Tag Archives: book reviews

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August | Review

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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

As Harry dies, he is reborn as himself, in the exact same place, time, and circumstances, as if he’d never lived before. Except he remembers everything.

This book explores time, life, science, memory, and humanity. How do you spend your life if it’s your only one, then what happens when you realize it isn’t? How does living change, how does your perception of time, events, people, and memory change?

To live the same life over and over, to watch the same disastrous things happen, life after life, it can get tedious, depressing, and may encourage one to start to change.

Harry is not the only ouroboran (person who dies then lives again), and in one of his early lives, he’s introduced to the Cronus Club, a group of his peers who are set on making sure history stays the same. Disastrous things can happen when you mess with time, after all, and the Cronus Club regulates that. In addition, the Cronus Club makes life easier for those who are fated to live their lives a thousand times. When their memories return as early as two, they begin making connections and escape plans, where their hundred-year-old minds aren’t as trapped by their young bodies.

Imagine going through puberty dozens of times. Ugh.

Harry-August-PrizesHarry was born in the 20s in England, and he spends most of his lives in and around England, fighting in the war, studying various degrees, and traveling the world to help himself understand his predicament. In one Cambridge stay, he befriends a young man named Victor, with whom he has philosophical and scientific discussions on the theory of time. When Victor suspects Harry is a member of the Cronus Club, he punches him and disappears.

Years later, a young girl comes to his deathbed with a message from the future: the world is ending faster and faster, and they can’t figure out how to stop it.

Harry’s fifteen lives are a mixture of boring and interesting, with the storytelling interweaving between the lives and connecting similar moments. Some lives were definitely more interesting than others (I wasn’t a fan of the time he spent in a mental institution, though I suspect he wasn’t either), and some of the slower lives could drag the story down at times.

That being said, it wasn’t enough to deter me from the complexity of this story.

I love time travel, even though it makes my brain hurt when I think about it too often. In the beginning, I wrote down several questions and theories I had regarding this story and its usage of time, and as the novel progressed, many of those questions were answered for me.

Harry himself is kind of a boring character with a boring life, but in the second half, he starts to become more interesting, more deceptive, more creative, which made him more likeable in turn. His dabbles with “evil” in Russia help pick up the plot, and the centuries-long deception is intricate and incredible.

I loved the mix of science and history and I thought the concept was really, really cool.

4.5/5 stars

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Morning Star | Review

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Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

OMG. All the feels.

I hate ending series because I’m overcome with an emptiness, knowing there’s no more. And Morning Star was no different.

I discovered the Red Rising series last year on a lucky ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ whim, and fell in love with it immediately. It’s the story of a corrupt futuristic society, where people are born into a “color,” which is arranged in a hierarchal pyramid with Reds at the bottom and Golds at the top. Each color has a specific role in society; the Reds are the slave miners, the Golds the gods. Darrow is a Red in the mines of Mars and knows nothing of the world above him until his wife’s death sets off a chain of events that has him striving to “break the chains”. And break them he does.

pyramid-allcolorsThe first book is about Darrow’s infiltration of the Gold society, a Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones style school where he learns combat techniques and how to be a leader. Golden Son, the second book, is when his arrogance gets the best of him, and his usage of his friends to further his own goals backfires. Morning Star, the finale, is about Darrow fighting back from the ashes of his mistakes to finally become a good leader.

The scale of the books keeps getting bigger: Red Rising is set in the Institute on Mars; Golden Son deals with Mars as a whole and the space around it; Morning Star goes from Earth’s Moon (Luna) to the moons of Saturn and is an all out war.

Unlike the typical dystopian trilogy, which tends to end in the rebellion turning into war, Brown explores the aftermath and effects of that war on the people and the places involved. Darrow is haunted by the “what happens after we win” question throughout, unsure what to do and how to be the leader the lowColors believe him to be. How to break the pyramid, the prejudices, the ingrained beliefs.

One of the strongest things about Morning Star isn’t the epic space battles – which are pretty epic indeed, always surprising me – but the side characters. While they’ve been developed over the previous two books to some degree, Morning Star really lets them shine. We see redemption, heartbreak, love, and strength, and each character holds their own. The women in particular have really grown and aren’t the foils they were in Red Rising, but become leaders and symbols of strength and intelligence.

imgresWhile the first hundred pages or so were slow, bringing the reader and Darrow back into the world after a year’s absence (in both cases), the last 300 were tense, heartbreaking, and cathartic. The ending shocker caught me off guard, but it wasn’t hard to figure it out after that initial surprise, though it was still wonderfully executed and a smart move by Darrow and Brown.

