One by One Piqued My Interest

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the upbeat ramblings are all me!***

one by oneBeing stranded in the snow-covered alps with a group of people that hate each other sounds pretty close to the ninth circle of hell. No spoilers ahead, but that’s pretty much the vibe of Ruth Ware’s spin on And Then There Were None. To give you a quick snapshot, One by One gives us an inside peek at a tech company retreat that goes horribly wrong. And as you might suspect from a book with such strong Agatha Christie vibes, this has some pretty wild twists and turns.

Isolated in at a ski chalet after an avalanche, it’s the perfect setting for a claustrophobic thriller. Even though I was reading it in the summer heat, I caught chills. The atmosphere totally transported me. I was locked into these character’s heads, not knowing who I could trust and where it was leading.

Very quickly, the story freefalls Off-Piste. People start dying. There’s real tension as the pace picks up and the tenuously forged alliances go downhill. The plot plummets over the edge as it races towards a heartstopping conclusion.

Each of the POVs worked for me. They led me down one path, only for me to discover I’d been led astray. My allegiances shifted with the narrative. I loved snooping inside the main character’s heads and thought their perspectives were fascinating. One by one, their secrets get revealed… until there were none.

Speaking of nosing into other people’s business, that’s along the lines of what this tech company does, listening to celebs music taste along with them. While I didn’t relate to this social media aspect completely (I’m much too uncool for all that) I have to admit it added a salaciously soapy dimension. I couldn’t look away.

Ultimately, this ticked so many boxes for me. Thumbs up!

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Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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And that’s all I’m going to give you! Do you plan on reading One by One? Have you tried Ruth Ware before? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – A Long December

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Soooo November was a month and a half… It started out pretty quiet- and then I found out I will be moving flat before the end of the year– which to be fair has been in the works for a while, but I only got confirmation when that’ll be happening mid-November. That’s obviously meant I’ve been a bit all over the place when it comes to blogging- and unfortunately might mean a bit more disruption in the next few weeks- though I do have some posts planned/scheduled. Needless to say, this could end up being a long December- WISH ME LUCK!

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Annnd to top it all off, I also managed to get a bit sick, which wasn’t a fun state to be in while lugging boxes of books…

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O-k-a-y I think we’ve covered all the life updates- I’ll keep you posted on all of that- until then let’s talk about what really matters: BOOKS! Fortunately, I managed to get some reading in this month, though granted it tailed off towards the end. So here we go!

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Grace and Fury– I was pleasantly surprised by this YA! It was one of the books I got from Naty and I’m so glad, because I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise! Opening with a nice bait and switch (which I can’t reveal cos it’s quite spoiler) I was instantly drawn into the intense and fast-paced plot. With a graceful writing style and furious world building, I quickly got the sense that this story was basically Handmaid’s Tale meets Italian culture. Personally, I liked how the narrative played with themes like knowledge is power, whilst very much keeping the entertainment value going. That said, though I didn’t guess everything, there were elements that were a tad predictable. One of the biggest issues being that a very famous book (written at the same time) had the exact same plot twist- which is just unlucky. Since I could see various things coming, there were times when I was screaming at Nomi “don’t you know you’re a YA heroine?” Serina ended up being far more interesting to me, because she had so much more room for growth. Still, the dual perspective really worked for me and I definitely want to read more! I’ve already reserved the next one at my library 😊

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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in order to live

In Order to Live– I don’t have a lot to say about this autobiography from a young North Korean defector other than you should read it! Such an incredible and moving story, this is by far one of the best things I’ve read this year. It reduced me to a blubbering mess. There were two things that struck a chord with me the most: firstly, that there is only a one-year age difference between Park and me, which is a crazy thing to put in context; and secondly, Park talking about how Animal Farm and 1984 opened up her understanding of North Korea, which I think is so important for those who doubt the veracity of these works. This book could well be the puzzle piece linking Orwell’s prophetic vision with the real world. I know that Park taught me so much about the realities of living in a communist state and I believe it has the power to shake the world. I regret that I don’t have more to say, I was just too absorbed in it to write notes. So just read it, okay?

