Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – Swiftly Moving into September!

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Hello all! I’m coming out of a bit of a tumultuous month- and not just cos of the scorching heatwaves one minute and thunderstorms the next. Personally, I thought the universe was over-relying on pathetic fallacy to write the story of my life right now 😉 That said, some cool things happened, like getting to see my brother for the first time in a year and a half 😊 In terms of reading, I’ve been mercilessly DNFing (which I’ll talk about more soon!) Yet, even with all those duds, I did still manage to read some good stuff and made it to 1500 books read on Goodreads!!! And also, to top it all off, this happened:

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I’m so glad to have made it this far and thankful to everyone that’s stuck with me!

Alrighty then, let’s get to talking about what TV and books I’ve been into this month.

 

Jane the Virgin- seasons 1-4– this is basically all I’ve been watching this last month. I started in season 2, cos I’d already watched (and enjoyed) the first season about a year ago. While I haven’t finished it, I’ve no doubt I’ll love where it ends up, cos this is just the tonic for a overly dramatic 2020! And speaking of drama, this has it all. Inspired by a lot of South American tv tropes, this packs in action, romance, family themes, cultural elements and a little bit of humour. Just like a telenovela, this makes me gasp one minute and cry the next. Admittedly, I don’t normally love all the tropes (highlight for spoilery examples: amnesia and back from the dead in particular). And this even centres on a love triangle for crying out loud! BUT this is one of those times when I can make an exception, because in each case, I totally get why the trope is there. They’re partly used to pay homage to the fun genre of telenovelas, partly to deconstruct them. Plus, everything is geared to forcing Jane to choose between the two men (whilst putting her in a position where it was in no way her fault that she had to choose in the first place!) Basically, it’s not just fun, it’s clever. I also love the characters- from Jane as the main character to the slightly antagonistic Petra. Even Mateo has a big role to play. And, a bit random, but I tried (and failed) to learn some Spanish a while back and it’s been so great for me to just listen to the language to see what I can pick up. Highly recommend this if you just need something to kick back and relax with!

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Crave– speaking of a bit of fun, I wasn’t exactly craving a vampire book, but I did feel like some paranormal YA. Plus, the sassy voice promised a little bit of bite and I thought why the heck not. In some ways I was rewarded for my optimism, flying through this faster than a vampire bat could launch itself at an unsuspecting victim. I liked how it didn’t take itself too seriously and how there was a more logical structure to the story than Twilight. Still, on the subject of Twilight, it did mirror that infamously sparkly tome in a way that wasn’t very subtle, so I could see the reflection a little too clearly. And I really wasn’t sold on the corny romance. Nonetheless, there was an interesting final twist that had me somewhat intrigued. Not sure if it’ll be enough to get me to read more- maybe if I’m feeling like the living dead again when it comes out 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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beach read

Beach Read– what a fun beachy read! The story of two rival writers in a small town, this doesn’t just deliver an entertaining hate to love romance, it also ends up being a love letter to books and writing. I loved how this went from rivalry to romance at a delightful pace. And the chemistry *sizzled* off the page. I also liked how this handled the topic of grief, exploring how sometimes we just don’t know the people we love. This managed to deliver some heartbreaking moments and put a big smile on my face. For me, it was a beautiful example of how to balance a bright, bubbly read with just a hint of the blues. Dare I say it’s the perfect beach read, with or without the beach!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Sharp Objects– I’m going to try and not be too cutting for this one, because there were parts I liked. It was sharply written, yet the plot was blunted by being a little too obvious. In this small-town secrets story, a reporter returns to her home town to investigate the murders of two little girls. There were a couple of good twists a long the way and an especially excellent final reveal. It made sense of the earlier plotholes. However, I did feel like there could have been more of a punch to the final reveal. And, another thing that stopped me loving this on a personal level was that of the descriptions made me a little queasy (I forgot quite how graphic Flynn can be). I do recommend it, just perhaps don’t expect it to be too edgy.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Weekend Away– this would have simply been an enjoyable thriller that took me on a quick spin around Lisbon… if not for the creepy last second twist that I ended up thinking about for days after. There’s a lot to explore here. I liked the basic premise of two friends going on a weekend away and only one comes back (*dun dun dun*). What made this especially good was the execution. The characters and their relationships are slowly revealed a bit at a time. I especially liked how it built up the profile of the antagonists and the threat they posed. One thing I wasn’t keen on was how the main character was pretty clueless- but it did make sense and helped the plot progress. The best thing was that there was enough drama to keep me flying through the pages. Ultimately, it was exciting and suspenseful with an explosive finale.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the flight

The Flight– this was slightly more of a letdown. It’s not a bad book by any means, it just didn’t wow me. It didn’t have that compulsive quality that keeps me whizzing through the pages. It didn’t take me to new heights because it was a little too pedestrian. The biggest issue for me was that it was more interested in telling us that domestic abuse is wrong than telling an interesting story. Frankly, I thought it was preaching to the choir. It didn’t help that the pacing felt a little bumpy- jolting between a quick takeoff and a rather slow middle where we were told one of the dual perspective’s backstory. It often vacillated between far-fetched and mundane. I also didn’t think it stuck the landing- while I quite liked how it linked up, it didn’t exactly blow my mind. Though it was a solid book, I felt like this just didn’t fulfil what I look for in a thriller. I need something a bit pacier and with enough intrigue to send me into a tailspin.

