Book Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.

Product details:
Publisher: Quercus.
Hardcover, 272 pages.
Release date: March 10th 2020.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan has been in possession of her meticulously crafted answer since she understood the question. On the day that she nails the most important job interview of her career and gets engaged to the perfect man, she’s well on her way to fulfilling her life goals.

That night Dannie falls asleep only to wake up in a different apartment with a different ring on her finger, and in the company of a very different man. The TV is on in the background, and she can just make out the date. It’s the same night – December 15th – but 2025, five years in the future.

It was just a dream, she tells herself when she wakes, but it felt so real… Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four and a half years later, when Dannie turns down a street and there, standing on the corner, is the man from her dream…

In Five Years is a love story, brimming with joy and heartbreak. But it is definitely not the love story you’re expecting.

 Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is one of life’s great planners. In fact, from the moment she wakes in the morning to when she falls asleep at night, Dannie plans her days down to the minute. It’s not just her days Dannie plans; it’s her weeks, months and years, too. On the day we meet her, Dannie plans to ace her job interview at a prestigious law firm. Which she does. She also plans on her boyfriend, David, proposing marriage during a celebratory dinner at New York’s iconic Rainbow Room. Done. What Dannie doesn’t plan on, though, is a dream which propels her five years into the future; a dream in which far from being happily married to David, Dannie instead finds herself in a strange apartment getting intimately acquainted with a man she has never laid eyes on before.

Well, that wasn’t in Dannie’s five year plan! But it was just a dream, right? Maybe. But it felt so real.

As the action moves forward four-and-a-half years, we expect to find Dannie married to David. That’s not the case. Whatever happened to that plan? Dannie and David are still together. Still seemingly happy, too. However, meticulous planner Dannie somehow hasn’t gotten around to planning her wedding. She insists this isn’t a big deal; insists that everything is still on track. While that strange dream from five years ago sometimes plays on her mind, to the point where she discusses it with her therapist, Dannie knows that it was just a dream. After all, it couldn’t possibly be real. The guy from Dannie’s dream isn’t in her life. He’s not on her radar. He doesn’t exist. And then he does. His name is Aaron Gregory. And he’s dating Dannie’s best friend, Bella.

Now that definitely wasn’t in Dannie’s five year plan!

You might be thinking right around now that In Five Years sounds like a fun read – pure escapism. Let me stop you right there. In Five Years is not the book you think it to be. Also, this is a difficult one to review without veering into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop right there. What I will say is that is that In Five Years, at its core, is a book about friendship. The central relationship of this book is not between David and Dannie, nor is it between Dannie and Aaron Gregory. Instead the true romance of this story belongs to Dannie and Bella, the kind of lifelong friends who are there for each through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, no matter what. Dannie knows for sure that she would never betray Bella – but that dream of five years ago is still playing on her mind. And then, one day, Dannie walks into an apartment, which though strange, seems so very familiar. It is the apartment from Dannie’s dream. It is also the beginning of Dannie’s living nightmare.

A tender and heartfelt tale of love, friendship, and best-laid-plans gone awry, Rebecca Serles’s In Five Years will take you by surprise in the very best way.

Read it if you liked  One Day by David Nicholls, The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris, Everything I KnowAbout Love by Dolly Alderton.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.