Review of How to Stop Time By Matt Haig Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis

HOW MANY LIFETIMES DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN HOW TO LIVE?

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past – and stay alive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love . .

My Review

This opening paragraph. “I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong. I am old- old in a way that a tree, or a quahog clam or a Renaissance painting is old.” Is all you need to know to make you read on in this astonishing book. It takes you right in opening your mind to endless possibilities. I couldn’t stop reading after those first few sentences.

I must admit that when I first heard about this book. I was afraid it would be another Interview with a Vampire, detailing the exploits of some tormented immortal as they watch the eons of time take hold. However, I was wrong Haig has been able to put his own spin on immortality. Now this doesn’t mean that Tom Hazard our main protagonist is immune from tragedies as his life unfolds. Some of the most emotional scenes involve heartache and pain for Tom. Watching his mother drown for witchcraft, his one true love dying of plague, and the constant trauma throughout the narrative of his missing daughter Marion. Not to mention the subplot of Tom’s involvement with a shady secret society known as Albatross, run by a mysterious figure called Hendrich who wants to help Tom find his daughter but is he a friend or foe?

The way in which Matt Haig can explore the human condition in its various forms is utterly astounding. Asking us as readers the question are we really this self-absorbed, and what really defines a twenty first century individual? As I read I began to question everything I see as important within my life in a positive light. This passage sums it up perfectly. “We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered”. The words just seemed to stay with me making me want to explore his writing in more depth.  I just loved how Matt was able to add these everyday issues into this genre expanding book.

As the story progressed the images Matt was able to implant into my imagination gave this story new life. As I was taken on a rip-roaring tour of the roaring twenties from high class jazz bars, and swinging piano jigs, onto the globe of Shakespearean England and an enticing tale with literacy genius William Shakespeare himself, before taking us back to modern day London in all its splendour as Tom goes through the perils of being a history teacher. The assault of colour, voices, and themes, just rifled off the page pulling me along for the ride.

This book has it all love, romance, torment, torture, time travel, murder, secret societies and an examination of the human condition in all its forms. My advice: When you pick up this book make sure you haven’t got work in the morning, because you’re not putting it down until dawn is breaking through your curtains it is that good. 5 stars. Well done Mr Haig well done sir indeed.

 

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Review of The Old Guard By Greg Rucka written by Daniel Stubbings

Of late I have found myself been drawn back to my childhood love of comics. Everybody loves the classics. Saying that I wanted to move away from the well-known comics and find something new and fresh. That would make me salivate like a dog with rabies until the next issue hit the shelf.

I am pleased to say I found it. Its called The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. The first page draws you straight in this is a fairy tale of blood and bullets, It is the story of one woman and three men who cannot die. Mostly. Their names are Andy, Nicky, Joe and Booker. It’s a story about time, and age and ages, and about friendship and love, and regret. I mean if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will.

As the series opens up we find out that the four are an elite team of combat operatives similar to the SAS.  Which have been sent on a mission by an old friend but it’s not as it seems. This set us up for a ride that will take us from the deepest jungle to the city of love Paris. As they go in search of truth and hopefully revenge as well as encountering an unexpected surprise along the way.

This series of comics is currently only five issues old, and already we have seen some major character developments, as they are being told in installments giving us all four main characters viewpoint.

The first five have been told mainly from the point of Andy. Which I have to say so far is my favourite character, giving you as a reader a sense of mystery throughout. You just never seem to know what is quite going through her head. She is a very complex being having a deep internal struggle with herself, as wrestles with her own immortality. Trying to figure how she fits into this group of immortals who have nobody else but themselves.

Greg Rucka writing of this character just makes you connect on so many levels, as he takes you through a number of memories from her long life. Some barely remembered and others crystal clear without giving away her true age. This is an element which is returned to throughout the series so far helping enforce some of our judgements on Andy, but at the same time cast a dark cloud over other aspects in which Greg has hinted at in previous issues.

The art of Fernandez only helps heighten these aspects. With highly detailed fight scenes, flashbacks, and sequences that just tie the story all together. Making for an adrenaline rush which I have to say I not experienced with many other comics.

My only criticism of the series so far, is the lack of explanation about what made them  immortal. Well mostly we have been told some ways in which they can die, but I would really like to know what made them immortal if it was some act of god or virus. I would also like to know what is the purpose of their immortality. Why are they here, and what gets them selected.  I am sure this will come as the series develops just I would like to see more background to some of the other characters.

