Sadie by Courtney Summers | Book Review

★★★★★
February 19th – 22nd

I really like crime stories and podcasts. Like a lot of people my age, I listened to the spin-off podcast by This American Life called Serial when it originally came out in 2014, bringing the murder of Hae Min Lee to the spotlight and questioning the conviction of her then-boyfriend Adnan Syed.

In Sadie, we have a very similar situation. After the murder of her sister, Sadie disappears without a trace. Her grandmother is desperate for answers and asks a radio station for help in tracking down Sadie. The podcast, titled The Girls follows Sadie’s path as she attempts to track down a man she’s calling her father, and follows the host’s (West’s) attempt to find her before she meets the same fate as her sister.

At the same time, we see Sadie’s side of the story. Sadie, who practically raised her younger sister Mattie was devastated by her murder and was never the same. She’s seeking revenge from a man who she believes did it, and she’ll stop at nothing to try and find him and make him pay.

Sadie’s chapters are full of anger for the loss of her sister, frustration at a stutter that makes it difficult for her to speak, and dedication to enact revenge on the man she knows is responsible. West’s chapters are told in the form of the podcast script, revealing information that goes in conjunction with Sadie’s journey and helping to uncover horrific things in Sadie’s past and help find her.

I both read this book physically and listened to the audiobook of it, but this is one audiobook that I highly recommend. It’s read by a full cast, all of whom are extremely talented. The podcast chapters are edited and mixed as an actual podcast, and the voice for Sadie is gripping and as angry as she’s written. I’ll get into some mild spoilers in a moment, but if you’re someone who needs content warnings for media, I would definitely look into the type of content that’s in this. That being said, I do believe that the best way to go into mysteries/thrillers is to go in as blind as possible, so I’d also recommend that.

Now for the spoilers.

This book tackles a lot of heavy topics: the murder and sudden death of a family member, dealing with an parent with addiction, the parentification of Sadie raising her younger sister and making excuses for her mother, as well as the strong prominence of child abuse and pedophilia which is unfortunately present in Sadie’s life. I think this book handles each of these topics in very sensitive ways, not shying away from the horror, but not making light of any of the situations.

The ending of the book I think is extremely strong, though I did see that this is the most divisive part of the book. I’m not someone who needs every answer to a mystery. It’s nice when it happens, but I find that it’s much more realistic for things to be left more open-ended. As with the podcast Serial there are so many possibilities, and we’re able to explore one of them.

This was the fist novel that I read by Courtney Summers. Though I’m not sure the plot of any of her older books appeal to me, I’ll definitely keep my eye on what she comes out with in the future.

-Siobhan

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers | Book Review

★★★★☆
February 12th – 19th

I sometimes forget how much I really enjoy science fiction. If something has a cast of characters, especially multiple perspectives from them, I’m usually in. It’s the reason I like The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel, and the reason I enjoyed Illuminae when I read those.

This book had been recommended to me several times, and my partner had purchased it a while ago. I got to it first, and I’m very glad that I did. The book was fantastic. It stars a full cast of diverse characters of different species, orientations, races, physical abilities and disabilities. It has politics and tension, and the mundane aspects of working and living on a spaceship headed for new territory.

The story starts with Rosemary, a girl who’s running from her past and accepts a job aboard the Wayfarer, a ship whose job is tunneling black holes for easier space travel. They accept a job to create a tunnel to a planet who has just joined the GC, basically the UN for planets and races. In the cast of characters we also follow the captain of the Wayfarer, Ashby, the pilot, Sissex, two technicians, Kizzy and Jenks, as well as Dr. Chef and a few other characters who are each given time to shine in their own chapters.

We learn about the backgrounds of the individual characters, the circumstances that brought them to the Wayfarer, as well as the history between their species and the GC, and we see the political, racial, and socio-economic tension that exists between all of these different groups.

My biggest complaint was the writing style. Ending most pieces of dialogue with “they said” was distracting, and there were times that the character’s personalities felt forced and not totally smooth or natural. Sometimes this also bled into the chemistry between characters, though most of that dissipated by the middle of the book. There were large info-dumps of important information which you felt that you should have known several chapters ago, and sometimes it felt like things weren’t explained at all. In contrast, there were also page-long dialogue sequences where the main character was asking the questions as the audience, mainly so another character could explain what was happening.

I liked the commentary the book made on the environment, on humans, and on what our species did to itself. I enjoyed the creativity of the different cultures, specifically with the types of languages we see and the ways they were spoken (such as on inhales as well as exhale, or with multiple simultaneous tones.) I’m really excited to continue this series and see where it leads, and I can’t wait to pick up the next book soon.

-Siobhan

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson | Book Review

★★★★☆
February 8th – 12th

This book was the third attempt of mine in a row to find some really intense horror. This had good reviews, and had the word ghost in the title, so I figured it was what I was looking for.

I was wrong about part of my thought process. This isn’t really horror, at least how I define it. It has a few horror elements, but it’s very reminiscent of Stephen Spielberg movies, 80’s childhood nostalgia, riding bicycles around a suburban town, and exploring mysterious places.

The story is told as our narrator in his adulthood revisiting his childhood memories, as he chooses to remember them. That includes the idea that his uncle, Calvin, was vague and mysterious and a bit supernatural. He believed, and relished in the idea of conspiracies, hidden societies, ghosts, and demons. And Jake, 12 at the time, loves living in his world. Calvin owns an occult themed shop, selling potions and trinkets, mostly to tourists of their small town near Niagara Falls.

This book is about memory, family, the brain, and everything in between. It’s about how sometimes it’s better to remember people as they want to be remembered, and sometimes you don’t get to remember anyone at all. I think that the best way to go into this book is blind.

The ghosts that follow Calvin are far more than spirits, but I don’t want to get into spoilers here. There are very slight horror elements, but it’s more horror reminiscent than full on horror. This book deals well with mental illnesses, the physical attributes of the brain and how illness manifest themselves, and how families deal with these things.

I really enjoyed what this book did with family dynamics, and I loved how clear the author’s love for Canada is. Craig Davidson has written several other novels, under several pen names. I’ll be checking out more of his work in the future.

-Siobhan

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

February Recap | 2020

February seemed to fly by super quickly. I read seven books this month, and though I didn’t get through as many as I wanted to on vacation, I’m definitely still ahead of my reading goal.

Here’s what I read this month!

Severance by Ling Ma – January 31st – February 1st
★★★☆☆

Bunny by Mona Awad – February 2nd – 6th
★★★☆☆

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson – February 8th – 12th
★★★★☆

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – February 12th – 19th
★★★★★

Sadie by Courtney Summers – February 20th – 22nd
★★★★★

The Other People by C.J. Tudor – February 23rd – 24th
★★★★☆

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix – February 25th – 26th
★★★★☆

I definitely read some… strange books this month, and some great books this month. I have some fun reading plans for March, which I’ll go over next week in my TBR!
-Siobhan