Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’

Book Review ~ How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

51S6QnZA48L._SY346_Tom is old. He looks as though he is in his early forties, but in reality, he’s over 400 years old. He has a rare condition that slows down the usual human ageing process, giving him an extraordinarily long life expectancy.

It means that he can’t sustain long relationships; not only do the people around him age fifteen times faster, but people get suspicious as the wrinkles appear on their own faces but not on his. He’s lived through four centuries, and now finds himself starting over once more in London in 2017, choosing life as, what else? A history teacher.

Tom’s greatest challenges come from the ‘society’ of a group of similarly afflicted people; they call themselves ‘albas’, and everyone else ‘mayflies’, a reference to the contrasting life spans of albatrosses and the flies that do all their living in a single day. Led by the domineering Hendrich (who in his current guise is doing his best to help ‘mayflies’ stop time in their own way in his career as a plastic surgeon), Tom is expected to fall in with everything the society expects of him that will help keep their existence a secret.

The non-linear narrative allows us glimpses into Tom’s past; we understand how he grew up, distrustful of anyone who discovered his secret, but also see how he falls in love with a woman, Rose, who was always destined to grow old ahead of him. The years bear heavily on him; whenever we catch up with him in the modern day, he is having trouble connecting with people, suffering from severe headaches, and feeling almost entirely hopeless.

How to Stop Time Matt Haig

In the end, the only thing that does keep him going is the smallest glimmer of hope that he might one day be reunited with his daughter, who is an alba just like him. This is a story of loneliness; Tom is a solitary prisoner in his own life; unable to truly connect with people, as he knows it’s only a matter of time before he must uproot his life and move on.

But it’s also a story of hope against adversity; if there’s anyone who should want to give up, it’s a man who has lived for 400 years, and has seen the people he has loved torn away from him.

Matt Haig is an exceptional writer, who sweeps the reader up in the story and doesn’t let go until he has wrung all of the emotion out of you. This is a expertly plotted novel, with cameos from the likes of Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the all-encompassing idea that if there is a way to stop time, it’s probably by falling in love.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Publication Date: 6th July 2017
ISBN: 9781782118619
Canongate
Provided by publisher via Netgalley

 

Book Review ~ Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

27273869Eleanor Oliphant goes to work every day, she wears the same clothes, eats the same lunch, and always buys two bottles of vodka to drink throughout the weekend. As the title tells us, she’s completely fine. People might think she’s a little odd, but she’s lasted this long without any meaningful relationships. She’s fine.

One day she simply helps a man who has collapsed in the street, and everything changes. Gradually, she starts to develop relationships, and in doing so, she has to relearn how to navigate the world. And as her life moves on, she has to confront some of the horrors of her past.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a truly wonderful novel, with a character at its centre who feels instantly real. There’s no denying that she’s odd, and the lines are slightly blurred as to whether she has a condition that causes her issues with social interaction, or whether years of enforced isolation have got her to this point.

At the very start of the story we learn that Eleanor has fallen in love; not with anyone she knows, but with a ‘rockstar’ she has seen on stage at a concert, a rare social outing for her. As the reader, we understand exactly the sort of man that Johnnie Lomond is. He’s a wannabe rockstar, a diva with no reason to be, and absolutely no good for Eleanor, the woman that the reader has already taken to heart, wanting nothing but the best for her.

As the story progresses, Eleanor gradually begins to develop friendships with unlikely people: the IT guy from the graphic design company she works for, the old gent she helps when he suffers a heart attack in the street, even the daughter of this man who couldn’t be more different to Eleanor, with her shiny hair and fashionable clothes.

I was expecting to feel overwhelming sadness throughout this book; loneliness is an affliction that is heartbreaking, and one that is experienced by far too many people. But there’s such a beautiful warmth in this novel, as we watch Eleanor break free of the walls that she has built around herself and engage with people for the first time in decades. It’s also laugh out loud funny, as we watch Eleanor try and navigate this new world.

Eleanor’s background is revealed slowly, and we are left guessing as to the true cause of her isolation until almost the very end of the story. But it’s a life-affirming tale of friendship, overcoming adversity, and joy. I will be recommending it to everyone I know!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
First published: May 2017
ISBN: 780008172114
HarperCollins
Provided by publisher

* This book was provided to me by the publishers for the purposes of review, via Netgalley

Book Blog Tour ~ Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan

Holly9780356505442 (1) Phillips is a mild-mannered publicist, perpetually unlucky in love. When the handsome stranger who flings her over his shoulder turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’, a superpowered hero, Holly is thrust into the limelight, earning her fifteen minutes of fame, and putting her into the path of the city’s most famous villain.

