Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October 2020!

Hello all! I hope you all had a good month! Mine was… a bit up and down if I’m honest. I had some work-related-stress-that-is-now-resolved, but thankfully also managed to chill out…

Okay, maybe not the chilled, but I did get to go to the seaside for the day… 

And rather randomly, I went to Stonehenge as well…

So, I guess it’s swings and roundabouts! Here’s hoping Spooktober’s calmer than its name, because I think we’ve all had enough scares this year! 😉 But on that subject, I do have a couple of chilling things to review first…

Mr Jones- this is just a quick recommendation for people interested in historical movies. It’s a wonderfully shot, horrifying revelation of the Ukrainian Holodomor. I will say a quick warning that it is very graphic and disturbing– but worth watching if you can manage it.

Prussian Nights– sticking to dark and depressing (for the time being), this was actually darker and more depressing than I thought it would be. Told from the perspective of the Russians entering Prussia during WWI, this details their crimes, remarkably from the perspective of the war criminals themselves. For me, that makes it all the more worth reading if you’re at all interested in moral psychology and understand the importance of getting inside the heads of people that do evil things… If this is not a topic of interest, skip it. While not as hard to read as something like Ordinary Men, it’s not an easy read. I also found the verse-form, while making it more digestible, meant that it felt a bit jarring with the content.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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House of Blood and Earth– I said a few months ago I thought I’d outgrown this author… and unfortunately I was right. While I did like the opening and found the world somewhat intriguing, I never quite clicked with it. I also didn’t enjoy the romance- it was less Feyre/Rhys and more Aelin/Rowan. It didn’t help that the story was mostly a straightforward murder mystery crossed with a paranormal romance- which isn’t the kind of story I gravitate towards. Despite the setting, it felt a little too mundane at times. To be fair, there were some killer plot twists and I can see why people liked it… just not my thing.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Blood and Honey– I’m afraid I was disappointed with this one too! It started off so sweet and tangy that I lapped it up, devouring page after page, until all I had to do was gulp down the final chapters. Unfortunately the joy had soured by that point, for the simple reason that the story didn’t need to exist. This is what happens when a story that could’ve been told in one book turns into two… and then three! Not only did this remind me of YA series of yesteryear, with its bloated middle book syndrome, the ending also left a bitter taste. Highlight for spoiler: we literally have the evil mother cackling madly and saying “this isn’t over!” as she leaves. I also wasn’t a fan of the gods intervening. It didn’t help that the plot was meandering and the romance already resolved in the first book- there just didn’t feel like there was as much at stake here… not when every single threat is resolved at the turn of a few pages. Other than the speed of the story, I’ve still no clue why this is marketed as YA, because the characters come across as being in their twenties… and very modern twenty year olds at that. It’s not the worst book in the world- but I can’t say I’d recommend it.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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The Switch– I went into this with pretty low expectations, as everyone seems to think this isn’t as good as the author’s debut Flatshare… and yet somehow I thought it was even better? As fun as Flatshare was, I think this had the some even sweeter notes. The grandma-granddaughter switch made for just as entertaining a setup and the story adorably charming. I didn’t realise quite how invested I would get in the twilit romance- which was partly thanks to the fact that Grandma Eileen was basically the best character. I did really like how this dealt with deeper topics and found its resolution touching.  This was the definition of *FEEL GOOD*- which was just the ticket!

Rating: 4½ /5 bananas

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How To Stop Time– speaking of lovely stories- it looks like I’ve discovered Matt Haig! (I know, me and every other person on the planet 😉). There was a lot to love about this. For a book about stopping time, it sure whizzed by fast. I loved the multi-timeline structure- I was impressed by how well it flowed and how much it packed in. I felt a little bit mixed about the characterisation. The main character’s melancholic tone added some melodrama. And I wasn’t a fan of him meeting famous people throughout history- especially writers- as it felt like they all adopted Haig’s voice (bearing in mind, they left behind quite a lot of work, so we have a vague sense of what they might sound like/believe/say). It threw me out of the story, because I never bought it was them. And while I felt there could have been more time developing the second romance, I did like the first romantic storyline and liked the way it handled the father-daughter relationship. Ultimately, I had a great time with this quick read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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The Humans– I liked this even more than How to Stop Time. This is the story of an alien falling in love with humanity. It kept making me laugh out loud- which is rare for a book! Haig had such a clever use of voice here, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the narrator… even though logically there were reasons I shouldn’t have. That’s his genius. I also loved the characterisation here- even seemingly insignificant side characters gave the story so much heart. I can safely say this was *out of this world* 😉

