Review: The Last Beginning (#2) by Lauren James

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives.
But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?
For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future, and failure could cost the world everything.

Not only does this book complete my reading of Lauren’s entire collection of novels (until Green Rising is released very soon!), it is also my 100th read of the year! 100 books was my Goodreads goal for 2021 and is also way more than I have ever managed to read in a year (I think my highest is around 85 in 2020). The fact I have reached this goal in the middle of July astounds me and I wanted to mention it here – my boyfriend also mentioned the irony of this book being called The Last Beginning and being the one to make me hit my goal.

It’s been years since I read The Next Together and I was a little worried going into this one without having read the first one recently. However, this one follows the main characters from The Next Together’s daughter, 16 years on. And luckily for me, she has an entirely different story allowing me to pretty seamlessly carry on.

I can remember thinking I’d been turned inside out.

Every Lauren James book I read astounds me with the sheer creativity of it. I could never even begin to think up the kind of worlds she seems to – worlds that are so different from our own but also have such a lovely familiarity to them. In this book, we follow Clove as she tries to find out why her birth parents appear over and over again throughout history. Her adopted parents are working on a time machine, which she uses to meet all of these variants of her parents. I really love the time travel theme and felt like it allowed us to explore different time periods really well, with all of them feeling authentic and believable.

The writing was so quick to read and once I picked this up, I found it hard to put down. I love how easy the writing was and this is definitely something I find across all of Lauren James’s work. The characters were also really likable and I love the family element and the relationship was so sweet and had such a lovely moral. The only problem I was how immature Clove could be, especially at the start of the book, and it made the whole book feel a little too young for me.

Kind of like the first time I saw you.

Once again, big up Lauren James for writing about women in STEM, having powerful female leads and a sapphic relationship! I really enjoyed this one and it got better and better as it went on.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Starlight Watchmaker (#2) by Lauren James

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Hugo is spending the holidays on his friend Dorian’s home planet, Hydrox. Although thrilled at the invitation, Hugo is still astonished that Duke Dorian could possibly want to be friends with an android watchmaker like him. But when the pair land on Hydrox along with their friend Ada, they soon discover that there are much bigger problems afoot. A race of butterflies from a neighbouring star system have evacuated their now-uninhabitable planet, and Hydrox is struggling to find space for the growing number of refugees. Meanwhile, deep in the seas beneath Dorian’s home, a strange creature is on a path of destruction … Can the unlikely trio step in before the crisis gets out of control?
Dive into a strange new world in this truly imaginative companion to The Starlight Watchmaker.

This is such an adorable and imaginative companion to The Starlight Watchmaker. I’m so glad I reread the first one in order to completely connect to this crazy world and lovely characters again, and it definitely helped me fully appreciate this next step on their journey.

Every time I read these books I am blown away by how creative Lauren James is. I can’t even begin to comprehend where the ideas for this amazing world come from, with different planets and species all living and working together. But despite the strange world and planets, I still managed to picture this in all of it’s vivid glory. This reads young, but is also so accessible to all readers and a great introduction to the scifi genre with a focus on the characters. I also particularly enjoyed how climate change is woven throughout this book and brought to the attention of the reader early on.

The characters are so adorable and I loved reading about their relationships with one another. They are so accepting of each other’s quirks and personalities, and this felt like a very important ideal to portray for young readers. They are so well-developed and I really feel for them throughout these stories, which is an impressive feat considering how short these books are.

If you’re looking for an imaginative scifi with a diverse cast of characters and a lovely moral behind their stories, honestly go and pick this Dyslexia friendly (published by Barrington Stoke) series up!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

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Goodreads | Waterstones

What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.

Lauren James never fails to blow my mind with her books. She has written some of the most original, unique stories I’ve ever read. Every time I read something new by her, I am astounded by her creativity and imagination. I always forget how amazing the twists and turns are, and how the endings absolutely hook you. I was left shocked in places with all of the plot twists, most of which I didn’t see coming! Whereas Lauren James usually writes science fiction, this book is very much paranormal.

