A Question on Immortality’s Worth: a Review of Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

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Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: July 10th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Sceptre
Page Count: 372

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Blurb:

In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever.

Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.

But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.

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Suicide Club by RACHEL HENG is about the possibility of medical technology advances reaching new heights in the next century or two that enables humans to have longer lifespans and thus, provide more contributions to the world.

I was intrigued to read this book based on its concept of near-immortality and the fact that for centuries humans have been trying to find the elixir of life. To see how science achieves it made Suicide Club have such an appealing concept. Too bad the concept wasn’t executed at its best.

I feel like I’m missing out on some big message by the time I was done with Suicide Club. Imagine the brilliant premise this book holds: immortality, or least longer life span (think of the age of hundreds) is within reach to those deserving and are called the lifers. Those who stict on a strict diet regimen, work out every single day, avoid stress and muscle exertion, monthly enhancements to ensure your skin and health are pristine. And those unworthy of these extended lifespans are cast aside as failures, called sub-zeros, destined to work as laborers and simple jobs; never given any chance to excel at anything because of the ‘number’ they’re assigned to at birth.

I would have loved to see more dynamic between these two extremes, the lifers and the non-lifers. But unfortunately we only got some minimal interaction between the main character, a 100-year-old lifer called Lea and another lifer a part of the Suicide Club, Anja. Lea felt so off throughout the entire book that I truly did not understand her main purpose in Suicide Club. I preferred Anja’s point of view in the book where her circumstances felt real enough to empathize with. The rest of the characters in Suicide Club were pretty bland. Lea’s family members could have used more exploration, although I really enjoyed Lea’s interaction with her father. We hardly got satisfactory glimpses into the other characters, namely Anja and the rest of the non-lifers in Suicide Club. I believe having them more involved in the story would have made futuristic New York with its immaculate group of lifers that much more imaginable.

The trickiest thing about speculative fiction that sort of emulates science fiction, is the ability to have tiny details within the book that eventually adds up to the story. And a lot of details were lacking in Suicide Club. For instance, I never really understood Lea’s job in the beginning. You would think that having longer-living lifers would benefit societies more on education, health and science aspects. But instead Suicide Club‘s elite lifers all feels a part of one big socialite group, which made me immediately lose interest in the entire community. Lea happens to be some big shot in a financial company based in New York. And her lifers group of friends compete to get the latest medical advances that would truly make them immortal. We don’t get to fully see at all the benefits that long lives has brought mankind, as I would expect science would take precedence in this matters. A missed opportunity in my opinion.

Then again, maybe that was a point the author wanted to drive within the book. Does immortality harbor selfish needs and eradicate the fear of death. And if so, are the wealthiest the first ones to have it?

Overall, Suicide Club had an interesting premise that definitely requires more exploration and discussion for the book to be fully appreciated. I still enjoyed how the plot triggered some questions on the worth of prolonging life if it means living in a bland lifestyle and forgoing passions and interests that are considered life-shortening. Give this a go nonetheless, it might suit your liking!

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

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#YouWillBeFound: a Review of Dear Evan Hansen the Novel by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Poppy
Publication date: October 9th, 2018
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 368

Read my review of Dear Evan Hansen screenplay here.

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Blurb:

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

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Dear readers,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why….

Dear Evan Hansen, the Ton Award winning Best Musical of 2017, finally gets turned into a YA novel! And as one of the very, very few Malaysian fans of this musical, I can honestly say this is one YA novel you do not want to miss.

Dear Evan Hansen is the story of how one letter became the source of Evan’s problems. As he navigates his new life spun from a lie gone out of control, Evan starts realising his real place in this world and how everyone is battling through something and could use a little bit of help to get through.

And I suddenly feel the branch give way
I’m on the ground
My arm goes numb
I look around
And I see him come to get me

After listening to the Broadway cast musical a million times, I read the screenplay and absolutely loved Dear Evan Hansen even more. But the novel is truly something different. Dear Evan Hansen the novel allows us to take a more in depth look into the lives of the two main characters Evan and Connor. Two lonely boys who struggle with depression and anxiety. Two boys who could have even become friends in real life if it wasn’t for the current circumstances of life.

Issues or plots that were never touched on or mentioned in the musical are done so in the book. And that remains one of the most beautiful things about the Dear Evan Hansen novel. We get a closer look to how complicated both lives are and how fateful it was these two lives intertwined at the most opportune of moments.

