The Push by Ashley Audrain

How do I even start trying to talk about this book? I’ll do my best because today is my turn to shout about it on the blog tour!

Ok, so, I knew it was going to be dark, uncomfortable and immersive, I’d read a fair bit of ‘wow, this book though’ reaction on social media. Little did I know just how much this story was going to get under my skin.

‘Family history, written in our genes is handed down the generations. From Mother to daughter. The good and the bad. We cannot choose what we inherit. We cannot decide what we are. Sometimes we get to be angels.

And sometimes monsters…’

I have a beautiful grown up daughter and I’ll forever be my mothers daughter even though she’s passed. The Push took me down the memory lane of my own childhood and motherhood.

Being a Mum or a Dad to a son or a daughter will magnify the intensity of Audrains story tenfold. I felt such strangeness in my stomach reading this book. I had to put it down and gather myself numerous times.

When I first finished, I was almost 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to review it. It kind of hurt. I laid in bed that night mulling over it’s content, my emotions were muddled.

Did I enjoy it? Was I prepared enough to get through it? Did it dig up some personal stuff?

Not sure. No, I don’t think I was. And categorically yes, it did.

This is a story about society’s expectations of motherhood. How a woman is supposed to have some kind of pre-installed knowledge of how to do things right. Feel things right. To naturally nurture. And perhaps use your own childhood as a template to do a great job and bring up a perfectly rounded, delightful human being.

But what if your childhood was horrific? What do you pass on then? Knowingly or unknowingly. It’s a chilling thought.

So your feelings aren’t quite right. The sleep deprivation is blamed. It’s just your hormones, it’ll pass. The adjustment period gently mentioned by those who ‘do it right’.

But what about paranoia? IS IT paranoia? Darkness. Guilt. Self-loathing. Confusion. Distrust. I could reel off a load.

Come on, be a doting Mummy, it’s such a precious gift. Love every minute of it, they grow up so quickly.

I have to keep too many secrets about Blythe and Fox. Violet and Sam. I’m not giving much away about the story itself or the three generations of women that hold this story together in the worst way possible. It would spoil it.

I am astonished by how this story made me feel. I was hooked the minute I started it. It felt so raw, so real. This may well be psychologically thrilling, but, oh the HORROR.

The Push is absorbing, I was enthralled by how Audrain intertwined the generations with each other. I struggle with multiple timelines usually but I had no difficulty here.

The characters are believable, expertly created and emotionally complex yet so easy to relate to, to have an opinion about.

It’s hard to say I enjoyed reading The Push, how can you possibly enjoy something that makes the hairs on your neck stand up when you’ve read a paragraph that forces you to put the book down.

I could of been reading a true story, and that’s what stunned me most of all.

As I come to the end of talking about one of the THE hardest books I’ve read this year, I’ll say this; that perfect family over there, you know the one, nice home, all smiley, living their idyllic life, Sunday morning football, ballet class, home baking, whatever. If you look hard enough, you might just spot a psychopath beginning to emerge.

An unforgettable five star read.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

WWW Wednesdays! 7 Oct 2020 #wwwwednesdays

Welcome to WWW Wednesday!

Hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The three W’s are:
📖 What are currently reading?
📖 What have you finished reading?
📖 What will you read next?

I’m currently reading and REALLY enjoying Hag : Forgotten Folktales Retold. It’s a compilation of traditional folk tales by some cracking women writers like Daisy Johnson, Kirsty Logan and Irenosen Okijie. It’s part of my spooky season October reads.

Staying with spooky reads, I finished reading Famished by Anna Vaught. A dark collection of short stories with food and feasting as the main theme. It’s on my best of 2020 shelf on Goodreads and has pride of place next to my (slowly growing) Shirley Jackson collection. You can read my 5 star review HERE.

Next in line, is creepy horror collection Diabolica Britannica: A Dark Isles Horror Compendium by a variety of horror authors including Sarah Budd, Morgan K Tanner and Tim Lebbon. It’s introduction is written by horror legend Ramsey Campbell and I can’t wait to get stuck in! All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook go to Covid-19 research here in the UK, so it was a no-brainer to buy this for Halloween!

So there we have it! As you can see, I’m very much into short story collections at the moment. I like how I can get the satisfaction of a whole story without committing too much time to each one.

💀 🎃 👻 🎃 💀 🎃 👻 🎃 💀 🎃 👻

Famished by Anna Vaught ~ A Recipe Blogpost Review

‘In this dark and toothsome collection, Anna Vaught enters a strange world of apocryphal feasts and disturbing banquets.’

INGREDIENTS

  • 25g of dried madness
  • 300ml of warmed passion, diced erratically
  • A generous cupful of foul thoughts (check the back of your pantry)
  • 400g of delicious words
  • 1 or 2 tsps of mixed emotions
  • 50g of old musty dictionary pages (‘W,T or F pages are probably most suitable)
  • For the glaze: A wash of quiet darkness

METHOD

Preparation is recommended on an empty stomach.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl. Do this in a careful manner, creating a revolting soup-like consistency that can easily travel through ones veins.

Next, gently combine the dry ingredients together into an old urn or suchlike. There’s bound to be one lurking on the mantelpiece somewhere. Stir with a gnarled and boney finger until it resembles an odd, dusty, cement-like mixture.

Mix both wet and dry ingredients together and divide into 17 unequal portions. You are now ready to create your worst food nightmares.

