4.5 star, adult

Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: North, Claire: 9780316399623:  Books - Amazon.ca

Some stories cannot be told in just one lifetime. Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. “I nearly missed you, Doctor August,” she says. “I need to send a message.” This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.



I’m so grateful to have so many friends who suggest good books to me – especially ones that I would never choose on my own. Here is yet another winner for me; another one that I will remember having an impact on me in the way it totally transfixed my attention to the story, and made me truly feel like I was part of the exciting adventure.

This story follows the life of, wouldn’t you know it, Harry August. He is a kind of human that relives his life over and over, from death back to birth, known as kalachakra, or ouroboran. This story takes us through his first fifteen lives, and how living as a kalachakra and his past lives affects the decisions he makes in his current and future lives. For a book which goes through the same timeline and events over and over, the story is actually not stagnant at all. In fact, perhaps the only thing that is constant in the novel is the timeline, events that we can expect to see each life.

Harry discovers a group known as Cronus Club, comprised of other kalachakra members, and together they create a society throughout the ages, communicating through messages passed through the centuries. Without giving too much away, the story follows Harry as he attempts to save the world from certain doom. Set in the 1900s, many historical events such as WW1 and WW2, etc. are all landmarks through which we follow Harry through the timeline. Since kalachakra retain their memories from their past life, how does this affect their decisions in their current lives? How would you live if you knew the outcome of events in life, every time it came around?

For a science fiction novel with such a time loop/reincarnation concept, I thought that it was extremely well executed, and found that the time skips backwards and forwards (memories and predictions of events) were all very well organized. I was rarely, if ever, confused about the order of events, and considering I also now feel like I have lived 15 life cycles, is really something to be said about the author’s writing! The story has a strong tension build up as we move through the protagonist’s journey, and the author really had me at the edge of my seat all the way to the very end! Many different concepts are introduced in this fictional work, but I found that everything made sense to me at the time, and didn’t find jarring “rules” that did not make sense. Of course, in this kind of setting, some things are meant to be taken at face value, and so I did.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to people who enjoy historical fiction, or a time-related science fiction. It is an extremely fascinating story of the way the human perspective changes if we were to be able to live our lives over and over again. The decisions, the responsibilities…how much of this eternal life is a blessing more than a curse?

Overall Recommendations:

Highly recommend this one! This novel follows the story of Harry August, a kalachakra, a human who lives his life over and over, restarting from birth after death, and maintaining his memories. We follow along his quest to save the world, when a new cataclysmic event threatens to bring about the end of the world – sooner than when it is supposed to end. Set in the 1900s, any historical fiction fan or sci-fi reader may have an interest in this for sure. I am not either and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

4 star, YA

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories. Once their stories have been told and are bound between the pages of a book, the slate is wiped clean and their memories lose the power to hurt or haunt them.

After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade. He is forbidden to enter the locked room where books are stored, so he spends many months marbling end pages, tooling leather book covers, and gilding edges. But his curiosity is piqued by the people who come and go from the inner sanctum, and the arrival of the lordly Lucian Darnay, with whom he senses a connection, changes everything.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Binding is an alternate world where some chosen individuals are born to be binders, a special type of person who is able to “bind” a person’s memories, releasing the original memory from the original holder. This story follows Emmett Farmer, who is called to work as a binder. Not dissimilar to a coming of age story, we follow Emmett as he embarks on the journey to learn this sacred trade – not looked upon highly by all. To some it is evil, a black magic that only witches perform, and to others, a means to an end, whether to forget a painful memory or for something more sinister.

I’ll admit it, I actually randomly picked this off the shelf at Chapter’s one day because it seemed interesting – and boy was it interesting! This led to me getting hooked on the first 100 pages, and then forced me to find a way to finish the rest of the story. This world is just so darned interesting. Like the brief suggests, the world is reminiscence of 19th-century England. The main difference is of course, the art of bookbinding. Now, as if I wasn’t already interested enough in the art of bookbinding in real life, Collins put an extra spin on it, and I almost wish that her imagined bookbinding it were a real art.

