Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – So Stoked for September 2022!

Hello all!! August was AWESOME frankly and I’m sad it’s over! But here’s to an equally great September! Before I say goodbye to the summer, let’s just look at some of the highlights of the last month! Starting with…

Hiking the Seven Sisters 😊

Finally going to the Word on the Water bookshop

Seeing the Inspiring Walt Disney exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Best of all, I went to see my friend in Edinburgh!! We had a great weekend and she gave me a grand tour of Scotland: going up to Stirling, the Highlands (with a wee bit of a Harry Potter tour), rambling round Edinburgh and catching a few shows on the Fringe! I was so grateful she got us tickets for Foil Arms and Hog (love their stuff on Youtube and it was great to catch them live!)

Also managed to see the Jersey Boys in the West End amongst all of that!! Anyway, I didn’t manage to watch much TV with all that running around, but I did see one movie…

Emma– for some reason, I really thought I wouldn’t like this adaptation, but I was pleasantly surprised. While there were some very (very very) strange decisions in places, I have to admit this worked so well tonally. Played off as a comedy, I found myself genuinely chuckling throughout. The casting was fantastic; the chemistry between the leads excellent. I particularly liked how the pair came across as squabbling children. The characters of Emma, Mr Woodhouse and Mr Eliot were captured particularly well. I even found the romance between Harriet and Mr Martin compelling. And of course, as you may have heard from other sources, the costumes were top tier. I also really LOVED the soundtrack. It did get a little over the top and the nosebleed was a particularly annoying way to ruin a romance scene. Yet, little touches, like when Emma goes to Mr Martin, made this one of my favourite Austen adaptations. Although, let’s be honest, an Emma adaptation is hard not to love 😉

Okay- onto the reading! I went on a bit of a thriller bender this month (unintentionally) so that’s what’s going to hog these reviews (but of course keep an eye out for the contemporary in there, cos it’s a good one 😉)

The Woman in my Home– I feel like this is definitely fodder for people who liked the Tinder Swindler, but yeesh, way too much of this hinges on everyone being stupid. I feel like it’s worse that the people who know that the (spoiler alert) dude who seems to good to be true is in fact a conman just confront him. Because what is the point in that?! It meant that there was no real surprises, since, shockingly, the conman doesn’t take too kindly to being blackmailed. But all works out well in the end (it’s just one of those thrillers where we’re owed a happy ending apparently). Honestly, I’m struggling to say anything positive about this stunningly average book.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

The It Girl– here’s a book that’s far from average however. With a dual timeline spanning from the protagonist’s days in Oxford University to working in a bookshop in Edinburgh, the setting had the perfect atmospheric vibes for a dark academia thriller. I was enraptured by this cold-case story, trying to figure out who killed her friend all those years ago. And, like many of her books, the characters were an interesting study. I will admit that the suspect was a little obvious- however the how and the why were particularly clever. Definitely a book that proves why Ware is the It Girl in the thriller world.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Reading Allowed– when I saw a book fall onto my desk about what it’s really like to work in a library I *had to* pick it up. I mean, dudes, that’s my jam. And I really did like that this shares the realistic stories. It was pretty cathartic knowing that, up and down the country, we’re experiencing much of the same things. Still, I couldn’t quite say I loved this book, since sadly the writing was pretty bland. I wish that I could recommend this more, because library stories are much funnier than this makes them out to be. But I guess you had to be there 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

The Hive– social media and murder collide in this thriller, as Charlotte Goodwin lets the public decide the fate of her ex-boyfriend: should he live or die? An absolutely gripping new thriller, with a fantastically performed audiobook. Focusing on the themes of sisterhood, the characters are what shone in this story. Because more than commenting on the foibles of social media, this book asks the question what would (or wouldn’t) we do for the people we love? I did see some of the twists coming, yet the last twist caught me out. And above all, I loved that it was more than just a thriller.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

