Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

26804769A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left.

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Before I say anything: look at that cover, take it in. It is gorgeous. The hardback is beautifully produced, with some of the stars spot varnished it really looks like a shining space scene. I bloomin’ love well-designed books.

I will admit, this was a cover buy – well, it was a birthday present but it was a cover wishlist add. It looks beautiful and it has stars on it.

But it’s so much more than a pretty book. I really didn’t know what to expect but the whole thing was poignant and heartbreaking. I cannot recommend it enough, it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

At its heart,  Hold Back the Stars is a love story. It follows Carys and Max. It is the last moments of their lives, and how they each got to be there. It is their journey and their tragedy and it is breathtaking. The characters are so well-written, I really felt for them which is so important for a book which is so deeply character-led.  The supporting cast was also wonderful and I really don’t have any complaints.

The world-building was excellent, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, the whole book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Due to the nature of the story, it was very much about the little details and the details soared in this book, every question I had about the world was answered on the page, it’s like the book was reading my mind.

I just loved it. I am so happy when a book I know little about turns into a book I love and this definitely happened with this one. It is as beautiful inside as it is out and I want everyone to read it.

Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

27973757Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

This is a beautiful book. It is possibly the most beautiful novel I’ve ever seen. I want to find the designers, shake them firmly by the hand, and then steal their talent from them by the all-encompassing power of osmosis. (I am aware that I am not a plant and such things are not possible but a girl can dream.)

Just look. Look at these two pages.

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The entire book is printed in navy, with orange detailing and it really is something special. It also has a gate-folded cover with colourful maps on the inside. It’s is a beautiful piece of book production and I wish I produced it myself. Even if I had never intended to read it, I would have bought it just because it’s a beautiful object. (I always did intend to read it. I mean, just read the title, does that not seem like something I would love?)

I was a bit unsure of this book at first, it’s split into parts and the first section isn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever read but I think if I were younger, I would have appreciated it a lot more. However, I am happy to report that once the action started, it was excellent. I felt nervous feelings in my stomach and everything, I definitely was not expecting that after the beginning. It definitely has echoes of The Firework Maker’s Daughter (which is one of my favourite things) so I very much appreciated that.

What I love most about this book though is the character development. There’s a certain character (Lupe) who begins as an entitled, brattish child and ends up as something entirely different, and it shattered my heart a little bit. The Girl of Ink and Stars doesn’t shy away from being brutal.

It went in directions I was not expecting and I found myself loving it. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, and I loved the mythology that bound the whole thing together. It’s a short read, but a good one and I am glad I stuck it out. It is poignant and lovely and a good way to wile away an evening.