This series has everything fight scenes, guns, myths, and a crew of characters that you cant help but love and hate. It does what it says on the first page, it is a story of bullets and blood and lots of it but trust me it worth it.

Review of Trails of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy By Rick Riordan Written by Daniel Stubbings

This book catapults us back into the world of the demigod Percy Jackson. With new twists and turns, that will have you laughing out loud, as well as making you hold on tight.

This book is the second in the series and follows on from The Trails of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle. The main narrative within the story centres around Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, music, and prophecy, as he wrestles with the lost of his godly powers, and is forced to live as an acne infested teenager called Lester after he is cast out of Olympus by his father Zeus.

In order to become a god once again, he is tasked with restoring the three oracles from ancient times. The opening character begins where the previous book left off Apollo, Calypso, and Leo, going on a quest to rescue Apollo’s Demigod master Meg. A twelve year old child of the Greek goddess of agriculture Demeter, who is in the clutches of her evil stepdad the Emperor Nero the first member of the Triumvirate.  As the story continues Meg’s character arch really begins to develop in interesting ways from her powers increasing, and her internal struggles against her stepdad.

What I liked most about this book. Is the way in which Rick was able to develop characters from his previous series, and make them feel fresh and new without making them feel out of place. However also maintaining what made us love them in the first place. My favourite being Leo Valdez, a Demigod of the Greek god Hephaestus, along with his trusted sidekick Festus the huge malfunctioning bronze dragon which we meet in the Blood of Olympus series.

This story has a number of subplots but essentially centres around the groups quest to find Meg and the second oracle which are both located somewhere within the American Midwest. If this task wasn’t daunting enough, the oracle is located within a haunted cave which if  it doesn’t kill you. Forces you to go insane. To make matters even worse the oracle  is  been pursued by the second member of the deathly Triumvirate, who’s thirst for blood  hasn’t been seen for over a millennia. To further complicate matters he is a former lover of Apollo, and as the story develops we find Apollo holds a dark secret over his demise.

Now my only criticism of this book is that at times it can seem predictable. As I read on I found that I was finishing sentences, and able to see how the characters were going to proceed. Yes the fight scenes are enjoyable, and Rick is able to weave mythology in a way that doesn’t bore his audience.  However I wanted more an unexpected twist, a character development we didn’t see coming, and just simply more mystery to keep us entertained.

Now your probably wondering well if its predictable why would we read it. Well here my answer. If you like a book that makes you remember the old tales of heroes, gods, and creatures, that does it in a way that will make you laugh out loud  as you ride on the bus then this is the book.

Rick has a marvelous way of taking the modern day and mixing it with the old. Now some of you may argue that so are a lot of authors within urban fantasy, but the reason why I keep coming back to this series, is that the characters stay with you. Adding new dimensions and subplots that just hook you in.  It a delightful read for both adults and children alike.

If you liked this book tell me what you liked?

Also if you have any feedback please let me know?

Follow me on Twitter @dan_stubbings

 

Anne Rice’s Influence on the Vampire genre Where Would we be Without Interview With the Vampire ? Written by Daniel

When Interview with the vampire was first published in May 1976, and later adapted for film in 1994. Were we as an audience really to know what this story would do to the culture of vampires. How it would shape our narratives, and change everything we had come to know about these creatures of myth and legend.

Now some may disagree with this statement, and that is perfectly fine. However my question to you would be? When you next pick up the next so called groundbreaking vampire story. Won’t your first thought be I hope the lead character is as good as Louis or Lestat because I know for a fact it is mine.

Interview with the vampire gave us something fresh. Something we had not seen in the vast catalog that is the house of vampire. I still remember the first time I read it. Those first couple of pages furiously turning as the horror of Louis face was revealed to the lonely reporter whom he decided to tell his life story. Thinking to myself I am not going to bed tonight till I finish this. Interview with the vampire totally changed my perception on what a vampire could and should be.

Up until then I saw vampires as soulless, bloodsucking, remorseless creatures who stalked the night.  What draws you in as a reader and watcher more than anything else is the way in which Anne made you see these two characters Louis and Lestat. You wanted to know who they were, where they came from, how they had become the stuff of nightmares. Each page giving you a new insight into the pairs relationship from how Lestat turned Louis to the present day.

How no matter how hard they fight it they end up been connected to each other. What made them so different from the other vampire novels I had read. Was that they won’t lone wolves giving into the impulses of the beasts within them. They were conflicted between wanting to remain human but knowing that they will forever be different.