Rating: 3/5 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!

The Noughts and Crosses Adaptation Drew a Blank

*Spoilers for both the show and the book*

Full disclosure: my opinions are entirely biased due to my love for the book. If I didn’t adore the series so much, I might have enjoyed this, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, this was just one of those times where I felt like constantly whining “but the book was soooo much better!” Even if there were parts of the show that were somewhat compelling, I couldn’t get past the changes enough to appreciate it.

I really should’ve predicted that I wouldn’t like this when I got (unreasonably) irritated by the description of the world as “dystopian” (suggesting that the show was tilting away from the alternate history model to make a different kind of social commentary… something that I was soon proved right about). From the opening shots centring on the subject of police brutality, I could tell we were in for a very different story. Already, I could see this was a more modern take on the novels, but I couldn’t quite get my footing as to how different it would be.

You see, initially I was rather taken with the world of the show. While I had the vaguest impression of the setting from the books, the showrunners went to a lot of trouble bringing Albion to life. With its African music and bright visuals, I was immersed in this alternative Britain, seemingly modelled on South Africa during apartheid. While there were some inconsistencies, like a jumble of different accents, I did get a clear sense of place. I can safely say this was a vast improvement on Blackman’s world building… it’s just a shame about everything else.

callumMy first major issue came from Callum. Instead of having the humble ambitions of going to school, he now wishes to join a military academy. Now, I get that they had to adjust aspects of the story to suit the screen, but this was already a leap too far. It immediately takes away his character arc of being a sensitive and intelligent boy, pushed to violence. Of course, even with him in this new role, they can’t fully commit to him being violent from the start. The writers tried very hard to shoehorn him into his original arc, but without any sign of his original personality… which just made me beg the question why make this change at all?

There is much the same issue with Sephy: her personality has been completely neutered. Aside from being a do-gooder and occasional terrorist sympathiser, she doesn’t have a whole lot going for her. Unlike her book counterpart, we don’t get to see what a scrapper she is or any of her interests (beyond Callum). Worse still, with the characters aged up, her naivety isn’t really excusable. In the book, Sephy loves her father, yet slowly realises what he is truly like. Here she comes across as just a bit thick for not seeing through him. Which leads me onto…

noughts and crossesWTF is going on with the rest of the characters?! Jasmine Hadley is not nearly distant enough; Kamal Hadley apparently has mind control powers (cos I’ve no idea how he somehow convinces everyone to do his bidding). And everyone is oddly redeemable- even Jude. There’s no sense of real development, because from the beginning we know Dorne is the real villain and thus all the other character’s evil deeds can (conveniently) get pinned on him. Everything is more black and white in this version, with far fewer shades of grey. Forget the nuance and tragedy of the book- it’s been brushed away for far less satisfying commentary and lacklustre conclusions.

And on that note, the plot is a mess. While I liked some aspects of the romance (because in this case remembering the book made it easier to enjoy) it moves way too fast. The twists about Kamal and Jasmine Hadley are revealed too soon. Vital characters, like Lynette, are written out. Instead we get waste-of-time subplots, like Yarrow Hadley. Then there are another million pointless changes- that only every make the narrative worse. For starters, there was the “blanker” incident, which the Authentic Observer has already done a great video about. Plus, there’s the time when “gentle” Callum fires live rounds at a crowd of noughts, including his brother (?!?!) And the fact that Jude bombs a hospital instead of a shopping centre (??!?!) And for some reason there’s a lot of speeches in the trial explaining said terrorism… which apparently persuade the judge to go easy (?!?!) And to top it all off that Callum doesn’t choose to go after Sephy OR choose to save Sephy until he knows she’s pregnant OR make any significant choices (beyond the supremely dumb one of going off to live in the woods with a pregnant girl… let’s see how long that lasts 😉).

