Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m back, y’all! Sorry for my hiatus last week, but sometimes you just have to let life win. I was nearly finished with Room when I had to make the call to put out my “Send help, and coffee” post, but just couldn’t get that far.

Years ago I watched the movie Room on Netflix and thought it simply amazing. The story had me crying all the way through, and when the credits rolled, my face was soaked. I had no intention on also reading the story, but when I won the Goodreads Choice sweepstakes a few years back, this was one of the books I received – and I decided to give it a shot. It’s literally been three years, but I get there eventually, okay?

Room is told from the perspective of Jack, a five year old boy in captivity. At age nineteen, “Ma” was kidnapped and held captive in a gardening shed by her abuser. Years later, Jack was born, and Room, with it’s 11’x11′ footprint and four walls, is all Jack has ever known.

After their kidnapper turns off the electric in the dead of winter for several days, Ma decides it’s time to escape. Together they craft a plan to get out, into the world, into the outside Jack can only imagine.

This story is truly beautiful in it’s relationships. It’s so inherently human, and that is most certainly its strength. The relationship between Ma and Jack is quintessential mother and son, the strongest love built on five years of no separation. Their life in the outside world, the angst, the anger, the depression, the curiosity…it’s so real and so well done.

Jack’s perspective can get…tiring. I think it’s extremely novel, very accurate, and the best perspective with which to tell this story. However, reading an entire book from the perspective of a five year old is much like spending your day in and day out with a five year old. Particularly, one who knows nothing at all of the world and has a lot of questions.

Jack’s vocabulary also brings up some questionable choices in the writing of this book. It just creates some plot loopholes: one moment, he won’t know what something is, then the next he’s using huge vocabulary words to describe the very same thing. It just occasionally had me saying, “Five year olds don’t know that word…even bright five year olds”. It took me out of the story, however briefly, and I just couldn’t fall all the way into it.

Overall, this story is fantastic. I think it’s a great one to absorb, no matter how you absorb it: be it through the movie or the book. Honestly, though, this is one of the few cases where I think I preferred the movie. It had more of an emotional effect on me to watch it rather than read and listen to it. I think the book brings up some intricacies that aren’t present in the movie, and are very important, but it just didn’t have the same impact for me. Like I said, I originally fell in love with the story as I cried my way through Brie Larson’s performance…but I didn’t cry once while reading the very same narrative.

I think this is a really touching story, and I recommend it in any capacity. Room is a beautiful story of a mother’s love, told through tragedy. I’m glad I finally took the time to knock it off my TBR…and if it’s been on yours for a while too, take this as your sign to pick it up!

I hope you all have a wonderful week, peeps!

The Shadows by Alex North

The Shadows by Alex North

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Good lord, why did I put this one off?!? I have had this book sitting in my to-read pile for easily, a whole year, maybe longer! And YET! I think I completely forgot just how much I had loved The Whisper Man, how much it sucked me in and gave me the creeps, and The Shadows did the very same. The Shadows is a disturbing and eerie read that’ll have you shocked at the twists and turns, as well as checking over your shoulder every few minutes with the feeling of being watched.

Paul Adams experienced tragedy as a teen. Wrapped up in a toxic friendship with other boys, he remembers a year of lucid dreaming, manipulation, dark woods, and a murder he was very nearly implicated in. He returns now to the village he grew up in to care for his mother as she lays dying, and gets wrapped up in a very similar mystery happening miles away in another small town: Detective Amanda Beck is looking into the story that started it all in attempt to solve the murder that’s just rocked Featherbank.

But something is still lingering in this town. Someone is lurking in the woods, delivering memories of a time Paul would rather put behind him. And something needs to be done about Charlie Crabtree…

This is one of those books I just know I’m going to do a horrible job describing, because there are so, so many pieces to put together and you also don’t want to spoil anything for the reader. I encourage you to read the full description of the novel, which does a far better job explaining than I can.