Whilst it is categorized as a YA novel, Dear Evan Hansen has a mature voice to it that would be appreciated by anyone reading it regardless of age. Dear Evan Hansen is a coming-of-age story where it centers around mental health and the importance of inclusion. This book brings forth so many critical issues in our society and Dear Evan Hansen uses social media as a tool in an effortless way.

Another aspect of the book that I love is how the original lyrics to most of the Broadway tracks are incorporated into the dialogues. This in turn makes the novel an extension of the musical and not a separate entity with the same cast of characters. Epic tracks like For Forever, Sincerely Me, If I Could Tell Her, and You Will Be Found are all found in bits and pieces of the book, making it even more special. Fans of Dear Evan Hansen will feel right at home with all the original aspects of the musical added with more scenes and characters to make it more wholesome. New readers of Dear Evan Hansen will get a sense of what the musical is like.

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

I read Dear Evan Hansen from the perspectives of a Broadway fan, but you can also read this book even with zero knowledge of its legendary Broadway background. You might find some parts of the plot confusing or struggle to find where each character plays a part in the bigger scheme of things. But despite that, I urge you to finish this book for the sole reason of what the ending will teach us. And after you’re done with this book, I urge you to listen to the Broad cast album.

You won’t regret it, I promise.

Dear Evan Hansen the novel brings into light more details of mental health, human loneliness and our need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This book reminds us that sometimes mental health gets the better of us, but other times we live another day to become a little bit better.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I will endlessly recommend this book and the musical to everyone. And on that note, I hope your day today is amazing. And on the days when you want to let go, I hope you hold on a bit longer and climb back down to the ground safely.

#YouWillBeFound

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

And The Feathers Fall Onto Us: a Review of The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: June 14th, 2018
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 320

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Blurb:

Child experts will tell you that I’m way too young to carry such a burden of responsibility on my tender shoulders. But really, what do they know?’ Who is Bobby Seed? He’s just your average sixteen-year-old – same wants, same fears, same hang-ups. Dull, dull, dull. But then there’s the Bobby Seed who’s a world away from average. The Bobby Seed who has to wipe his mum’s backside, sponge her clean three times a week, try to soothe her pain. The Bobby Seed whose job it is to provide for his younger brother, Danny, to rub his back when he’s stressed and can only groan and rock instead of speak. That’s Bobby Seed. Same, same, same, yet different, different, different …

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The Weight of a Thousand Feathers is so beautifully written. I’m surprised I don’t see much hype over this underrated book. This book centers around young carers and what it really means to care for your loved ones.

“I feel the weight of its thousand feathers pressing, pressing, pressing me down.”

This is my first book by BRIAN CONAGHAN and I enjoy his writing very much in The Weight of a Thousand Feathers. We are introduced to Bobby Seed, a 16 year old caring for his bed-ridden mom who suffers from MS. From the very first page, readers are made conscious of Bobby’s responsibilities as his mother’s sole carer as he juggles school work and also cares for his 14 year old brother, Danny who, although not stated to have any specific learning disabilities, faces social challenges and requires more attention than a regular 14 year old. Having it easy is not what Bobby has.

If I could describe this book with one word, that word would inevitably be EMOTIONAL. There aren’t many YA books out there with a point of view from a teenage carer. The Weight of a Thousand Feathers takes an in depth look into Bobby’s day-to-day life and the things he does for his mom. I love how Bobby did everything with a reservation for love and not out of burden. His relationship with his mom was full of wit, warmth and undying love. It made reading The Weight of a Thousand Feathers that much harder when you know what’s coming in the end.

Empathizing with Bobby and Danny is what you’ll do for the entirety of this book. The Weight of a Thousand Feathers questions just how much would you be willing to do for your loved ones who are in pain. Does love justify any actions that are considered immoral as a norm? Ethically grey areas are touched in so many chapters of The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, which makes it such a brilliant read.

There isn’t much of a plot in The Weight of a Thousand Feathers as the duration of the book spans over an approximate school year focusing on Bobby’s care towards his mom. But The Weight of a Thousand Feathers works as a slow book since it focuses a lot on emotions and the personal insights into caring for someone. You’re immediately taken aback by how much happens when someone young cares for a parent.

I love Bobby Seed and everything he did for his family in this book. I love how selfless he was despite facing so many turmoils that no young carer should ever face. I love how at the end of everything, love prevails as it should.

I love The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, and I think you will too.

“There’ve been loads of days when she’s too shattered to laugh, too sore to speak. But I know I’ll miss these moments. Give me misery over nothing any day.”

