book reviews, spoiler free

The Last Beginning Review

24550848The Last Beginning by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 6th 2016 by Walker Books

’Clove Sutcliffe, you are doing things no human has ever done before. You are groundbreaking. You are unique. Do not cease to function due to inappropriate emotional weakness.

The epic conclusion to Lauren James’s debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation.

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.

After I finished The Next Together I dove STRAIGHT into its sequel The Last Beginning and this book was even more than I had hoped it would be. Although technically chronological (sort of) it IS a sequel it feels like so much more than that, it feels almost like a puzzle piece we didn’t quite realise was missing from the first book or an extra dimension to it as well as a following on from it as well as happening at the same time in points and…Okay it’s hard to explain which is kind of a part of why I loved it so much, I like books that make you smack your self in the head and yell “of course! How had I not noticed or picked up on that before I’m such an idiot” etc and this book had a lot of that and “ooooh” “ahhhh” and “of course that makes sense!”

I’m not sure who I loved more, Clove who makes some questionable choices (don’t we all) but ultimately does her best and feels like a character I know inside out, Ella, the “love of Clove’s life” who is brash, cocky and overconfident but wants to help and do the right thing just as much as Clove does OR Katherine and Matthew who I didn’t quite realise until reading this and their extra short story (which I’ll be reviewing next!) may actually be my favorite couple ever and lets not get started on Spart the sassy A.I who loves to watch soap operas. Turns out I love them all for different reasons and that’s what really made this book for me, yes I may not have liked a lot of the things Ella said for did at times but that’s just how she was and it made sense and as I’ve noticed in another book I read this week you don’t have to like an agree with a character’s behaviour or actions for them to be a character you enjoy or appreciate.

I’ll admit I did find some of the time travel staff rather confusing but honestly when it’s it a little brain ache inducing? Clove’s timeline is chock full of paradoxes and it kind of gets explained how that works a little but I just spent 15 minutes trying to explain it and I have no words but I promise you it kind of makes sense when described articulately. Articulate description is another reason I enjoyed this reason so much, even when time travel was making my brain hurt it made sense, (mostly) everything was described in a reasonable way and made sense even if the paradox explanation seems a little vague but we’re talking time travel here so how it works is more speculation anyway. The Last Beginning however breathes a bit more life into the idea.

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Speaking of breathing more life into ideas this book completes The Next Together for me and has raised my (already fairly high) opinion of it. This book has the questions to my answers and I have to keep reminding myself they are in fact in two seperate books. I aplaude Lauren James for being able to keep all of this (the timeline especially)  in her mind for long enough to get it to the page and to have done so in such an interesting, intriguing and fun way while also telling us the stories of these people along the way, it’s honestly fantastic.

It feels strange to give this book a XXXXX and The Next Together XXXX when although I loved the heck out of this book I now feel like the first is my favourite but it is the happenings and events that occur in THIS book that add to my appreciation of its predecessor so I feel changing my ratings would be unfair. If you are considering trying this duology I recommend buying both books at the same time so you can dive out of one and straight into the sequel, you will not be dissapointed.

Also most importantly Romy, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is mentioned by name (and title) at the end of The Last Beginning and honestly that just made me whole day.

Mini review to come of the two Next Together novellas later this week.

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Next Together Review

23266378The Next Together by Lauren James

Rating: XXXX

September 3rd 2015 by Walker Books

“I don’t think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy.”

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

After reading the most recent book by Lauren James (The Loneliest Girl in the Universe) after YALC last year and LOVING IT (reread review to come very soon!) I finally got around to reading her debut novel The Next Together and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

The Next Together spans across different lives throughout time and follows our main characters via three different versions of our protagonist Katherine Finchley in 1745, 1854 and 2039. At first I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with three varying but connected story lines at the same time but they each have their own unique feel to them making them easy to slip in and out of. The way each narrative began and ended also helped by making you want to read more from that particular time but without making you want to skip the next part to get back to that part of the plot (a little like Game of Thrones).

The over arching plot is a difficult one to comment on because we end up with more questions than answers I feel and that is one of the few reasons I knocked the rating down to XXXX. The events that go on through this book are interesting  and the characters especially kept me intrigued and enjoying this book, even shedding a few tears on a busy underground train but the end of the book doesn’t feel like an ending, or even much of a conclusion and more like the end part one of a book. The ending wasn’t bad it just didn’t feel as satisfying to me as I would have liked. Thankfully there is a sequel and The Last beginning (from what I’ve read so far) fills in some gaps and answers some questions in quite a satisfying way but it feels strange we had to wait for the sequel for those answers. That being said if you want to sell a sequel you need to make people want it and I was absolutely desperate for it the moment I closed The Next Together so it was certainly affective.

For me the characters and their relationships are really what sell this book for me which seems to be something Lauren James is very good at, her books really make you look at and fall for her characters and the plot kind of feels secondary (in a good way), I could have happily read pages and pages more of notes between Matthew and Katherine and still been pleased.

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Although I probably would have liked a bit more of an explosive ending with more answers I really did enjoy The Next Together and I think this and a couple of other books I’ve read recently are really starting to pull me in to the more space opera (or at least character driven – this was the closest way of describing it that I could think of) side of Science Fiction which is something I hadn’t really given much thought to before. I love the spacey and or futuristic feel in books but these books where that isn’t the main focus and is just your normal setting  but the interesting stuff that happens comes from the people in that story.I certainly recommend checking out The Next Together but if you get a good way in and decide that yes you do love it too I would advise getting the second book before you finish the first so you have it there ready to go so you aren’t kept awake at night trying to work out answers (better than the nightmares from the Loneliest Girl but still not a good addition to a good nights sleep).

As I write this review I’m already over three-quarters of the way through the aforementioned sequel (which I’m LOVING THE HECK OUT OF) and have yet to read the two short stories that accompany these books but I know I’ll get those read in time to review all three next week! I’m also hoping to get my YALC blog up this coming Thursday as well but as it’s the six weeks holiday and Nate is well…Nate please keep your fingers crossed for me! Until then.x