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 Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman Written by Daniel Stubbings

My Review

In September the highly anticipated prequel to the masterpiece His Dark Materials trilogy was released. Book of Dust: LA Belle Sauvage. A social media frenzy ensued with people rushing out to buy their copy, hungry to discover how Lyra became the heroine we all remember from our childhood.  I was one of them racing home from work to my pre-ordered copy waiting in my mailbox. Opening the cover with glee as I was plunged back into the parallel world of Oxford and the sensory delights which in my opinion only Philip Pullman can deliver. Unfortunately, I was left feeling underwhelmed.

The main reason being I struggled to engage with the protagonist Malcolm. Forcing myself through chapters I became increasingly frustrated with the character Pullman had created. He just couldn’t stir the emotions needed to make me care about Malcolm’s story. As chapters unfolded I found myself rooting for the villain Bonneville, as an intriguing dark side was revealed to the reader. Begging to be explored by Pullman in more detail, and feeding my imagination on how Bonneville and his deformed daemon would impact so heavily on Lyra’s early life. I would have liked more scenes from his viewpoint as I felt this would have greatly improved major elements within the book. However, when it came to Malcolm for me he lacked development and just felt to overdone within modern-day fantasy. What I mean by this is the typical story of an ordinary boy having their life turned upside down by some unexpected magical power or adventure. Usually I enjoy this. Unfortunately for me Malcolm just didn’t have the uniqueness or magic system I need to make me read on with wide-eyed amazement, leaving me feeling deflated as his preteen adventures developed.

Now don’t get me wrong some chapters are wonderfully written. Giving us unique insight into why the story has taken a certain turn. The enchanted island and the League of St Alexander, being good examples of two chapters which will bring about a lot of discussion from readers on how this will impact on Lyra in the long-term, and raises several questions into the current political climate within our own world. I also enjoyed the development of daemon relationships, between Asta and Ben. Who are Malcolm’s and his companion Alice’s daemons, allowing us to explore the rules of these creatures in more detail.

What lets it down for me is a lack of direction. To long is spent on them floating in a boat as they attempt to escape the flood, with nothing happening but changing nappies and being soaked to the bone. As well I just didn’t enjoy how much-loved characters from the original trilogy are portrayed. A perfect example being Lord Asriel. In this book we see him holding Lyra as a baby on a moonlight walk around a nunnery, being a protective and dedicated father coming to Malcolm’s aid on several occasions. This is in complete contrast to the cold-hearted and at times almost sadistic figure from His Dark Materials, making it for me unbelievable.

Now it may just be that this is the first book in a new series, and my exceptions were too high with all the hype. Of which I am hoping as I adore the original series. I would give this one a 3.5, as I do like the secret organisations and conspiracies which are alluded to in many chapters. Enabling this series to have a more teen/adult feel to it. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t for me hoping for better in book two.

 

 

 

 

Review of The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes Written by Daniel

Why should you read the Gift Maker? What sets it apart from all the other fantasy/fairy-tale stories you have read either as a child or adult. Well that just it. This book isn’t just a fantasy novel it is able to cross a number of genres from romance to mystery to puzzle solving this book has something for everyone.

Making for a very interesting debut. The story is told through the eyes of three main characters Thomas, Liselotte, and Jo. Their journey begins after Thomas and Liselotte receive two mysterious small blue boxes in the dead of night. Catapulting them into a quest where everything is not as it seems, and into a world that brings new meaning to the world of fantasy and folklore. Sometimes a dream, sometimes a nightmare, and at other times you’re not quite sure. Each aspect crafted by the deliciously dark Reynard who I have to say is one of my favourite villains if you can call him that but that would be giving too much away.

The world in which Mark has constructed is so vividly written that you cant help but be absorbed into its pages. A great mix of hunters, mythical creatures, and magic that seems to have no end. It does however have elements that seem familiar snow-covered mountains, a mastermind orchestrating a quest for people to complete. At times it could have been mistaken for a mixture of Stardust and Lord of the Rings but I loved it. Mark has been able to breathe new life into old tales, and create characters that you can’t help but care for.

The only criticism I have is the ending. Yes everything is resolved and keeps you on the edge of your seat right until the end, but I wanted to see more of this world, I wanted to know everything about the characters, I wanted to go deeper into the language, and wanted to see more of the dark undertones which lurk in the background.

This however takes nothing away from how well written this book is. It is a stunning debut and I guess me wanting to find out more about this world only furthers my point. It is quite simply a must read for any reader.

If you have read this book tell me what you enjoyed and what you didn’t?

If you have any feedback? Do please comment I really do take your opinions into account.

And also why don’t you follow Mark on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Mayes

You can also follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/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?