Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – I’m Feeling February 2022!

Hello all! Long time, no monthly mini posts! But 2022 is bolting out the gate- so I’d better get started talking about some of the things I’ve been reading and watching! Let’s begin with the TV/movies I’ve seen lately- some of which I loved and one I LOATHED…

Cobra Kai– I was so so sceptical about this show. I thought it was just another cashgrab, deconstruction of a classic… but that’s not what this turned out to be at all. Because there’s so much depth to this story and it does every single one of the characters proud. It’s not simply a redemption story and it’s not just a way to ruin our childhoods by showing that the hero was really the villain all along. No, this shows that while the villain can be the hero of their own story, everyone needs to make an effort and work on themselves. Not everything is black and white. Not everything is as straightforward as it seems. This heartwarming show is genuinely moving. Plus, it’s also pretty kickass and crazy dramatic.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window- what a BLAST! Such a great parody of recent thrillers. It was very obviously side-eying the likes of Woman in the Window. Because of this, you can guess the ending fairly quickly- but that didn’t stop it being a joyous satire. It has some truly laugh-out-loud moments. In fact, every time the trailers rolled, I was chuckling to myself. And Kirsten Bell KILLED IT as the lead!! I will say it was a bit gory at the end- I couldn’t even watch through my fingers at some points- however this also gave me Woman in the Window flashbacks 😂

Don’t Look Up– look, if you like propagandistic movies by elitist schmucks who claim to be the “little guy” then… I don’t know what to say to you. Even if you’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid and don’t mind being patronised by a very-obvious-analogy for climate change denial, you may end up being bothered by how Hollywood acts like all these groups aren’t all singing from the same hymn sheet. I don’t know what planet you’re living on- but world leaders and celebrities and media outlets all seem happy to fly around the world on private jets to espouse the same “we’re all gonna die” talking points. I didn’t need to watch a boring, unfunny, hectoring movie to hear that same message from the same damn people so that they can justify raising taxes for the poor. Gotta love Hollywood- the moral arbiters of the world…

Once Upon a Broken Heart– ohmygosh, I’m so happy I picked up this book! I was hesitant, because, well, my feelings about Caraval aren’t exactly a secret. But this was EXACTLY what I needed. Fundamentally a fun fantasy, this fulfilled my every forgotten desire for YA. Playing with the idea of fate and gods in a way that is totally unique, this was a wild ride from start to finish. I loved the way the story starts so unexpectedly- with a HUGE blunder from our main character! This is just the kind of entertainment I was looking for and that I’d have enjoyed once upon a time when I was a teen 😉 I can’t wait for book 2!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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I Have Something to Tell You– don’t bother reading this book. Unless you want to spend the whole time wondering what is even the point of all this?! This is a murder mystery that really isn’t much of a mystery at all… because *spoiler alert* everyone can tell who did it EXCEPT FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER (who also happens to be the murderer’s defence lawyer). And why is she the only person on the planet who thinks he’s innocent? Well, because he has sexy eyes. Greatest defence in history, amiright??! Seriously though, this was peculiar for plenty of reasons. Not least to say that it’s ALSO OBVIOUS that the main character’s husband betrayed her… not that there’s any point to that subplot other than to set up a terrible ending where the main character shacks up with the killer only to discover he was guilty all along. Gah!! And if you read all those spoilers, I haven’t ruined the book for you: I’ve saved you from wasting your time.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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Six Crimson Cranes– ach I had such high expectations for this… but sadly this is the kind of book that didn’t quite float my boat. While it had a fiercely dramatic opening, it kind of slid into mediocrity after that. Possibly because the most interesting character (the dragon) was side-lined for most of the story. And once the initial conflict was initiated, it plodded along in a muted fashion. I didn’t really take to the secondary conflict… which is a big issue because (*spoiler alert*) that was the actual conflict. The potentially fascinating villain was just trying to help her all along (which is basically the worst trope ever)- replacing her with some generic fantasy threat I didn’t care about. And it used flimsy tropes like false memories in an attempt to trick us into seeing the villain in a sympathetic light… which still didn’t work since her actions at the start were the equivalent of kicking a puppy. That said, I feel like I’m the one kicking a puppy by not liking the book, because it does have such an optimistic view. It just left me feeling flat. While not a bad book, unfortunately the ending undoes a lot of what I liked about it in the beginning.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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The Man Who Died Twice– this was another pointless read I’m afraid :/ It felt like the author was just fulfilling a quota of getting a second book out in order to capitalise on the success of the first. There wasn’t enough about this book that was special in its own right to justify it as a sequel. Whereas Thursday Murder Club used the structure of a murder mystery to explore themes of aging and used the story to explore the characters in real depth, this felt like a tagged on overlong epilogue. And while there were still fun characters to work with, I felt like it missed the mark in terms of actually making me like the newer members of the cast and didn’t have the heart of the first book. And although the mystery was alright, I was frustrated that the disparate stories still didn’t connect. Irritatingly, all the things that I didn’t like about the first one were amped up (including the middle-aged attempts at wokeness and BBC-approved moralising). This was just an okay read- though I can imagine it being a fun TV series.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Poison– okay, I don’t normally talk about rereads here, but I JUST WANT TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK (again) SO BADLY!!! This was one of my rereads from 2021- that I hadn’t planned on picking up again… if ever- because I just wasn’t sure it could live up to my memory of how good it was. And you know what? It was better. Not only was the tone utterly unique and stylised, but the characters were just as vivid and distinctive. The motivation and plot isn’t straight out of your usual YA fantasy. This takes stereotypes and twists them just enough to give them meaning and make them take on a life of their own. Wooding has such a brilliant understanding of life and stories, bringing them together in a magically meta way. This had even more clever twists than I remembered- so I’m glad I left it such a long time before rereading it. I almost felt like I was experiencing it for the first time, yet with a little hint of nostalgia behind that. I wish I could do a full length review- but I feel like it’s the kind of book that engrossed me too much to take proper notes.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Cytonic– now this is what I’m talking about!! While I wasn’t super blown away by Starsight, I had enjoyed Skyward enough to give the series another go- and I was so pleased that I did. As Spensa mentions herself, a lot of the second book was taken up with being a fish out of water, which didn’t really work for me, but this was a return to form. Action-packed and with fantastic character development, it kept me hooked from beginning to end… even in a super strange environment where it’s hard to get your footing. But of course, Brandon Sanderson is the master when it comes to world building! I listened to this on audiobook and found the reading mesmerising- not least because I already loved the voicey style. It made me fall in love with the characters all over again. A great edition to the series that has me pumped for the next instalment!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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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!

