Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Title: How to Stop Time

Author: Matt Haig

Page Number: 325

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

On the back of How to Stop Time, Jeanette Winterson is quoted as saying ‘Matt Haig uses words like a tin opener. We are the tin’. Never has a blurb sprouted more truth than that. Matt Haig’s beautiful book grabbed me by the heart.

In How to Stop Time, Tom Hazard lives a lonely, long existence. Every 8 years, he must give up the life he’s built and move on. He can’t fall in love, he can’t put down roots, and he can’t leave any evidence of his existence. This is because he’s 439 years old, and he’s aging so slowly, he only appears to be 40.

In essence, this story is about what it means to be human. About what shapes us, what helps us become who we are. It’s also about the things we’re willing to do to survive – even if we’re not really sure who we are anymore, or if we like it. There are some beautiful messages here, cleverly interwoven with history and famous characters that make reading it a joy. While most of it is sad, there is magic here, and hope. This is definitely a book worth savouring.

Book Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Title: The Gospel of Loki

Author: Joanne M. Harris

Page numbers: 302

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the Gospel of Loki. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started this book – I loved Joanne M. Harris’ Chocolat books, but I guess I thought the prose would be similar in nature, with a kind of dreamy, mystical feel.

This book was nothing like that.

Basically, it was a first-person retelling of Norse mythology, revolving around Loki and his point of view. Therefore, we only see what Loki was present for, or what had been told to him by Odin or the other gods. The prose is rather matter-of-fact, despite the fantastic nature of the events that occur, and the story stays true to the original mythology. Joanne M. Harris doesn’t really stray at all from those original stories you may already be familiar with, so don’t expect any artistic liberty to be taken.

I’ve always had a fascination with Norse mythology and the Vikings in particular, so this book was right up my alley. I loved each adventure and felt angry at the way Loki was treated by the Aesir, despite the fact that he was often the instigator. He was definitely likeable, and I really enjoyed his voice.

Book review: The Colour of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Colour of White

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Page numbers: 375 pages

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years, and after seeing so many amazing reviews for it, decided it was time to give it a go myself. This is book 1 of 3, and I can’t wait to find out how the story progresses.

I’ve previously read ‘I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes’ by Jaclyn Moriarty, and I have to say that all the elements I loved about that book were there in this one. The humour, the whimsy, the strangeness. The pure fun.

I loved the colour present in both worlds – through Madeline’s clothing, her friendships, her mother, and her teachers, and in Elliot’s crazy world where colours were physical beings that could evoke moods or even kill. It was magical, it was odd, and it was full of personality.

In essence, it’s a book about growing up and developing a sense of self. The story is told in two parts, one in each world, and while the letters that Elliot and Madeleine write each other link them, so do the similarities between the two of them.

Finally, I have to say that I just love odd stories like this. I’d like to form a group for people who adored this story – I’m sure we’d all get along famously.

Book Review: The Just City by Jo Walton

Title: The Just City

Author: Jo Walton

Page count: 368 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Brilliantly written and based on the philosophies of Plato, I really enjoyed reading this thoroughly unique novel. Essentially, it involves the Greek goddess Athene travelling through time to collect people who had prayed to her to rescue them from situations they deemed unjust. She had developed a city on an island we now know as Atlantis and set up an experiment – to create Plato’s Republic in the flesh, to test out whether his theories on justice, love, and the human condition could make for a peaceful, just, and completely successful society.

I found the discussions between characters plucked straight from history (like Socrates!) utterly engrossing, and the idea that Greek mythology is just one ring of gods from many that were no more true than any other religion fascinating. I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the rules enforced on the children – apparently free will and equality really weren’t key parts of Plato’s philosophy – and the ideas on child raising and marriage were truly horrifying. All in all, it was a fantasy, disturbing, interesting, and totally different to anything else I have ever read. Very much looking forward to reading more in the series to see how it plays out, but ultimately, I’m fairly certain Plato’s philosophy won’t be a success.

Book Review: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Title: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Author: John Pipkin

Page count: 480 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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I hardly know where to begin with this astounding story. At its heart are two Carolines (one Irish, one German, with some 30 odd years between their ages) who are swept into astronomy by the obsessions of their strong-willed male relatives. Each goes on to make their own fascinating discoveries about the solar system, the universe, and the forces that govern it. Each Caroline also has a physical deformity which she is told makes it impossible for her to marry, and so each devotes her life to science instead of possible love and future happiness.

My heart broke for both, though especially the younger Irish Caroline, who had no idea who she was or that there had been someone who’d loved her all along. Her scientific discoveries came to naught, since, as a female, her male colleagues didn’t believe her discoveries held merit.

Overall it’s a beautiful story of adversity, passion, and obsession, accurately portraying how scientific discovery held a kind of mania over the populace at the time and those society deemed intelligent (or male) enough to obtain it.