For fans of Me Before You, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers will provoke more discussions of ethically grey areas where love is questioned in pursuit of ending one’s suffering. Filled with raw emotions and tear-jerking scenes, this book will occupy your heart for a long time after you’re done reading it.

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

A Battle To Save The Entire Universe and Themselves: a Review of Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

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Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: March 28th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 394

Series: Constellation #2

Review of Constellation #1: Defy the Stars

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Blurb:

Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider – ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn’t flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he’d see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi’s entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth… or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider what drives us, and where we truly belong.

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Warning: Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the first book.

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Another brilliant installation in the Constellation series by CLAUDIA GRAY. I absolutely loved the first book Defy the Stars and was looking forward to Defy the Worlds.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone my whole life just waiting for someone to see me. And you do, Abel. You might be the only person who ever has.

Defy the Worlds picked up where we last saw Noemi: back in Genesis after leaving Abel. She’s starting fresh as a military soldier of Genesis while still missing the artificial intelligence with a conscious who saved her life. And now she’s on a mission to save her planet from a biological virus.

The plot, as before, is as amazing as ever. From the first page we’re drawn into the external and internal battle Noemi fights in saving the people she loves. Defy the Worlds is action packed, full of twists and endless fights between various parties in the book. I am again reminded why I love this series so much: Abel and Noemi both have complex characterizations and a past that makes them so unique form the other characters. Readers will again witness why these two work so well together, and why we need more strong characters that question our beliefs as we know it.

Readers will also be transported back to the brilliant science fictional world that GRAY created. But there’ll be a new twist to the entire plot that questions just how noble a human can claim his work to be, if it involves hurting so many other people. We’re introduced to a bigger universe and the possibility of mechs being a more permanent fixture in our lives.

Defy the Stars focused heavily on Noemi and Abel’s personal journeys but Defy the Worlds focused more on the their home planets and the future of mankind. I wished there was more romance action between Noemi and Abel, but what makes this series actually works is its lack in romance. You can expect some minor love action between these two and a whole load of fighting and flying instead. Which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

I don’t know what comes after this, if anything even can. All I know is you’re the only person I can’t imagine living my whole life without.

If you’re looking for a serious YA Sci-fi series, give the Constellation series a try. I definitely enjoyed reading both books, despite the heart-wrenching cliffhanger at the end. Book 3 will hopefully be published next year so I won’t have to suffer for long. I would advice readers to read the first book and continue with Defy the Worlds because there are a lot of repeated characters and events happening in the sequel. Since it’s been a year since I last read Defy the Stars, I struggled with remember all the minute but important details.

Perfect for fans of YA and science fiction, Defy the Worlds will bring a good amount of action and sentimental scenes that makes you love and empathize with the characters, believe in justice for the planets and imagine a future world where AI truly live among us.

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Embark on a Journey to the Land of Gods, Serpents and Frost Giants: a Review of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Genre:
Fantasy, Short Stories
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: February 7th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 283

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Blurb:

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her.

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

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“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

I’ve always been a fan of Neil Gaiman and his gothic storytelling style. He writes fiction so well, but unfortunately Fragile Things was my least favourite book by him, that happens to be a short story collection. Norse Mythology is a compilation of short stories depicting one of the most famous mythologies that inspired endless movies, comics and other works of fiction.

Despite my hesitation with short stories, Norse Mythology is a fun read and one I would recommend to anyone interested to learn more about these Germanic-origin mythologies. We get a great outlook into the original stories and characters. We’re also introduced to many more characters other than Thor and Loki. There are plenty of giants, gods and goddesses, dwarfs and mythical creatures to keep you engrossed in Norse Mythology.

Norse Mythology depicts the pagan culture practiced in Western Europe before Christianity descended. And while there wasn’t much explanation to how these myths influenced every day life, some stories will give you a glimpse. Norse Mythology is my first introduction to any sort of mythology, I didn’t even read Percy Jackson! So I was blown away by the imagination of these people in creating these myths. Each god and goddess had their own roles and each mythical creature has an influence in the history of myths. I was entertained  by it all, to say the least.

There are stories of how gods lived among each other and oversee human life, how they fought giants and killed mercilessly anyone who threatens their kingdom and how the strength of giants are so powerful they can fight the gods themselves. There are stories with triumphant endings and there are many more filled with deaths. Myths are prone for grotesque endings with endless amount or murder and torture, and Norse Mythology gave an unfiltered look into that.

