Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – December 2020!

Okay, we’re moving into the final month of the year… and I’m ready to move on already. I ended up doing a project for work in November that just ate and ate and ate into my free time. Which means I don’t have a lot to report (other than I’m clearly stuttering through blogging right now). My plan at the moment is to end the year on a high… most likely just a sugar high 😉 Let’s not mince pies words, I’ve no idea what the last month of 2020 has in store, so I’m not going to promise anything! My only strategy is to keep calm and have a cookie…

Anyhoo, time to gorge ourselves on the great TV I’ve been watching…

The Queen’s Gambit this was the star of the month for me in TV! Like everyone with a Netflix account, I saw the advert, but didn’t think a drama about chess could hold my interest… shows what I know! I’m really glad I gave it a go, because this completely took me by surprise. Because it wasn’t just about chess (though that part was surprisingly amazing) it was an intense character study, focusing on the topic of obsession and addiction. All of which was captured in a way that made it feel like a real story. I loved the sumptuous setting, thought the lead’s performance was incredible and was impressed with the gripping storyline. I really recommend checking it out! (And all I want to know is whether the book is as good?!)

The Crown– well, I felt incredibly voyeuristic watching the Crown in season 4… which is my way of saying that, for all the inaccuracies, it was a strong season. Not just because the history around this is so fascinating, emotional and dramatic- but because there were some really good performances this year. I liked the take they had on Thatcher, thought showing Charles aging was a good idea and thought Diana was especially believable. The only episode I wasn’t keen on was the one about Fagan. I’m never a fan of turn-to-the-camera-and-preach moments, but this was made worse by the knowledge that the real Fagan couldn’t possibly have said all that since he was high on mushrooms, which messed with my suspension of disbelief. Other than that, it felt so realistic that a lot of the scenes this season made for uncomfortable watching. Yet, I can’t deny it was very addictive television.

The Plague– oof the subject matter for this one felt all too familiar. Okay, okay, we’re not dealing with the literal plague, but this was still pretty close to home. It’s incredible how this story not only crossed borders and has such depth of meaning in translation, but has also stood the test of time. It felt very universal. Trouble is, because of the current crisis, I did struggle to see the line between fiction and reality. I think I took a lot of this more literally than it was intended and lost (the probably considerable) metaphorical meaning. I’ll have to reread this again one day, when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Station Eleven– well, here was another book that was creepily like reality. So much so that I think the media used this book as their official guide on how to write about a pandemic. Anyway, I don’t know what made me pick this up in November, but I thought this was an impressive book. Again, I think this book might have been better if I’d read it before or after Covid. That said, there was a lot to appreciate about this book. I particularly liked how it flicked back and forth through time. And the story flew by at an alarming rate.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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I Know Who You Are- ugh this is one of those books I really wanted to praise… and can’t. Because the twist made me feel a bit sick to be honest. I’m going to spoil it in one word for those that want to know: incest. I mean, I should’ve seen it coming, but also why would I have seen that coming?! Yet, despite the stellar writing, there were some serious flaws in the narrative early on. Cracks that appeared out of nowhere and stretched any semblance of believability. There was just so much happening that it got really far-fetched. I kept thinking “surely this can’t all happen to one person?” And yet, it did keep happening. And happening. And happening. It was less like being kept on my toes and more like being forced to do a dance over hot coals. I could barely keep up with this crazy conga of ideas-smashed-together. And then there was that ending… and goddamn. No.