There’s no denying that the inclusion of a superhero as a romantic interest for this modern fiction novel errs a little bit on the silly side. As soon as you know that you are dealing with a superhero in a purple spandex suit, you know what to expect really.

And this book delivers on that, but manages to go a little bit further, and ends up not being the typical romance novel that you first imagine it will be. Holly is a relatable heroine; interesting and modern, but with enough flaws that you can recognise yourself (or yourself in your late twenties) in her. She isn’t entirely sure where she is going at the beginning of the novel, but as things start to take a turn, she discovers more about who she is and what she wants.

Positing this as a superhero story is possibly taking it too far, as ultimately it is a story about a boy and a girl, but there are enough twists and turns to make it an enjoyable one. Most importantly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing you to grab on and go along for the ride!

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan
First published: May 2016
ISBN: 9780356505442
Orbit Books
Provided by publisher

April 2017 Books

April

Not a stellar month for quantity, but a perfectably acceptable one in terms of quantity.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This is my second Nicola Yoon book of the year, having read Everything Everything back in February. This was by far my favourite; even though I had no complaints about Everything Everything when I read it, I just felt as though these two characters were better realised, and the very short space of time in which the story is set gave it the sense of urgency that it needed. Natasha and Daniel are both high school seniors dealing with their own problems. Natasha’s family is undocumented, and due to be deported back to Jamaica that very evening, unless she can find a way to stop it. Daniel is a Korean-American teenager, trying to deal with the pressures placed on him by his traditional parents, and the way he wants to live his life, having grown up in America. They meet, quite by chance, and we get to witness their love grow in the space of just one day. What I loved most about this book was the frequent chapters devoted to other, completely incidental characters: the man driving the car that almost runs Natasha over, the train driver who inadvertantly changes the course of Daniel’s day with his tannoy announcement. These extra stories show just how much someone can affect your life with just the smallest action, and they are what sold the book for me. I loved it!

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
I do love a good crime novel, and that’s what we have here, with the third in the Cormoran Strike series. I didn’t realise just how long I’d left it to get around to reading this, but I’m glad I did, as I’m already hankering for the next one, and I shouldn’t have too much longer to wait! If you’re familiar with the stories, you’ll know that Strike is a former military policeman turned private detective, and with two previous high profile cases under his belt, he’s something of a celebrity. His assistant Robin, who has been with him since the start of the first book, and having proved her mettle as a private detective in the previous book, is upgraded, at least in theory, to Strike’s partner. Then she receives a female leg in the post, and this sets in motion the events of the story, in which Strike is convinced that the leg has come from an enemy from his past, and sets out, with Robin, to find out who it is.

The story itself is compelling and full of wonderful characters; I had no idea which, if any, of the four suspects was going to turn out to be the killer until the final reveal, and that’s always the mark of a good crime story. Unfortunately I do find the writing a little clumsy sometimes; there’s a distinct lack of subtetly whenever Strike or Robin want to delve into their memories, which is unfortunate considering that this whole story is about looking back in the hope that they will discover a clue to the identity of the killer. But it’s entertaining, and these are two compelling characters who I am very much looking forward to seeing in the forthcoming series.

The O’Sullivan Twins by Enid Blyton
My St. Clare’s readathon marches on; as I”ve mentioned before, I’m a Malory Towers girl, and didn’t read the St. Clare’s series as a child. This is the second book in the series, and while I stand by the idea that Blyton just transposed characters from one series to another and changed a few names, here we have a slightly more dramatic storyline that anything that ever happened at Mallory Towers, when one of the sanitorium rooms catches on fire! There’s a lot of unpleasantness in this book, with various characters being sent to Coventry, and a nasty girl leaving the school because she’s pretty irredeemable in the eyes of the other girls. But I liked it, and I’m moving on to book three right away!

Books in 2017 – 14

February & March 2017 Books

February & March

Not having been in the blogging swing of things lately, I missed a February round up for books, so I thought I’d combine two months in one!