Naturally they also had to change the ending. I could see from the start the showrunners weren’t bold enough to kill off Callum. And clearly they found other aspects of the story too problematic as well- which is disappointing, not because I wanted to be emotionally scarred (as I was with the book), but because the dark elements were something that stood out in that case. Blackman didn’t talk down to teens or give us the longed-for happy ending, just because that’s what’s expected. She had the courage to tell a story that wasn’t easy, that didn’t make us comfortable, that offered only glimmers of hope.

jude noughts and crosses 2Weirdly, the show’s preachy speeches and teary melodrama demand you take the story seriously. And yet, for all that, it’s less powerful. Putting forward the argument that the world is unjust is far less powerful than showing injustices unfolding. Blackman had the courage to put the story and characters first- and the message was more impactful for it. This adaptation put the message first and butchered the heart of the story. Sadly, the only tragedy here is how much this failed to live up to a beautiful book.

I’m really curious- how many of you have read the series or seen the show? What did you think of either of them? Let me know in the comments!

My Ultimate NoTPs – Sinking all the Fictional Ships

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Typically speaking, I’m the kind of reader that agrees with the author/creator when it comes to romances- whether I like them or not, it’s what the author intended and therefore tends to fit best with the story. But on those rare occasions that I don’t agree, well, I have some STRONG opinions. Which is why I decided to talk about some of my *ultimate NoTPs* (is this a real term, or did I just make it up?) I’m gonna try not to repeat myself too much from my romance fails in fiction tag– so this should be uniquely contentious 😉. Also, for the most part this’ll be about books, however, I fancied talking about some TV ones too, such as…

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Brooke and Lucas, One Tree Hill (yes, I’m asking you to cast your minds back a decade or two)- CONTROVERSIAL OPINION: I never liked Brooke Davis. For me, her “growth” involves plagiarism (she steals Peyton’s designs, sticks them on a shirt and gets applauded for it… why?!). To be honest though, Lucas’ relationships didn’t interest me because I was all about Naley.

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Gale and Peeta and Katniss, Hunger Games– I know this was a big deal, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t get invested in either of the romances- I was far more interested in the children fighting each other to the death and oppressive government (you know, what the book is actually about? 😉)

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Jacob and Bella and Edward, Twilight– they all suck.

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Fanny and Edmund, Mansfield Park– even if I could get over the fact they’re cousins, I wish Austen had let *just one* of her heroines end up with the morally ambiguous character (and given them a redemption arc). Just once.

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Tonks and Lupin, Harry Potter– everyone’s got at least one couple they don’t ship from Harry Potter. And, though I’ve mentioned Ron and Hermione a bunch of times, I actually find this one irks me more… though not for entirely rational reasons. To be perfectly honest, I thought Lupin was gay (yeahhh we’re going into serious head canon now). Plus, I don’t get how someone can run off and leave their pregnant wife in a war if they really love them (which is probably the more rational reason why I don’t ship them).

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Jon and Dany, Game of Thrones– I’ve mentioned this before, but this was pretty badly done, especially in the last season, so it’s earned another mention. This is one of those bizarre situations where this was head canon for me… but the second it happened my brain went “oh no! oh no no no!!” This should have stayed in the dark recesses of fan’s minds.

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Jem and Tessa, Infernal Devices– I was a *serious* Will and Tessa shipper. I actually don’t know why I have it in for Jem, but I really did (I know, it makes no sense, cos he’s a sweet character, buuut at the same time he goes after his bestie’s girl and NOT COOL MAN). This frustrated me even more cos it almost never happened.

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Chaol and Celaena, Throne of Glass– he didn’t respect her *at all*. He was always going on about how horrible it is she’s part fae and that she needs to suppress it (isn’t that the equivalent of racism in the context of their world?!) Plus, I just hate Chaol so…

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Alina and Mal, Shadow and Bone– most boring couple of the list award! I have very little to say about them other than the fact I didn’t see them fitting together- particularly since they’d known each other for years, he showed no interest, then only liked her when she got hot.

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Gen and the Queen of Attolia, Queen’s Thief Series*highlight for massive spoiler warning*: SHE CUT OFF HIS HAND!!! WTF?!? He’s traumatised by her and flinches at her every touch- how do they end up together? This is by far the most bizarre and badly matched couple- and I’m sorry but I don’t understand why people are into this romance. At all.

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Aang and Katara, Avatar the Last Airbender– ahh my ultimate NoTP!! I briefly touched on this in my review of the series and always planned to get into it more at a later date… so here we are (yes, the reason for me writing this post was an excuse to rant about something, are you surprised?) I’m sure this will piss off people who watched this as a kid/really ship it, but I *hated* it. Firstly, they have zero chemistry (yes, it’s not escaped my attention we’re talking about a cartoon, bear with me 😉). The romance scenes always felt like a mix of forced and random, especially since she treats him like a little brother for most of the show. Which makes sense, since he’s prepubescent and she’s a teen. And, what messes with my head even more, is when people say “oh but the age difference isn’t really so bad, because even if he looks 12, he’s really 112”- how does this help?! That’s even less appropriate!! Regardless, he has a very childish view of her ie “I like her, I kissed her, she should be mine”. Dude, she’s a person (okay, character). Who frequently seems to be conflicted and uncomfortable with his romantic attention I might add. But it felt like this was about what Aang “deserves” as a reward for saving the world- taking away the autonomy of an *awesome* character and doing nothing for her own arc. And I know, I know, people can say I only feel this way cos my ship (Zutara) didn’t sail (which maybe true, yet to be fair was set up by one of the writers as endgame), but forget my fan “entitlement” for a second- what about all the “nice guys” that feel entitled to women’s affection because they’ve been “nice”? As much as I loved the character, Aang with Katara reminded me of Mr Collins saying: “you said no, but you really mean yesss”. It just realllly sucks that a great show ended on this note (though, as I said in my review, it didn’t ruin the series for me).