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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bright side

Bright Side– I’ve been meaning to read this Adult Romance for *years*- and I finally did it! Ever since I read Deanna @A Novel Glimpse’s glowing reviews and generally chatting about it, I bought it on kindle and was saving it for a rainy day. It did take me a while to get into the writing style, but I slowly but surely really warmed to the heroine and the cute (and sometimes steamy) romance. In fact, I defy anyone not to fall for the main character- she’s the kind of person guaranteed to make anyone smile! Buuut this is also the kind of story to drive you to tears (which seems like a bit of a theme this month 😉). Cos OOF- this gets emotional. So, thanks Deanna for that 😉 (just kidding, I love when books make me cry 😉 this is going down as one of the best book blogging recs! ❤ ). I absolutely recommend this if you like the genre- just make sure you have a box of tissues handy, cos you’re gonna need it!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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turn of the key

Turn of the Key– I’ve been really into thrillers the last few months and this one was high on my radar- because I loved the Smart House modern twist on Turn of the Screw– what a genius idea! And I have to say, that was the part Ware really pulled out all the stops. The creepy setting and chilling atmosphere was the book’s biggest strength. It was super addictive as well- the kind of thriller you won’t want to put down. As a retelling, it did have subtle hints of the original, including the unreliable narrator and unlikeable characters. I also appreciated some of the *bombshell* secrets along the way; some of those plot twists were insane! That said, it’s quite hard not to draw comparisons with the original and find this comes up short at times. One of the biggest draws of Henry’s narrative is the ambiguity- which I understand isn’t a massive selling point to the modern audience- so when the final reveal twist came… I wasn’t entirely behind it. Partly because I’m not a huge fan of that particular twist in fiction, but mostly because sometimes it’s better not knowing all the answers. Still, a really solid contemporary thriller:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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call down the hawk

Call Down the Hawk– this book was like reading a dream. Everything is slightly hard to pin down- while you know there is meaning in there somewhere, if you can only grab it and pull it out, it’s kind of a trippy experience travelling through the narrative. From the mesmerising opening, the simply stunning writing draws you back into the world of the Raven Cycle. Except this sequel series is more focused on the Dreamer, Ronan, who just so happened to be my favourite character! I loved seeing some of the old gang- the Lynch brothers, Adam, Chainsaw and Opal all starred in this again. I did also come to like some of the new characters- especially Jordan Henessey- whose story was unique and fitting and took the plot in a good direction. Ultimately, I did enjoy this, though it was certainly an unusual read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October

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Phew- I’ve gotta admit my thoughts about this month were a bit like this for me…

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Thank goodness it’s October, the month of spookiness, pumpkins and maybe even a little controversy 😉 But, more on my blogging plans later! For now, let’s talk about the *ridiculous* amount of reading I did to get me through last month. As you’ll notice, I was not only on a MASSIVE thriller kick, but I also felt the need to talk about most books I read last month. So, strap in, it’s gonna be a long one!

death of mrs westaway

The Death of Mrs Westaway– such a strong thriller to start on! Let’s break it down:

One, the sorrowful opening had me intrigued, flying into that old magpie nursery rhyme many of us have ingrained since childhood, nesting layers of mystery.

Two, the gothic vibes and overt links to Rebecca really worked for me, especially as we journeyed into Cornwall. Yet, don’t be fooled! It’s far from a straightforward retelling…

Three, the girl is the magician figure at the heart of the story- a tarot reader upturning the perfectly ordered world of the Westaways, reading more than she should in the cards.

Four, the boys on which the clues converge caught my eye.

Five, the silvery writing kept me engaged throughout.

Six, the golden promise of the premise, leading me down one path, only to about turn down another. I suspected the outcome early on, but Ware’s nicely played sleight of hand fooled me so that I couldn’t properly foresee the outcome.

Seven, all the secrets that unfold. Each one is more satisfying to uncover than the last. The one thing holding me back from rewarding this with all the bananas is that the perp is the *usual suspect*. Still, I’d highly recommend this:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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the woman in cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10– so the pitch for this thriller is pretty straightforward: Rear Window- on a boat! It’s a fun idea and kept me absorbed throughout, but I couldn’t say it made a big splash overall. Perhaps it was cos I was drowning in thrillers this month, yet a lot of this felt like it was treading water trying to be different and still felt samey. I wasn’t hugely taken with the mc and the twists didn’t really wash. Still, I do like how Ware weaves in inspiration from other sources and will keeping a keen eye out for more of her books:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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last time I lied