Act Your Age, Eve brown– of all the Brown sisters, Eve is literally the most fun. She’s flighty, unreliable and way too impulsive. Which makes for a great romantic heroine! And with her spontaneous and brilliant energy, her (mis)adventure turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp. With a pinch of hate-to-love and a dash of charm, this was a super cute finale to the Brown romance trilogy and I was here for it!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

One Last Secret– on the plus side, this absolutely delivers on revealing one last secret (and then another and then another). BUT unfortunately a lot of this book read like torture porn and was really hard to listen to (evidently I went with the audiobook version). The subject matter, from prostitution to (highlight for spoiler) child death, was a little on the dark side for me and I can’t say I enjoyed it. If you have a stronger stomach than me, you may get more out of this. Because I can definitely say the twists are worth the ride.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

The Disappearing Act– we all know the world of Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors- which is what makes this story of a missing actress so compelling. Yet the one issue I kept returning to with this book was why on earth did was the main character embroiled in this mess?!? Because this is one where you really have to suspend your disbelief for the mystery to work. Not many of us would traipse around a foreign city hunting for a stranger, after all. I also think the author forgot the golden rule of storytelling: we actually need to care about the people these things are happening to. I did enjoy the twist- yet struggled to get over the original premise. It would have made so much more sense if they’d had a real connection to begin with (and not a five minute awkward one pre-audition). Still, there was a very good twist. And, even if the messaging that success isn’t worth your soul was a little on the nose, it did deliver it rather well. Personally, however, I was most disappointed with the convenient finale that left it on too much of a hopeful note. Really I felt the ending could’ve done with a darker edge. But a round of applause for effort.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

That’s all for now! Some of those were pretty average, but there were some good ‘uns in there! Have you read any of them? What did you think of these? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

Little Look at… Lisbon!!

That’s right- I took my first holiday in YEARS! After finally, finally having a break from all the covid restrictions, I was able to go away at the end of June/beginning of July (hence why I’ve been even more inactive than my usual inactivity on the blog 😉). And you can bet that I was the most touristy of tourists while I was away and took way too many photos… so I’m gonna share some of them with you now!

I did a ridiculous amount of sightseeing in Alfama and Belem in the first couple of days, checking out churches, monasteries, towers… and more churches! 😉

Seriously though, the Jerónimos Monastery was to *die for* (and worth baking in the boiling heat standing in a massive queue to see it! 😉).

Naturally, I also introduced myself to the famous pasteis de nata, sampling the original in Pastel de Belem and discovering the very best in Lisbon at a place called Manteigaria (in the Time Out Market). I could not get enough of those bad boys!

One of my favourite parts of the city was definitely Bairro Alto. Partly because it had such a cool vibe, but maybe mostly because I had the best. sandwich. ever in a place called O Trevo (really, this was an unassuming café with THE BEST FOOD!!)

And of course, I also did a day trip to Sintra… because how could I not?! I swear Sintra was like stepping into another world- the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira were like something out of a fairy tale. Even the Rossio station set the scene for a *magical*day! I cannot describe how beautiful it was- but hopefully I’ve given you a little sneak peak 😉 

Clearly, I had a lovely time 😉 Portugal was a delight and I’d happily go back! (right now, if I could 😉) Before I go, if you are looking to travel there, I highly recommend checking out Mary Drover’s posts on Lisbon and Portugal– which are far more descriptive than mine and do a great job of getting you in the mood and (perhaps more importantly) finding out what you *need* to visit!! I can also suggest checking out this blog if you are hoping to plan a day trip to Sintra- it really helped me!

And that’s a wrap! Hope I’ve inspired some of you to check out Lisbon for yourselves!

Having a Grand Old Time in Ireland!

orangutan librarian and monkey baby0002Not to be confused with my trip to Northern Ireland 😉 That’s right, I took another trip to across the sea, this time to Dublin’s fair city! (it’s actually a long story how I came to make two trips, but we’re gonna skip right over that 😉) I went with my sister, the Monkey Baby, and as you might have gathered from the title, we had a lot of fun. Not least cos there’s great sights, food, music (and Guinness is amazing!) We definitely didn’t run out of things to do. 