Louis encompasses this element throughout trying to cling to his former life, trying to fight the demon within as he struggles to admit who and what he has become. That is what this book makes us think about. Because lets be honest when have we as a human not wondered where we fit in or want to change who we really are but cant.

Anne Rice makes us care for characters that historically have been seen as the villains in stories, and that is what set this book apart from usual vampire books. This book has everything historical venues, darkness and light, conflict and cooperation. Characters and story lines that live long in the memory after you put it back on your shelf or bedside table.

I had never done that with vampires before. I had never found myself fascinated with creatures that primarily are dark within their nature. Wanting to know every aspect that made up this character Lestat. That is the brilliance of Anne’s writing making you question yourself, making you look inside yourself and think why am I drawn to this character. I mean after all he is the prince of darkness but he had me totally gripped.

But returning to the title at the top of this article. Where would we be without Interview with the Vampire. Quite simple really the vampire and fantasy genre just wouldn’t be what it is today without it. You wouldn’t have Blade, Twilight, or the red court in the Dresden files if it won’t for this book. Anne has blazed a trail that has not been extinguished, and the vampire chronicles is testament to that. So I ask you again where would we be without Interview with the Vampire? Nowhere that it. The vampire world would of died with Dracula but instead we have the prince of darkness.

If you enjoyed this please share on social media I really appreciate it, and please comment on anything I could of improved, and why don’t you tell me what your favourite Anne Rice book is I would love to know. Thank you

The Rise Of Fantasy in the Modern Age Written By Daniel

Why Fantasy? What has made us as readers and watchers gravitate towards this vast field of literature and screen. From the streets of Chicago filled with gangsters, werewolves, vampires, fallen angels, and a wizard that is to stupid for his own good in the Harry Dresden Series, to the Harry Potter phenomenon, we as an audience are reading and watching this material in our millions.

Yes you could argue that fantasy has always been there in some form or another. In the shape of Lord of the Rings, Dune,  Alice in Wonderland and even further back Greek mythology, and stories told around camp fires to scare children giving rise to folklore, myths, and legends, but what has caused this surge in people wanting to explore the world of fantasy.

Don’t believe me?Just check the New York Times or Sunday Times bestseller lists, and I will guarantee you there will be at least two fantasy books in the top ten. Whether it be Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Cassandra Clare, and Jim Butcher just to name a few, the range of choice never seems to stop flowing, with new voices and ideas coming to the forefront all the time, challenging what we think we know about the world of so called fantasy. I mean you cant even stroll down a couple of channels on which ever platform your using, without seeing some kind of fantasy based drama.

Just to put in perspective the sheer scale of the popularity, Westworld a HBO series which premiered in October 2016, has recently being ranked as the most-watched first season of an HBO original series ever. Grossing an audience on average of twelve million across all of it’s platforms, with a second season already commissioned. This is just one program in a mountain of shows, movies, and books that are planned for release this year. From Game of Thrones, to Stephen Aryan’s new trilogy set in the same world as the Age of Darkness, to the new Logan movie you couldn’t ask for a better time to be a fantasy geek.

But what is causing this shift? Is  it that we wish to be taken back to our childhoods where we become  knights and fight in a deadly duel against the fire-breathing dragon. Because lets be honest, that is how most people that don’t read and watch fantasy view it. It is usually the first thing that comes out of their mouth, when you breach the topic. ” Or I am not reading or watching that, all it will be is a load of dragons burning the place down”. Yes and to be fair in some cases they may have a point, because to be frank there are way to many dragons, but you got to love them. However I am please to say the arena of fantasy is constantly changing. We have vampires falling in love with mortals, Greek demigods roaming the streets of New York City, and the devil running a night club in downtown Los Angeles. I mean what more could you possibly want.

It is no longer good enough just to have good vs evil in fantasy. Readers and watchers want something more. As a reader and watcher of both urban and epic fantasy. I know that I stay more engaged with characters and plot lines, that show a range of different emotions, and not characters that are purely one dimensional. Lets be honest which human or creature in the worlds or environments, that we have been exposed to in both literature and on screen in recent years, would of only shown one personality trait it is simply impossible.

Think of your favourite characters from both literature and on screen, would you really of loved them as much as you do if all they did was saved the girl or kill the heroes family. Of course you wouldn’t you love them because you contact with them on both an emotional and human level.  Take for example Severus Snape in Harry Potter. J.K Rowling had fans in furious debates on forums, blogs,workplaces, and classrooms over whether Snape was bad or good and in the end in my opinion he is neither. For me he is in a word human we all have flaws and demons that we must face, and it the choices that we make that define us.

