1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
If you’ve been following this segment on the blog then chances are good that you’ve already read one of my Rainbow Rowell reviews. I’ve described a few of her other books as charming, heart-warming and for lack of a better word, romantic. If one of her other stories could be likened to a decadent chocolate cake, then Landline would be the equivalent of the chocolate shavings sprinkled over the icing. It’s still sugary and delicious but falls short of having the substance of an entire ‘cake’. But with that being said I do need to praise Rainbow Rowell for her unfailing ability to stir my emotions and elicit some form of a reaction out of me – good or bad. This fast read follows the story of Georgie McCool, a successful career focused woman who writes a hit show for TV, alongside her writing partner Seth.
The year is 2013 and Georgie has just cancelled her family Christmas trip in favour of staying in L.A to finish a script for her dream TV show. Her husband, with their two daughters in tow, decides to fly off to his hometown without her. The following days are filled with glimpses of Georgie’s overactive imagination and her inability to snap out of her downward spiral. Being faced with an empty house and the possibility of an impending divorce, Georgie unintentionally moves back in with her mutton-dressed-as-lamb mom, awkwardly young stepdad and teenage sister. When her smartphone battery gives up on her (apparently she can’t get a new one), she’s forced to use the landline phone in her childhood bedroom – a yellow rotary telephone, which also happens to have magical ‘superpowers’
Her husband, Neal, is giving her the cold shoulder and dodging her calls, but this otherworldly phone allows to her have conversations with the 1998 version of Neal. The rest of the book centres around this portal into the past and focuses on the year (1998) her husband proposed to her. As a reader this made me consider my own life and the decisions I’ve made which have led me to where I am. This book, however, is devoid of character development. The characters display a myriad of good and bad qualities, but Seth’s character and a few others are flat and one-dimensional. This goes back to what I said when I started this review. The book is enjoyable and fun, but lacks depth and substance. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a bit of an emotion evoking, easy-read then give Landline a go.
2. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
What would you do if the internet died, television and radio went silent, phones stopped ringing and you couldn’t look outside anymore? That’s the reality of what befalls the world in this debut, post-apocalyptic novel by Josh Malerman. The truth is that anyone who steps outside with their eyes open goes homicidally insane. We are introduced to Malorie, a young woman, during three stages of her life – pre-catastrophe, present day and post-catastrophe. Well, I use the word post-catastrophe very lightly, but I can’t give the whole story away, now can I? I immediately had an affinity for this lead character. I’ve always been partial to a strong female protagonist who kicks butt. The mounting hysteria pushes Malorie into answering an ad in the paper for a house offering sanctuary to anyone who needs it.
We follow Malorie in this thrilling, psychological story, as she navigates her way through this new world filled with supernatural beings, blindfolds and a constant sense of foreboding. This takes your childhood fear of a monster in the dark closet to a whole new level. This book touches on fear, as a human condition, which is something that impacts all of us. The fear of the unseen and what that single, compelling thought will push us to do. We watch Malorie guide her little family on a blind and harrowing journey into the unknown. The story flashes between the different timelines and we’re able to piece together a comprehensive account of her past and present and a glimpse into her future. Bird Box is an unsettling and thrilling read, which will set your imagination ablaze. I spent my afternoons waiting for a chance to devour another intoxicating page.
Unlike many other books, Josh Malerman was able to wrap up Bird Box in a satisfactory bow, and left my mind wondering but never with any unanswered questions.