Influenced by Shakespeare, Roman history, Star Wars, and Dune, among others, the Red Rising series is smart, dark, complex, and beautiful.

I love the growth of Darrow from a small Red to a humbled leader of no color, understanding what it means to be a leader, what it means to follow your heart, what it means to be a man.

Although it’s not perfect, I love this series with all my heart, and I’m sad to have to let it go. The great thing about books, however, is they’re always there for me to revisit, and I think I’ll be revisiting the world of Red Rising for some time to come.

5 stars

The Heir | Review

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The Heir (The Selection #4) by Kiera Cass

Roughly 20 years after the events of The Selection, Princess Eadlyn, the first female heir to the throne in Illea, must go through her own Selection, but for reasons other than finding a husband.

King Maxon changed a lot when he ascended the throne, including the dissolvement of the caste system that had been in place. Although the people were happy about it at the time, now they’re lost and unhappy, and blaming the palace.

Princess Eadlyn, born just a few minutes before her twin brother Aaron, has a heavy weight on her shoulders. Her parents changed the rules, allowing her to become Queen, but she is a resentful, narcissistic brat who refuses to let anyone in her world. Now, to help her parents distract the people, she must court 35 strange gentlemen and pretend she’s falling in love.

Except Eadlyn sucks. Seriously. A lot of people complain about America in the first three Selection books, but Eadlyn is so much worse. She’s closed-off, spoiled, and cold. Her country doesn’t connect with her or respect her, she’s cruel at times to the boys, and she’s very, very selfish. While listening to her whine on my commute home from teaching teenagers, I found myself yelling at her to grow up and stop being a bratty bitch.

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Having heard a similar complaint from many readers, I listened to the audiobook in hopes her brattiness would be somewhat less, but I was disappointed. The narrator did a good job with her – she reminded me of a mix between Jasmine, Ariel, and Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars – but her portrayal of the guys did anything but make me swoon. And I used to find Maxon so dreamy… well, sort of.

I liked seeing Maxon and America as adults, as King and Queen, and still so deeply in love. Without the love triangle of the first three, America is even likeable!

I love the boys (even if Eadlyn treats them like crap); they were definitely the best thing about this installment. They’re personable and creative, though I wish some of them were developed past what Eadlyn sees at face value.

Throughout the course of reading, I was under the impression this was only going to be a one book spinoff, so the ending cliffhanger took me by surprise. I kept waiting for things to be wrapped up, for Eadlyn to choose a winner, but no such luck. I guess I’ll have to wait for The Crown to find out which of my predictions comes out correct.

This book seems to be about Eadlyn’s stubborness to change and her struggles with accepting her role and learning to allow others in, but it isn’t until the last chapter that she realizes it, that she starts to accept it, and hopefully The Crown will bring her growth. Because right now, I don’t want her as Queen either.

I felt about The Heir the same way I felt about The Selection: it’s fluffy, with annoying but manageable main characters and a cute love story, and I couldn’t put it down.

You | Review

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You by Caroline Kepnes

You are a pretentious, narcissistic young woman named Guinevere Beck, Beck to all your friends, and you are the subject of affection in the novel You. You are an MFA candidate in fiction writing at Brown University and live in a shoebox of an apartment in New York. When you go to an independent book shop one day, a man, Joe, notices you, and you become his obsession.

Told in second person, as if Joe were talking to you and watching you, You is a creepy narrative which will make you, the reader, second guess your own morals and sanity while simultaneously increasing all the privacy levels on your social media.

Joe is a stalker, and very easily finds you (Beck) in real life – where you live, all your social media accounts, and even finds a way into your apartment and email. He’s a liar and a creep, but at times, you (the reader) finds sympathy with him, despite some of the horrific things he does.

IMG_6647 (1)The characters are all terrible, hoity-toity assholes that belong in a Bret Easton Ellis/Lena Dunham crossover. They think they’re better than they are, criticize the “common” person, and only find worth in things no one else likes. Beck is a writer who doesn’t write, and surrounds herself with people more effed up than she is, therefore bringing her down as well. She has daddy issues, runs from commitment, and manipulates those around her. I want to punch her.

The book is more sexual than I thought it would be; at times it is very graphic and borderline erotica, which fits with the narrator and themes, but it can also be disconcerting considering the circumstances. Also, those kind of graphic sexual scenes are not for everyone, and it’s best to be aware of them going in, especially since you’re reading from the POV of the stalker.

I thought it was interesting and horrifying to read from the stalker’s perspective; Kepnes did a great job building that character and the emotional state of him, but it’s also at times uncomfortable and hard to process.

I was hooked and wanted to know how it ended (even though I accurately predicted most of it), but didn’t enjoy the process.

2 stars