A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman #bookreview #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

When I requested this from NetGalley, I didn’t realize it was originally released in 2016. Reading reviews from that time, it looks like this novella was categorized as horror – which is absolutely isn’t. On Amazon, it’s now listed as coming of age and magical realism, which are much more appropriate descriptions.

Can I just say how cool this cover is? The eerie colors and perspective of the boat above the house just draw you in, and it helped me visualize the house as James and Amelia explored it underwater.

I’ve read three other books by this author and enjoyed them all, especially Bird Box. While I liked both of these teen characters and was riveted by their growing obsession with the house and their discoveries, I had to shove my disbelief out of the way several times to continue on with the story. Their first exploration of the house is done by holding their breath, but they quickly realize that’s not possible if they want to get through all of it. Then they bring an old diving suit which requires an air compressor. With only one suit, each of them takes a turn and also helps the other change in and out of it. Keep in mind all of this happens in a canoe – which is apparently large enough to hold hundreds of feet of hose and a heavy air compressor and is miraculously stable enough to never capsize. James and Amelia then decide to become certified divers, something I’ve never done, but I’d think requires more than a handful of days.

Once I pushed all that aside, I enjoyed this tale, which at times is eerie, claustrophobic, and even heartwarming, but it’s not my favorite by Malerman. For me, the ending is a thing of beauty and not what I’d expected.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab #bookreview #literaryfiction #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I don’t possess the words to adequately describe this book and how it made me feel.  Schwab states that over the nearly ten years she worked on it, she put her heart and soul, teeth and blood and bones into this one.  And it shows.  It’s a magnificent work of art.

Imagine if you were forgotten by everyone you meet.  In your presence, they know and recognize you, but the second they leave the room or wake up beside you, you’re a stranger.  Because of this, you can’t hold a job – no employer would know who you were.  With no way to earn money, you have no home.  No closet full of clothes, no belongings, no friends.  No loved ones who remember you.  It’s an incredibly lonely life, but over the three hundred year span of this story, Addie really lives and experiences all the world has to offer – beauty, pain, love, hate, heartbreak, suffering – everything you can imagine.

It’s difficult to review this without spoilers, but trust me when I say this book offers a profound and thought-provoking examination of life and what it means to live.  A blend of survival story, love story, historical fiction, and magical realism, you’ll experience a wide spectrum of emotions.  I actually teared up at one point, and trust me – that’s quite a feat.

With beautiful writing, quotes you’ll make a note of, and extraordinary character development, I can’t recommend this book enough.  If I could give it more than five stars, I absolutely would.  It will linger in your mind long after finishing the last page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.