This book is complicated in the very best way. I love how intricate the details of this story are. There’s so much substance to it, which I guess made me realize there hasn’t been tons of substance to what I’ve been reading lately. I picture North writing this book with a huge wall in front of him, connecting characters and plots by strings and pushpins. If you’re in the mood to go “Whaaaat…” and “Oh my god noooo”, boy do I have the book for you. Around three-quarters of the way through the book, I was laying in bed listening to the story trying to figure out where the hell the curveball I’d just been thrown had even COME from (loudly), and my boyfriend leaned over and asked, “Crazy book stuff?”. Yeah, crazy book stuff.

The characters make this book. They are so well rounded – so very real to the reader, which makes it even crazier the farther you read (gosh, I am really walking the line of spoilers today, aren’t I??). There’s so many of them but they all play a really important role in this story. It’s an incredible small town tale, and everything is important: don’t write off any little detail.

My only complaint, and it’s not even really a complaint, was that some of the language is very repetitive. I think North does it on purpose to draw attention to the importance of certain statements and their bearing on the story, but after a while I felt like saying “Yeah, man, you just said that”. Other than that: the language is beautiful. Incredible. Sophisticated, even, for a horror novel, in a way that brings it up a notch in my book.

Soooo, I actually received a copy of The Shadows in exchange for an honest review by the publisher through NetGalley…approximately a year ago. Whoops. I finally got to it! At least I have great things to say! Naturally, The Shadows is already available for purchase…and I highly recommend reading it. Grab a copy if you’re looking for something to blow your mind. 🙂

Have a great week friends!

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book hits right in the heart! I’ve been not-so-patiently awaiting The Heart Principle for literally years…and finally got my hands on it. It was well done and written with love.

Anna is a violinist stuck in a loop. After a viral video made her music famous, she can’t seem to make it through a full song without thoughts of what others think just crowding in. After her boyfriend asks for an open relationship, she decides it’s time to make some changes, and seeks a new relationship and some revelations of her own.

Quan survived a diagnosis that left him feeling less than whole, and it’s ruined his carefree lifestyle and relationship style – until now. Looking for one night to get him back on the horse, he finds Anna, and falls head over heels for this woman.

When tragedy strikes Anna’s family, and she comes face to face with a diagnosis of her own, things become too much, and it threatens the one good thing Anna and Quan always have: each other.

I’ve got to say right off, I didn’t love this book as much as I’ve loved Hoang’s other novels, and I actually feel bad about it. The Heart Principle feels kind of like a cross between a romance and a contemporary/literary fiction novel. There’s a lot of focus on the story, the character development, and relationships outside of the romantic relationship, that are more present in literary fiction. However, this book also follows the arc of a romance novel. I’m not dissatisfied, certainly, but if you’re reading this review and seeing four stars like it’s a four star romance, I don’t mean it in that way. It’s a four star book overall.

This book focuses heavily on mental health and caregiving. I don’t want to spoil any big details, but it’s split up into three parts revolving around a major health event, and then the caregiving that comes after. These parts felt the most meaningful to me: as much as I love any Hoang romance, the author’s interaction with the story during these parts definitely had a deeper quality to it, and for good reason. After reading the book, I was met with the author’s note, which explains that Hoang wrote the story over the three years she was acting as a caregiver for her mother. These parts of the story are raw and real because they’re based in reality for her, and I definitely felt that as the reader.

The romance portion is where my star is lost. I think it’s really nicely done, and I think Anna and Quan’s support for one another even in the hardest of times is emotionally heartwarming and sweet. However, it doesn’t live up to the standards of her previous books in this sense. Don’t read it expecting it to be the main event…but certainly read it. I still very much recommend this book, but be aware that it is far heavier than any of her others, and take care of yourself while reading.

A copy of The Heart Principle was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be available August 31, 2021.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Hey all! I’m going to preface this review by saying…this book is wicked sad. I cried several times. It was reminiscent of reading In Five Years, but I was very taken with Lydia’s story and the beautiful cast of characters that make up her life.

Lydia Bird’s fiancé has died in a car crash. In the months after Freddie’s death, Lydia is struggling hard to move on with her life in her emotional turmoil. And then, miraculously, some sleeping pills she never intended to take connect her to a world where Freddie is still alive, and their world keeps spinning. She falls quickly down a spiral of sleeping just for the chance to see her love, and live her life as it should have been.

