3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

“Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time.”

Princess Annika has lived a life of comfort—but no amount of luxuries can change the fact that her life isn’t her own to control. The king, once her loving father, has gone cold, and Annika will soon be forced into a loveless marriage for political gain.

Miles away, small comforts are few and far between for Lennox. He has devoted his life to the Dahrainian army, hoping to one day help them reclaim the throne that was stolen from them. For Lennox, the idea of love is merely a distraction—nothing will stand in the way of fighting for his people.

But when love, against all odds, finds them both, they are bound by its call. They can’t possibly be together—but the irresistible thrum of a thousand heartbeats won’t let them stay apart. 

Kiera Cass brings her signature sparkling romance to this beautiful story of star-crossed lovers and long-held secrets.

Overall Recommendation:

A Thousand Heartbeats presents itself as a grand romance and it truly does deliver in that aspect, although I personally believe the enemies-to-lovers trope was too rushed to fully satisfy the perfect angst that was set in the beginning. The fantasy half was subpar with very little originality besides the entangled history between the characters’ two kingdoms. If you come at this as a romance with some fantasy, I guarantee this will be a fun read. If you want more of a fantasy, be warned this will probably not meet your expectations.

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3.5 star

Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.

This is one we chose for our book club, and I was certainly intrigued through the synopsis. The book didn’t play out as I expected though, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I may enjoy it more reading it a second time around. Stay tuned for exactly why that was.

The Memory Police takes place on an unnamed island where things “disappear” at random intervals, each time being erased completely from the memories of its inhabitants…except from some select individuals. The Memory Police strictly enforce the disappearances, and particularly hunt down these individuals. Our protagonist faces her fair share of struggles against the Memory Police, all while battling the power the disappearances.

I have to start with the plot first. I just wasn’t expecting it. I don’t want to spoil it, but this story is much more about the power of memory and what it would mean to forget certain things, rather than actually following the story of the characters. The characters were certainly good, and I got invested wondering what would happen to them. However, I think the story is a bit more esoteric than that and kind of forces you to think about it more from an outside perspective. It’s a bit of a story similar to 1984 and I can see why it would have an impact on how you might view the world.

There were very few characters, but like I said, it was really more about how the island and its disappearances affect the characters, especially the difference between those that no longer remember, and those that remember. The difference is stark and tragic, and really makes you consider and ponder the power of memory. The main character is also a writer and we get more and more glimpses of excepts of her novel, which I think are a very interesting reflection of the situation at hand too. You can decide for yourself how the “story” plays into the context of the whole story.

I think the book sends a really strong message, and it certainly gives me a lot to think about. But for some reason I can’t give it a higher rating, but mostly because I expected a little bit more from the story, I think. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but I just wasn’t satisfied with the ending and how things tie up. I think it made sense, and it wasn’t left open, but the way the story was heading made it feel like it would head in a different direction. I feel like the story and message could’ve been advanced differently and have been a more interesting plot while still maintaining the message, so perhaps that is my gripe with it. But I think overall it was worth reading and I recommend it if only for that broadening of perspective.

Overall Recommendations

The Memory Police revolves around a mysterious island where objects can disappear at any time, slowly fading from memory until all that is left is an empty gap. Simultaneously everyone forgets…except some people. Those are the people hunted by the Memory Police with unrelenting stringency. Follow the story of the protagonist and her few friends as she navigates life with more and more objects disappearing from her island. The book has a very strong message about the power of memory, and just what value and worth is stored in memory, and also the trauma of loss, particularly memory loss.

3.5 star

Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

From the best-selling author of Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, a stunning new novel—his first since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature—about the wondrous, mysterious nature of the human heart.

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

This was a book that my friends and I did for another book club, and boy is it a good one! Good one in the sense that it is a good book club book, as it is full of thought-provoking insight and perspectives I have never ever before thought of. To top it all off, it’s written by an Asian author, so what’s not to love?!

Klara and the Sun revolves around a most interesting premise: the Artificial Friend, or the AF. Klara is one such model of AF, and she watches from her store, hoping one day to be chosen. The book completely takes place in her POV and how she perceives the world, and will totally transport you into a place you never even thought to look. The world is somewhat futuristic, and it is unclear whether it is Earth or not, but certainly whatever the world is, it will take you on an adventure.

The characters were all excellent in this book. Each AF was crafted well, and the humans that are in the story were also either well-fleshed out or were a proper foil. They weren’t too many main characters, and everything really does happen through the eyes of Klara. Klara builds relationships with the people/AFs around her and there is truly something special about looking at something such as relationship with humans from a different perspective that is quite haunting.

The use of literary devices such as foreshadowing was incredible in this book. This was probably my favourite part of the book. The sense of foreboding and dread I had running through the whole book was almost essentially like a thriller. The emotions were so tense, it’s hard to believe that you’re looking through the eyes of a robot. The way the story was told was quite excellent and I think it really is something people should read, just to gain more perspective into the world as we see it. This book really challenges the status quo, and what can be thought of as normal.

The main reason I don’t have this rated higher is that there were some discussions that were mildly introduced but then left unexplored and left to the imagination. While this was definitely a stylistic choice, it wasn’t my favourite. More importantly though, there is a major point near the climax that I once again wasn’t in favour of the route that was chosen. Certainly it was a reasonable route to take and I won’t fault anyone for it, but I felt like more could have been explored if the last 15-20% of the book was slightly different. However, the ending did still leave me in minor shock so I won’t take that away from it.

Overall I would recommend this read for sure, it’s something that people should read for that shift in perspective, and really makes us question a lot of the emotions and actions that humans have. Just this alone is enough for me to recommend the book, and I don’t think whether you love the actual plot/story that much is that important to the value that this book provides.

Overall Recommendations

Klara and the Sun is a very interesting book that takes place through the eyes of a narrator who is a robot, namely, an Artificial Friend. She starts off in a store, wondering if one day she’ll be picked up as she was made (and named) to do, and we see the world through her eyes as she makes her journey. Full of emotional ups and downs (lots of downs), and full of novel perspective you may never have considered, this is certainly one that I recommend people picking up just for a fresh new take on the human psyche and the way we express love and care for those around us.