At first glance it’s harmless enough, what’s wrong with forgetting a bad memory? Feels like most people in the modern day world can agree to a thing (or two) that would be better left forgotten. How much easier then would it be to just start over after that? Quickly you discover that just like any tool or technology out there, it can be monetized, taken advantage of, and even abused. A tool is just a tool, depending on how you use it. This story follows Emmett as he transitions from being a common farmboy into a revered (or outcasted) bookbinder. He meets many different people in his journey, and most have a differing opinion on the bookbinding profession. He travels between the countryside where he grew up as well as the big city, and just like in real life, the difference between the two settings is stark.

The story really takes a wild turn when he discovers certain names on books, which threatens to reveal secrets of the past meant to be hidden (forgotten?) forever. Collins does a fantastic job leading us through this journey, and really explores the value of memories, now that they can be detached from the original owners. The cost of having something so valuable ripped from you will certainly leave behind a type of scar if not done properly. Which memories are worth keeping, and what is the value in forgetting?

Whew! I really enjoyed this book, and also quickly ate it all up in one day after my initial taste of it at Chapters. The themes that are explored are extremely fascinating, and you quickly find yourself on the emotional journey with Emmett, ready to face the very interesting world that Collins has built.

Overall Recommendations:

The Binding follows a farmboy, Emmett, as his whole life changes when he is called to the sacred art of bookbinding – or the taking of one’s memories and sealing it in book form. This novel truly explores the importance and value of human memory, as well as the whole concept of a book in general. Just what should and shouldn’t be forgotten? And how does one determine the value of a memory? This concept of memory and bookbinding certainly had me spellbound, and wishing that it were real. If you have any interest in this concept, or love a realistic world with just a hint of magic, this may be the book for you!

5 star, adult

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel eBook: Reid, Taylor Jenkins:  Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.



I am not normally easily convinced by reading biographical type stories – but this one had me hooked in very few pages. This novel follows an aspiring journalist, Monique, who lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a now-aged Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo. Famous for a plethora of scandals and of course, her seven husbands, what is it that finally makes Evelyn open up about her past? And what secrets has she been hiding all these years?

Wow, 5 Drink Me Potions. I really didn’t think I would have many books in my life I was confident to rate at the top level. But honestly, I was so enraptured by this book I flipped through it in one day and absolutely could not put it down. The character Evelyn Hugo, is just so perfectly imperfect, exactly the type of character I absolutely adore. And this was a whole biographical retelling of her life story. Evelyn was an absolutely stunning character, so well written and intricate. I found myself heavily admiring her, and wondering if I would have the courage and smarts to do all that she did to protect herself and her loved ones.

When I say they go through her life story I really do mean her life story. After all, how else do you get through seven husbands? But from her childhood all the way to old age, the roller coaster of events that life takes her through is an absolutely wild and riveting ride, and all facets of her character are truly shown off. While she makes very morally ambiguous choices, and stretches the grey zone further than most people ever do, I found that despite her “bad” actions, I just couldn’t blame her for anything. I understood her motivations, and despite that not being a justification for her actions, it was completely understandable. I reckon that if I had the courage to reach for my goals the same way she did, I would have done the same things.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is well-researched and written, as we span the decades of 20th century Hollywood through the eyes of Evelyn. This is also beautifully tied back to the journalist Monique, and her own journey as she learns about Evelyn’s. I really haven’t been this moved by a book in a long while! The complications and difficulties of real life situations are illustrated so well, and demonstrates the necessity of morally grey actions and truly highlights the complexities of life. This is story of a girl’s humble beginning through her rise to fame and all the sacrifices she had to make to attain her goals and looking back, just what was it all worth in the end?

Obviously, it is just a personal opinion that this book (and mainly, this character) spoke to me so much, but if you love that 20th century Hollywood setting, and honestly one of the most clever and powerful heroines I have ever met (or read about), then give this book a shot!

Overall Recommendations:

Obviously, with such a rating, I absolutely recommend this account of Evelyn Hugo’s life. This novel truly explores the theme of dreams, love, and sacrifice, and how far one can push to reach for the stars (or stardom, in this case). You are really taken through a journey (7 husbands, can you imagine?) and as more and more of Evelyn’s character comes to light, this idea of being perfectly imperfect could not be more clear. If you wanna see a female protagonist truly tear up the Hollywood scene and seriously outsmart the patriarchal society, Evelyn Hugo’s your girl. I was absolutely entranced by her story, and hopefully you will be too!