 

I absolutely loved the Irish patter too and the streets were so steeped in stories. I learnt a lot in the short time I had to spend there. One of the absolute highlights was the Long Room (the library) at Trinity College 😀

Plus we stumbled across a couple of famous people…

Beyond the literary heroes and history, I also got to go to the Wicklow mountains and saw some scenes that looked like they were out of a fairy tale!

And that’s all for my touristy-brochure style post! 😉 If you actually want a great list of things to do/itinerary for a day trip to Dublin I really recommend Nyx’s post from Hurricane and Drizzle books– cos I drew a lot of inspiration from that when planning this trip!

Just some casual photos from Greece…

Hello! After sharing my adventures yesterday, I thought I might quickly show you some of the photos I took in Greece (I took a crazy amount of course 😉 )…

And a couple of photos I took in Israel…

And that’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed hearing about (and seeing!) my travels! 

Bookish Wanderlust for January Blues

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Well, I don’t know about you this month, but I’m definitely experiencing the January blues. It’s still pretty grim out, my reading slump is only just beginning to shift and I’ve got another cold (wtf is wrong with my immune system lately?!). Which is why I think it’s the perfect time to start thinking about a quick getaway… and by getaway, for us shall-we-say financially strapped bookworms, I mean rushing to the bookstore and reading about some lovely and impossible farflung places. And to make this even more fun, I’ve picked books with some real world locations you can actually visit. So hold on tight and here we g-o-o-o….

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone– as you might be able to tell from my review the other day, this book has some *wonderful* descriptions of real world places, starting with Prague. What I didn’t mention, however, is that this book has *tons more* locations and the story spins across planets. Yup- that’s right, this book can take you out of this world! (and you won’t have to wait for Virgin’s space programme to get going 😉 )

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the Nightingale– *one day* I will go to Russia (I just want the opportunity to sing “St Petersburg is gloomy, St Petersburg is bleak…”- who’s with me?!) but if you’re like me and can’t exactly do that right now- NEVER FEAR- this book can transport you in both time and place. And the second one, Girl in the Tower, involves far more excursions. This is a trip perfect for the historically minded (fairy tale obsessed) traveller 😉 Speaking of fairy tales…

a song for summer

A Song for Summer– In my opinion, Eva Ibbotson was *the queen* at making history fairytale-esque and transporting the reader to faraway lands. One rather neglected book I’d recommend is A Song for Summer which takes you to the Austrian countryside, at the brink of WW2. It’s a wonderfully romantic story and if you fancy feeling like you’re somewhere else, this is perfect.

shadow of the wind

Shadow of the Wind– ahh Barcelona- one of the most beautiful cities in the world- that’s the glorious setting of Zafon’s remarkable series and boy does he bring it to life! With evocative description, a mysterious story and an eerie sense of the supernatural lurking, this book is what I recommend for anyone feeling restless for some sun, yet doesn’t mind a few chills along the way. But of course, if sun is all you’re looking for…

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Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants– as the title suggests there’s some different locations in this and some girl friendship and a little bit of magic 😉 I’d recommend this for anyone looking to just rock up on a beach for a book and whose down for a summer fling 😉 Still, if it’s romance you crave, there’s something even better on offer…

return of the native

Return of the Native– one of Hardy’s more romantic works and often his most popular novel. What makes this even more perfect for this list is Hardy’s remarkable ability to characterise the landscape of his Wessex (dubbed after the Medieval term for the area of Southwest England). This is, in my opinion, one of the finest examples of that. What’s even better is if you visit Hardy’s Wessex you can tread a lot of the same paths as the characters and even see where Hardy’s mad wife lived (in an attic, as per her request, she was a bit bonkers- read some of her diary if you don’t believe me 😉 ) Here you can stay with one foot in the real world and another just on the brink of imagination. If you want to go *full on magic*, well then look no further than…

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Harry Potter– not only is the wizarding world *amazing* but there’s also some wonderful real life places you can go. I’m not gonna pretend I get the whole “let’s go to King’s Cross and pose by a random wall” thing (sorry, I’ve been there loads to catch a train and don’t find it particularly glamorous) BUT I used to live in Edinburgh and let me tell you, there was clear inspiration for JK up there- everything from Teviot (the student union) to Greyfriars Bobby Cemetery ( ❤ ) with some very famous residents… Side note, if you ever do find yourself up there, do go to the Elephant House cos it’s beautiful and niche (though a little pricey) not for the HP graffitied toilet- please.