Okay- phew- glad I got that out of my system! Do you agree or disagree with any of these? And what romances do you not ship? Anything particularly juicy? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup! #2

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It’s been a while since I talked about my TV habits– and to be honest that’s cos in the last 6 months, I’ve only watched 4 shows of note… which is why I’ll be recommending them all today. Seems like a good time to kick back and relax 😊 Let’s just jump into it!

Lucifer– I watched the pilot a few years ago, but I wasn’t crazy about it… until I tried it again. Two episodes in and I was hooked! It was more fun than I’ve had in a long time with a TV show- it reminded me of old seasons of Supernatural. I mean, it’s a buddy cop show… with the devil! And if that puts you off, hold on! Because who doesn’t love a good redemption story? And who is a better candidate for that than the one and only Lucifer Morningstar. I absolutely adore the concept and the execution is perfect. The chemistry between Lucifer and Chloe is amazing. The first series was entertaining as hell, the second had a beautiful ending and the third had an incredible plot (though some of the stuff with Pierce was annoying). There was a death I never thought I’d mourn as well- but it really got to me! Plus, there was so much Gaiman, which I loved! Looking forward to catching the last two seasons on Netflix when I get the chance 🙂

Poldark (season 5)– this is the kind of show where I legit cry at every episode. Now, I will admit this was an unusual season, because it wasn’t following the books anymore annnnd it wasn’t perfect. Gonna get a bit spoilery, so be warned. I for one wanted to see the finale tie into the plot that had been going on all season- perhaps have the end link up with the fact the villains had been involved in the slave trade and have their demise be tied into the abolition of slavery. Instead, that whole plotline was kind of irrelevant and it reverted back to the whole fighting France plot- which worked in some ways, it was just a shame it felt a bit old hat at this stage. The pacing wasn’t great either- since George’s madness kept hitting the on-off switch. Still, it was as emotional as ever and there were some real highlights to the season- especially with Caroline and Ennis. So, while I’d say the last season could’ve been better, I’d definitely recommend this series as a whole.

Keeping Faith– I loved this series. Focused on a mysterious disappearance that leaves a loving wife and mother in the lurch… and in increasing danger! It was emotional, moving, entertaining. The story builds and builds, until the dramatic finale. All the acting was amazing- even the children- who are often the weak link yet here shine with some of the best performances. The heroine is *the best*- a nuanced woman, which we rarely see on tv. She’s a mum, she’s accomplished and she’s unapologetically female. The landscape, scenery and atmosphere star as well- really showcasing the beauty of Wales. Many critics were surprised that this seemingly small Welsh thriller ended up being such a huge hit- especially since it was shared pretty much by word of mouth- but I think that’s why it did so well. There’s no frills, no funny business, just good old-fashioned storytelling- and there’s not much more you can ask than that.

His Dark Materials– this. is. the. perfect. adaptation. I’ve waited *forever* to see a good version of one of my all-time favourite fantasy series and THIS WAS IT!!! I am so grateful to finally get to watch this- so you’ll just have to forgive the gush!! I’m not actually someone who is hypercritical of the old adaption- though there were obvious things wrong with it if you’re a fan of the books. As Pullman said, there wasn’t enough room in that movie. Thankfully, the story is given space to breathe here and it’s glorious for it. There is so much to love about the BBC’s His Dark Materials. I adored so much of the casting- McAvoy is an *awesome* Asriel, Lin-Manuel Miranda brings swagger to the role of Lee, Ruth Wilson is chilling as Mrs Coulter and I think the new Lyra is incredible!! Just amazing!! I did like the old cast, but I am *so happy* with this one!! The graphics are beautiful as well! I also love the foreshadowing and crossover with The Subtle Knife– that’s a sharp touch I wouldn’t have thought they’d include. It seemed determined to make me cry every episode as well. I’m just completely buzzing about this!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

I am completely obsessed with You…

youThe book and TV show… why what did you think I meant? 😉 Kepnes infamous story about social media stalking in the modern age certainly grabbed my attention and now I’d like to share it with *you*. So, what can you expect from this book about a New York love affair gone very, very wrong?

