I’ve officially read 12 books so far this year! I have some ambitious reading plans for March, which include finishing up my backlist of Grady Hendrix books, continuing in the Wayfarers series, and reading the new book by Emily St. John Mandel.
Here’s my tentative March list:
Satan Loves You by Grady Hendrix Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix Middlegame by Seanan McGuire A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
As always, I’m too much of a mood reader to stick to a TBR, though these are all books that I’m highly anticipating and am really excited to get to.
I have… no idea what I just read. This book was pitched to me as Heathers meets The Craft with horror elements. I was expecting Horror with a capital H. What Bunny left me with was a surrealist commentary on writing that ended up becoming exactly what it was making fun of. Maybe that’s the point and I didn’t “get it”, but who knows.
Here’s the thing: I love horror, but I’m really picky. When I think horror, I want a sense of dread. I want high stakes that the reader can feel. I want a sinister presence, paranormal or not, that keeps me turning each page. I didn’t get that at all with Bunny. It had some gore, some body modification and general weird-ness, but not that full horror that I expected. I think that this is a very horror-lite experience.
Bunny is a book about Samantha Heather Mackey, a senior in an elite creative writing program. She’s a loner, with only the company of her friend Ava to help her through the difficulties of her program. Then there are the Bunnies, a clique of girls who share Samantha’s program, and who affectionately refer to each other as Bunny.
This book used the word Bunny every other sentence, at least, and the writing style was definitely something that I had to get used to. It’s full of italicized versions of what the Bunnies or thinking, or really what Samantha thinks the Bunnies are thinking. (You’re so amazing Bunny. You too, Bunny. So amazing. So.)
One of the quotes in the book I think sums up my experience reading it perfectly:
This makes no sense. This is coy and this is willfully obscure and no one but [the author] will ever get this […] spoiled, fragmented, lazy, pretentious […] And then I feel like screaming JUST SAY IT. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED. TELL ME WHAT THE F*CK THIS MEANS
When I read this character’s quote I felt like I read the entire summary of Bunny. Again, maybe this is supposed to be the point of the book. I feel like this is the type of book to go into blind and without any preconceived notions of what’s happening in here. I won’t go into the full plot or mystical element to the book, but my favorite part of the book is that it’s one big metaphor for authors needing to “kill their darlings”, which is referenced multiple times.
Overall, it was okay. It’s definitely not like anything I’ve ever read before, but ultimately I felt that Bunny became what it was seeking to parody.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. At its core, I enjoyed the plot, the characters, the writing style, and the message behind it. I fully recognize that in this case, I just didn’t mesh well with this book, and that this review is based almost entirely on how I felt during my reading experience. I found it difficult to read, and it gave me a lot of anxiety. I ended up finishing it because not knowing how everything ended was much worse than going through. I’m glad that I pushed through to the ending, because I found that the best, and most redeeming aspect of the story.
This book follows Candace Chen, a Chinese woman whose family immigrated to the US when she was six years old. It goes through her relationships with her boyfriend, her parents, her coworkers and her friends, as well as her job. It also follows her as civilization collapses around her due to an epidemic which leaves people infected and zombie-like.
The best way I can describe this book is sleepy. It drifts from one memory of Candace’s to the next, without quotations for dialogue or break-ups in the story or flow. There isn’t a lot of action or compelling movement in the book, it seems almost tired and routine. It makes perfect sense, given the subject matter and the “point” of the book, but it was definitely a writing style that took me a long time to get into.
For some reason this book really just struck a chord with me in a way that created dissonance in my brain. It made me feel anxious, and though I loved the story that was told (especially the ending, more on that in a minute) I didn’t enjoy the reading experience because of it. I don’t know if I would recommend this book, which is somewhat disappointing, because there were aspects of it I loved.
Now, let’s tackle the ending.
I read so many reviews after I finished this, trying to see if there were other people who found the book anxiety producing. The results were mixed, but none of the people who rated it similarly to me were doing so for the same reason, and most of them talked about the ending being a let-down. In my opinion, the ending was the best part of the book. I’m getting into spoiler territory here, so here’s your warning.
I thought the ending of the book was absolutely perfect. The entire time we’re following Candace, she has a feeling that the fevered are stuck in their memories, plagued by nostalgia and routine, and both drawn to it and triggered when they get close to it. We see this when Bob is walking around the Facility. We see this when one of the other survivors tries on her dresses over and over. They end up falling into these routines because they’re finally back home, and many times they’re fighting to get back to their homes, and they don’t quite know why.
The entire book we’re stuck inside of Candace’s memories, as she relives her childhood, her parents coming to the US, her parents’ death, and the last days of her job. Candace’s love for cities and walking around them is brought up multiple times, and my interpretation of the book is very much that she was fevered and resumed her walking routine at the end. I could be totally off-base in this, but this interpretation makes the most sense to me. This was my favorite part of the book.
This is Ling Ma’s first book, and based on how much I loved the ending alone I’ll definitely check out her work in the future to see how it compares.
I touched upon this in my review of her most recent book Now Entering Addamsville, but Francesca Zappia is a very interesting author to me. Since I finished that book so recently, and since I’ve read all of her books now, she was a natural choice for my second author spotlight. She’s published three books traditionally, and one through Wattpad, which I admittedly have not yet read.
