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!

4.5 star, YA

Review: Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

Series: Gumiho #2

New romance and dangers abound in this companion to the crowd-pleasing Wicked Fox.

As Vicious Spirits begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are picking up the pieces of their broken lives following the deaths of Miyoung’s mother, Yena, and Jihoon’s grandmother. With the support of their friend Somin, and their frenemy, Junu, they might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker and sicker by the day and her friends don’t know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let’s be honest, Junu isn’t known for his “generosity.” Meanwhile, the events at the end of Wicked Fox have upended the forces that govern life and death and there are supernatural entities lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to right their world.


Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

Luscious and rich in Korean folklore, this companion novel (really, more like a sequel) to the events in her first book, Wicked Fox, was more than pleasing to the eye and heart.

I will admit that I barely remember the events of book 1 as I read it way before it even came out as an ARC. And with this book picking up the pieces in the aftermath of events that occurred there, I will warn that this should not be read separately from book 1.

We follow two characters who were first introduced in Wicked Fox, the charming dokkaebi Junu and the sassy, quick-tongued Somin who instantly took a dislike to him.

I love getting the Junu’s backstory from the get go as it gives us knowledge about him as the omniscient reader that the rest of the gang do not have, which really explains a part of why his character is kind of dodgy and selfish. My heart hurt just seeing how the others in the group held a grudge against him (fine, he probably deserved some of that from mistakes he made), but it was like he could never prove himself. I was completely on Team Junu from that point on. I always did love the misunderstood, he’s-not-such-a-bad-guy kinda hero.

Somin, on the other hand, I thought I would like less. Overprotective towards all of her friends and unable to easily change her mind, she had a good heart but I wasn’t certain where the book was going in pairing the two of them.

Oh boy was I wrong there!

The love-hate relationship they had was full of angst from the beginning since they already had run-ins in the previous book that actually led to further tipping towards the hate side of the scale. But they say there is only so much of a distance from hate to love as you could tell the depth of emotion both invoked in one another was surprising. As the two were unwittingly thrown together to solve a devastating merging of the human world and supernatural, maybe it seems love wasn’t so far off after all.

The action was there for sure, with sprinklings of the Korean landscape and culture. Not as much as book 1 but it felt comfortable coming back to Seoul like this and seeing the world through a Korean author. Thank goodness for a glossary at the back to help remind me of terminology I had forgotten!

And if you did read Wicked Fox, there were plenty of POV chapters from Miyoung and Jihoon as they are just as entangled in this mess as Somin and Junu are.

I was pleasantly surprised overall by how fast I swallowed this one up. A romance with all the feels as hate became love and the conclusion to the issues Miyoung launched into the world when she fell in love with a human boy, I am satisfied with the life lessons these characters have earned. Though if I’m totally honest, I kind of wish there could be a companion to this companion? Like, perhaps a certain mysterious new reaper who appeared in this book who seemed to have some kind of a heart?

Overall Recommendations:

Vicious Spirits followed the events of Wicked Fox quite closely, dropping us back into this supernatural landscape of Seoul. A enemies-to-lovers trope running strongly through its pages, you can’t help but fight for Junu and Somin to find strength from one another as they face yet more supernatural consequences their friend Miyoung unleashed previously. The pacing kept my heart beating all the way until the very satisfactory end. With characters you may have already fallen in love with just as present in this book, this companion (sequel, who are we kidding?) novel is a must-read for lovers of folklore and of Kat Cho’s previous book.

4.5 star, YA

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Series: Descendant of the Crane #1

descendant of the crane -joan heTyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


**Descendant of the Crane comes out April 2, 2019**

Thank you Netgalley and Indigo Books & Music for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.

Richly atmospheric, inspired by her Asian roots and heritage, Descendant of the Crane delivers a whomping story that cuts deep to my heart for Joan He’s debut novel.

In the aftermath where ancient kings oppressed the poor and used people with special powers, soothsayers, to help them stay in control, the new era has gone to war against anyone with this magic tied to their blood. Soothsayers are now the hunted.

But that’s not where our protagonist starts her story. Hesina is investigating the murder of her father, the king. And committing treason by seeking the visions and powers of a soothsayer.

From there, she opens up a can of worms that may have been best left closed.

What this story does best comes down to a few elements. I mean, if you look at the higher view of this book, there’s nothing extra special about the premise or the world. But it all works out ’cause of these few things.

1. Familial ties and complicated relationships

Hesina’s adopted siblings, twins Lilian and Caiyan, were polar opposites but were genuine and real. Found on the streets and somehow chosen to be taken into the royal family by the king’s benevolence, Lilian was spirited and loyal to the bone while Caiyan was solid, steadfast and the rock Hesina could turn to in any time of need.

On the other hand, her blood brother Sanjing was distant and their relationship was rife with tension from their past that’s not immediately understood.

While their interactions and characters were very well built, they’re also dynamic people! They don’t stay that way in the story. Gasp. I know. That’s so different for a YA fantasy isn’t it? And that’s even more interesting to see unfold.

2. Unexpected (or were they?) twists and additional layers to the world building

The central mystery is the murder of the king. And it’s not a simple whodunnit kind of thing as I had initially thought. There’s more to it that also relates to the world Joan’s crafted. As page kept on flipping, the more I was drawn into the people – with all their individual flaws and courage – and the history that made them into who they were.

The era of chaos from the ancients and the soothsayers.

I loved how they integrated beautifully and the layers that came from simply wanting to learn the truth of what happened to her father. He was king to the people, but he was the man who played with her, loved her and taught her his truths. Their relationship was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Even I wanted to know what befell him for her sake. That’s how much I fell into this world.

3. Beautiful prose and depthless creativity

Knowledge is truth, her father had said, yet all knowledge had done was unveil a world of lies.

Quotes from the leaders of the new era in their most scripted text, The Tenets, started every chapter. While the overall story flowed and had a certain grace to it, these individual quotes and words of wisdom were just beautiful and kind of hilarious. Each quoted individual had their own voice, and it felt three dimensional. The leader known as One was wise and solemn while Two sounded kind of snarky and more to the point without wanting to sound pretentious.

And as I mentioned. The world building. The soothsayers and the warring kingdoms were not necessarily original but it worked so well with everything else that was crafted here. I have so much respect for Joan for all that she’s built and I can’t wait for more. For a girl my age, I feel like I could do so much better with my life lol.

Anyway, I will conclude by saying that this debut will knock your socks off. I love the Asian heritage throughout and the relationships were central (including the mysterious Akira I haven’t mentioned much but you’ll just have to see how he fits into the story!) to the overall story that made it stick out above others in the genre. This is the debut you should read this year!

Overall Recommendation:

Descendant of the Crane astounded me with its beautiful rendition of an Asian inspired kingdom, real dynamic relationships between the characters and a mysterious murder at the heart of the story. Each element was more than first meets the eye. Written with elegant prose and the perfect flow between the major arcs, this debut novel is an achievement that I’ll be sure to continue to recommend. Joan He is someone to look out for!