Immediately, you will be struck by the unreliable narrator. Combining a biting wit with an exceptional use of second person pov, you will find the execution of this novel is top notch. This unique style allows for stand out characterisation and a story that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Now, you might have seen a fair amount of criticism for the crassness and vulgar language… to which I say: what do you expect? Yes, a stalker and dangerous individual is less than polite and uses violent means to get his way. To me, anything else would be a dishonest representation of reality. Naturally, you will agree that it is unnerving to be this up close and personal to evil- but that is what really works about this book (admittedly the show has a different take… more on that later).

Another criticism you might have is that the characters are all pretentious a-holes. Which is true- but given that they’re viewed through the lens of a psycho stalker, you might be inclined to let them off the hook. Again, you will find this an ingenious way of letting you inside his twisted mind. Every portrayal he shows you will be warped beyond recognition and every barb he directs at others can be thrown back at him.

Either way, you will discover there’s something enigmatic about the distinctive writing. This voicey book gives you more characterisation than a thousand thrillers combined. You will come to see it as more of a character study than a typical story.

Most importantly, you will be compelled to the finish line as if someone is chasing you down a dark alleyway. Truth be told, you may find the plot fairly predictable- but that’s because when you’re trapped in a terrifying place with no way out, there really is only one way it can go down. All the bodies littered throughout make the ending inevitable. So if you are like me and you like *BIG* twist thrillers, you might not end up giving it 5*. But that’s okay, because you know it’s a great book regardless. And you may decide that, while you’re not sure you need a series of books in this vein, you’re still invested enough to check out the Netflix adaptation…

Okay, I’m gonna stop with the second person because you get the idea 😉 Also the voice is used slightly differently in the TV show. In fact, there were a number of distinctions between the book and the show: the timeline, the characters and even the relationship have all shifted. Most importantly, the more lovey dovey romance makes the show more of a deconstruction of rom coms than the danger of Social Media. While still present, the idea of stalking someone online is made light of at times when (for reasons I can’t fathom) Stalker Joe tells her he’s been following her?! Aside from the illogical tint this gives the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this take. I think that the ideas it was presenting, while not entirely in line with the book, were still valid critiques on society. Plus, on the more positive side, this did flesh out some aspects better.

Characters who weren’t given a proper voice in the book (understandably) did finally get their chance to speak for themselves. I liked that while Peaches made more sense as a character, the tv version didn’t remove her shades of grey. I also loved Blythe and Ethan- as different as the latter was to the book counterpart. Most significantly, we actually got her perspective. And it’s good- it’s very good. She gets to be a far more well-rounded character and her life is given importance its so lacking in the book- which makes the impact of the narrative greater still. I liked that they even had her talk to herself in the second person- it was a nice touch.

Having said that, the show’s desire to fill in some aspects meant that the things Joe does make less sense sometimes. There was more of an attempt to make him likeable and misdirect the viewer into thinking he’s not an entirely terrible person. For instance, he genuinely cares about Paco, which felt strangely out of character for me as someone who’d read the book (and was the first major indicator that the book and show were going to be different entities). Again, I wasn’t quite convinced whether I liked that he was more sympathetic. On the one hand, it made him less predatory… but on the other there was more of an unnerving sense that this could really happen to anyone. It didn’t hurt, either, that unlike the book closing off its ending, the show had a chilling end that left me wanting more.

Ultimately, I found the show just a bingeable as the book was a page turner. Sure, they were different, but this didn’t impact the quality. I gave both the book and show:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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

Monkey at the Movies: Avatar the Last Airbender Television Show

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*Wow*- I waited wayyy too long to watch this, didn’t I? Let me back up a second. It’s no secret that after Game of Thrones ended (in the worst possible way imaginable) I was feeling pretty distraught and uninspired by TV. So I settled down to watch a classic… and I was not disappointed.

monkey avatarFrom the opening visuals, I knew this was going to be quite the experience. The artwork is literally stunning and the set up incredibly promising. With these gorgeous images, we’re thrown into a fascinating fantasy world, where people have the power to control the elements. Not to get too in depth about the premise (because a lot of people will know it) but essentially it’s set after the Avatar who can control all the elements disappeared and the Fire Nation took control. And let me be the first to say, that simple sentence could never do the world building justice. This not only has one of the most intricate magic systems imaginable, as the story goes on, it develops a deep mythos for each location it explores. Having watched this now, I can safely say I have no idea why anyone would try to reduce all this down into a (terrible) movie- it was always doomed to be a mess.

