Review (not) Wednesday | ARC Review – How to Stop Time

**I was given this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Okay, first things first, HOW EXCITING IS THIS?? If you’ve been around a while you’ll know that I adore Haig’s work. In fact, he’s the only author I’ve reviewed more than once on here. Saying that, there’s a kind of fear in reading a book you’ve been looking forward to –and even more so when you have to put your thoughts on the internet for the whole world to see. It’s very easy to be disappointed by an author you’ve read a lot of, because you expect certain things from that author, but luckily that wasn’t the case here.

How to Stop Time is centred around Tom Hazard, a man with a rare condition – at the age of 13 the aging process slowed down for him completely, leaving him to age 15 times slower than the average human. At 439, he’s lived a lot of life. Determined to feel normal, Tom decides to become a history teacher – he’s certainly qualified for it.

The book is what I expected from Haig. In a lot of ways it was like The Humans, which I haven’t reviewed here but read recently – watch this space. The protagonists are similar in a lot of ways, though technically no one is more human than Tom Hazard and no one less so than the nameless alien entity now occupying the body of Professor Andrew Martin. This is a bit of a negative – some aspects felt a little like I’d seen it before (and not just because of the historical throwbacks). Despite this, I thought that overall the book was brilliant. Haig has a strong voice that engages the reader, the story was well paced and I was gripped by the plot. It was that wonderful blend of serious, thought provoking, emotional and funny that Matt Haig combines into the social commentaries I adore reading so much. The plot could have been incredibly convoluted and difficult to follow, but it was actually an easy read and a lot of fun – while still pulling on your heartstrings.

Without spoiling too much, the book does include some flashbacks, but the plot is generally pretty linear. There are a few name drops in said flashbacks, some of which I felt worked and moved the plot along (Tom is given work by a famous playwright), and some I felt didn’t really add anything to the plot (Tom meets a famous couple in a bar). They were entertaining and I like the concept, but it did sort of feel like some famous names were there for the sake of a famous name.

I really enjoyed the book. It was what I wanted and expected from Haig, but at the same time I felt that it could have gone just a little further. We are introduced to a few institutions who are linked to or interested in Anageria, Tom’s condition, but aren’t shown much of them – I’d love to know more about them and perhaps see more of their influence first hand. We hear about their previous actions and understand that there’s always the threat of being tracked down by these groups (think E.T) but don’t really see a whole lot of the actual groups. I can’t believe I of all people would’ve liked more action, but it was a little jarring that we’re warned about all these people and then they don’t really show up when everything else is being tied up.

The concept is fantastic as ever and I am always astounded by Haig’s voice and narrative. I feel like this review is quite critical but I really did love the book – I just felt like a few things could have been cleaner. I would absolutely recommend, even if you haven’t read anything by Matt Haig. This would be a wonderful place to start.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Radleys

They talk some more, Will prompting Peter into remembering their early childhood on the barge. How their parents always went that extra mile to make their infancy special, like the time they brought a freshly killed department store Santa Clause home for their midnight Christmas feast.

The Radleys are a pretty average family. Peter, Helen and their two teenagers Clara and Rowan live a fairly normal life – until the local bully tries to assault vegan Clara at a party. Let’s just say she finds her taste for meat.

The plot of The Radleys isn’t particularly original. A family of non-humans trying to fit in to normal society? It’s been done a million times. What Matt Haig brings to the table, however, is a twisted sense of humour and gruesome detail. This book is very funny and immensely enjoyable. The characters, while vampires, are very realistic. The plot appears quite silly, but the book doesn’t read that way – if you don’t have much of a sick sense of humour, I wouldn’t recommend! The Radleys is gruesome and dark, and doesn’t sugar coat the addictive qualities that blood supposedly possesses for the vampires. It’s more than just not drinking it, it’s an addiction that plagues Peter and his brother Will especially.

I think one of my favourite parts of the book are the extracts from ‘The Abstainers’ Handbook’ between chapters. ‘The Abstainers’ Handbook’ is a book owned by Peter and Helen. It is a guide for vampires living without drinking human (or vampire) blood, and provides a lot of the information the reader gets on the vampires’ subculture. It adds a layer to the book that ties everything up wonderfully, and expands the world.

This is the second Matt Haig book I’ve reviewed, the first being Reasons to Stay Alive. This makes Haig the first author I’ve reviewed more than once (although I have written about JK Rowling on several occasions). In Reasons to Stay Alive Haig has a very distinctive voice, and this is still very clear in the Radleys, despite it being fiction and non-biographical. There’s something very real and relatable in his writing style that pulls me in.

Overall, The Radleys is a brilliant magical realist novel, with comedy and heart by the bucketful. I’d definitely recommend this book!

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Reasons to Stay Alive

Even more staggeringly, depression is a disease so bad that people are killing themselves because of it in a way they do not kill themselves with any other illness. Yet people still don’t really think depression really is that bad. If they did, they wouldn’t say the things they say.

Reasons to Stay Alive couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. Recent events have been catalysts for what I believe has been a long time coming. If I’m being completely honest, and I always aim to be here, I am in the midst of possibly the worst depressive episode I’ve ever experienced.

This book opens with author Matt Haig at his lowest. He is 24, living in Ibiza, and about to walk off a cliff. Reasons to Stay Alive discusses this, how he got there and how he got out of it. He talks about lying in bed unable to do anything but feel scared – a familiar image right now – and how he got out of this.

Haig struggles with Depression and Anxiety, as do I, however I believe this book could help anyone with mental health problems. If you have a mental illness, read this book. If you want to understand mental illness, read this book. If you care about someone with a mental illness, read this book. This is one of the most honest and real discussions of mental health I’ve ever read. It’s painful, raw, brutal and yet somehow uplifting.

Before reading this book it felt like I had no hope whatsoever – no job, no money, no driving licence, nothing and no reason to work towards anything. Reasons to Stay Alive, however, does something that is so important for recovery when you’re in such a low period – works in baby steps. Smaller than baby steps, in fact, tiny, miniscule ant steps.

Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars.

Haig writes about how he began to see every moment spent thinking of something normal, without anything about his illness surrounding it, as a moment of hope. You are proving to yourself, without even realising necessarily, that you aren’t completely trapped in this feeling. Even if the ‘normal’ moment only lasts for a second, it’s something. It’s a sign that these moments will come, more and more often, until eventually they will take over the moments spent stuck in the depression.

This book has made things seem just a little bit less hopeless. I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic necessarily (let’s not get crazy now), but every time I catch myself thinking of something other than how terrible I feel, every time my stomach unravels enough to eat something, the book has taught me to take it as a sign. This is a slow process, but I will be okay eventually and for now it’s about the smallest victories.

Not all of this will apply to every situation, not every experience is the same, and I will admit that I cried a lot through the section about love and pretty much whenever he discussed how much he needed & appreciated his now wife (if you’re going through a heartbreak I would recommend skipping it unless you want to get bitter, Matt and Andrea are a wonderful couple). I do think, however, that everyone can learn something from this book. This isn’t a dull, useless self help book, this is real, accurate and helpful. Millions of people are dealing with experiences like Matt Haig’s – this story is one that is literally killing people, and Reasons to stay Alive is tackling this head on. Read it.

See you soon,

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