Bunny by Mona Awad | Book Review

★★★☆☆
February 2nd – 6th

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.

-Siobhan

Severance by Ling Ma | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 31st – February 1st

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.

-Siobhan

Author Spotlight – Francesca Zappia

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.

-Siobhan

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | Book Review

★★★★★
January 27th – 30th

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.

-Siobhan

Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 23rd – 24th

This is the third book that I’ve read by Francesca Zappia, and to be honest, after this one I’m thinking that my love for her second book may have been an anomaly.

In theory, this book has everything that I like. Mystery, paranormal powers, ghosts, and a distinct lack of romance (though it did have an annoying amount of mentioning it). In reality, I felt that the book fell flat with many of these elements, and I’m wondering if that’s because of the age range it was written for, or due to the writing.

Mysteries are supposed to be creepy. They should make the hair on the back of your arms stand up, and leave you with a sense of unease. At best, I found the setting for Now Entering Addamsville a type of surface level horror setting that I was not a huge fan of.

The main plot is that Zora Novak has been framed for starting a fire and killing a man. Things only go worse for Zora from there, as she’s outcast and blamed for a series of crimes that she didn’t commit. Zora, who can see ghosts and is hunting a creature called a firestarter, has the whole town against her. She teams up with her cousin Artemis, and the two attempt to clear her name and stop the monster causing havoc in their spooky Indiana town.

The most interesting mystery in the book actually happened five years prior to the events we’re given, when Zora’s mother disappeared without a trace and left her car, and her firestarter hunting to Zora. Through the book, there is a constant reminder that Zora’s mom disappeared, and that Zora doesn’t believe her to be dead. Though some of the other character mysteries had satisfying endings, I felt that this one was left far too open for any satisfaction.

I did like the some of the characters, mainly Zora’s cousin Artemis, and a “good” firestarter named Bach who helps her along the way. I thought that their characters were more interesting, and less angry, than our main character. I think that I have a hard time with angry main characters in general though, so I don’t fault the book for that.

I also appreciated that at the end the book definitely didn’t shy away from gore, and Zora’s fear of fire was written very well. This, combined with the good pacing of the book is what kept it at a three for my rating.

I hope that if Zappia writes in this genre again, we get to see more of a creepy setting. This low rating hasn’t dissuaded me from reading her future books, because I know what her writing is like when she’s touching upon heavier subjects like the schizophrenia in Made You Up, or the anxiety and perfectionism she dictates so beautifully in Eliza and her Monsters. Whenever she announces a new book, I’ll still check it out.

-Siobhan