But this is all just background- I haven’t even got to the plot yet! While episodic in the most rewarding way imaginable, each season builds upto epic conclusions. In a ride as wild as soaring on a flying bison, we’re lifted off the ground and taken to new lows. There are times when the audience is rewarded for their patience; there are times when expectations are subverted- in the best kind of Empire-Strikes-Back way. The characters win and lose- keeping you on your toes! And I mean really lose- because it often feels like victory comes at great cost (and let me remind you this is a kid’s show!!)

In terms of individual episodes, it’s hilarious at times, devastating at others. Having mentioned all the fantastic finales, you’d think they’d be my favourite episodes- not so! The one that stands out to me the most (and a fan favourite) is the Tales of Ba Sing Se- an intensely character driven episode which will make even the most stone-hearted of earth benders tear eyed. I also thought Ember Island Players was one of the best recap episodes in the history of TV.

zukoAll of this said, I haven’t even mentioned the best part of the show: the characters. From Katara to Toph to Sokka, it has a strong cast of supporting characters. There are amazing villains; there is a hero you can root for- one whose struggle to be the Avatar ties in with the fate of the world. I loved how he had to make sacrifices in order to reach the end of the story and it was never an easy path for him. On the subject of difficult journeys, my favourite character (perhaps predictably) was Zuko- I found him fascinating from the off: his backstory intrigued me, the promise of a potential redemption kept me hooked and every choice the character made had me on the edge of my seat. And I especially liked Azula as his foil. It’s because of characters like him that this show has such a reputation for amazing character development.

I’m also delighted to say this show had a beautiful ending! The justice meted out certainly gave balance to the magic in this universe. I will quickly say that the only thing in the entire show that I had an issue with was how the relationships turned out. At the risk of annoying old fans of the show (who are no doubt still licking their battle wounds from shipping wars of a bygone age) Aang/Katara *at all*. This isn’t just because my ship didn’t sail (le sigh) it was because I thought it came across as forced and I disliked such an awesome female character being reduced to the hero’s reward… But I don’t want to bog down the end of this review with this- though I’ll definitely get into it at a later date- because this wasn’t ultimately detrimental to my enjoyment. There is so much to this show that I loved that I simply can’t cover it all. I wouldn’t feel reasonable giving this masterpiece of television anything less than:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you seen this? What did you think of it? And when did you join this party? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 5 Austen Adaptations

I’ve been in a really romance-y mood lately… which has led me down an Austen adaptation rabbithole. Watching and rewatching a crazy amount of these has got me thinking about which ones are my favourites and I thought it would be fun to share them with you lovely people. Quick note: it’ll be glaringly obvious to fans that Mansfield Park is missing- that’s not cos there aren’t any good versions, it’s cos (as is no secret) I’ve never liked the story. Now that’s out of the way, onto the list!

 

BBC Pride and Prejudice- to my mind, this is THE BEST adaptation of anything, ever! Yes, this is my completely biased view 😉 I tend to rewatch this every. year. (thank you Beebs for including this in your boxsets!) This is, in every sense of the word, PERFECTION. The acting, the first class writing lifted from the book, the wonderful choice of locations… this is always going to be my favourite.

BBC Sense and Sensibility- so, confession time: I’m not hugely fond of the movie version- though it has some sensational performances from the likes of Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant, I feel like the story could’ve done with a bit more space to breathe. Which is why I was so excited to check out the new(ish) BBC adaptation- and I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed! I watched this for the first time recently and almost felt the need to rewind and watch it all again. The acting and writing was brilliantly done- but most importantly this hit me right in the *feels*!

Emma 1996- this might be an unpopular opinion, because I think most people prefer the TV version (which is understandable, because that’s a great version too). In truth, I don’t know why I love this version so much- especially since I often prefer the TV serials for Austen, given they allow the stories to develop over a greater time span. That said, I simply LOVE the performances in this- particularly Jeremy Northam who is my definitive Mr Knightley (who, yes, just happens to be my favourite Austen love interest).

Northanger Abbey– even if this wasn’t the only Northanger Abbey version that I’ve seen, it’d make the list, because it’s a lot of fun! It’s completely different to a lot of other Austen adaptations, playing on some of the themes in quite a hilariously modern way, upping the imaginative gothic levels and heroines’ fantasies… and for some reason this rather tickled my fancy.

Persuasion 1995- I watched this most recently and I was delighted with it. I’d seen a more recent version and wasn’t quite blown away (especially disappointing because at the time I watched it I probably would’ve classed this as my favourite Austen). I was so happy with this version however and would definitely recommend it for those looking for an Austen fix! 

Have you seen any of these? Which are your favourite Austen adaptations? Let me know in the comments!

