Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: How to Stop Time

How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time by Matt Haig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I understand that the way you stop time is by stopping being ruled by it.

Thank you to Goodreads for the opportunity to read Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. Rarely do I come across a book as potentially life-changing as this one. How to Stop Time is the story of Tom who has a rare but not, he learns, a unique condition where he ages slowly – like only 1 year to every 15 years of an average human’s life. More than 400 years old and Tom still struggles with how to live his long life. Heartbroken and scarred by the loss of his love during the Elizabethan era, the only thing that keeps him going through his loneliness and the overwhelming memories is the hope of finding his daughter which he hopes to do with the help of the Albatross Society, a network which claims to protect people with this condition in return for a bit of ‘recruitment’.
There is a deep melancholy running through Tom’s tale but even in the darkest moments, the moments when he must remind himself what he’s living far, the narrative shines with rays of hope. Albeit thin ones throughout most of the novel. Tom’s struggle and fear of a world filled with superstition and prejudice forces the reader to examine not only how they would live if they had hundreds of years to live rather than our brief time here but also to ponder how the world and our relationships would differ with the perspective that longevity would bring. Haig talks often about how little the world as far as the human experience goes changes despite the importance we give each event we experience. Is the 21st century really that different from the 20th? Or the 20th from any of the centuries before it?
The novel gives the reader a lot to think about. My favorite parts of How to Stop Time, though, are the forays into the immense chunk of history Tom has lived through – performing at the Globe Theater with Shakespeare, discovering new lands with Captain Cook, meeting Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at a Parisian nightclub.
This is not a book made for light reading. While you could pick it up and quickly read one of its short (sometimes only a single page) passages, it is best read when you can curl up and devote a few hours to it and disappear into Tom’s long history. And to absorb its many, many words of wisdom.

I haven’t really read anything else like How to Stop Time but at times it reminded me of Jon Cohen’s Harry’s Trees.  While they aren’t similar in subject matter, they both gave me a sense of hope belied by their melancholy beginnings.  Both novels also spoke of our connections through things bigger than our human lives – history, nature, books, love.  Also, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to tout Harry’s Trees again. 

View all my reviews

Advertisements
Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: The Philosopher’s War (The Philosopher Series #2)

The Philosopher's WarThe Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read the second book of Tom Miller’s Philosophers series, The Philosopher’s War in which Robert Weekes, after having proven many doubters wrong by showing the female-dominated world of Philosophy that males could, in fact, fly fast and well has joined R&E and is sent to Europe to rescue the injured on the battlefields of World War I.
I had some issues with the first novel, The Philosopher’s Flight pertaining to the characterization of the female philosophers and, I’ll admit, I had the same issues with this book but that has more to do with my personal experience than with the writing. Despite this being the second of the series, a lot of explanation is still required of the rules of this world especially of the missions and the special equipment that the flyers and other branches of philosophy use and those passages tended to get tedious to me. Also, I’m not much of a war story fan and, as it is set in France at the end of WWI, there are several passages with detailed descriptions of casualties and dangerous missions. However, the action sequences did read more quickly than most of the rest of the book. What Miller does especially well is to delve into Robert’s evolution from excited/nervous young man ready to prove himself in the war to the battle-tested and battle-scarred man torn between two loyalties.
The Philosopher’s War is yet another book with an interesting and unique concept that explores pertinent ideas it just wasn’t necessarily for me.

If The Philosopher’s War is for you, definitely read The Philosopher’s Flight first to get a better understanding of the rules and branches of philosophy.