But as she falls deeper and deeper into this fantasy, the real world is slipping away from her. It can’t compare to the hours she spends in another universe, even when it shows that this world, too, has its faults. As Lydia is forced to confront her grief with this added curveball, it becomes clear she cannot exist in two lives, as two Lydia’s.

The plot of this novel is absolutely artful. It’s truly a masterpiece. I want to follow Josie Silver around and just clap for her for like a straight 24 hours. I’m in awe of her ability to not only portray grief and loss, but for her ability to navigate the question “what would I do with one more chance?” with creativity and heart. It. Is. Beautiful.

Another thing I’m absolutely loving about Lydia Bird is the messiness of it. The plot can feel a bit scattered at times, but when you step back and process those pages, it becomes obvious that Silver has simply crafted real-life. Which is messy, and sad, and you don’t always make the right decisions – but you eventually get where you need to be. The cast of characters Silver has created, from Lydia’s mother and sister, to her lifelong friend Jonah who was Freddie’s best friend, and with him at the time of his death, to her coworkers, and Kris and Vita, who provide friendship exactly when Lydia needs it. Looking back, I’m shocked by just how many characters actually do play a pivotal role in this story…which only reinforces the idea that grief, loss, and life are messy, and it takes a village to get through it.

Lydia is lucky. The people around her are here for her, 100%, and they lighten the load of the real-world as she slowly adjusts from these shell-shocking events. The familial love laced in every page makes this book warm to the heart, despite the cold and sad loneliness that haunts it. I cannot stress enough that this is a work of art! Amazing.

I’m warning you now, this book is dense. It took me days to get through primarily because of its emotional weight. Take time to process, and take time to take care of yourself. Lydia’s feelings feel so real, which is a positive thing, but feels heavy for the reader.

I am just absolutely enthralled by Lydia Bird. I highly recommend! Special thanks to Willow for letting me borrow her copy ❤ ! The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was released on March 3, 2020 and is available now. Enjoy! 🙂

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Ugh, GUYSSSS. This book was SO SAD. I’m going to be real upfront with you, this book is not what I expected, whatsoever, and I’m going to do my best to not spoil it for you either. I think there’s something magic in the book I expected to get, becoming the book I got – and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone. Whoever wrote this synopsis did a lovely job. Specifically, “In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.” It certainly was not.

Dannie is a corporate lawyer, living exactly the life she planned for herself in New York. Her best friend is her total opposite: free-spirited and loving and flitting from one thing to next. But Dannie is okay with that; she’s content with her own life and knows Bella’s is far different.

Until the night she gets her dream job and gets engaged, when she falls asleep and wakes up in what is certainly not a dream but most definitely a vision of the future – five years from now, in a different apartment, with a different man. When she returns to her present, she lives with this haunting memory until the day she meets that man in person, four and a half years later.

Honestly, that’s really all I can tell you without spoilers! But if this description sounds good to you, buckle up. This is not the ride you think it is.

Somewhere around the halfway point of this book, things took a sharp right turn, I started sobbing, and I haven’t stopped since. I cannot relay to you the beauty of this book in words, and how it made me feel. The characters were incredible and whole, and while I felt at first that they were too perfectly cast to be real, I know now that that’s the point of the story, and what can be drawn from it.

One interesting thing I noted was that Dannie’s perspective is very robotic. You understand right from the beginning that she’s very Type-A, she lives things exactly according to plan and thrives in environments of her own making. But her voice gains strength throughout the novel: as she’s forced to step outside and feel, you can see the change in her perspective and her dialogue, the way she interacts with others. It’s like a blending between two extremes (you’ll see!) that leaves her a little bit better than we found her, prepared to move on to something greater. Again, it’s so hard to review this book without ruining it for you. I want everyone to experience, the shock, the grief, the love that this book has to offer, without my having tainted it.

This book flew by for me. Whenever I picked it up, I could hardly put it down. You’ve been warned. 🙂 I highly recommend In Five Years.

An advance copy of In Five Years was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley. It was released March 10, 2020.