Thursday, 31 August 2017

Love & Loss ~ 3 Reads That Will Tug On The Heartstrings

Most bookworms have a love-hate relationship with heartstring-pullers.

Heartstring-pullers have a spot on every bookshelf (usually hidden behind intensely emotionally fan art, tissue boxes, and empty wine glasses!). They're the reads we're drawn to despite the potential heartbreak and tearjerking scenes to come.

But there is sense of catharsis that comes with reads like these - stories that get us to think about, or re-connect with, moments in our own lives. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer, Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland, and Out Of Heart by Irfan Master, are three examples of reads that will have you shedding a tear or two or a flood of tears to rival Alice in Wonderland's tear-fest and learning some heartwarming lessons.

A big thank you to Allen and UnwinHot Key Books, and Bloomsbury for sending me these copies to review.

Read on to find out my thoughts on these books and be sure to let me know which reads tug at your heartstrings in the comments below!

#1: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost
By Brigid Kemmerer

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Romance
Pub Date: April 2017
Page(s): 393
Price: $16.99 (AUD)

Rating4.7 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: A young woman leaves letters at her mother's grave, which are discovered by a young man with secrets of his own.

Best part(s): Brigid Kemmerer has a way of showing the beautiful in the broken. Very much like the art of kintsugi (the Japanese method of repairing broken ceramics with gold, silver, or platinum), Kemmerer's books take the broken pieces of her characters and turn them into something new, something bright and alluring that draws the reader in.

We read books all the time about broken people who have lost loved ones, and I know personally that it's often a struggle to find books that connect fully with your own personal understanding of loss, death, and grief. Especially in YA, emotional characters can often come across as exaggerated or 'sad for the sake of plot development'. Letters to the Lost has a sense of authenticity about it that makes it hard to put down.

Kemmerer's use of Juliet and Declan's messages makes the sorrow real. Neither one pretends to have the answers, or to be capable of healing the other's pain. Neither of them is a perfect person. Both have flaws that bring so much to their characters. There is a sense of raw realism in their writing to one another - vulnerable admissions that make you feel like you're almost intruding. As if you're reading someone's personal diary, in a way! I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter and felt that there was a nice balance between message elements and plot, making the novel well paced throughout.

Overall, Letters to the Lost was the kind of YA romance I can get behind. One with soul, a keen sense of awareness, and a whole lot of heart.

Least favourite part(s): I wanted more romance...but then I didn't...but then I did...but then I didn't! Aaaaah I'm such a mess haha, but I couldn't figure out whether I wanted there to be more romance or swoony elements or whether it would have ruined the book and/or overtaken the plot. I'm still not sure on that to be honest (just call me Ms. Indecisive Bookworm :P).

Find out more about the book & add it your Goodreads bookshelf today! 

'I'd say you're kind of dark, but I'm writing to a girl who leaves letters in a cemetery, so I guess that's a given.'

#2: Lost for Words

Lost for Words
By Stephanie Butland

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Chick Lit

Publisher: Bonnier
Pub Date: August 2017
Page(s): 352
Price: $29.99 (AUD)

Rating4.2 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: Life's losses have made a woman seek refuge in a bookshop - the past refuses to stay put, but is there healing to be found?

Best part(s)
Loveday. Loveday is the best part of Lost for Words! I mean, what's not to love?

(1) She works in a bookshop (automatic A+ right there)
(2) She prefers books to people (which makes her my new best friend)
(3) She may be an introvert, but she's got a secret sassy and sarcastic side hidden within (three cheers for introverts!)

I love how Stephanie Butland's character development for Loveday is well paced and isn't set up to be an immediate 'oh I totally relate/love/wanna be bffs with her' kind of thing. Loveday seems pretty average and unassuming when we first meet her, but as the book goes on new facets of Loveday are brought to the surface.

With each facet comes another layer of complexity, making Loveday more interesting by the page. Past and present Loveday collide to create a protagonist that you will root for as she discovers who she is and where her place is. Beautiful and bittersweet, Lost for Words is a vivid tale that should most certainly find a spot on your bookshelf.

Least favourite part(s): It was truly a brilliant read, however it was not - for me - as gripping as I normally prefer my reads.

This is purely personal preference (because it truly is a standout of a book!) and probably reflects my lazy reading habits haha. But I like my books to sort of pull me into the action and to have an intensity, or an undertone, to keep me hooked. Lost for Words is fairly relaxed. Which again, isn't a bad thing! It was just took a little more effort for me to connect with at first.

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

'No words came. I just started to cry and, even though the salt hurt on the outside and the effort hurt on the inside, the physical pain was nothing compared to the way that my feelings were ripping at me, and it was a long, long time until the tears stopped.'

#3: Out Of Heart

Out Of Heart
By Irfan Master

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Bonnier
Pub Date: July 2017
Price: $16.99 (AUD)

Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: An elderly man dies and donates his heart, giving another man a chance to live life and to connect with the deceased's family.

Best part(s): Irfan Master has given a stage and a voice to disability and diversity in YA, which I found to be refreshing and intriguing. I do not know if there is a 'right' way to write about disability and diversity, but Irfan does an admirable job of bringing the issues and emotions surrounding heart transplants to light.

I especially like that the plot focuses on this idea of life VS death and what it means to be given a chance to live at the expense of someone else's death. William is alive because of another person, but does that make him a part of the deceased's family? Does that give him a place in their world, or does it in fact exclude him from it? Does he owe the deceased and his family a debt of gratitude, or does he simply get to live his life as he chooses, free of guilt or concerns?

These sorts of questions arise as the plot unfolds and give the reader a lot to mull over as they journey along with William and the Shah family. Out of Heart is a touching tale that proves that loved ones may be out of sight, but they are never out of heart and mind.

Least favourite part(s): Pacing for me was an issue - the book felt a little slow, or drawn out. It was as if the plot was a wad of slime or putty of some sort and had been stretched out super thin, so that holes or gaps started to form. I just felt as if it could have either (A) been more concise or (B) been added to, to give it more purpose or intensity.

There was nothing that jumped out at me plot-wise, which made it a more slower paced book (which, for me, can lead to drops in concentration when reading). It would have been interesting to see more dynamics apart from the often two-dimensional secondary characters. There was some character development, however none of it was truly surprising or dramatic in any way.

It was a book with a lot of heart (literally and figuratively!) and I did like it, however if its pacing had picked up it would have been far more enjoyable.

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

'William felt such warmth for them then, and joy that they had come for him. But even in that moment, he knew that as much as he didn't want to, as much as his new heart told him to stay, his old heart told him to leave. They all walked out of the station together, but William was already thinking of ways to be alone.'

Which book will you be adding to your TBR? Have you read any heartwarming or heart-tugging books this week?

Let me know in the comments below!

Although I was provided with a review copy by the author and/or publisher, all opinions expressed in the this post are purely my own. To find out more, please visit my disclaimer page.

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