The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

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.

Trigger Warning: Torture. There are a handful of scenes where Harry is tortured for information. While the author doesn’t go in to explicit detail, there is enough detail that could potentially bother some readers.

If you could start your life over from childhood with the knowledge you have now as an adult, would you do it? What would you change? What would you not change? Such is a question that has been asked over and over again. And such is also the basis of this week’s review – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Harry August is an ourobouran – a rare and unique person who lives, dies, and is reborn to live their life again and again. He is also a mnemonic – a rarity even among ourobourans – meaning that he remembers every minute of every life.

I am quite unsure how The First Fifteen Lives… escaped my book radar. As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I try to keep tab on books that I might enjoy reading. And since starting this blog I have tried even harder to keep abreast of up and coming books in genres I enjoy.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August hits almost every point. North does a great job in building a world that is both familiar and new. She peppers in real world history adding another layer of believability to the story. The twists and turns that eventually develop are designed to keep the reader’s attention and it succeeds. Her characters are imperfect, not one of them is wholly good or wholly bad. The things they do and the decisions they make, each one believes they are acting for the greater good. Even when such decisions could mean the end of the world as we know it.

One thing that might detract a few readers is that the story isn’t told in a completely linear manner. When we first meet August he is at the end of his eleventh life and we are then taken back to his first life. This jumping back and forth could be a bit disconcerting for some, especially once the plot really starts moving along.

Those who are fans of sci-fi and fantasy like Doctor Who or the movie Groundhog Day should give The First Fifteen Lives… a try. I enjoyed it a great deal and recommend it to my readers.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and her long time boyfriend Jamie break up.

After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself.

Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks.

Trigger Warning: Animal death. While it might be considered a bit of a spoiler, I still believe it’s something that readers should be notified of.

Dearest reader, writing this review for The Pisces is probably one of the more difficult ones I’ve had to do. Simply because I wanted to like this book and I was so disappointed.

Not because I don’t like romance novels and not because I don’t enjoy the “chick lit” genre, I’ve read more than my fair share from both. I was disappointed because the main character Lucy was just SO unlikable! She is selfish and self-centered, not caring if her actions hurt any one around her. She is an addict in every sense of the word.

One instance that comes to mind is when Lucy and Theo (the merman) have sex on the couch in Lucy’s sister’s house. Lucy had just started her period and of course some blood ends up on the white couch cushions. Instead of trying to clean the mess up, Lucy simply flips the couch cushions over and thinks no one will notice. But of course her brother in law notices and when called on it Lucy only shrugs.

On the whole, I thought The Pisces was downright crude and base. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a woman exploring her own sexuality, when she does it at the expense of others then something is definitely off.

I’m so glad I didn’t purchase this book like I had intended to and instead borrowed it from my local library. If you are truly curious and want to read it, I encourage you to do the same.