As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup!

monkey at the movies 2

Don’t worry, for all of you who are afraid of more Game of Thrones rants, I’m pressing the big PAUSE button on that! Instead, I wanted to talk about some shows I’ve watched in the last few months that I actually liked. Now, it takes quite a bit for me to finish a series/continue watching a programme these days (I’m a serial TV show quitter) so it’s no surprise that what I did finish got *all the bananas* from me! Starting with…

The Last Kingdom (Series 3)– once again, I am half monkey, half Dane! It’s no secret after my post last year how much I FRICKIN LOVE THIS SHOW! It is an excellent example of an adaptation done well. Still, I managed to forget how much this packs in. The story is both eventful and emotional and just keeps getting better and better! Certain promises from the writer in earlier seasons (though not all) are delivered with fatal blows. *This* is exactly how you give the audience what they want; this is the best example of set up and payoff in TV right now. It was even more twisty and exciting than the first two series- and that’s saying something, given how much I loved those too! Once again, the characters are amazing and worth getting invested in. I especially love that Uhtred doesn’t always do the right thing- he’s smart, but impulsive, and he often pays the price for that. It does wrap things up rather well, implying there wasn’t going to be another series- but luckily for us, it’s been renewed and there is plenty of room to continue. Forgive my boundless enthusiasm, but this is the kind of show that makes me squee every time! The only *frankly appalling* thing about the Last Kingdom is that every season comes to an end and I WANT MORE. No doubt I’ll be renewing my Netflix subscription just in time for season 4 😉

Umbrella Academy (Series 1)– this was one hell of a wacky, fun, bonkers ride- and I loved every minute of it! I don’t even know where to start with this show. The moment I knew I *had to* watch this series was when I saw the dance like no one is watching clip on Youtube. It so aptly sums up what makes this show so bloody marvellous- the humour, the poignant emotion and the characters. My goodness- the characters! They are so fabulously original and I think everyone can find someone to root for here- my favourites were poor old Klaus and dubious Diego. Oh and 5 is awesome!  From the hilarious script, to the brilliant soundtrack and world-ending plot- this is definitely one of Netflix’s best new additions. Definitely worth checking out if you like superheroes/are looking for something a little bit very different.

The Good Place (Series 3)– this is another show I’ve mentioned on my blog before. I discovered it through Kat’s amazing blog and I REGRET NOTHING. I will freely admit it’s not as good as the first season, or even the second, but it is always worth a watch regardless. Super thought-provoking and funny, this is one of those rare shows *everyone* (and I do mean EVERYONE) can get something out of- and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen people of all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together over this philosophical sit com- and that is quite the testament to what a work of genius it is. I’m also incredibly proud of myself because I figured out the twist for this season 😉

Angel (Series 1-2)– this might come as a bit of a *shocker* but I haven’t actually seen this before- despite rewatching Buffy many times. I know, I know, I should’ve given it a chance sooner, but I never cared much for the character of Angel or had much interest in the (seemingly) minor ways it linked up with Buffy. Well, I stand completely corrected. This show is great! It ended up being super emotional, action-packed and with fab characters! All those people you think “eh what do I care about them?” after they leave Sunnydale, suddenly get a new lease of life in LA. I really liked the evil law firm as Big Bad as well (and the minor antagonists along the way totally work!). I’m glad I finally watched this and look forward to sinking my teeth into series three!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

The Iron Throne Did Not Sit Well with Me (RANT)

 

*Disclaimer: this post comes with SALT and SPOILERS*

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I might have to do a Drogon. Ya know, I’ve just watched the thing I love get stabbed to death, so I’m gonna have me a little meltdown. Cos I. Am. Not. Happy.

Actually, to be fair, Drogon had the most sophisticated character arc in this whole darn series- though they did try with a few of the others. Dany so easily could have had an interesting descent into villainy and they made a compelling argument for her going mad after the fact. They also had a poetic reference back to her vision, where it’s explicitly shown she was the destructive force all along.

That’s nice and all- it’s just a shame they had to butcher Jon’s character in the process. We’re talking about a character that’s always known right from wrong, who has just witnessed someone murdering a million civilians and he still goes “yOu’lL aLWaYs Be My QuEen.” Yeahhh doesn’t stop him killing her- as I’ve long suspected. And to be fair to the cinematographers and everyone involved, it couldn’t have been more visually stunning. There’s even a beautifully poetic callback to “love is the death of duty”:

duty is the death of love

So why am I so unhappy with it? Well, glad you asked (though I’m sure you’re about to be sorry you did). Because after this beautifully shot scene and exquisitely executed moment, we fade to black, skip a few weeks annnnd then the story goes to shit. Because guess who gets to be king?

*Drumroll please* iiiiiit’s… Bran? Ugh. When I said Bran was underused, I DIDN’T MEAN THIS! Although at least I understand why the actor that plays Bran was the most vocal in saying don’t rewrite the ending 😉 (not that I’m signing any petitions). In all seriousness, it couldn’t have been a worse choice. Now, I know I’ve made no secret of my bias against him (I think he’s boring at best) BUT I have *a lot* of reasons beyond this general dislike to explain why this is a terrible idea.

