Recent Reads 11

I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, a WILD story about motherhood, and the next book in a series that almost redeemed how bad the last book was. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bunny by Mona Awad

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Genre: Adult horror, dark academia

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision.

The spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.

Brief Review

“Why do you lie so much? And about the weirdest little things?”, my mother always asked me. “I don’t know”, I always said. But I did know. It was very simple. Because it was a better story.”

This is probably going to be in my top 10 for 2021. I don’t think I could really explain this book if I tried but I did jot down some thoughts while I was reading and I’m going to try to make them read cohesively. I immediately related to Samantha, not just because we share a first name but because we both grew up creating stories. I almost got my MFA instead of my MA so this was an interesting main character for me to follow. This book kept me thinking and I’m still thinking and theorizing about this story. I don’t usually try to guess twists or guess what’s going to happen in books but Awad forces you to be confused along with the main character. I was constantly asking myself “is this real or is this a metaphor for X?” Parts of it, especially towards the end, felt like a commentary on imposter syndrome, and that GREATLY resonated with me. This book has some gruesome and potentially disturbing imagery and I’ll include some trigger warnings but I also think this book is quite funny, especially the Bunnies. This book is so well written and made me want to write again. At the end of this post, I’ll share a photo of the page I created in my reading journal based on this book.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: Adult phychological drama

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

Brief Thoughts

“We could have counted our problems on the petals of the daisy in my bouquet, but it wouldn’t be long before we were lost in a field of them.”

PLEASE CHECK THE TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS BOOK! I’ve seen people describe this as a thriller but I think that the synopsis calling it a psychological drama is MUCH more accurate. The mother, Blythe, is an unreliable character and seems to have an unfounded dislike for her daughter but as events unfold and her husband is increasingly frustrating, I started wanting to believe Blythe more. I was uncomfortable reading through Blythe sometimes because I didn’t want to believe the same things as her. There are flashbacks throughout the book that give a glimpse into her mother and grandmother and what they were like as parents. There is definitely some commentary on women feeling pressured to have children and then realize they hate it. Audrain seems to really challenge the “natural mother” any woman who has made the decision to not have kids has heard about 1000 times.

There are some things that didn’t work for me, though. Some of them are picky such as, “What does she do for work in the second half of the book?” or “the ending is wild but maybe confuses the message a bit.” Another thing that raised a flag was Blythe expressing that she would hate to have a disabled kid. It was such a yikes moment; I think it fits with Blythe’s non-nurturing nature towards her daughter, Violet, and made me question her as a character even more but it is something I wanted to point out in this review.

You can see a list of trigger warnings on The Storygraph page (linked above) for this book. Please check them if you need them especially with anything surrounding children because I was taken by surprise.

Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Tik Tok of Oz

Release Date: 1914

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 272

Goodreads Synopsis

Join Tik-Tok, the Shaggy Man, and a host of other friends–both old and new–on an exciting, imaginative journey through the world of Oz.

The fun begins in an isolated corner of Oz, in the small country of Oogaboo. There Queen Ann Soforth musters an unlikely army and sets off to conquer the rest of Oz. Meanwhile, a girl from Oklahoma named Betsy Bobbin and her companion, Hank the mule, are shipwrecked and washed ashore in the Rose Kingdom, a magical land of talking roses. There they meet the Shaggy Man, who is on a quest to rescue his brother from the clutches of the wicked Nome King. Betsy, Hank, and the Rose Princess join the Shaggy Man on his journey, and before long they meet up with Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter; Tik-Tok; and Queen Ann with her army. The rest of Baum’s tale is filled with hairbreadth escapes, wild puns, and mystifying magic.

Brief Thoughts

“If we didn’t want anything, we would never get anything, good or bad. I think our longings are natural, and if we act as nature prompts us we can’t go far wrong.”

I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous Oz book but this one was a bit better. From the beginning, Ann made me laugh. Her reasoning behind any of her actions struck me as ridiculous. I also really liked Betsy Bobbin. She and her mule, Hank, were stuck in the Rose Kingdom and she was a strong character throughout the rest of the book. She said, “Well, I’m not afraid of a man.” and that’s a mood. Baum explores themes of colonialism, slavery, and refugees in this story and it’s interesting to see how these things work in a land such as Oz. It’s a definite improvement after the last book. And Toto has an interesting surprise at the end of the story!

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Book Review – Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.

Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Synopsis

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Review

I wanted to write this review earlier in the week, but I had a hard time figuring out how I feel about Ninth House. Before I get into this, I don’t read fantasy that often, and I’ve never read anything by Leigh Bardugo. I went in with hardly any expectations and honestly knew very little about the plot outside of “dark academia.”

The structure of this book was interesting. Chapters jump back and forth in time, and it is definitely one of those books where you have to keep reading to not be confused. I’m not really a fan of that type of narrative structure, but I usually follow along enough to figure it out, but this book felt overly confusing. I felt like I was always missing something.

That being said, I was always interested in where the story was going. I knew that some people were bored by the beginning of the book, but I didn’t see that. A lot was going on all the time. Ghosts, and rituals, and murder, oh my! In addition to the spooky and exciting plot points, many scenes need trigger warnings (listed at the end of this post). Some of it really added to the story, but others felt like they were superfluous. 

Thematically, Ninth House explores the way people in positions of power or people who are generally privileged exploit others for their own gain. Bardugo could have pushed it a little further and may do so in future books in this series. The social commentary in this book reminded me of the social commentary in Lock Every Door. I talk about this in my review, which you can read here.

I initially gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but I think I feel closer to 3.5 stars after reflecting on it more. If you’ve read this book, please come talk to me about it because my rating still doesn’t feel totally right. I’d like to hear what other people think, especially if they are Leigh Bardugo or fantasy fans.

TW for Ninth House: rape and sexual assault, murder, drug addiction, overdose, suicide, blackmail, self-harm