4 star, adult

Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?



This one took me by surprise. Not in the sense that I didn’t think I would like it, but rather in the way that it panned out. A friend of mine suggested this to me and I happily obliged to after I heard about the concept. As I was reading the first part, I was definitely not super engrossed, but willing to press on out of interest. But after the second, third and the final part, I found that I was really enjoying it, and the rest of the book flew by for me!

Before the Coffee Gets Cold centers around a special café in Japan. Its specialty? Time travel. Say what? Yes that’s right, at this coffee shop, they offer a very special deal indeed, an opportunity to go back through time….with conditions of course. I thoroughly enjoyed the way time travel was portrayed in this novel, and how the situation was set up for it to occur. Perhaps it’s the Japanese origin of this book, or perhaps I haven’t read enough time travel stories, but this one struck me as quite unique, and the themes that it explored using its special time travel scenario was very well done.

The book is set up in four parts, each following a different individual who ends up deciding to go on this little time travelling journey. What is the price of time travel and what are the gains and risks? These are all questions that are well answered in here, in my opinion. Though of a scientific education, I am not a particular stickler for the scientific feasibility and logic of such sci-fi stories. Despite this, I found the scenarios to be quite believable, and the staff of the café really do well to add to its mysticism. Each character has their own personal growth journey, and a very particular reason why they want to travel back in time – what will they learn along the way, and will they come out the other side a changed person?

Of course in any time travel book, the mechanics and rules of all the time travel itself are very interesting and intriguing. However, the build up and growth of the characters, and the complexities of the choices one can face even with an option to travel through time, really spoke to me in this book. I really felt for each character, and struggled to contemplate what I would do in their situation. I found that each scenario in the book added more and more stakes to time travel, and this quiet underlying build up of tension and suspense also constantly pulled me forward through this story. Overall, I had a great experience reading this book, and I can solidly recommend it to all of you guys!

Note from Fives: I do believe this book is translated from Japanese though, so some of the manners of speech, etc. are more or less directly translated and were a bit odd as a North American reader. That being said they weren’t grammatically incorrect or anything – just make sure to keep that in mind if you ever find something a bit strange in the way things are said. Some things just don’t translate to English very well, and I’m glad the translator chose to keep true to the elements of Japanese culture.

Overall Recommendations

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a tale of an interesting café with the ability to transport its patrons backwards in time. Set in Japan, translated from its original Japanese, this story follows different customers looking to tap into the special powers of this café. It has very original rules for its time travel, and undoubtedly creates complex situations in which these customers must make decisions of heavy weight. How the customers go through their decision making, and the ramifications of their choices are all explored in this short novel. What would you do if offered the chance to go back in time? A very thought-provoking novel, with ever increasing tensions with each story, brings us through an emotional journey which truly tackles the complexity of human nature. I recommend this read for sure!

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, adult

Review: The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Image result for the oyster thiefThe mermaid’s scales were bronze, and they shimmered like hundreds of pennies arranged close together. Her immense blue-green eyes gave a look of fragility to her face, yet he found her eyes unsettling. She was leaning against a thirty-foot-long shark, which emerged from behind her and opened its mouth to reveal a great big cavern lined with hundreds of teeth – a black tunnel ready to swallow him.

Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.

Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine the depths of the ocean. Her discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth – while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.

The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own – one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.

Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is a richly imagined odyssey destined to become a classic.


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Two world collide when a mermaid and human man meet, plunging readers into a vast underwater realm brimming with adventure and intrigue.

Coralline is a mermaid living in her hometown of Urchin Grove, working as an apothecary to heal others. Meanwhile, Izar on land is the adopted son of the CEO of the prosperous Ocean Dominion, a company which seeks is to destroy the ocean and mine the precious minerals on the ocean floor. Izar is a gifted inventor, and discovers how ot create underwater fire to raze the ocean floor. Their two worlds collide when Izar is left for dead but becomes a merman instead, meeting Coralline.

The story begins at Coralline’s engagement to a handsome rich merman, whose family’s wealth and status precedes him. Immediately you are reminded of The Little Mermaid, with the beautiful scenery and world created by Faruqi. Vibrant colours and animal familiars exist in this imaginary underwater world and it is as beautiful as any land could be. Faruqi draws many contrasting parallels between the underwater world and the world above and we quickly learn that each is bitterly aware of the other.

When Coralline’s brother falls sick, she embarks on a treacherous journey filled with lies and deceit to try and find a magical elixir to cure him. On her way she meets a half-dead Izar, whom she nurses back to full health. Together they travel a large expanse of the Atlantic looking for this mysterious magician who created this elixir of starlight said to save any life once in exchange for a curse (unicorn blood, anyone?).

I thought this book had all the elements of a classic fairytale that one might want: a loveable and relatable protagonist, Prince Charming, betrayal and plot twists, and a very clever villain, all tied together with the classic true love romance. There’s also a lot that wasn’t expected, and that’s what really drew me into this book. The story really explored different aspects of real life like environmental issues, doing what is right versus what you want, morality and propriety. In addition, koodos to the author for doing her research: as a science major, it really pains me to have to read through very faulty scientific logic in a book. Not in this one! The scenery, ideas and theoretical science that are proposed are all very believable and logical, giving these two contrasting worlds a very realistic feel.

They weren’t kidding when they said that this book is filled with betrayal and intrigue. It almost feels like a whodunnit novel, with lies and misperceptions around every corner, waiting to strain relationships, whether they be familial or romantic. I think this book will resonate with many people with all the different issues that are explored, and I would definitely recommend this exciting adventure to anyone.

“Fire vaporizes water, and water vanquishes fire. The two can never truly meet.”

One of the most exciting and thought provoking lines in the book, it is quickly a theme that emerges tying the balance of the whole book together. Can the underwater world and the land of fire above truly ever be at peace? Or are they just too different?

Overall Recommendation:

A beautiful underwater world not unlike our own that really pulls you into the ocean with the characters themselves. Although most of the story takes place underwater, all of the issues that are brought up are all relevant to our lives. Even as a reader, it is hard to trust anyone in the book, and you are also forced to take a side as you follow Coralline on her journey for the magic elixir. A constant rollercoaster of emotion and suspense, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys observing these parallel worlds where it is easier to more candidly address some real world issues. If you loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did, this grown up version will definitely be the twist you’ve been waiting for.