View all my reviews

Reviews, Romance

Review: Passion on Park Avenue

Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact, #1)Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish that more romance writers would realize that less is more. So often I’ll enjoy reading a romance only to become annoyed when it becomes a broken record of all the petty roadblocks the central characters have put between themselves making me want to go all Cher in Moonstruck and yell “Snap out of it!”.  Sometimes I even want to slap them. While that did happen to an extent in Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue, Ms. Layne kept her novel of a former housekeeper’s daughter made good and the boy, now very much a man, who tormented her and helped to bring on her mother’s downward spiral short and sweet. Yet, she was able to add a little weight to what could’ve been a pretty typical romance novel.
I’ve read novels where the author attempted to add some meat to a familiar story but it often felt like it was tacked on – a failed attempt to stand out from the pack. In Passion on Park Avenue however, Walter’s Alzheimer’s not only felt authentic but was actually necessary to Naomi’s journey of forgiveness and healing. Naomi is a great character – strong, and empowering, yet vulnerable and haunted, as we all are, by our past – and Oliver is totally swoon-worthy, which any romance reader knows is very important. Along with the romance, which was sweet with just a little steam, there was also a fun friendship between three unlikely women.   Thank you to Goodreads.com for the opportunity to read this ARC.  I cannot wait to read the next to books in the Central Park Pact series.

There are a lot of romance novels out there.  Among my favorite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips (her Ain’t She Sweet is one of my absolute favorites) and Kristan Higgins.  If you’re looking for something short and light, you can’t get much lighter than Janet Evanovich’s early romance novels such as Manhunt and Suzanne Baltsar’s Trouble Brewing features a strong, independent businesswoman like Naomi from Passion on Park Avenue

View all my reviews

Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Bidding for Love

Bidding for Love Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde’s romantic chick-lit novels may not be the most well-written, and the plots may be formulaic, but they are sweet and a little sexy – just what you need sometimes, especially in summer. I particularly enjoy the rural English settings which always make me feel cozy and more than a little envious. Bidding for Love, like most of the other of Fforde’s novels I’ve read feature a spunky young woman trying to make it on her own in an unfamiliar setting. In this case, Flora has inherited more than half of the family auction house from a distant relative.
Flora, despite a rocky start, and a less than warm welcome, makes friends and starts to settle into the small village, her cozy cottage, and eventually the business. Until she realizes she’s falling in love with her stuffy, unavailable business partner. It is, as expected, a sweet, easy, breezy read. However, and maybe this is just because I’m an average American, but I kept getting hung up on the fact that Flora and Charles are cousins even though the distance of that relationship was reiterated often throughout the novel. It didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enjoying the story and the setting though.

I just love British Chick-Lit and I’m always looking for a new author in the genre (so if there’s someone you enjoy reading, please pass it on!) but for now Katie Fforde is my go-to writer for a gentler romantic comedy thanks to those cozy rural settings, spunky heroines, and sweet romances.  I particularly enjoyed Artistic License, Stately Pursuits, and Highland Fling.  

View all my reviews

Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

The Overdue Life of Amy BylerThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Harms’s first novel, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, had me laughing out loud and almost crying with understanding; her second novel, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay had me falling in love – mostly with the small Minnesota town but this, her third, lacked, in my opinion, the plot development of those other two novels. Still, it got me thinking, which seemed to be the whole point.

Amy Byler, the central character of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a dedicated librarian raising two children on her own after her husband went on a business trip to Japan and decided to stay there, abandoning his wife and their life.  Three years later he returns asking for a chance to get to know his children.  Amy has all kinds of reactions to his return but when their children decide (reluctantly) to give their father a chance, she is left with a week to herself and an opportunity to visit NYC and take a little time for herself.  When her husband asks for more time, the real adventure that is her #momspringa begins.

Amy is another of Harms’s lovable, relatable, recognizable characters and the supporting characters are well-rounded and endearing (even, at times, John). But there seemed to be little more to the story than a character you rooted for (and, pretty often, wanted to be!) and a couple of interesting ideas – #momspringa and Flexthology (not quite sure that was the name of the reading program Amy wanted to introduce in her school but it was a neat idea). I enjoyed reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler because I liked Amy but the whole thing often seemed like an extension of the fictional article at the center of her New York adventure. What story there was, was fun, sometimes funny yet predictable (not necessarily a bad thing). Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I were a mother or wife (not that I couldn’t use a 3-month break from the every day!)

While I may not have been able to appreciate the Amy’s particular turmoil, there are other novels about single motherhood (or all motherhood for that matter) and the conflicting emotions that come with it that I also enjoyed despite never having been in their shoes.  I enjoyed Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan and I highly recommend One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.  If you enjoy Harms’s style, I would also recommend reading her other two novels, especially The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane which is one of my favorite reads of recent years.

View all my reviews