The Frog Theory by Fiona Mordaunt *
You can read my full review of this book here; it’s a very short novel about three teenagers coming to terms with their difficult starts in life and navigating early adulthood. It’s not a book that I would honestly recommend, having found it to lose its way fairly spectacularly in the final third. It starts off exploring some interesting themes, but I wasn’t overly fond of it in the end.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
The premise of this YA book drew me in; a small child is abducted from by his father, who has recently separated from his mother. His next door neighbour, Emmy, was his best friend, but has had to learn to live in the shadow of his disappearance, until one day, when they are seventeen, he is found, and returns home. It’s an interesting idea, and the author neatly explores the idea that it’s not just Oliver who was affected when he went missing; the consequences are far-reaching. Ultimately though, it’s another enjoyable YA book that is fun while you’re reading it, but doesn’t blow your mind.

Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
I picked this up in a charity shop a while ago, around the time that I first started watching Endeavour. Never one to just like a thing, I have to throw myself wholeheartedly into it. I have never actually watched Inspector Morse, so I thought I’d try and read the books first. This is the first in the series, and it’s fine, though very seventies in its outlook in terms of women and sexual violence. I enjoyed it as a crime mystery though, and at some point I will try and pick up the next in the series.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
I have heard nothing but good things about Nicola Yoon’s novels, so thought it was about time I read one. Everything Everything is about a young woman, Maddie, who has such a severe immunodeficiency disease that she is unable to leave the house. Life has been plodding along in such a way for Maddie for almost the entirety of her life, until Olly moves in next door, and brings with him an exciting new possibility, as Maddie falls for him instantly. I liked this book a lot; though I guessed which way things were going, it’s beautifully written. The film is due out later in the year; having watched the trailer since reading the book, I’m not sure it’s necessarily going to capture the story in the way I want it to.

The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton
I was a Malory Towers girl, and despite having at least some of the books on the family bookcase, I’ve never actually read any St. Clare’s books. Starting at the beginning of the series, I realised that Enid Blyton essentially wrote two different boarding school books without changing an awful lot. Many of the characters are just carbon copies of one another! But here we have twins, instead of one central character (Darrel Rivers 4eva), which lends a slightly different air to things. I don’t own all the books, so I’m reserving the rest of them at the library!

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
This was on my reservation list at the library for months and months, but it finally arrived, and it was totally worth the wait! The story is made up of two parts; a book editor receives a book called Magpie Murders to read, the latest in a series by the small publishing house’s star author. We get to read the manuscript in its entirety – almost. When she gets to the end, she realises that it’s unfinished, and this sets in motion an amateur investigation by this editor, as she starts to uncover mysteries surrounding the author and his life. I really enjoyed it – two mysteries for the price of one is never a hardship – though I was slightly put out by the denouement, which I won’t spoil here. The reveal of the mystery was fine, it was rather the way in which our central character ended the story that bothered me slightly, but it’s a small complaint, and multiple mentions of Simon Mayo and Radio 2 definitely helped up the star rating (if I had star ratings).

A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde *
I used to read a lot of Katie Fforde. Something about the middle England settings and the romances really appealed to me. My reading habits have changed somewhat since then, but when I spotted this one on Netgalley, I thought I’d give it a go. Nothing has changed; this is a story about two white women; one of whom is middle aged, one of whom is younger. The middle aged one is also middle class, working for a living but comfortable, and enjoying friendships with the local aristocracy. The younger one is poorer, but not destitute, and evidently has enough money to pursue her dream career that doesn’t pay a lot of money. The story mostly follows their romantic lives (both are straight), though there is a side story of the secret garden of the title. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of book, it’s just that I think the world has moved on, and I certainly have, from this very white, very straight, very middle class collection of characters.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
The only thing I have ever seen Amy Schumer do is Trainwreck, the film she wrote and starred in a couple of years ago. I’ve never seen her television series, and though I followed her on social media for a while, I had to unfollow because she started to get on my nerves. She’s a funny lady, and this is an interesting book; she covers everything from her father’s multiple sclerosis, and her former life as a shoplifter, to oral sex and her career as a stand up comedian. She’s eloquent and interesting, and she doesn’t make excuses for herself; she’s relentlessly honest, or certain appears to be. I didn’t laugh all that much with this book, there were a few asides that I felt were trying too hard to get me to laugh, and they didn’t quite come off. But I found it interesting, and with each ‘chapter’ simply an essay on a topic that she feels strongly about, it’s an easy read.

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers for a review.

Books in 2017 – 11

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