Mainstream Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Considering the meandering and predictable nature of this book, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. It’s one that’s not about the destination so much as the journey – and there’s kinda the moral of the story too.

Published by Canongate Books

The story centres on Tom Hazard, a man who ages so slowly he looks barely 40 but is in fact closer to 400. His “condition” has lead to a great deal of heartache in his life, and in the modern world staying under the radar has gotten even harder. The mysterious Hendrich has offered him security for a price: never grow roots, never fall in love. Tom knows that rule better than he’d like. From his childhood in the 1600s when everyone feared witches and demons to modern day London where kids shrug at history and only stare at their phones, his tale has taken him down many dark alleyways. His heart still aches for the woman he once loved, and for the daughter so cruelly taken by circumstances. The daughter who may be still alive.

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Book Review: Heiress of Magic (Heiress Of The Seven Cities #2) by Sonya Lano

Book Review:  Heiress of Magic (Heiress Of The Seven Cities #2) by Sonya Lano

RELEASE DATE: 3rd June 2014
PUBLISHER:  Independently Published

GENRE: High Fantasy, Gothic romance

Oh my darkness, a more twisted and gothic tale of love, manipulation and magic I have never read. A few caveats aside, I loved it even as I kept wondering if I should put it’s discomforting take on relationships aside. You want a high fantasy that is, in essence, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”? This second instalment of the Seven Cities saga delivers in convoluted, terrifying spades.

There’s a lot going on in this tome of a book, so let’s see if it’s possible to summarise without spoilers:

Lysium and her husband Loren are dancers entertaining the crowds of the Seventh Demesne. Her memories are full of fogginess, but she knows there’s something between her, her husband, and the fire-mage and fellow guild-slave Lothram whose gaze burns her every night. Owned and controlled by the shadowy Guildmaster, they’re used by him to further his own shadowy plots against the magnate. He has enlisted the mage Melyndra into his plans, keeping an eye on those within the Institute of mages.

You see, the Seventh Demesne is a city of magic, where all the mages and healers of all the Demesnes are trained. Magnate Zeiren, a strong mage in his own right and head of the Mage Council, is in total dominating control. When he comes across a young mage named Essence with powers so strong they cannot be tamed by him, his anger and fear threatens the very foundations of the city. For Essence uses her powers to shore up the city’s magical walls, and should she stop the shadow-hungry monsters of legend could well take advantage of their weakness. But bound as she is the the mysterious, handsome, possessive enigma mage named Elixer, she becomes even more tangled up in intrigues and prophecies than she could ever comprehend.

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Book Revview: QUEST (First Snow Book 1) by Lara Kellett-Smith

Book Revview:  QUEST (First Snow Book 1) by Lara Kellett-Smith

RELEASE DATE: 30th December 2018
PUBLISHER:  Independently Published

GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Portal Fantasy

What if Twilight had been a portal fantasy featuring a world populated by shifters and, oh I don’t know, the main characters were actually reasonably well-balanced people? In it’s slow, sometimes meandering way, this book strives to fill that void in the teenage paranormal romance market. If that sounds like your kind of thing, you will love this series starter.

We start off in Yorkshire, England, where Jemma Alder is just another school kid being picked on by the mean girls and ignored by her crush. Ever self conscious about her fuller figure she tries to avoid people in favour of books and a few quiet BFFs, even at the expense of not being noticed by her #crush Aaron Norling. Then out of the blue, queen bee Veronika is asking her to a pre-party makeover, shoving a ring on her finger and then- Boom. An alternate world that’s quite different from the modern day. There’s no tech, no plastics, very little machinery. It’s filled with clans of farmers and hunters living off the land, following strange traditions Jemma doesn’t quite understand. One of there is known as the Quest, where a group of teens must prove themselves out in the wilds by performing a task. Somehow, despite not being of their world, Jemma’s on the team. And so is pretty boy Aaron…

It’s quite a lot to take in. It is a very slow to progress story, and the titular Quest is more of a backdrop than a source of thrills and spills. There are an absolute ton of characters, a lot of inter-clan political intrigues, mythology, and general teenage worrying that stays just the right side of all-out angst.

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Magic Man (Awenmell Characters #1) by Lisa King

 Magic Man
(Awenmell Characters #1)
by Lisa King

RELEASE DATE: 22nd December 2018
PUBLISHER:  Felen Press

GENRE: Fantasy

At first I thought this was a stand-alone story set alongside a series. Only after about 30% of the way through I realised that I didn’t know enough about the world to truly understand what was going on, and by the end I still felt like I knew nothing.