Her first book, Made You Up tackles a heavy subject matter in schizophrenia, and is a book that I find myself thinking about still. I first read it in August of 2015, while on a trip to Texas. I flew through the book, and thought that Zappia tackled the unreliable narrator very well. My heart still breaks at the thought of the major “twist” in this book, because it was something that I didn’t see coming at all. This was honestly one of the books that got me back into reading right as I was going into my last year of college.
In May of 2017, she published her second book, titled Eliza and her Monsters. This book was a huge deal to me when I read it. I thought the way it portrayed anxiety and perfectionism was absolutely incredible, and I loved the characters and the story it told.
I went over most of my thoughts about Now Entering Addamsville in my review already, but I will say that I’m glad that she did branch out into another genre, but I wish that she had stuck with having a heavier subject matter.
Zappia herself is just a very interesting person to me. I’ve read a lot of her answers to questions on Tumblr, and I find it fascinating how long she’s been working on her books and her characters. I could definitely feel that love and that care put into her first two books, and I’m hoping that she has more of this to share in the future.
Though I’m reading less and less YA these days, I think that Zappia is one that I’ll continue to keep an eye on as she publishes, because I really appreciate her work and her emotional connection to the novels she’s crafted so far.
I feel like it was really only last year that I discovered that I can actually enjoy literary fiction. Last year, I read Normal People and found that I really liked dipping into those two character’s lives. I felt really similarly about Little Fires Everywhere.
This book has one of the most unique writing styles that I’ve ever read. The main plot of the book follows Mia, an artist who moves and travels constantly with her daughter Pearl. They move into the rental property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, a wealthy family living in Shaker Heights with their four children. It also follows Bebe, a Chinese woman who abandoned her baby in an act of desperation, and then regretted the decision immediately, and Mr. and Mrs. McCollough who have been trying for a baby for years and are trying to adopt Bebe’s baby.
The way this is written provides so much background to the actions of every single character, explaining why they think the way they do, and why they behave the way they do. I loved the exploration into these characters, and the issues of race, and parenting, relationships between parents and their children that this book had.
The ending to me was also perfect. I loved that this was a slice of these people’s lives, and though it provided some insight into what they would go on to do or think, I enjoyed that everything wasn’t resolved, or fixed, because so often things aren’t.
I’m really excited to get to Celeste Ng’s other book Everything I Never Told You soon.
I have a lot of anticipated books this year! I try to keep my TBR somewhat low and realistic to the books that I really want to read. Most of what’s currently on there are books which are announced, but have no release date outside of 2020, or books which are definitely coming out this year, and which I’ve preordered.
Firstly, we have V.E. Schwab. Author of the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy, as well as Vicious and Vengeful (two of my favorites), she has two books which are currently announced. One, is titled The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and follows a French girl and the devil over the span of 300 years. The book is slated for release in October 2020, but does not yet have a cover. The other is currently untitled, but is a sequel to Vicious and Vengeful. This book does not have a year anywhere attached to it, but whenever it comes out I’ll be rushing to read it.
Next on my list is Grady Hendrix. He’s quickly become my favorite horror author. I have one of his prior works left, but his new release, titled The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is coming out on April 7th of this year. Described as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula” this book is about a women’s book club which is trying to protect its suburban community from a vampire. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book from Quirk Books, so I’m hoping to read this right before it comes out.
Riley Sager is an author who was new to me last year. I read his three previous titles, and his most recent book called Home Before Dark comes out this July. This follows a woman returning to the house that was made famous by her father, a horror writer. The description is ominous, and is vague about whether or not there are paranormal aspects to this book, or if it’s grounded in reality. Either way I’m excited to see what Riley Sager does this time around.
The next one on my list is Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power. I really liked her debut novel, Wilder Girls, last year and I’m excited to see what she continues to do. This is one of the few young adult books that I have on this list. It’s described as horror, but if it’s anything like her previous book, it’ll be more in the vein of Annihilation. This book is also expected to come out in July
Though this book doesn’t have any title, cover, or release information, I’m probably the most excited about it. Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods, and Only Human is writing a new novel under the series title Take Them to the Stars. It looks like this is going to be science fiction, and I’m very excited to see what his next series brings. I’m really hoping that we do get more information about this book soon, and that it comes out in 2020.
Next I have an author who’s new to me, and I’m excited to see what their second novel brings! The Devil and the Dark Water is the newest book by Stuart Turton, author of The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I enjoyed his first book a lot, and I’m excited to see what he continues to do in the mystery genre. Though we don’t have a cover yet, if it’s anything like the design of his first book I’m really excited about it.
My most anticipated fantasy is the spin-off series to the Book of the Ancestor series, titled Book of the Ice. The first book is going to be coming out on April 30th, and is titled The Girl and the Stars. This book brings us back to the planet Abeth from the previous series, but follows a character named Yaz who lives as part of the ice tribes in the book. It’s unclear from the synopsis if this takes place before, during, or after the events of Book of the Ancestor, so I’m really excited to dive into this when it releases.
The final book on this list is from Emily St. John Mandel, who wrote Station Eleven that I read last year. This is her first book since 2014, and is titled The Glass Hotel. The story follows Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette. Taking place on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. There’s crime, and crisis, and survival, the book is already getting rave reviews. This book just came out two days ago and I’m really excited to start reading it.
These are all of my most anticipated reads for 2020. I’ve got a lot of great authors and reads on this list, and I know that this will also continue to grow as the year goes on.