My personal favourite stories are any one that has Thor and Loki in them. Thanks to the Marvel comics, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are forever etched in my mind as Loki and Thor. Their banter and endless squabbles are aplenty in this book. Imagining the two actors as these two characters made the experience of reading their characters in Norse Mythology much more hilarious and enjoyable.

Overall, a recommended read by me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Perfect for fans of any myths, Norse Mythology will bring you into a whole new world with new characters accompanied by brilliant storytelling style. Discover more attention-grabbing stories with Norse Mythology that will make you enjoy this book with every turning page.

 

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Warm Summer Nights on the Road: a Review of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

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Genre:
Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: April 15th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 368

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Blurb:

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

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Warning: Minor spoilers included in this review

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Open Road Summer is a light fluffy read meant to be read literally during summer. Or taken with you on vacation. It’s a very short book that focuses on both friendship and romance, and leaning more towards romance by the end of the book.

I’ve loved EMERY LORD’s writing, and The Start of Me and You is one of my favourite YA contemporaries ever. But Open Road Summer fell pretty short for me. I’m glad Emery Lord has improved in terms of character development from her first YA novel because the MC in Open Road Summer is frustratingly annoying.

Reagan is the typical angsty seventeen-year-old that has had a very hard upbringing living with a single parent and now she’s joining her best friend’s concert tour to forget her rebellious past. Just from that sentence alone, you get an inkling of how cliche Reagen is as a YA MC and that her best friend sounds exactly like Hannah Montana, minus the double life.

Everything about Open Road Summer is pretty cliche. Summer starts out with two best friends making a pact to have the best summer ever, only for a cute guy to enter the scene and steal the show. You don’t need spoilers to know what happens at the end of Open Road Summer.

And I didn’t really enjoy reading the budding romance because it felt pretty unrealistic for a guy to go through so much length to be with a girl as bitchy and snappy as Reagan. But, I guess the heart wants what it wants.

But for what it’s worth, I did finish Open Road Summer and that says something unique about this book. I still loved Emery Lord’s writing in this: fast-paced and Open Road Summer makes for a quick entertaining vacay read. The best friend, Lilah is super likeable so that was a pleasure to read about her. Although it literally felt like a Disney plot, Open Road Summer does bring some plus points about friendship and new beginnings. I just wish those new beginning doesn’t necessarily require a cute guy with cheesy song lyrics in the picture.

Overall, I think Open Road Summer is still worth a read if you want something light and breezy, and if you don’t mind the slightly annoying MC! I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

“Laughter feels like our flotation device — it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Bringing the Hurricane Within: a Review of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Genre:
General Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: June 7th, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 307

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Blurb:

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one.

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I absolutely adored this book. It brought me to tears multiple times. And I’m such a sucker for novels with animals in them. Throw in an unbreakable bond between a human and his pet, and I’m sold.

“A heart is judged not by how much you loved, but by how much you are loved by others”

That is what Lily and the Octopus is about. The beautiful bond that a man can share with his dog. This amazing book reminded me of all the previous cats that I have loved growing up and how each cat I cared for impacted me in some small way.

Lily and the Octopus is the story of a 42-year-old guy named Ted and his beautiful relationship with his 12-year-old dachshund dog named Lily. As the story progresses, Ted realises something that’s affecting Lily’s health and and the way he copes with the possibility of losing Lily sets the foundation of this book. I can’t write more about it because it’ll be spoilery in a way. But there is something truly special about this book.

Lily and the Octopus is such a easy read. With short chapters and a simple plot, you’ll find yourself easily absorbed into the book. I loved the flashbacks laid out as you read the story, giving you glimpses of how Ted loved Lily with all his heart and how she made his life better. The lives they lived together is bound to break your heart, for there is no purer relationship than a man and his pet.

Lily and the Octopus is such an emotional book. I can’t really describe it any other way. With every page turned, we witness the love between Ted and Lily and can’t help but to root for their ending to be a happy one. We feel the pain Ted feels throughout the book, and we feel the joy of Lily that naturally comes with being a dog. Lily and the Octopus is bound to tug your heartstrings, and the more reasons to love this book.

“After a pause Lily looks up at me. “Sometimes I think of you as Dad.”
My heart rises in my throat. That’s the only term of endearment I need.”

I would definitely recommend Lily and the Octopus to anyone looking for a deep emotional read about the beautiful unbreakable bond a human has with his animal companion. Anyone who’s taken care of a pet knows the joys and sorrows that come with it. And no doubt Lily and the Octopus will remind you why we keep loving the ones who love us unconditionally in spite of all our imperfections.

“I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.”

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