Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – May 2022!

I had a really good time with family and going out 😊 Shoutout to Macka B who I saw at the Jazz Café- I had an absolute blast!

And in other news, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the SUPER TALENTED SARAH for sending me this *gorgeous* Easter Bunny card! You have to check her out on her blog and Instagram because she is such an incredible artist!

Though I’ve been busier this month, I did manage to read more and I have lots to share 😀 So let’s jump into it!

Free Guy– what a fun, joyous experience this movie was! It’s kind of Lego Movie meets Truman Show- but not as dark as either of those 😉 I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m just gonna say go watch it if you want to see a movie that’s funny, action-packed and heartfelt all at the same time! I enjoyed every minute of this!

Short and Sweet: 101 poems– here’s a very quick recommendation! I loved this small collection of poetry. Starting off short and getting sweeter, every poem in here lives up to the promise. Even to the last, which is the shortest and sweetest of them all 😉 Definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for a tasty, little morsel of poetry to tide you over.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Island of the Missing Tree- I’ve found it! A literary fiction masterpiece I actually loved! It’s been such a long time since I discovered a literary fiction author I can get on board with- and Elif Shafak is certainly someone I want to read more from. If you told me before reading this that I’d love a book featuring the perspective of a tree, I’d have thought you were barking up the wrong, well, tree. BUT the power of this writer is such that she could enchant me from any angle. Her writing was so lyrical and stunning that I was transported through time. It took me beneath the surface, to the very roots of the Cypriot civilisation, intertwining current affairs and personal histories with ancient mythology. I could practically taste every description and feel every moment as if I was there. And, like waiting for the seasons to change, the story bears fruit with a most beautiful ending. It really was a remarkable book.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

One True Loves- I just loved this book. Very different to Reid’s more recent releases in (delightfully unusual) historical fic, this contemporary still captures the heart and emotionality and complex characters she is famous for. Like so many of her books, it has a melancholic beauty. Years after losing her husband in a tragic accident, Emma Blair is engaged again- the only problem is her husband has just been found alive and well. As you might expect from a premise like that, it’s emotionally very messy. And yet, appropriately so. It allows us to explore the question of soulmates in an unexpected way. For me, this is so intriguing as I’ve always believed in more than one “true love”. And I really like how this shows that every love is different and we are different in every love. There truly are many paths in life we can take- and they can all be right for different reasons. Using flashbacks, this also delves into the subject of grief, switching to second tense, which made me feel even more in tune with the emotions. In so many ways, this book is about fissures in the fabric of life and how we navigate when things get rough. Books like this show us that we don’t need to have all the answers. Oh, and that books always help 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Sword of Kaigen– books like this are why I keep giving out all the bananas. Heck, books like this are why I keep reading. This is easily the best book I’ve read so far this year. And I wish I’d taken more note so I could give it the full review it deserves- but I was too busy crying for most of the story. Because oof- Sword of Kaigen cuts deep. More than a story about magic, this is a fundamentally human story. Set in a fictionalised version of East Asia, this saga explores the Matsuda family as try to defend an empire. And what may seem like a straightforward story soon turns out to have unforeseen intricacies and waves of emotion. Though it is a sharp fantasy, with a cool magic system, it is the characters who shine. Their relationships and actions carry the story to epic heights and (evidently) produced a storm of feelings. It made me gasp, it made me sob (a lot) and it somehow it also made me smile. I do not have words to do this book justice- read it if you haven’t already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

Win Lose Kill Die– for some reason there’s quite a few YA books about teens who would kill to get to the top… I wonder why? 😉 With its ultra-competitive academic environment, I couldn’t help but compare this to the Ivies. But where that is a more satirical take, this one had more of a slasher vibe with a HUGE body count. And while I don’t always go in for that, I did think this pulled it off. I didn’t love the writing, with its references to pop culture (and Riverdale of all things), but there were some parts I thought were cleverly done (which I can’t directly mention for spoilery reasons). I did guess the twist very early on- but the red herrings definitely threw me off the scent! All I can say then is: well played!

