me***

After falling head over heels for Hoang’s Kiss Quotient and Bride Test, I calculated a high probability of loving every single book she releases. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read The Heart Principle as soon as possible! Naturally, I wasn’t disappointed.

I quickly got tangled up in Anna’s story: a violinist going through burnout and a breakup- yeesh! That’s a helluva lot to have on your plate. But, enter hot motorbike-riding Quan and we have ourselves a love story waiting to happen.

While Quan has all the trappings of a bad boy, he’s the kind of cinnamon roll that makes your heart sing. It’s actually rather ironic that the “nice guy” her family approve of is a TOTAL JERK. Looks can be deceiving- and it didn’t take long for me to be making *heart eyes* at her new beau.  

Yet as romantic as this was, I felt like in some ways that took a backseat to Anna’s personal journey. Because this is really about being blocked creatively and struggling to do the thing you love most in the world. Because how do you even deal with not being able to do the thing that defines you? For me, this was a punch in the gut, cos oof I hardcore relate to feeling like this. It got me thinking about all the things I’ve been grinding my teeth over lately. And of course, this gives the answer that you have to find a way back to the pure joy, the love, the happiness… but, as the Heart Principle shows, it’s not simple. You don’t just feel ready one day, pick up the bow and the music comes. It takes time and turning up and a lot of deep breaths before you get there. And I really appreciated how patiently the story traced over the notes and melodically made its way towards healing.

What’s great is how personal this story is. Beyond her individual difficulties, she’s trying to navigate her relationship with her family. Trapped by their expectations of her, I felt her agony as she tried to balance being a good daughter and being true to herself (particularly after her recent autism diagnosis). As much as she wants to be understood, she also wants to take control of her own life. And that’s not an easy path to navigate. Through the narrative, Anna breaks down the problem into individual bars, playing through them, circling back, until she finally makes it through the whole piece. I really liked how raw and honest this was. I felt like I got to know the characters in such an intimate way.

Another beautiful addition to Hoang’s collection, I was certainly swept up in this story. Can’t wait to be carried away by another of her romances!

Rating: 4/5 bananas  

So, have you read any books by Helen Hoang? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!