We start by meeting a boy called Tabar who’s been captured by a soldier. His white hair marks him as an outsider of some kind, and he’s in trouble. The guard conveniently loses the boy when two widows slip him a coin or two so that they can adopt a little helper for their farmstead. Over time he masters his fear of fire, finds acceptance even amidst adversity, and grows into a stronger person… Until cruel soldiers come, taking him away from his family and forcing him into their army.

I take it this is an origins story, and it time-skips about a fair few times. I didn’t get a lot of the references to the “Hall” and “Eariss”, or ever get an explanation as to why Tabar was an outcast or afraid of fire to begin with. I’d hoped for more than just insinuations to feed my curiosity. The bad characters were more fleshed out than the good guys, who just seemed to be nice and get on just because. Kish confused me a lot.

Overall not badly written, just… unsatisfying. I don’t think it works as a stand-alone without prior knowledge of the Awenmell series.

Final Rating: 1.5 Stars

Find the book here:

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: The Business of Love (Eros & Co. #1) by Kerri Keberly

Book Review:  The Business of Love (Eros & Co. #1) by Kerri Keberly

RELEASE DATE: October 2019
PUBLISHER:  Independently Published

GENRE: Romance, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Mythology

A cutesy hate-to-love romance with a dash of mythology to boot. You know how it’s going to play out right from the start, but you’ll be rooting for our Americanised Gods as much as romance fans will be for our ill-fated pair.

Our story starts with Eros, God of Love, having a performance review. See, since his wife Psyche left him, he’s been off his game. Zeus isn’t too impressed, and Hera’s out for blood what with the ever rising rates of divorce (totally not her fault). Eros has one last chance to avoid being demoted to mortal-dom: fix up a match between two souls that have been destined for each other and yet in several previous lifetimes have just missed out on true love because of his poor timing. But it won’t be easy, as the Fates have re-woven Liz and Leo’s lives so many times there are a few kinks in their destiny threads. Liz has become a hard-hearted refusenik and Leo a habitual playboy. Oh, and Atropos, the Fate who severs lives? She’s set up Liz to die by age 25 unless she gets her Happily Ever After. With 6 months to go, can Eros save these two miserable mortals and earn back his wings?

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Book Review: The New Life: And Eight More (The Land Before Life #3) by Jamie Brindle

 The New Life: And Eight More
(The Land Before Life #3)
by Jamie Brindle

RELEASE DATE: 29th November 2017
PUBLISHER:  Independently Published

GENRE: Fantasy, Short Story Collection

A set of peculiar and imaginative short stories. Some challenge you to think, others gently poke fun at the world, and some… Well, they can be heartbreaking.

I found the initial 8 short stories a bit of a mixed bag, some showing their age as the author’s skill has obviously improved over time (as explained in the little notations along with each short). My favourite was “Autumn Flowers, And The Spring”, which touches on the fears around dementia. It’s so well written and so painful to read that I almost had to stop. It is that emotional.

But I came here for the big one, “The New Life” about Quince, Rosewater, Silverlight et al. and I was not disappointed. The Land Before Life is probably my favourite fictional metaphysical realm, mad satirical bureaucracy and all. Utterly mind-bending stuff that brought me a smile.

Whether you like your fantasy light, dark, or just a little bit twisted, there’s something there for everyone.

Final Rating: 4 Stars

Find the book here:

While I haven’t blogged about them, I absolutely loved the other stories in The Land Before Life series. They are so meta they hurt. In a good way.

Thanks for reading!

Mainstream Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

I loved this book. I really did. It is such an easy, compelling retelling that takes the bones of the original Cinderella fairy tale and transposes it back into something like historical reality along with all the bloody war and unfairness that comes with it. It also bugged me no end how preachy it came across. It has a good message, just maybe rammed home with a little too much force.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Hot Key Books (2019)

We start where the tale usually ends: the ugly stepsister’s fail to marry the prince after having mutilated themselves to fit into the glass slipper. Cinderella escapes, tries the slipper and is whisked off to her happily ever after. So what of the stepsisters and their mother? Over the years they’ve been downright beastly to poor, sweet, pretty Ella. Octavia, the elder sister, wishes to ignore the whole thing and return to studying. The younger Isabelle regrets pouring so much scorn onto everyone around her, but feels trapped by her social status as the mean, ugly, unladylike girl. Fate has her life set upon this path, beset by her ugliness inside and out. But another force, one known as Chance, wants to change that. He wants to prove that, given a chance, even the hardest of souls can change if they really want to.

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