Some of the most hatred villains in history have shown that they have internal struggles. Torn between wanting to do good, but to entangled within the evil to change. A perfect example being Darth Vader, as shown throughout Star Wars as he fights against his former self but evil is slowly consuming him. This is what draws me back to fantasy and SCI-FI more than any other genre. The complexity of the characters, because in one moment you go from hating someone to feeling sorry for them. This is what has bought on the rise changing our perceptions giving vampires humanity, making the devil care, but also making what we usually perceive as good, a darker side from angels to gods we are seeing them shown in a different light, keeping us as viewers and readers guessing who to trust.

Now don’t get me wrong I love a good crime thriller, romance, and murder mystery as much as the next person. But the reason why I think fantasy, has seen such a resurgence in recent years is because it allows us to escape from the mundane routines of our normal lives. It allows us to become a powerful wizard, fall in love with a mysterious stranger that glows in the sunlight, and feast like kings in castles with the undead.  It helps us look at places where we live in a different way, making us wonder is a vampire around the next corner, or is our next door neighbor a werewolf, but also lets us dream of far away galaxies and worlds that mirror our own. Its is a genre that continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing.

That for me is why we have seen a rise of fantasy in the modern age. What do you guys think?

 

 

 

 

Review Of Curse Words By Charles Soule and Ryan Browne Written by Daniel

Now when you see on the back of a comic the lines once upon a time, There was a wizard then it all went to hell. You cant help but grab it with both hands excitement surges through your veins, you turn and see the counter insight before you know it your running faster than Usain Bolt.

The shop owner stares at you with  bewildered eyes as you charge forward nearly knocking over every customer.  You take a moment to compose yourself,  reach inside your jeans pocket and remove your wallet and kindly ask if you can purchase this object you desire. Waiting patiently as every second feels like an hour as it scanned through the till. You don’t even ask for a bag you just scoop it up and exit the shop as fast as your legs can carry you turning the first page as you go.

This is what curse words is the new ongoing series from Charles Soule ( Daredevil, Death of Wolverine) and Ryan Browne ( God hates Astronauts) a rip roaring ride that has you laughing out loud from the moment you turn the first page. A wizard has appeared in New York, and he is casting spells getting rich and famous everyone thinks it wonderful. What they don’t know is that this wizard isn’t all as he seems, he is  actually a bad wizard and bad things are on their way.

As a reader we are told this from very early on just read the back of the comic. However it is done in such a way that you cant help liking wizord anyway. I mean he is like the anti Merlin bearded motorcycle riding magic junkie that you want at any party because you know for a fact something cool will always happen. But who is Wizord well as the comic develops we see him go from a wizard for hire with three rules no wars, no cures, and no love to wanting to the destroy the world which takes a number of days, in which time we see him exploring the city attracting far to much attention through his use of magic. As this first issue draws to a close it leaves us wants more giving us a glimpse into Wizord’s past, showing us where he came from and who he used to serve.

Another aspect I liked was the way in which Charles and Ryan worked together. As Ryan’s artwork adds a delightful blend to the adventure from the epic fight scene between Cornwall and Wizord, to drawings of the adorable Koala that is Margaret who can talk but we have no idea what her relationship to Wizord is at this stage. I mean she even has her own hashtag TeamMargaret what more could you want.

This comic is a delicious mix of Harry Dresden meets Watchmen meets Guardians of the galaxy, and it promises to be one great valley of destruction. It is a gonzo of darkness and light but above all just some epic magic and storytelling from two people that are on top of their respected games.

All I can say is Wizord has arrived Harry Potter you better be ready.

Tell me if you read this comic and if you have  what are you looking forward to next? What are your favourite aspects, and what is your favourite line within this first issue mine has to be you killed my horse Cornwall I liked that horse. Let me know in the comments and also tell me what you thought of this review.

and if you haven’t read it try it. It available on Amazon using this link  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Curse-Words-1-Charles-Soule-ebook/dp/B01M3VV2XP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486330295&sr=8-1&keywords=curse+words+1 and all local comic book stores and just for some added fun why don’t you follow Charles and Ryan on twitter @CHARLESSOULE and @RYANBROWNEART

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Lucifer Amazon Prime Original Show Written by Daniel

Based upon the characters created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg. This series follows the original bad boy, god rebellious son, and the most famous fallen angel of all the devil himself Lucifer.

