The Ivies was a Killer Read!

Who wouldn’t kill to get into an Ivy League College? Well, most people obviously 😉 But at Claflin Academy, there’s plenty of suspects when a student with a coveted place at an Ivy is brutally murdered. With biting humour and plenty of drama, Donne’s new YA thriller instantly grabbed my attention and refused to let go.

From the juicy opening, the tension sizzles. The voicey style gives you a direct insight into the main character’s point of view and helps you get to know her (largely irredeemable) cohort. As the twists came thick and fast, I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know everything.

Because this group of teens have more than their fair share of secrets. There’s no way I could have seen all the twists coming- which was precisely what I wanted from this book. And then there was the big reveal- *highlight for spoilers*- DAMN Donne did the secret sociopath well. It’s breadcrumbed nicely, but not too obvious. Personally, I also loved the motive, because it’s not straightforward jealousy (which I think some people have misunderstood). It’s actually a pretty clever reason.

For me, the ending completely hit the mark. I liked that it wasn’t too clean. Again, a bit spoilery, but I don’t know why people expected the main character to grow in this one- it’s not that type of story. I liked that this didn’t hold back and went with the boldest outcome. I don’t want my thrillers to pull their punches.

There is politics in the book- but for once I didn’t find it entirely off-putting. Perhaps this was helped by the fact it was in first person. And that her views only add to Olivia’s characterisation as an insufferable hypocrite (did I mention that the characters aren’t all that likeable?)

This was everything I want in a YA thriller. And of course, it was dead fun.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

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!

Loudly Proclaiming My Thoughts on the Quiet At The End of the World

When I started reading this book I was lulled into a false sense of security. Initially, I believed it to be a cleverly done concept, following the aftermath of a pandemic that caused human infertility. As gloomy as the setting was, I found myself absorbed by the melancholic tone and intriguing ideas. And if nothing else, I appreciated the schadenfreude that our current apocalypse situation wasn’t quite as dire. I liked how it engaged with archaeology of the present, mining social media to uncover both individual histories and an entire global reaction to a crisis. While it lacked some prevalent aspects of our recent reaction to a pandemic (eg humour), I was impressed that the author had been able to predict how some people would react to an existential crisis. I liked the social media acted as a time capsule for this moment. I thought it was showing us a Black Mirror style possibility of people turning to apps to fill the void inside themselves.  

… except that was not where it was going at all. Because when the twist came (*spoiler warning*) that the world was inhabited by the robot-baby devices created to help with feelings of loss, the last two humans on earth decide to advocate for robots as the next stage of evolution. You see, in the story, human extinction is a shame, but not the end of the world, because robots would be more responsible with the planet- yay?!

To me, this is entirely nihilistic and human-hating. There is a heavy-handed implication that people shouldn’t have been so selfish as they went extinct and should have thought about keeping the robot babies “alive” (whilst ironically showing that the robot babies are prone to the same foibles, so aren’t exactly an upgrade). There is the oh-so-typical modern guilt imposed upon the reader that humanity should repent its existence. Then there is the message that humanity can just be replaced and isn’t worth fighting for- which didn’t sit well with me- because, well, I love humanity.

To my mind, this narrative speaks to a deep sense of self-loathing. Any attempt at nuance is drowned out by this underlying emotion. I know there are people out there who think that robots would make an adequate (or even superior) replacement to humanity- yet I am not one of them. I do not think that an entity that shares the same consciousness, but have a different aesthetic, would be an improvement. I do not think that immortality, giving an endless amount of time to achieve less (and without any of the moral qualms to hold it back), would be an improvement. I do not think that a human’s value goes bone-deep.

I think to go down this “perfectionist” line of argument is somewhat dangerous. I think it is troubling to suggest the world would be better off without humans. And it is most disturbing to see this idea presented to teens without any kickback. When one reads YA like this, it is unsurprising that so many young adults are depressed and anxious. I would have been- if I wasn’t so infuriated.

I respectfully disagree with the author calling this “uplifting”. It seems more death cult-y to me. Though the author clearly has talent, I was less-than-enamoured by the end:

Rating: 2/5 bananas

So, dare I ask, what did you think of this book? Have you read it? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – just in time for June!

Hello all! Hope you all had a marvellous May- I’ve enjoyed two lovely long weekends and (finally) some sunshine!! The funny thing about leaving the house more is that somehow I’ve made more time for movies… so there will be a separate post for that at some point, cos I have *opinions*. Also, I’ve been giving out a lot of bananas for books this month- but I don’t care, because they all deserved it! Let’s see why shall we?  