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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Loveless– I wasn’t in love with Loveless I’m afraid. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I have a love-hate relationship with Oseman, but I do enjoy some of her books more than others and this one wasn’t for me. The biggest barrier to my enjoyment is that Georgia is a *horrible* character. I can’t speak for things like authenticity, but I can say that I don’t really like people that use their friends the way she did. Experimenting on the bestie she knew had a crush on her was a big no-no. And just in case that didn’t leave enough of a sour taste, she’s also the kind of person that doesn’t know the *VERY BIG RED LINE* between someone saying something you don’t like and physical assault. Call me old fashioned, but assaulting a stranger doesn’t make you brave (*unless you think bravery is faceless jackboots). At the same time, she’s the kind of cowardly hyper-agreeable individual that can’t tell a girl sobbing in her arms that maybe just maybe she’s not happy and should make some changes. Another issue for me was that, while the voice sounded authentically teen, it did grate on me as immature, because they were supposed to be uni-aged. That said, it could just be that I’m old and aging out of the category, so take that with a pinch of salt 😉 The only reason I didn’t DNF this was cos I had to read on for Rooney and Pip’s relationship. Their relationship was worth every bit of page time (and should’ve had more). If that would’ve been the whole book, I’d have loved it.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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Majesty– I don’t have a great deal to say that I haven’t mentioned in my review for American Royals. This was just as fun, dramatic and entertaining as its predecessor! Picking up from where we left off, with a new American Queen, this launches straight into the action. And while this had some predictable elements, it still managed to surprise me! I loved that it didn’t go in the direction I expected and had plenty of exciting turns- particularly in the romance department. I enjoyed getting to know the characters even more than in the first one, as I was pleased with how far they’d come! Plus, I really like that this gives us the main antagonist’s perspective as well!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Labyrinth of the Spirits– I think like many people, I was sad to hear of Zafon’s passing this year. It made reading this all the more bittersweet. And it was already an emotional journey through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. As you will know, I love this story, so it was wonderful to see its conclusion. While it has a slow start, the building tension made it feel pacey. Slowly but surely, it weaves the mysteries from the previous stories together, drawing us into a labyrinth of secrets. It’s such a complex and dark story that you could easily get lost- and yet, incredibly, there is a light showing the way. Zafon gives us answers to questions launched in Shadow of the Wind. I realised by the end that we had the string to find our way through all along in the palm of our hands. I’m just so glad this story ended on such a strong note. I can now say that, even though each book acts as a standalone, it also really works as a complete series.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Winterwood- this was the very *definition* of atmospheric, autumnal reads. A witchy story that winds through a wooded path. Intricately plotted, it has a mystery that uncurls like a forest fire and must be devoured… before it devours you! It was so compulsive, I had to keep reading and reading and reading. I loved the stylistic originality of the writing as well- a few too many authors miss the mark trying to be unique with their imagery, but Ernshaw knows how to hang a single word on a sentence to give it a breadth of beauty. The multi povs were done well and the spells added a touch of charm to the characterisation. My one minor issue was that the romance was a tad fast- I felt like it needed more chemistry and a deeper connection. And yet, I also found the broad strokes of it lovely enough that it didn’t detract from the pleasure. I also saw one of the twists coming, yet it was the kind of story I can appreciate if it’s done well. And this was the kind of story that was done well.  

Rating: 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!

Monthly Monkey Mini Review – January: A Very Christmassy Selection and Bookish Bingo Wrap Up!

monthly mini reviews version 2

Hello all! We are now in 2019!!!

happy new year0008

What did I do to see out the last year? Well gorged myself on chocolate of course 😉

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Not necessarily an accurate representation, I just wanted to draw this 😉

Now last month (and year!!!) I mentioned I was participating in the wonderful Mim Inkling’s bookish bingo– which she hosted to celebrate 6 months on the platform! I had a lot of fun doing it and tried to keep peeps updated- but now it’s time for my wrap up. It’s gonna be a long one- so strap in!

wicked deep

Wicked Deep– this subtly spooky book really delivered the goods. The writing was atmospheric, the unique characters were interesting and the story was pretty twisty. I especially liked that Penny, the protagonist, felt hollowed out- that ended up linking into the plot in a clever way. I very much appreciated the cool setting and the witchy aspect to the story. My one issue with the book was that the romance fell into instalove territory (it didn’t help that the story addressed how fast this was because pointing out issues doesn’t really stop them feeling like flaws). Other than that, I was powerless to resist the Swan Sister’s allure. I suspected where it was going- but I wasn’t disappointed. It felt like I was plunged straight into the story and didn’t take a breath again until the end.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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  • A spooky read
  • A book that I borrowed (from the library)

coco caramel

Coco Caramel– I used to love this author and definitely recommend it for younger authors- so no shade here, I’ve just outgrown it. Some of Cassidy’s books can be slap bang in the middle of the YA category, but this one was closer to the MG group (although at this point who knows what gets classed as YA?) Anyway, Cassidy has a sweet way of writing and this does take you on quite the ride (with plenty of snacks along the way 😉 ). I did enjoy this by the end- much to my surprise- which speaks volumes about my maturity level. Usually there’s more of a balance between light and dark elements though.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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  • Something sweet
  • Something foodie

one day in december

One Day in December– honestly, this reminds me why I struggle with adult books sometimes. The “love triangle”/quadrangle in this book wasn’t so much that irritating trope we all know and hate- it was straight up cheating *sarcastic yayy*. Unfortunately this made me feel really conflicted about this book. I kind of ended up writing a list of pros and cons to try and clarify it to myself

  • It’s addictive
  • Love that it spans years- it gives it some scope
  • No matter how ridiculous it is, that ending is amazing and makes my sappy heart beat

Cons:

  • SO MUCH CHEATING
  • No real reason for her divorcing her husband.