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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The Other Woman– the author pulled a fast one on me with this one… and I loved her for it! That’s exactly what I want out of a thriller! What makes it even better is I had all the clues at the very beginning and guessed the direction it was going… only to be completely blindsided. Jones certainly knows how to toy with her readers. I’m not going to say anymore than that (thrillers are so hard to review without spoilers!) other than to say give it a spin if you fancy a quick romp.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Lovin’ a Little February

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Well, January was a peculiar month for me and I’m pretty glad to be jumping into February. Been a bit busy in work/life, which meant (horror of horrors) I ended up falling into a *dreaded book slump*. And, equally bad, I just couldn’t keep up with blogging. I really want to promise that I’m going to do better this month buuuut I have family coming to stay for a week, soooo we’ll see. I do have some great posts planned- so monkey *fingers and toes crossed* that I can get to them! Okay, now all that’s out the way, let’s get to the good stuff:

art of war

Art of War– this is easily one of the best things I’ve ever read. Really, I cannot state that enough. Informative, thought provoking and surprisingly poetic, there’s no end to what you can learn from this legendary work. Every word is so valuable that I ended up highlighting everything (which, admittedly, is not the smartest thing to do, especially since it made my notes unreadable 😉). There were so many gems, which, being a fantasy dork, I enjoyed applying to random fictional battles in my mind. For instance, I really don’t think Jon Snow understood this rule in the battle of the bastards: “By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach on his own accord; or by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near”. Of course, this is the kind of book perfect for anyone interested in politics or strategy- but what’s brilliant about the Art of War is how it can easily be applied to across all fields and to life in general. So, if you’re a person living in the world, then this is the book for you!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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beautiful fran laniado

Beautiful– who’s up for a beauty and the beast retelling from the perspective of the fairy who puts the curse on the prince?! Well you should be! By fellow blogger, the lovely Fran Laniado, this retelling has a unique concept and definitely fulfils it. One of the best things about Beautiful is the consistent, fairy-tale-feel to the tone. Plus, I liked the humour throughout. There was a bit too much exposition for me personally, which slowed down the plot, especially getting to the inciting incident. But overall, I loved the original take and thought it was a great point of view to tell the story from. This was a fun, quick read for anyone who likes fairy tale retellings!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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stillhouse lake

killman creek

Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek– I’m going to save people a lot of bother and say that you basically have to read the two books together. Because I didn’t know that going in and felt like Stillhouse Lake was a little incomplete. That said, if you do read both books, you’ll be left satisfied. This is definitely a gripping and entertaining and intense thriller- with some wild turns! I will say that I listened to the audiobook for the first one and the narration was so good that I ended up enjoying it more, so if you can manage it, that’s the way to go!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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serpent and dove

Serpent and Dove– ooh this was deliciously dark. I was so glad the author decided to actually explore the concept of evil witches- it made the line between good and evil murkier. And the writing was bewitching- from the opening line I was under its spell. I also really liked how French culture and history was integrated into the world building. My one quibble with the book- which stopped it being a 5 banana read for me- was how bonkers some of the plot points were. I thought the marriage twist was a little absurd and the villain’s monologue was too much (it was the kind that actually gives the heroine a reason to fight back). For the most part though, the story was a lot of fun. Even if some ideas were obvious, there was enough here that was unique to help me fly through it.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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uprooted

Uprooted– I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last: this is a very beautiful book. Enraptured from the start, I found myself drawn to the immersive, folkloric world. I loved the characters- who felt simultaneously believable and fairy-tale-esque. I wouldn’t say this was easy going though- it’s a dense book, which takes you on many twisting journeys and feels a little disjointed at times. I did like the plot, but sometimes it felt all over the place. Still, well worth the read and I *finally* get the hype!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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beneath a scarlet sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky– it took me a while to get into this, because it has an unusually calm start for something set in WWII. That said, it soon gets explosive, dramatic and emotionally charged. I found the people in this book fascinating (I hesitate to call them characters since they’re based on real people). I particularly thought we were given a vivid picture of the Nazi officer. And I really liked the musical motif throughout. From Boogie Woogie to Nessum Dorma, these refrains left a lasting impression when coupled with historical events. I wasn’t wholly bowled over by the last part, where it gave a rundown of where everyone ended up, but I do understand why that was necessary to bookend the story. Ultimately, this was a worthwhile 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!