The Summer Job– starting with a sizzler for summer time. I loved this fresh and fun book, all about a girl who takes a summer job… that isn’t hers. Whisked away to the Scottish setting, I thoroughly enjoyed all the talk of food and wine. The love interest was an absolute cinnamon roll and the story had a joyful flavour. I like how it explored friendship with some depth. It was a perfect palate cleanser and ideal for fans of Beth O’Leary.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

In a Dark, Dark Wood– despite hearing this is not Ware’s best, I enjoyed this more than I expected I would. While there were some repeats of plot points from her other books, particularly its And Then There Were None vibes, it still had nice twists and turns (which I can’t reveal cos they’re *spoilers*). The one thing I did have an issue with was the main character’s motivation to go to this hen weekend in the first place- because I certainly wouldn’t have set foot there! I think it could have been fleshed out more. There were also some loose ends. Clearly, Ware has tightened up her plots since this, yet it was a good fix to tide me over till her next release (more of this please!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

Transcendent Kingdom– this reminds me why I read lit fic- because this was *glorious*. The story itself is a snapshot of what it’s like to grow up as a new migrant in America, yet zooms in on one individual family’s story. It’s so beautifully written that I glided through the prose. Though it has a fragmentary and non-chronological structure, I couldn’t stop reading. The unusual form was handled masterfully, dissecting the emotion and presenting it to the reader. I’m starting to adore everything this author writes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Bone Shard Daughter– sadly this didn’t quite do it for me. Despite the cool world building and the intriguing perspective of the bone shard daughter, I didn’t have much interest in the rest of the story or characters. I feel like this would have been far more immersive if there had been fewer points of view and expanded on the elements that worked.

Rating: 3.5/5 bananas

Made You Up– this was the real deal! Telling the unusual YA contemporary about a girl with schizophrenia, it had a vivid energy. Though I cannot speak to its authenticity, it felt powerfully empathetic. I felt as if I was deep inside her head and hearing her struggles. I also liked the motif of photography for this story- it was a clever addition to the narrative. I do have to say that I found the middle a little hazy- yet the beginning and ending really worked for me. This was not as proficient as Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters, but a great story nonetheless!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The Light Between Worlds– isn’t the title for this book just brilliant? As a reimagining of the aftermath of children finding their way into a Narnia-like-world, the concept of this story intrigued me straight away. Luckily, I was far from disappointed. While this does have flashbacks from the protagonists’ time in the Woodlands, this focuses more on what it means to return home. It is not an action-packed story, but a deep character study that holds its own magic. Focusing first on a Lucy-like character and then on a Susan stand-in, this was as much about sisterly relationships as it was about the abstract discussions of growth after trauma. I really liked how it reinvented the Lucy dynamic, showing how she’s actually got a great challenge to fit in after Narnia, which she can’t quite live up to. I also liked that this examined the treatment Susan gets in the later Chronicles of Narnia, showing that her path to trying to forget is just as understandable as clinging onto the past. It shows how we all struggle with trauma in different ways. And I was particularly impressed with how the story acknowledges that the greatest trauma comes from our own actions. Profound and well written, I found this a fascinating fantasy.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Road Trip– Beth O’Leary is back with another delightful contemporary! With two holidays for the price of one, five friends stuffed into a mini and plenty of history- this was one helluva ride! Jumping between “now” and “then”, you get a glimpse of the summer romance and then the less-glamorous aftermath. Thanks to this, you get to see some very contrasting settings and circumstances. It builds up the characters and relationships throughout the journey. The story soon goes off in a hilarious direction, making me laugh out loud and cheering me right up (even if a road trip isn’t on the cards for me any time soon). This ended up being far more than a second chance romance, exploring some difficult topics along the way. I was very sad to finish it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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 – May it be May 2021?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Rating: 4.5/5 bananas

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

Rating: 2.5/5 bananas

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

Iron Raven Was a Somewhat Steely Start to a Series

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the opinions are all my own***

iron ravenWell I’m going to be very blunt straightaway: this reads more like a series continuation than a series opener. Sure, there are plenty of introductory elements and there is a focus on setup, yet it’s really grounded in all the books in the Iron Fey that have come before. While I actually read the Lost Prince first, then was able to go back and experience the books that came before, I personally don’t think you will get much enjoyment out of this new book without already knowing the characters. Not only is this book banking on nostalgia, it doesn’t do much in the way of helping readers get to know existing characters. Most of the players in this story already have rich backstories and their reintroductions really serve as reminders rather than a catch you up. And as a fan of the series, that didn’t put too much of a dent in my enjoyment, because I already love them so much.

So really, all of this is to say if you like YA fantasy and you haven’t tried the Iron Fey series, I strongly recommend it!

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On the plus side, all the things that Kagawa does well are here. I loved the tone, the descriptions, the immersive setting. I fell back into her world easily. While there are hints of developing darkness, that’s mostly overshadowed by the light voice. As a fan of Puck and Kagawa has made the character her own, it was an absolute pleasure to get the story from his perspective. I also appreciated Nyx as a new character and think her past could be potentially interesting. The one big issue I had was that the romance felt rushed and unearned.

