Review: House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Pages: 709

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Literature, Speculative Fiction, Adult

My Rating: 4/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

house of leaves

“Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.”

Um, wow.

This was an interesting read, and by no means a fast one. Within this novel (if you’d even call it that) there are probably 4 stories and all of the quotes and references it makes constantly have you flipping through pages to find the next thing. There are pages with one word on it, pages where you have to turn the book upside down or sideways, and to be honest, there were times I didn’t know what was going on. This book really tests your ability to multi-task because there is so much going on and you are constantly flipping from one subject/story to the next, and it isn’t as though it ends before it switches, oh no, no, it will switch right in the middle of a sentence. You have to remember what was said so that 4 pages later, after reading the other part, you can continue with what you first started reading.

Confused yet?

In all honesty, it wasn’t that hard to follow, there was just a lot of information from within. It definitely gives you a lot to think about in regards to how novels are written; it challenges everything you know!

What made me choose this book was the fact it’s about a house that’s bigger on the inside. I’m a Doctor Who fan and it (obviously) made me think of the tardis, though it’s not even close to being similar.

Basically, this guy named Johnny collects papers from Zampano, and puts it all together. Simultaneously, we’re reading about the Navidson record and what’s happening with Navy and Karen.

There’s a family living in this house that (did my font colour change? No, not the blue. I just realized I could change the colour) finds closets pop up out of nowhere and there are hallways that lead, seemingly, to nowhere. The Navidson record is a bunch of photographs and recorded information from when they decided to search this area.

It’s hard to explain, you’d have to read it for yourself.

I was actually quite freaked out while reading this. The growling in the dark really disturbed me (I’m terrified of the dark) and I had to put the book out of sight for a while just because it got to me. I think this book is a real psychological thriller. Not in the way that other novels are, but this makes you think. What is real? What IS reality?

I started questioning my sanity!

Is this house controlled by psychological fear? It seemed that everything that was happening was based on someone’s psychological state. The book, at one point, even states something about the psychological state. Now THAT really made me start thinking!

The ending also got to me. Johnny’s mother was in an asylum. She was constantly writing letters to him, and I don’t know if she was actually insane or not. A lot of the same things had been happening to Johnny (ie. nightmares). His mother seemed more sane than anyone in the book! But it got me thinking… was Johnny real? Early on, I questioned whether Zampano ever existed. Was his mother actually him? Did any of this really happen?

So many questions…

Maybe I misunderstood some stuff (I skimmed some parts), but I don’t know if there’s anything to misunderstand, it seems to be open for interpretation. And I couldn’t imagine how long it took to write, it seemed like a lot of these references were made up! I also didn’t find it “terrifying” like some did. It made you think more than feel like running away.

Anyway, if you’re looking to read something out of the box and different from what you’re used to, I totally suggest this book. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was pretty good. I gave it a 4/5 just because of the sheer insanity within. I’ve never seen a book like this before (besides an I-spy book) where you need a mirror to read pages and do all this other stuff.

This book isn’t a read. It’s an experience.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Review: Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Pages: 342

Genre: Adult Fiction, Cultural, Mom Lit

My Rating: 3/5

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“On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families – one Indian, one American – and the child that indelibly connects them”

I have to start this review by saying that I had to read this novel for my English class this semester.

I thought this was a well-written piece, though not being my piece of cake. Within the first few “chapters”, it had me wanting to throw it at a wall. Seriously! The subject of birth and parenthood and… it just upset me. You go on to find that Somer has issues with her body and it made me so upset because I also have ovarian problems and there’s a good chance I can’t have children, not that I want them this second, but still is remains. Reading that really caught me off guard, and when Kavita was actually giving birth to the children, I couldn’t help but scrunch up my face in terror. I am absolutely petrified of childbirth, and reading that did not help me at all!

And Jasu! Gah! I feel a bit bad for Jasu. It seemed as though he really did care about his daughters, he just knew he couldn’t keep them. But poor Kavita… could you imagine having to give your child up just because they couldn’t work in the fields? That would absolutely destroy me! And obviously, it haunted both of these parents.

My favourite part about this book had to be Asha (Usha). She’s my age, is a journalist, and is so confused yet so aware. It’s difficult to explain why I liked her, I just really enjoyed reading her “chapters.” She’s a child that doesn’t know her birth parents, has difficulty with her adopted mother, and is trying to figure herself out. But that brings me to my next point…

The end of this book was so sad… well, I guess it was actually quite happy. Very happy. But it made me say “awe” out loud. Just a couple of years… (to keep this spoiler free, read the book and you’ll understand)

I suppose this book gave me an insight into India though. I’ve never known a lot about India, I won’t lie, and it’s fascinating. It’s like any other place, just… different. One day, I hope to go – it can’t ALL be bad and depressing!

Secret Daughter was a quick and easy read (the terms you don’t know are at the back of the book), it kept my interest, but I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars because it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have (I’m a read for pleasure type of gal), don’t get me wrong though, it was well written.

Enjoy and happy reading!

This was a half-assed review, sorry.