For starters, this is what I feared the most: the writers choosing a patsy puppet ruler for *shock value*. This is clearly evidenced by the fact none of the reasons for doing so were logical- including the “no one is very happy which means it’s a good compromise I suppose” argument- a point always used to justify terrible decisions. To explain why that’s bad, I’ve done a little diagram:

happy or sad ending diagram

(apologies for butchering scatter diagrams to make my point 😉 )

To put it another way- going with No One Saw That Coming ending is wholly unsatisfying. It doesn’t fit with the *years* of Game of Thrones wisdom that someone who is fit to rule must be both clever and noble. It doesn’t exactly go with the underlying moral that awful things happens when some undeserving sod gets too much power. They try to convince us in double-quick-time that he will be a good ruler… because he immediately does a King Robert and abdicates all the dull responsibilities of ruling- YE WOT MATE?! Oh of course, because the fundamental message of the show is “the king can do what he wants” *insert all the sarcasm*.  

And on the topic of abdicating responsibility, you’re seriously telling me that the Lords and Ladies of Westeros will be on board with him for a ruler?! Apart from being the perfect person to sit in a chair (too far? I don’t care!) why would anyone support this useless prick? BRAN HAS NEVER BEEN IN CHARGE OF SO MUCH AS A GRAIN STORE! He doesn’t inspire loyalty- in fact he’s been a pretty diabolical when you think about it…

he's not the messiah

Because the one thing that supposedly qualifies him to rule is that he’s an all-knowing mystical magician figure. Only problem there is HE LITERALLY KNEW DANY WOULD MURDER A BUNCH OF PEOPLE AND HE LET HER DO IT SO HE COULD GET THE THRONE! He is complicit in mass murder!! WTF? If Jon is apparently no longer a valid choice, because he killed the raving lunatic that butchered a city, how in the hell is Bran suitable when he did nothing to stop the destruction of King’s Landing?! The little creep has been playing some effed up 4D chess, where he manipulated Jon into revealing his heritage, and then screwed him over.

making evil plans bran.png

And don’t give me that “he doesn’t want it” crap- the real reason Bran said “I will never be lord of anything” appears to be cos he was thinking “hahaha cos I’m gonna steal the throne from the rightful heir! Suckers!” Oh, what clever foreshadowing! *insert yet more sarcasm*. Again, this foreshadowing is the writers not bothering to actually do some damn character development, just putting a wink and a nod for their dumbass plans.

Also, Bran’s story sucked. No storyteller would think he’s the obvious choice. If you’re trying to find a legitimate ruler, maybe go for the guy who has the most legitimate claim AND put down the last bonkers ruler. Ya know, the guy whose story has come full circle and fulfilled his character arc. Think Henry Tudor coming in from nowhere and winning the war of the Roses cos he’s secretly the heir.

Now I do get some of the reasons to crown Jon. Truth be told, I was expecting him to abdicate in favour of a council and go north anyway. And there are some nice parallels with Jaime (ie not getting credit for doing the right thing) buuuut anyone with eyes will admit the way they concluded his story is insane. They’ve really done the dirty on his character. Let’s break down why:

  1. They removed all his agency by not making it HIS CHOICE.
  2. He didn’t even have an effing trial!! Psycho Bran doesn’t even try to get him off the hook!
  3. All the notes Varys sent out to reveal Jon’s heritage are never brought up. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY! (seriously, I am sick and tired of this technique that “you’ve been paying attention, you know what’s going on, so we’re gonna reward you with… A STORY THAT MAKES NO SENSE!” Thanks for slapping logic in the face I guess.)

I genuinely would’ve preferred the whole democracy ending- even if I thought it was trite and inaccurate for the time period. It literally couldn’t have been worse than this. Sansa had the right idea about getting out of there pronto (and Sophie Turner was right in bracing us all for disappointment). Seriously, she had one of the only ending I was satisfied with, because at least she’s proven a worthy ruler.

Oh, and Ghost finally got his pat on the head (we waited 3 episodes for that!) Which brings us back full circle to the fact that this had so many fantastic elements, so why oh why did it have to end like this? I didn’t want or need a happy ending- I was geared up for bittersweet as promised. If anything, this was too stupidly saccharine for words. Daft in a way that undermines so much of what had come before. So yeah after that criticise the LOTR ending again- I DARE YOU!

Sorry for all my RAGE- I might be over this in a few years (my wounds hopefully salved by GRRM’s book maybe?) but until then I’m going to sink into a depressed stupor take time to cool off. I was planning on doing predictions for the books, but there’s not enough room here and I think I’ve blown all my energy on this post. So, you’ll have to put up with one last GOT related post 😉

Alright, did you love it or hate it? Let me have it in the comments!