Other than that, it was a good read. Not my favourite in the series, but a diverting enough addition.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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So, have you read this or any of the other books in the Iron Fey Series? Do you plan to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Kindred- A Masterpiece That’s Unlike Any Other!

kindredWhat a book! I didn’t know much about it going in, except that it was about time travel. From the brilliant, brilliant opening I was sucked into the story, as I began to get an inkling that I was in for something special. Fast forward a few pages later and I found my footing in the unusual structure. For the most part, it is a chronological story from the perspective of the heroine, though this involves jumping back and forth in time.

Unusually for a sci fi, the style reads more like a classic or historical fiction. Yet at the same time, it was so so gripping. Full of action, it kept me on the edge of my seat, unsure what would happen and scared for the consequences of each choice. I especially loved was how the rules for the time travel were quickly and simply established- yet the discussions surrounding it are endlessly complex.

What’s interesting is how the main character does not come across as a straightforward heroine. However nice it would have been to read a story of wish-fulfilment, she doesn’t simply storm into the past and fix everything. Instead, we see how she is often motivated by selfish desires and is forced to bear witness to the collateral damage of her choices. It raises the idea that as much as we would like to believe we would save history… we probably wouldn’t or couldn’t. And actually this is a more empathetic way of showing the victims of history: not only would we not do better, we’d probably do worse. Many times the protagonist recognises that she could not have made the choices her forebears did with dignity. And uncomfortable as it may make us, this discomfort is far more telling. We see deep inside the main character’s head, understanding, so that we might understand ourselves better.

This is easily the best time travel books I’ve ever read… heck it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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

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!

Burn Our Bodies Down Sparked Plenty of Intrigue

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but any spicy takes are all me!***

burn our bodies downThere’s no two ways about it: this is an unusual book. At its heart a mystery- yet with its heavy dose of the supernatural and its hints of horror, this isn’t you run-of-the-mill YA. It’s surreal, speculative and a little out there. But what can you expect from the author who gave us Wilder Girls? And yes, I feel it’s necessary to compare it to the Wilder Girls, because I’m beginning to feel like this author is doing so much of her own thing, she’s only truly comparable with herself… and that’s rather thrilling.

Despite a somewhat meandering (but still intriguing) start, the plot has potency. The author has a real gift for drawing you into her world and vividly set the scene. Not to mention the characters she casts to bring the story to life- they are all fractured in their own way, yet reflect back parts of reality. They carry the oddness and the moody tone. Again, it doesn’t quite remind me of anything else.

Then there’s the mystery itself. Full of those kind of jump scares that keep you on your toes and creepy realisations that set your hair on end. The mash-up of genres is interesting, giving answers and raising more questions still. I got a sense of a mythic elements, threading through the narrative. I did see some of the outcomes coming- though that hardly matters. It’s the kind of story that enjoys giving you bits and pieces- just so the slow-dawning terror of what is really going on can freak you out all the more. Plus, this does give you a more tangible ending than Wilder Girls (though I can’t actually decide which one is ultimately more unsettling).

And that’s really all I can say about it without getting into spoilers. I wrote a lot of things down in my notes that make no sense out of context (which is unfortunate, because it’s quite funny reading them back and seeing how my brain coped with the all the *whoas* this book delivered 😉).

I easily burned through this in a day and got more than a few chills along the way. And it definitely stands out as something a little bit different. (Also I have to mention how incredible I think that cover is!!)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? Do you plan to? Or have you read the author’s other work? Let me know in the comments!

An Honest Report on Code Name Verity: It Soars Above Expectations!

code name verity20th January, 2020

Report #CodeNameVerity

Truly, this is one of the best WW2 books I’ve ever read. Saying that this reveals the realities of being a war time spy and pilot fails to do it justice- for what this story really manages to record is the untold depths of real friendship.

audiobook2The first thing I need to state for the record is that the audiobook was excellent. Both performers were *on point*. I felt they captured the voicey nature of the writing and gave a strong sense of setting through their acting. They brought the vivid characters to life with their delivery- capturing every little piece of their personalities, from Verity’s wry humour to Maddy’s goodness. I also really appreciated their regional accents! (actually, that’s just one example of the authenticity here)

Second on the agenda: this was an exceptionally well written novel. I loved how it was structured- giving us clues and then decoding the narrative. I also really liked the construct of confessions and reports- complete with interjections. It added so many layers to the story, showing that the truth is not always so straightforward. Annnd I have to be careful with my words, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Plot-wise, this was terrifically thrilling. It flew from intense descriptions and emotional moments, right into action. Employing all kinds of tricks and turns- so you never knew what was going to hit you next. While it was possible to predict the ending, you were only given a glimpse from a bird’s eye view. By the time it was upon me, my heart was already freewheeling towards the ground.

Most of all, however, I wasn’t expecting this book to have quite as much depth as it did. For it didn’t just make me feel, it made me think as well. It dealt with complex issues in a way I rarely see in YA.

This was honestly wonderful. I just can’t keep my feelings for this book a secret; I love everything about it (even the author’s afterword!) And that’s all there is to say about it.

“Kiss me Hardy!”

– O. L.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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