 

inkheart-trilogy

Inkheart series– okay when it comes to trying to make this real world setting, this one is pushing it. HOWEVER I think this is such a fun book to put on the list, because it’s a book about stories coming to life and as the series progresses it becomes about entering stories. How awesome is that? If you fancy a trip somewhere completely unique then book your ticket today 😉

six of crows

Six of Crows– again, this is stretching the rules a bit, because this isn’t a real world destination. BUT it is based on Amsterdam and that certainly comes across in the books. I loved the way Bardugo brought the location to life in her books, incorporated elements of the trading and canals and generally made it feel true to the real world, but with a twist. It also involves a heist in Scandinavia- which is probably more dramatic than a lot of book travellers are expecting. More for the adventurous tourist I’d say 😉 Speaking of more daredevil types…

city of masks

City of Masks– VENICE, HISTORY, ADVENTURE- need I say more? I think this is a pretty underrated series to be honest and the first is one of my favourite books set in Venice. Well, an alternative Venice 500 years before our time, where silver is more valuable than gold- interesting right? Not exactly for history buffs, but you’ll get more than you bargained for out of this- it’s quite the journey.

Now we’ve come to the end of the road 😉 Do you fancy a trip to any of these bookish worlds? And do you have any bookish locations to recommend me? Let me know in the comments!

Travelling in Northern Europe… The Story of One Very Cold Orangutan

Hello again- in case you don’t know I was travelling round Europe recently. So even though us monkeys usually prefer hot climates in general, I went to visit a friend in Copenhagen and then dropped into Munich, Vienna and Budapest. I’m gonna skip over Copenhagen cos I’ve been before and it was more “hygge” time than anything else. Here are some of the highlights of my whirlwind trip:

I went to the world’s most famous enchanted castle…

I found Narnia…

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I went to a very deserted (and somewhat creepy) Prager fairground…

I went to a ruin bar…

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And I got caught in blizzards… lots and lots of blizzards…

I had an amazing time- but I can’t tell you what joy I felt when we touched down in London and they said it was 10 degrees out!

And that’s everything from me for now! See you all in the next post!

So Where Was I? Romeing About Italy!

(Yes it took me two weeks to come up with that godawful pun!)

Hello again folks!! And by “again” I mean hello for the first time in a really long time! Because I’ve been pretty pretty absent lately. Well, we all know that sometimes life gets in the way of blogging- and sometimes that’s a good thing, because sometimes life is going on an *incredible* trip round Italy!

I went to Naples…

…Capri…

…Pompeii…

…Rome…

And Florence!

For anyone that’s never been to Italy/would like to go/has been and likes reminiscing, I can sum up my trip thus: gelato (every day), pizza (almost every day), landscapes, beauty, art, classics, and… stories! Now if you’ve followed this blog for even a second you will know how obsessed I am with stories. But what you might not know is that I am equally obsessed with visual stories. I love more than anything how a single sculpture or painting can capture the beginning, middle and end of a whole epic narrative. A sculpture like this…

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…says more than a thousand words.

Sure, I could go on about some of my favourite classics (go and read Ovid’s Art of Love that’s all I ask!) but that’s really not what this trip was about for me (teaser: if you’re interested in what I read while I was away I’ll probably discuss it in my next post). For me, this trip was all about rediscovering my love for stories without words. I mean, just think about Hemingway for a second- his greatest attempt at innovation was his creation of the six word stories, and yet for thousands of years artists have been creating entirely wordless stories.

So instead of recommending a book that resonated with me after seeing so much beauty, I will suggest using your eyes for something other than reading (I know that’s hard for us book worms!), and go to an art gallery or even just a beautiful landscape and find a story with no words!