This book starts with Harriet Stoker, a uni student who goes into an abandoned building in the grounds of her university to take photos, and falls to her death. She then becomes a ghost who is stuck in the building alongside every other ghost who has died on the grounds over the years. Harriet becomes frightened and in a panic, tries desperately to return to her grandmother. This makes her try everything and anything, making deals with the darker souls of the building and taking things from others.

Those early humans weren’t interested in entertainment. It hadn’t been invented yet. 

I found Harriet a very unlikable character for most of this story, which made me struggle to sympathise with her. I always struggle to truly enjoy a book where I dislike the main character, which is sadly what I found for most of this novel. Although she does have a redemption arc, and she isn’t the only one with a POV, it just felt like a large chunk of the book was not as enjoyable for me because of it.

We do learn more about why Harriet acts the way she does, which I very much appreciated and could sympathise with her more. She is also part of an amazing group of ghosts, centered around a particular friendship group, most of whom passed away in 1994 as residents of the building when it was student accommodation. This friendship group had such a lovely ‘found family’ feel to it which I loved, and the characters were really diverse. This was probably the best part of the book for me, alongside the amazing ending!

There were no happy endings or romance or heroes. The stories nearly always ended in death. 

I did find quite a lot of this book quite slow, and I did really notice the fact it was all set in one place. The ending almost makes up for it in terms of pace, as it is quite a payoff, but I still had mixed feelings about the pacing,

Overall, this was an incredibly creative read with some really well developed, interesting characters and amazing plot twists. Not everything was perfect, but it had such a great atmosphere and was such an easy, engaging read to fly through!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

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Goodreads | Amazon

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

What an absolutely charming novella. Lauren James is one of my favourite authors and an auto-buy for me. I picked this book up at YALC alongside a free necklace which is very cute (and I’m actually wearing right now)! I remember seeing the cover reveal of this and knowing immediately I wanted it on my shelves, and it didn’t disappoint.

Considering this book is only just over 100 pages, James manages to create a quietly vivid world with a great atmosphere. I honestly marvelled at some of the things she had dreamed up and described in ways I could picture so easily. The Starlight Watchmaker is set on a college campus, but is also in a very futuristic, sci fi world with different planets, androids and species. The college campus setting was recognisable enough and easy enough to picture for me as the reader to be able to comprehend the rest of this wonderful world.

Hugo as a character was brilliant. Lonely and trying to find a place in the world, hiding himself away and not realising how dire his need for friendship was until he meets Dorian. Both characters were cleverly written and I quickly sympathised with them in such a short amount of time.

Overall, this was such an enjoyable read as usual. The only reason I’m knocking off a star is purely because the language was a little young for me and felt very simplistic compared to her other novels. Obviously this is a very personal reason as I’m sure young teens would absolutely adore this!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

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How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion. 
Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .

Lauren James is an auto-buy author for me. I loved The Next Together and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was one of my favourite books of 2017, so I picked up The Quiet at the End of the World pretty much as soon as it came out. And trust me, Lauren hasn’t disappointed.

Again, we have a female protagonist who loves engineering, which I admire so much. It’s so important and yet unfortunately uncommon to see female main characters in YA like Lowrie, and we need more of her to inspire future readers. And the diversity doesn’t stop there, with a bi main character, British/Asian main characters and a trans character. The Quiet even explores class boundaries.

‘Maybe that’s what matters. Maybe that’s what being “alive” is. It’s not some trick.’

I’m constantly on edge with Lauren’s books and she honestly writes plot twists like no one else! I was again left on the edge of my seat with this book, and it kept me so interested that I finished it in just a few days.

But alongside a fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining plot, Lauren manages to explore some of the deepest subjects humanity can comprehend – namely what makes us human. To throw such a huge topic in but not make the reader feel overwhelmed is beyond me.

‘There’s no magic chemical that gives something a soul. It’s about being loved and loving in return.’

This book was hopeful, lighthearted and emotional at times. I related so much to Lowrie and Shen, and ended up close to tears at some scenes. The uniqueness of the concept is astounding, and I endlessly admire Lauren for her ingenuity and creativity. The Quiet has quickly become one of my favourite books of 2019 so far!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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