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!

YA

Review: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

midnight at the electric -jodi lynn andersonKansas, 2065 Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before Launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934 Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called The Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire — and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life — Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919 In the recovery following World War One, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Midnight at the Electric comes out June 13, 2017**

Going into this novel, I barely knew what I was getting into. Sure, the synopsis suggests that it’s like a 3-in-1 kinda book, right? 3 girls living at different times with their own set of problems.

But what I hadn’t anticipated? The amazing way that Anderson connected and intertwined the girls’ stories together in a way that was just so beautifully done.

There’s a little something for everyone in this novel. The futuristic side takes place with Adri’s story, living in 2065 where people can actually fly off to Mars to hopefully start over again as Earth has been ravaged with natural disasters and parts of cities have fallen. She’s not a very nice or social person, but her story really sets the foundation of this whole book. Coming to live with the only relative she’s got left in this world, Lily, as she’s about to embark on the opportunity (and journey) of a lifetime to Mars gets her reflecting about family. Enters the gorgeous introduction of the next girl’s story, Catherine, as Adri finds her journal.

Catherine’s story turns this book into a historical plot. With the horrible setting of the Dust Bowl that terrorized the farmlands in the ’30s, her story brought out the true struggles such families faced to even physically survive the amount of dust blowing into their lungs. With a tragic love story at the heart of Catherine’s plot, it kept me greatly entertained and as intrigued as Adri was in figuring out who this family was that used to live on Lily’s farm, and how they may possibly connect to them.

But WITHIN Catherine’s story was a link to Lenore’s story, our final protagonist. As Catherine’s mother’s best friend before she moved away, Lenore’s letters to her childhood bestie made me reminisce about my own childhood friends and the pain of wondering if time changed us no matter how we may’ve wished we stayed the same. Set in the aftermath of WWI, I really enjoyed Lenore’s story too, in a different way from the others. First, I adore letter formats for stories, but Lenore’s voice was so relatable. She wasn’t perfect and she felt far from it many times. There was a bit of romance in there, but it wasn’t essential to have her falling in love with someone for her story to be amazing the way it was. Figuring out how to move on from the pain of losing her brother to the war and feeling the closeness of her relationship with Catherine’s mother no matter how many years it’s been since they were physically together was more than enough. And some mysterious components that were present in Adri’s time could only unfold from as far back as Lenore’s time, which really excited me at the prospect of linking everything together.

But what did I love the most?

We have to go back to Adri’s story. As a person who didn’t know how to get along with others very well, it was how she grew from this experience of connecting to these people who had departed so long ago that touched my heart. She took what Catherine’s journal and Lenore’s letters gave her to realize more about herself and where she was at the moment with Lily. That family was important. And so is what we leave behind that stays beyond the finite length of our lives. It was so profound. And I may have even teared up a bit at the end.

I shall end off with some of Adri’s insights that resonated with me, as I hope they too will also resonate with you (especially after you read it in context of the full novel when it comes out).

“I’m not much on writing, and I always wondered why some people are so drawn to it. But now as I sit here trying to think of what to say, I think I understand. No one wants to disappear. Words pin things down and make them real, and they last so much longer than we do…

I wanted to tell you most of all that I think it’s our love that gets passed along. Onward and forward.”


Overall Recommendation:
Midnight at the Electric connects 3 girls and their stories together in a such a poignant way, touching on various matters from loss of a family member to struggling to save a loved one. Despite the time difference between the stories, they’re all connected somehow, and figuring out the links between them slowly was half the fun of this novel. For such a short length, Anderson really packed it in with just the right amount for each girl. I truly recommend reading it, no matter if you don’t like historicals or futuristic novels. It’s a book that weaves together what’s truly important to people despite the cultural context, and I guarantee this would be a read that keeps you guessing and an ending that leaves some parts up for the imagination.

adult

Review: Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham

home in time for christmas -heather grahamCenturies ago, by a scaffold in Manhattan, rose petals drifted gently to the ground……like snow on a wintry Massachusetts night. Melody Tarleton is driving home for Christmas when a man–clad in Revolutionary War-era costume–appears out of nowhere, right in the path of her car. Shaken, she takes in the injured stranger, listening with concern to Jake Mallory’s fantastic claim that he’s a Patriot soldier, sentenced to death by British authorities. The last thing he remembers is the tug of the noose.

Safe at her parents’ house, Melody concocts a story to explain the handsome holiday guest with the courtly manners, strange clothes and nasty bump on the head. Mark, her close friend who wishes he were more, is skeptical and her family is fascinated–though not half so fascinated as Melody herself. Jake is passionate, charming and utterly unlike anyone she’s ever met. Can he really be who he claims? And can a man from the distant past be the future she truly longs for?

With the aid of enchanted petals, ancient potions and the peculiar magic of the season, Melody and Jake embark on an unimaginable Christmas adventure–and discover a love that transcends time.


3 Drink Me Potions


Obviously, magic has a huge hand in this story, although the setting is based in the “real” world. But who doesn’t love a certain unexplainable event in a contemporary romance?

Uh, well I wouldn’t, if the situation had been handled better. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jake. He’s so…intrigued by everything that has transpired since his time in the Revolutionary War. Yet these things like electronics, a washroom INDOORS, and the idea of more wars occurring since his War never fazed him. He took in stride. He’s by far one of the more enjoyable things that happened to this book.

The only other thing I loved was the rest of Melody’s family. From her brother Keith, who also took Jake’s arrival into this world in stride, to her eccentric parents, they made one particularly hilarious group to read about. I mean, come on, Keith thought the best way to teach Jake about all the things that has happened in the past 3 centuries was through movies based on all the different wars in that time period?

And her mother was eccentric to the core, with a fusion Wiccan/Catholic belief system. I guess you can say she’s open-minded? Which is good, given that Jake should be dead and 300+ years old. I swear, she never even batted an eyelash at the fact that he was in modern time. And her father? He was brilliant, but wanted to be some crazy inventor.

I will say, Home in Time for Christmas had its heartfelt moments. Jake was trying to get back to his time to be with his adopted sister, while feeling something for Melody. But obviously, that would be a rather strange situation if he didn’t just head back, right?

The ending was wrapped up too nicely, although the extra epilogue set years later was a nice touch. I’m not sure how I felt about it, although I guess things turned out okay for everyone. Just, how does that not change the course of history? Aren’t all those time travelling stories based on the ONE theme that any minor change could alter the current reality as the characters knew it? ‘Cause, boy, was there a change in history from Jake’s movements.

Plus, might I add, that once Melody’s family realized how to send Jake back, they kept botching it up?! Like, people kept moving back and forth in time to the point it was getting ridiculous. Good thing they happen to have like 4 different chances to do so before the time portal or whatever closed. Honestly, some of this “magical” stuff was a little too far-fetched for me to stomach.

All in all, it wasn’t terrible to read. Like I said, the characters were all rather amusing to read about. The plot could really use some major tweaking, but I was satisfactorily distracted with it enough for one afternoon when I would’ve rather done anything but work. So maybe that wasn’t too high of a compliment, but it was a decent story.

Overall Recommendation:
Far from realistic albeit set in a realistic world, this was my first Heather Graham book. Characters were delightfully eccentric and amusing to satisfy a boring afternoon of nothing else to do. The plot held too many further questions to ponder about, like say, changing history from having Jake come to the present day. But those could be looked aside, right? I guess that would depend on you…and perhaps the mood of the moment in which the story is being read.