‘…the tripe blinked at her and writhed in its nasty pool of white sauce…’

HOW DOES IT TASTE?

Comparable to a Cindy Lauper album, Famished has got to be the most magical, colourful, intelligent, bonkers, grotesque mix of stories I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure to read. For reasons unknown, it just reminded me of how fascinated I am by Cindy Lauper in that you can’t help but find it entertaining, albeit very weirdly so.

Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, reviewer and editor. She is also a secondary English teacher, and that shows spectacularly throughout the entire book. I spent a great deal of time looking up so many words in the dictionary, I felt like I was back in school. (Would I get an A* Ms Vaught, if you’re reading this?!)

Famished was a learning curve, a strange experience, a delight.

‘Will you gently suck, or will you shovel up with the liquorice, drunk on the acid-carbonate reaction with your own saliva?’

Famished was also heartfelt, relatable and revolting. Did it whet my appetite? It certainly did. But it didn’t make me hungry. Did it ruin my dinner? No! Funnily enough, it took me back to dinner times at home with my parents in the 80’s. Tinned mandarin segments with condensed milk for pudding was supposed to be a treat!

I must have quite a strong stomach because out of all the darn right disgusting things in this book, there was only one thing that really turned me over.

These four words – ‘…sea-foam milky tea…’ 🤢

I’ve only really started reading short story collections in the last couple of years, so I’ve got quite a list to get through. Many classics and a few contemporary, but I don’t think I’ll come across anything quite like Famished again.

Although…and I’m saying this with great relish; there’s hints of SHIRLEY JACKSON in Vaughts writing. YES, that’s what I said. I’ve compared a modern author to JACKSON, the QUEEN OF MACABRE.

Famished is staying on my forever shelf, and Ms Vaughts’ vulgar little tales are living beside Shirley Jackson. They can be like ‘two sisters, secreted in the deeper recesses of darkness…’

Famished is going on my Best of 2020 Goodreads shelf

Bunny by Mona Awad

‘We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.’

I’m a bit all over the place with this book. I’d call it a ‘yo-yo read’. It’s sickly sweet, ugly pretty, cutely foul and oddly addictive. I was up and down throughout, with awkward ‘do I even like this’ moments. On numerous occasions I was indeed loving it in all its twisted hilarity.

Samantha Heather Mackey is an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at Warren University. In fact, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’.

But then the Bunnies issue her with an invitation and Samantha finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door, across the threshold, and down their rabbit hole.

Bunny was an unusual choice for me as it’s got Young Adult/Fantasy genre written all over it – not my usual choice. But this book feels like it not only blends genres, but bends them too. Into very uncomfortable positions.

⤴️You can treat yourself to this Bunny Zone sign for your wall/garden/bedroom/dustbin area by clicking on the sign!

It’s as funny as hell in places and has a fair few horrific scenes. On Goodreads someone described it as ‘one of the most demented books I’ve ever read’. I dig a bit of weirdness in my books, so my FOMO got the better of me!

I’m a member of The Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads and there was a choice of books for September to vote for. Bunny won, so I thought, oh why not, let’s do it! I’m glad I did, but I’m still not sure I even liked it much!

I’m in the UK and the story is American, so I found certain things that I didn’t connect with. The education system in the USA is something I know nothing about. Also certain pop culture went over my head, so perhaps things were a bit lost on me.

The quirky characters were cracking, the humour was dark and dry, it was shockingly funny on countless occasions. It was written in such a way that is felt ‘chatty’ and flowed from page to brain* very easily.

*whilst mashing it up repeatedly.

The Sunday Independent quotes it as ‘Mean Girls with added menace’ and I completely agree.

At three quarters through I felt it was just playing with me. My feelings went from ‘this is weird’ to this is ‘REALLY effing weird’. Then ‘it’s so hilarious but still weird.’ Then ‘uh-oh, I’m getting a bit bored of the repetitive bits in the middle here.’ And the final part was just ‘whaaat??? – I’m not sure I even ‘get it!’

Talk about rollercoaster! It’s like nothing I’ve read before ever. But I think I liked it.

Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? I would, yes. But it’s definitely not for everyone. Maybe it would sit better with an American reader, and certainly would be more appreciated by someone twenty years younger than myself.

Apparently the rights are sold to AMC for a possible TV-film adaptation. I think it would be better on screen, I’d watch it, but only because I’ve read it.

It comes across as a weird, fantastical teen/YA story, with elements of horror that is cleverly put together. I enjoyed the characters and their strange behaviours, the writing was extremely good but overall I’d say it is an above average ‘Bunny Tail’ deserving of 3/5 bunnies.

I’ll leave you with a couple of lines which made me pull a right dodgy face;

‘A pause so pregnant it delivers, consumes its own spawn, then grows big with child again.’

‘She looks at us all in her probing, intensely gynaecological way.’

Urgh! That’s just ‘orrible!!

WWW: Wednesday 9th September 2020 What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading!

Current Read:

A Village Affair by Joanna Trollope

It’s a slow ol’ read, and I’m a bit disappointed as it’s my first Trollope book, and I had hoped for something more…

Recently read:

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

My 5 star book of the year!

Sliver by Ira Levin

Another disappointing one, I usually LOVE Levins’ books, but this was too full of waffle!

Next Read: Bunny by Mona Awad

I’m joining in with the Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads with this one! It’s been described as ‘demented’ so I’m REALLY looking forward to starting it!