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. 

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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.

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Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews

Review: First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5)

First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, #5)First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First Among Sequels, the fifth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is set some 15 years after the end of the previous installment, Something Rotten. After her adventures trying to save the real world and the book world all while getting Landen back, this novel finds Thursday in a more, settled, domestic situation. Or so it seems.
The first half or so of the novel can be slow going at times as we peer into Thursday’s everyday life with Landen, their children, and her work at ACME Carpets. The final 100 pages though are filled with everything we’ve come to expect from a Thursday Next adventure – forays into the supernatural with Spike, dealing with the wicked Hades family, trouble from the Goliath Corporation, confusing timey-wimey stuff, and several trips into the Book World. Though this one is slower at times, it is still a fun, often funny addition to the strange and wonderful series.

If you are a book lover – the kind of book lover who dreams of living inside of books – or you like your adventures with a healthy dose of craziness, I recommend diving into the Thursday Next series.  So far I’ve particularly enjoyed Lost in a Good Book (TN #2) and Something Rotten (TN #4)

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Fantasy, Reviews, Romance

Review: Child of the Prophecy

Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters, #3)Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

The third novel of Marillier’s Sevenwaters series is, in my opinion, closer in quality and story to the magnificent first book, Daughter of the Forest than the second book, Son of the Shadows was, though this one too lacked some of the romance of that first book, instead focusing on the magic and lore of their world. Like its predecessors, Child of the Prophecy centers on a strong, independent female protagonist who is tested beyond her limits. I related much more with Fainne than I did with either Sorcha or Liadan though I loved them both as characters.
The best thing about Child of the Prophecy aside from the rollercoaster ride of emotion and tension that fills most of the final 100 pages or so of the book is the return of so many of the beloved (and not so beloved!) characters from the first two novels and the resolution of many of their stories. Even if it slow at times, it is worth it, in the end, to see where Sorcha’s story from the first book has led and the importance of each choice that is made.

If you enjoy  Child of the Prophecy or Irish folklore, fairy stories, or romantic fantasy, I highly recommend you read the Sevenwaters series from the beginning.  

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Children's Literature, Fantasy

Review: Ella Enchanted

Ella EnchantedElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed watching – but did not love – the film adaptation of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted but I cannot resist a good fairytale retelling. And that’s what Ella Enchanted is. This retelling of the Cinderella story stands out from the pack for a couple of reasons: Ella, in this story, is under a curse which explains how a spunky young woman would allow herself to be treated so cruelly by her step-family; most of the story encompasses Ella’s pre-Cinders life, and the story is filled with unique and fun characters. Ella Enchanted’s greatest strength, however, is Ella herself with her fun, sassy narrative voice and her honest emotions.

If you enjoyed Ella Enchanted but you are looking for something a bit more mature, then I highly recommend William Goldman’s The Princess Bride or Kathryn Wesley’s The 10th Kingdom and then (if you haven’t already) watch the hilariously classic The Princess Bride movie and the lesser-known but totally fun miniseries of The 10th Kingdom.

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