The opening credits to the show give us an idea of whats to come. From the beginning the angel Lucifer was cast out from heaven to rule hell for all eternity, until he decided to take a vacation.  This catapults us the viewer in modern day Los Angeles the city of angels, where Lucifer has become the owner of the mostly luxurious nightclub in Los Angeles called Lux.

Where every night he samples women,booze, and sex as mortals cant resist his charms revealing their deepest desires as soon as he peers into their eyes. Supported by his demonic protector Maze (Lesley Ann Brandt) he parties all day and night sampling all of LA’S dark side.

However when he sees a friend gunned down he vows to find her killer, and makes him begin to question whether he has some humanity after all. This puts him into the path of LAPD detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German). A hard nosed cop who does everything by the book, but what is most intriguing about her is that she is totally immune to Lucifer charms both in turn frustrating Lucifer and fascinating him all at the same time.

This leads Lucifer played by Tom Ellis to began to question his place in the world, giving us as viewers a different view upon what we believe the devil to be. A character that helps increase this is therapist Doctor Linda ( Rachel Harris) who enters into a deal with Lucifer for sex in exchange for helping him through his issues with his father, and how he is viewed by mankind leading to great viewpoints and perspectives on what him the devil is feeling.

The central relationship within the story is between Chloe and Lucifer as with each episode gets more and more complex, giving the writers a number of threads they can explore from Lucifer relationship with Chloe ex husband Dan (Kevin Alejandro), who is also a LAPD detective and holds a dark secret about Chloe past, to how they can coexist as Chloe struggles with Lucifer disillusions that he is the devil.

My only criticism of this is that some scenes seemed to be strained like they are giving to much away instead of letting the chemistry develop naturally, which can sometimes make you lose interest in the relationship and wait for the next scene involving action or angels or just something a bit more cool.

However this has allowed the writers to shift the focus onto other characters, as the show continues allowing for more detailed character development, and given more importance to the many subplots and agendas within the show.  One of the most intriguing characters within these subplots is Maze for as her character becomes more concerned for Lucifer, her priorities begin to change adding an extra lay to her character and also revealing a vulnerable side that you don’t usually associate with demons in these kind of shows.

This allows for greater story development moving away from the central relationship of Lucifer and Chloe, bringing in Lucifer’s brother Amenadiel (DB Woodside),  the first angel ever created who in the beginning of the series is a constant thorn in Lucifer’s side, trying to get him to return to hell. However as the series develops we begin to see multiple sides to his personality and his own personal battles that he must overcame, making him a character to watch, as he becomes a more pivotal character to Lucifer’s overall welfare.

Yes some may think this is just NCIS Los Angeles with Supernatural elements added to the mix, but you be wrong the characters are well defined, and the story has a fast pace keeping you on the edge of your seat from minute one and personally I cant wait to see what they have in store for us next.

Like this review if so please leave a comment, and let me know who your favourite character, what your favourite episode, and what are you hoping for out of the new series thank you.

 

 

 

Review of American Gods By Neil Gaiman Written by Daniel

This multi award winning masterpiece will have you begging for more and throwing the book at the wall all at the same time. It comes from the creator of Sandman, The graveyard book, and Stardust Neil Gaiman. In the first few pages we are introduced to Shadow Moon, a convict who released from prison three days early after discovering his wife has been killed in an horrific car accident.

Everything appears normal until a chance encounter with the mysterious Mr Wednesday  on the plane ride home, who appears to know everything about Shadows life and wants to offer him a job. This is where it gets interesting taking Shadow on a road trip across America exploring it’s very soul. As the story develops you are drawn into a world where nothing is as it seems, Shadow finds himself mixing with old gods and new with Wednesday turning out to be Odin. This is where we find out Shadow has been hired to help protect Wednesday, as a war slowly begins to appear on the horizon  between the old gods and the new which are high on power and their own importance.

The new gods include media, techno boy, and the god of cars which is believed to be the new objects of worship for most Americans referring to computers, Cars, and TV.  Shadow finding himself torn between these realities begins to have versions and encounters with his dead wife Laura discussing how she died and how he will want her there at the end.

The characters are beautifully constructed, each one given their own voice adding to the many subplots which keep you guessing all the way through. As you try to discover who is a friend and who is a foe, one of the the most memorable being Mr Nancy who in fact turns out to be Anansi the African trickster god. This book is a combination of the old myths and legends which we all love, and a new set of stories, set against this backdrop of American ideals which makes for a hell of a ride. if you like gods, war, and sometimes simply just plain weird than this is a book for you.

Who is your favourite character In American gods and why? let me know in the comments