Rating: 3½/5 bananas 

Traitor King– So, this was a rather telling book. This biography tells the story of King Edward VI- but unusually focuses on after he abdicated. And while I can give this credit for being fair and balanced, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be fair and balanced about such an evil, racist, anti-Semite. So I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one: I’m not here for the “he gave it all up for love” narrative. And I am sick of people like Netflix posthumously doing his PR. He was a selfish evil traitor, who supported the Nazis and blamed Jews for the war. He would have sold England down the river if the Nazis had won. He was openly racist, writing for instance:

“Those with experience of regions where the population is predominantly coloured, realise that negroes in the mass are still children both mentally and morally and that while these liberal socialistic ideas of freedom and equality regardless of race or colour may sound fine theoretically, the forcing of these theories are to my way of thinking, both premature and dangerous so far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned…”

This is the person the Crown chose to venerate as “inclusive” (somehow having a black servant makes you “inclusive”… incidentally Wallis fired Johnson for wanting time to look after his kids). It’s sickening to me that the Duke of Windsor was given such a sympathetic portrayal by Netflix. And that it completely ignored any mention of how messy their relationship was- prone to fits of jealousy and rage and affairs. Not to mention the fact that, politically, he thought England was behind the times for not already having a dictatorship. Reading this confirmed what I already knew: this was not the greatest love affair of the 20th century. It was the lucky escape from a despotic king.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

The No Show– this was a delight. Three women + one missing date = a recipe for another brilliant Beth O’Leary book! I felt like I connected with each of the women’s stories and fell in love in turn. Written with so much heart, this had me laughing through tears and hugging the book. I only wish I didn’t have to wait for the next Beth O’Leary book to be released- because this was her best yet!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

The Love Hypothesis– I theorised I would like this book… and I was right! This ticked so many boxes for me. Tropes like fake dating and secretly a sweetheart? Yes please! And I really liked the interesting setting and the fact that the female protagonist had *a lot* more going on than just her floundering love life. That said, there were a few things that kept this from fulfilling the perfect romcom formula. From a clinical standpoint, I never entirely warmed to Dr Carlsen and wasn’t convinced of his niceness. He was a bit of a cold fish and doesn’t do anything kind for anyone unless his (fake) girlfriend is involved (unless you count the car scene, which I don’t, because he came off as a showoff there). I don’t really love when a character’s only redeeming feature is that they’re nice to the person they want to sleep with. Speaking of which, I also didn’t buy the chemistry in the sex scene- it was weirdly chatty and went into odd anatomical detail… Not my thing! I wasn’t a big fan of the meta moments and wokisms either. Even so, my final hypothesis is: it was an enjoyable enough read and I’d happily read more from the author (if only that I might be able to work on my science puns some more 😉)

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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!

Malibu Rising was BLAZING HOT!

Hot off the press, Taylor Jenkins Reid newest novel burns bright. With a sizzling start, in 80s Malibu, we catch the embers of a rager. Before we can even get our head above water, we know things are going to end in flames.

Introduced to four famous siblings, hosting this party, slowly getting to know their distinct personalities, as their pictures build up in waves. From their tumultuous origin stories to the present riptide that sweeps them up, it becomes apparent that this is a book about heartbreak. Surprisingly for a book about surfers, there’s zero chill- which is more than fine by me.

Because below the glossy surface of the writing, there is immense depth to this book. More than I ever expected. There’s such a whirlpool of emotion, I was thrown off balance and sucked under. Here’s a story that takes you far out to sea, showing all the ways a heart can hurt. And damn, it resonates.

Summery and frothy, the story fizzes like champagne. In typical Reid fashion, it’s utterly unique and so totally her style. Evocative and powerful, I could practically taste the salt, sand and sun of her words. And, without taking any easy turns, it delivers an epic ending.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

So, have you read Malibu Rising? Do you plan to? And do you also love Taylor Jenkins Reid novels? Let me know in the comments!

Listen Up: Daisy Jones and the Six are Gonna Rock Your World!

 

daisy jones and the six

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audiobook2Verse 1

Before we get into anything, I have to say that again, the audiobook is the way to go for this one. With the multiple narrators, all putting in powerful performances, this the best way to experience the story by far.