Caraval Was A Bit Like A Victorian Freakshow

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You know- where you can’t look away, even though it’s a bloody mess and there’s body bits all over the joint… Okay, I might be being a bit theatrical, but I can tell you that you’re in for a bit of a show today, because *drumroll please* I’m here with my good friend Trang from Bookidote!!

TADAA ! You didn’t expect that huh? Trang and Orang-Utan Librarian together is like a death bomb for excitement. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked so fast with any blogger before (YAS!!!!) LOL Our conversations were very… animated, but mostly full of laughter and cramps. So now be prepared for this bitter truth about Caraval.

First off rid your brain of Night Circus comparisons- THIS IS NOT NIGHT CIRCUS!!!

Nothing is like the Night Circus. I think we should just ban Night Circus comparisons in book marketing now. One of the most beautiful things about TNC is the exquisite and classy writing. But in Caraval? It was so ordinary and childish.

The writing was so peculiar, what with the obsession with wax metaphors (I didn’t notice it until you make the remark LOL ) and other cringey comparisons. For about half the book- literally till page 200!- I was bored. It didn’t help that the plot was virtually signposted throughout the book- from the exposition letter at the start to the bullet point instructions.

Bullet point instructions ? Really Legend ? Why don’t you give us a Power Point presentation as well? For the first half of the book we were stuck with a main character who’s indecisive af. Half wanting to desperately find her sister half wanting to kiss her wanna be fiancé.

Plenty of other things were signposted too- like who to like and who to hate. The love interest was signalled through his eyelashes. The villain… well he wasn’t literally twirling his moustache but he may as well have done.

*another obvious clue from the author*

But then the plot started getting somersaulting all over the place with plot twist after plot twist. I will happily say I didn’t see *any* of them coming. And when the twists started coming in, I was impressed. It just kept getting twistier and twistier… if only it hadn’t gone for that one last twist! You know- the one that broke the spine of the story with a sickening crunch? Maybe the acrobatics should have ended earlier. Because gah- that ending was what I call an “it was all a dream ending”.

What was that pace though? 200 pages in, nothing really happens, and then BAM BAM BAM 3-4-5 PLOT TWISTS ONE AFTER ANOTHER. The last twist ruins everything for me too. The Magic powers were disappointing, we don’t have any details on how it works, the descriptions were minimalist.

Oh yes, agree, it was disappointing all round- the only thing that wasn’t disappointing was how A-W-E-S-O-M-E this collab has been!! The only question left is how do you rate a book like this? After wayyy too much deliberation…

My Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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(I’m being stingy with my bananas)

Trang’s Rating: 3/5 stars

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So hope you enjoyed this *magical* collab! Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!