Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Harry’s story is intriguing and tragic, yet despite that, I couldn’t keep reading. Maybe if I had been reading it instead of listening to it I might have been able to finish it. The concept is interesting: a man is part of a special group of people who relive their lives over and over again retaining the knowledge and memories from their previous lives. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep my interest. Almost halfway through, I am still not sure exactly what the conflict in the story is. I thought there was something to resolve with his biological father, but no – that happens early. Then I thought it might be about how to avoid the reliving lives thing. Again, no. I kept going because I thought maybe Harry was looking for his one great love. No. Ultimately the thing that clinched my quitting it was the endless passages of existential self-introspection. Paragraphs and paragraphs of wonderings about the meaning of time and the meaning of life. Even more paragraphs of scientific hypothesizing about how time works and the scientific, moral, and historical implications of changing history. I couldn’t take it. Perhaps I’ll go back to it at some point, but for now it goes on my Abandoned list.

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Summer Plans Torn Asunder

I had the best of intentions when school ended on June 7. I had to spend three more work days packing up my classroom after the students bailed and I packed two bags, as most good ELA teachers do. One bag is MG & YA titles from my classroom library that I’m interested in but hadn’t gotten to during the school year. The other bag is professional titles I wanted to read or revisit before the next school year.

I have made it through exactly TWO “pleasure” titles and ZERO professional titles. I have finished 3 audiobooks and that is quickly becoming my most consistent genre. Granted we were on a 16-day road trip beginning June 26 and I don’t read in the car but still, there’s guilt. It’s similar to Book Abandonment Guilt (BAG) but it’s even more cutting than BAG because I feel like I’m letting down my profession and fellow Nerdy Book Club members. It’s also similar to the guilt I feel in not being consistent with the workout schedule I set for myself to initiate the 20 lb Summer Weight Loss that I fantasize about every summer but, let’s be real… that hasn’t worked for the past 10 years so I wasn’t really expecting that I’d stick to that one.

So, I stare at the two cloth grocery bags sitting next to one of my bookcases (that also houses unread titles) and feel bad. But I’ve had a great summer with my kids and still have 3 weeks or so left before work begins calling. And, truly, it’s not like I’m going to stop reading…that’s just insane. So, I’ll have to try to pick up the slack here in the next 2 weeks and make my peace with what I have, and haven’t, read as I head to my new classroom. Happy Reading, friends.

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us!

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I continued to slog through Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I abandoned that one, even with Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) encouraging me to stick with it! I just couldn’t do it. Then I read Sold by Patricia McCormick. Loved it. The sparse narrative verse highlights Lakshmi’s struggle so well. I’ll be posting the review/teaching suggestions later this week. After finishing Sold, I picked up another review title: Shipwrecked by Alexandra Pratt. This is nonfiction, which is one of my weaker reading areas but the basis for the narrative is intriguing. I’ll be posting about this one soon too! I finished Beautiful Chaos (Book 3 in Beautiful Creatures) on audio. I really enjoyed the series but about halfway through this book I found myself saying, “OK – just get to the end already!”

This week I plan to read Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan which my friend K has graciously lent me. I was also threatened within an inch of my life to get it back to her unharmed. I’m listening to Dust and Shadow: An Account of  the Ripper Killings by John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye. It’s a great literary mash-up of Sherlock Holmes with the Jack the Ripper horrors. And it’s narrated by Simon Vance (LOVE!).  Game of Thrones will continue to be on my Kindle.

What are you reading this week?

Thumbs Down to FINNIKIN of the ROCK by Melina Marchetta

SOURCE: audiobook – audible.com

PUBLISHER: Candlewick

LENGTH: 416 pages

SUMMARY:

Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she is not what she seems — and the startling truth will test Finnikin’s faith not only in her, but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.
REVIEW: It is always strange to write a review about a book that I didn’t finish. I guess I can’t really call it a review – more like a partial review. I want to share my thoughts because this book was recommended to me by more than one Reading Friend I trust and I still didn’t like it. It was disappointing because I really like Melina Marchetta. I have recommended Saving Francesca and Jellicoe Road to countless students and friends so I was anticipating another great read with Finnikin. Even after 100 pages, I couldn’t really get into it. I polled my PLN and was encouraged to stick with it but I never really connected with it.
My main issue with the book was the pacing. Finnikin seems to do a lot of traveling but gets nowhere. He and his entourage seem to be wandering around the map, randomly choosing places to search for  people who might be there based on hearsay and rumors. Evanjalin’s role seems to change as often as the rules in one of Girl Athlete’s made up games. First she’s a Novice, then she’s a Lumaterean exile, then she’s some kind of mystical being whose dark dreams may save them or destroy them. Evanjalin promises that Balthazar is alive, then is exposed as a liar, then tries to convince everyone she still holds the key to their return to Lumatere. It all seems disjointed and contrived.

The violence and gore during the fight scenes seems sensational more than necessary and Finnikin seems rather sexually advanced for his supposed age. Finnikin is more annoying, needy squire than charistmatic emerging leader: he’s arrogant and brash with very little experience to back up his bravado. With a main character that grates and a plot that drags, I just couldn’t make myself finish it – abandonment guilt or no.