Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Riddell

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

Review:
How to Stop Time is one of those cozy weekend reads full of interesting storytelling and thoughtful takes on love and life. This, combined with the amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell, make the book a real treat (I bought the illustrated version — well worth it!).

 

I love how Haig uses the character of Tom, a man who ages extremely slowly, to explore themes about what it means to really live and the value of love, things like the difference between existing and living, and is it worth loving someone if you will inevitably watch them age and die while you don’t. These are great questions to explore and Haig does it in a way that doesn’t seem “heavy”.

 

Tom was an interesting character — he’d seen amazing things and met influential people in his long life, but he lived in fear of being exposed and this influenced his every action and thought. The one criticism I have of this book is that sometimes Tom gets a bit dragged down in his thoughts and fears and it slows the book down and feels repetitive at times.

 

However, the ending more than made up for this and I would recommend this book for a thoughtful read, complete with historic adventures.

 

And, something new, here’s my review turned into a video! I’d love to know what you think.

 

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Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

The daring, dazzling and highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Song of Achilles

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018“An epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner.” – Ann Patchett
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

Review:
I was so excited when I saw this book — I absolutely love Greek mythology, the Odyssey is one of my favourite books of all time, and I was fascinated to read about Circe, who has only been presented as a minor character in Greek myth.
And I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Miller did an amazing job of bringing this goddess to life, to telling her story in an empowering way, and even to staying true to the myths. I love taking a character from myth or history and presenting them with a backstory and motivations and seeing where that all leads.

 

The book has the richness and history of someone who understands Greek myth–the story is peppered with details that add to this authenticity and enhance its scope. There are some lovely descriptions and writing.

 

But, most of all, there is Circe, the witch from the Odyssey who turns men into swine. We get to understand how she got there, her childhood and history, her point of view of events. We get to see this amazing woman grow and become formidable, all entwined with Classical Greek themes of gods and mortals, fate and choices, and being a hero versus living a long, quiet life.

 

If you love Greek myth or strong heroines, I highly recommend this book.

 

Note: I received a copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2)

Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Review:

This is the first Alice Hoffman book that I’ve read, and knowing that it involved magic and witches, and had themes of being true to your whole self — well, I was anxious to read it. That and the cover really is beautiful.

However, I did not bond with this book. I liked the characters well enough and there was some magic, but something was missing for me. Aunt Isabelle was by far my favourite character. I loved her eccentricities and the idea that people approached her porch at night to receive her spells and remedies and would pay anything for them but would snub her on the street.

Hoffman has clearly done her research and filled out her novel with information of the area, the history of witches and the social situation of the day.

My favourite parts of the book have to do with the themes of accepting all parts of yourself, as illustrated by this quote from the novel:

“This is what happens when you repudiate who you are. Once you do that, life works against you, and your fate is no longer your own.”

I did find myself wanting to finish the book to find out what happened, but also found that most of the novel, especially as it went on, was describing situations and what went on. As a reader, I didn’t feel like a part of the action. It got to feeling like reading a history book.

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On Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)

Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.
Review:
This is one of my favourite Harry Potter books and it was so much fun to discuss it in my book club recently. Rowling is certainly bringing in more of the dark aspects of the wizarding world in this installment.
I find it fascinating how Rowling brings in so many important themes into her writing, such as discrimination and wrongful convictions without proper investigation and evidence — there is an almost World War 2 feel to some of what went on in the wizarding world under Voldemort. And then there are the dementors themselves and the fact that the wizarding world is alright partnering up with them, emphasizing again how everything is not always wonderful in the world of magic.
There are also great themes around friendship in this book. Harry and his friends argue and act moodily, just like regular teenagers. And then there is the friendship of Harry’s parents, their friends and their dynamic, and how they bullied Snape. The good and bad of being friends is explored.
Overall, I loved the pacing and the tension and the humour in The Prisoner of Azkaban. There is so much adventure and looming peril that it is hard not to get completely engrossed.

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