So yeah… that was inconclusive. Some aspects were enjoyable, others not so much. I kind of get both sides of the love-hate train for this one- but in the end for me it was a great big “MEH I’ll hop off this bus”.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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  • Book with a month in the title
  • Book with a white cover

after the fire

After the Fire– this was an incredibly engaging read. I’m fascinated by the subject of cults and this filtered an inside-view through an incredibly engaging heroine. I particularly loved the gradual build of information and character. The interactions the protagonist had with both the therapist and FBI agent were brilliant- especially in the way they showed a build-up of trust. While it was heavy going at times, it was addictive and I was desperate to uncover all its secrets. I flew through this 500 page book. There were also logical explorations of Parson’s behaviour and the reasons for the mc’s PTSD (highlight for spoilers: it was exactly right to show the development of his sociopathic tendencies and the PTSD she had from killing someone was a wise decision). I’m kind of sad I don’t have more to say on this very accomplished book- I was just too absorbed to write notes!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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  • A book that won an award (YA Book Prize)

warriors into the wild

Warriors: Into the Wild– this was incredibly cute and funny at times. I definitely recommend this as an adventure for kids. Ultimately, this was not totally for me, though I see why people like it. Even if I didn’t connect, I’m not the target audience so I don’t suppose it matters.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • With an animal as the main character
  • A children’s book

academic curveball

Academic Curveball– so, you guys have probably seen that I really like Jay’s other books, which is why, even though this isn’t typically a genre I pick up, I felt compelled to read it. And of course, I was instantly rewarded. The opening captured me with its excellent use of voice. I really loved the characters- everyone in this seemed so full of life- not least Nana D! Every relationship was so well handled and made them more likeable. As the story went on, the drama amped up, making me keen to read more. The trickle of information kept that tension going right up until the last page- where, *whoa*, that ending was quite the curveball. While I definitely want to read more, I’m still not entirely sold on the cosy mystery genre- we’ll see how I get on in the future!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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  • Book with an athletic theme
  • A genre you normally don’t read

comedy of errors

Comedy of Errors– this had some fun word play and toyed with mistaken identity- much like many other Shakespearean comedies. And that was my main issue- while fun, this didn’t especially stand out to me. Plus, the mixed up identities in this one made zero sense- not that it matters 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • A poem or play

cosy christmas chocolate shop

Christmas at the Chocolate Shop- nothing about this blew me away- the characters, writing and story were all a bit on the okay-bordering-on-cliché side. Still, it fulfilled on a few major promises: chocolate, cosiness and Christmas.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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  • A book with a Christmas theme

art of hygge

Art of Hygge– I’ve been curious about this Danish practice for years- especially since it’s been taking off in the UK. On the positive side, this was a super quick read and has some inoffensive ideas. On the negative, it’s one long list with information you could get online. Maybe if you get the urge for lavender bags or paper snowflakes stick to google. Also it’s not hard to get things like flowers regardless. Some of the recipes were quite fun, but other advice went something like this: step 1- go to shop, step 2- by flowers, step 3- shove in vase with water. I’m not being flippant- it really is that silly! Rest assured, I do not need to be told to go for a walk. Or to watch a feel good movie. Or to read a book. Though I suppose that’s not bad advice- go read books guys, just not this one 😉

Rating: 1½/5 bananas

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  • From the arts and crafts section

the twits

The Twits– so initially I wasn’t willing to read a book by an author I don’t like- cos, ugh, why must I suffer!? Then my sister had this brainwave of reading an author who I don’t like as a person, but enjoy their books. The logical choice was Dahl (if you want to know why, you can read this post). Anyhoo, I enjoyed the Twits. My first thought was “wow beards, guess I have to add that to the long list of things Dahl doesn’t like”. Also, Dahl has a very high disgust sensitivity. What I liked most about this was the amazing descriptions- especially the concept of being made ugly by your inner thoughts. Nonetheless, while I did appreciate its initial eccentricities, I did end up finding a bit bizarre by the end.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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  • A book by an author you don’t like

oranges for christmas

Oranges for Christmas– this book landed somewhere in the middle for me. It had some clean writing and I liked the imported German element- but there wasn’t enough differentiation in the dual perspectives’ voices. While I was glad this dealt with the topic of communism in Germany, I did feel it was too focused on the educational elements. And that’s coming from someone who wishes this topic was studied more. For a moment there, it did get emotional… and then that was swiftly disrupted by the idiocy of the mc. More than the actual book, I was moved by the description of the fall of the Berlin wall in the afterword. This didn’t blow me away- however I do still recommend it for people who like historical fiction and interested in learning more about time period.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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  • Historical fiction

And here are the ones I don’t have reviews for:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– feel free to check out my review here.

  • ARC
  • TBR
  • Part of a series
  • Other culture
  • A book you chose for the cover
  • Female author

circe

Circe– you can check out my review here.

  • A myth retelling

language of thorns

Language of Thorns- I liked this overall and gave it 4 bananas- HOWEVER I have some rather complex thoughts on it, so I’m gonna have to say *review to come* and leave it at that for now!

  • A short story collection

Okay- so my final bingo chart looks like this:

bookish bingo

Woot woot! I got all of them- plus Shadow of the Fox managed to get me a bonus ten points for fitting into more than 5 categories and I finished with 250 points.

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!