Last Time I Lied– to tell the truth, this was my favourite thriller of the month. Reading this was pretty much a no brainer after Lock Every Door– and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Beginning with a powerful use of second person pov, I was instantly gripped by the descriptive prose and tragic backstory. As is the case in many thrillers, I wasn’t quite able to connect with the characters, but the plot more than made up for that. Last Time I Lied was compelling, unpredictable and led down slippery paths. Though I knew something bad would happen, I could never count on the whens, whys, hows. I was as lost as the protagonist. My attention dipped momentarily… only for the BIG TURN to pick up the pace again. The *freaky* turn of events grabbed my attention. I was practically shouting at the reveals. I had been led to believe I was in for a straightforward ending… but I was completely deceived. *WOW*- it blew my expectations right out of the water. All in all, this was a super summery thriller. Sager has now made a habit of keeping me up at night. I can’t lie: I want to read more from this author.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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final girls

Final Girls– with a cool horror-movie-themed concept and a gripping opening, I thought I was guaranteed another rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, I found the flashback scenes far more interesting than the present-day narrative. I’ve mentioned before I have difficulty making sense of thriller-characters- and the protagonist’s boyfriend and mum were the best example of this- what the eff was up with their attitudes?! I mean, they spent the entire book thinking the mc ought to be completely normal after her ordeal, even though it was completely understandable that she wasn’t! I did like the unreliable side to the protagonist, especially since it blended well with her cookie-cutter façade. Still, I did enjoy the vast majority of the plot and where a lot of the breadcrumbs led. The problem is, I just wasn’t crazy about that final twist. Once again, I thought I could guess the twist… but I got it all wrong. Yet this time it was because the lead was buried too deep. After the more intriguing premise, highlight for spoilers, I felt the *here’s another random sociopath again* disappointing. It was just another guy without a proper motive. So, the bait and switch with the baddies felt unnecessary. I did like this book, but it wasn’t the best:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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wife between us

The Wife Between Us– I’m divided on my feelings for this book. It was particularly well written, had a strong premise and a great midpoint turn, alas- it just wasn’t the mind-blowing book I was hoping for. It was a typical thriller focusing on domestic violence. Nothing about it truly shook me to my core or shocked me. I could see a lot of the story beats a mile off. This was by no means bad, but I can’t see why the hype train was so wedded to this book 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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witches of east end

Witches of East End- an atmospheric opening, a cool concept, a story I already liked from the show- what could go wrong? Well, sadly, a few things. Even though the show is a vague memory at this point, I did remember that some aspects were done better and I just preferred the TV take. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I had when I watched the show. Fortunately, the plot did keep me on my toes. Since it was so long since I’d seen the show, I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout. And the ending definitely had a strong hook to make the reader want to pick up more… if only I had been more in love with the rest of it!

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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beastly

Beastly- well this is another one where I’d seen the adaptation first, buuut I ended up preferring the book to the film! Success! Given that this is a retelling, I don’t suppose it mattered much that I already knew the story. Besides, I thought this was a spunky, modern take on the classic. While I’m not usually keen on text-speak, I did like how it was used here to spark a bit of humour. The story also felt deeper than the movie- yes, the message of inner beauty being more valuable was repetitious- but at least it made more sense than in the Hollywood version where everyone was conventionally attractive throughout. I particularly preferred the book’s ending- it had some nice, unexpected turns and was more dramatic. All in all, I didn’t go in expecting anything fresh, so was pleasantly surprised to find this blossomed into a sweet romantic YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Beowulf– this was *hands down* the best book I read all month. This exquisite translation by Seamus Heaney gave me a newfound respect for his work and I owe thanks to the fantastic Joelendil for recommending it to me. I absolutely adored the way the alliterative language leapt off the page and painted a vivid picture of the past. While I don’t personally know Old English, I found it fascinating to have a bilingual edition, because I could easily compare individual words and phrases. The story itself was a lot more entertaining than I thought. Every part worked in tandem to create thrilling tension and awe-inspiring drama. This took me to grim depths and dragon-soaring highs. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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eugene onegin

Eugene Onegin– there was a lot to like about this: the story, the character and Pushkin’s conversational tone all shined through in Roger Clarke’s translation. Sadly though, something does feel lost in this rather literal translation. Something of old Russia is evoked, but not as much as I’d have liked. I felt like I was only getting half the wonder, a glimpse of the beauty, a fraction of the emotion. Ah well, not every translation can all be as good as Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. It was still worth the read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas 

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So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!