Chorus

What I loved instantly about this book is how immersive it feels. There’s something sultry and sexy about the voices that carries you away; their words are both natural and yet carry a distinct beauty. Incorporating lyrics that feed into the narrative, we get a sense that the characters are riffing through their stories, bringing the reader into their world. It’s especially cool that this is about a time period most authors won’t touch. We’re all rewarded with a big, bold, splashy title. And, thanks to Reid’s mastery, no one could say it doesn’t feel real.

Verse 2

Even better, Reid really comes into her own when she’s describing art. She has a true gift for making it feel like this band not only existed, but that you would have committed a major crime to go see them back in the day. Significantly however, this book doesn’t just leave you with the allure of the music scene. No, it goes deeper, bearing the darker undertones to the world. Daisy Jones doesn’t gloss over the hard topics. There’s a grittiness to this history and Reid doesn’t skirt around it.

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What I loved so much as well as how the character portraits are drawn. The character of Daisy in particular goes beyond the usual, coming close to an enigma, dancing near the poor little rich girl stereotype and achieving cult-like status all at once. For the record: Daisy can be a jerk. She has a long list of negative traits, which compliment the other members of the band (who are all equally imperfect). Their egos did sometimes get in the way of my enjoyment and I will admit I wouldn’t like any of these people in real life. AND YET, that’s just it- they felt like people to me. No one could say they don’t feel real.

Verse 3

I also appreciated the way the contradicting stories gave a sense of where the lines blurred. Either the characters were so into their own stories that they didn’t notice what was happening around them or the memories had shifted to suit a narrative. It is as the narrator says at the start: truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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What I loved as well were the messages embedded in the plot. It tells of the importance of earning things for yourself, of redemption and of love. While it begins in a dark place, it builds to an inspirational crescendo. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the stories here, as so many struck a chord. Reid is such a talented writer that the only downside to listening to the audiobook was I *wish I could’ve written down more quotes*. It’s those wonderful lines that sneak up on your soul and make it feel real.

***BRIDGE***

I will say certain aspects were pretty predictable. The ending isn’t exciting or explosive or loud- BUT what is remarkable is how Reid turns the sadness around into a poignant final note. And, I can also say that if you listen to the audiobook your in for a treat as the story plays out…

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What I love most about this book is how I feel like listening to it all over again. Perhaps it is not the perfect book, but for me, the main thing is that it feels real.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

Breaking News: Evelyn Hugo is a KNOCKOUT!

the orangutan times

seven husbands of evelyn hugoSexy, layered and infinitely complex, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is not for the faint of heart! Orangutan Librarian reports.

Opening in the style of Citizen Kane, an article allegedly reveals “all” the sordid affairs of Hugo’s life- but don’t be fooled. Beneath the reports darker truths lie. With multiple voices- each flawlessly executed- the reality behind the rumours is uncovered in time.

And, of course, it’s all about Evelyn: compelling, deceitful and enigmatic- it’s no wonder Monique is in awe of her at the start. Naturally, she’s not a particularly moral person by my book, and there were times when I had serious problems with her, however one cannot deny that she makes herself Seen. What’s especially brilliant about her characterisation is how the author lifts her up to stardom and then brings her down to our level- much like a tabloid journalist.

It’s certainly sensational enough. With some serious emotional turmoil, the drama and intensity is there throughout- I didn’t want to put it down! As a mystery romance, it has all the hallmarks of a thrilling, twisty tale. I will admit, I did guess the first revelation- yet not the second. Oh boy, that second one was a shocker, making for a great ending.

Most of all, there was a sense of fun to the story. Believe me darlings, I was loving the tone 😉 I adored watching the relationships unfold and I teared up when the love of her life was revealed- it was simply a beautiful moment.

I’m afraid it wasn’t all plain sailing. I had some, shall we say, philosophical differences with some stances… but I am very rarely in the mood to get into politics on my blog (I can direct you to my thoughts on the matter here and here). Plus, I have way too much respect for this effortlessly *fabulous* book to be heavily critical of my personal niggling issues. Easily, this book got:

4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana 

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