Title: How to Stop Time

Author: Matt Haig

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Canongate Books

The Blurb

‘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 probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.’

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time 
is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

The Review

How to Stop Time is the story of Tom Hazard, a man with a rare medical condition which means that he ages at a much slower rate than most people. He is over 400 years old and has seen things that people have only read about in books. However, his condition puts I’m in danger – danger from scientists, eugenicists, by people who just couldn’t understand. So whilst Tom tries to hide under the radar – not make friends, not fall in love but this proves impossible when he gets a new job in a secondary school.

How to Stop Time is a time travel novel that meets a historical one. We travel through time with Tom Hazard and we meet a cast of historical figures from Shakespeare to F Scott Fitzgerald. At its heart, it is a story about relationships and how we need to keep people close to use regardless of the cost. 

If I am completely honest I am not a huge fan of fantasy novels and How to Stop Time didn’t float my boat the way I wanted it to. I love Matt Haig’s writing – in particular his non fiction/mental health books so I worry that maybe his fiction is not for me. How to Stop Time is written well but the genre as a whole is one that I tend to avoid.  

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig is available now.

For more information regarding Matt Haig (@MattHaig1) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Canongate Books (@canongatebooks) please visit www.canongate.co.uk.

Title: Rodham

Author: Curtis Sittenfeld

Pages: 421 Pages

Publisher: Random house

The Blurb

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.

In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.

The Review

Rodham imagines a parallel universe in which Hillary Clinton did not marry Bill Clinton. It looks at how her life would have turned out if she hadn’t spent her life one step behind Bill and shadowing his political career. What could have happened if she stayed single, focused on her own career and maybe one day ran for president? Rodham is fantastic.

Obvioously, this is a fictional tale (massively covering my own backside here) but Sittenfeld has taken all the negative qualities of the supporting cast and painted them neon. Bill is a sex pest, Donald Trump supports Hillary but only in so far as he can gain from it, Hillary is a little wooden. It makes the novel really rather salacious.

Rodham is a fascinating look at the world of politics and about social change that has happened and that still needs to happen. It is entertaining because of how we view the world today and the differences that Sittenfeld has used to tell her story. Ironically, it is also the things that have remained the same that also cause us moments to pause and to chuckle. The juxtaposition of both sides of the coin really do make you wonder, along with Sittenfeld, what if?

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is available now.

For more information regarding Curtis Sittenfeld (@csittenfeld) please visit www.curtissittenfeld.com.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: Johnny Ruin

Author: Dan Dalton

Pages: 185 Pages

Publisher: Unbound

The Blurb

Depression can be hell.

Heartbroken and lonely, the narrator has made an attempt on his own life. Whether he meant to or not he can’t say. But now he’s stuck in his own head, and time is running out.

To save himself, he embarks on a journey across an imagined America, one haunted by his doomed relationship and the memory of a road trip that ended in tragedy.

Help arrives in the guise of Jon Bon Jovi, rock star and childhood hero. An unlikely spirit guide, perhaps, but he’s going to give it a shot…

The Review

Okay, I will admit Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton confused me. It was in the best possible way. I mean how many books that discuss mental health use a mystical figure of Jon Bon Jovi as a spirit guide? Not many, I can tell you.

The story is about a man struggling to deal with his mental health – this is at its very base level but what is developed throughout the narrative is that our protagonist looks at the things that have happened in his life that have been catalysts to his depression or t the things that have led to his depression. It looks at how mental health problems are not quick fixes, they are constant and rolling and you will have good times and bad times. It looks at how the pit of despair can be so vast that you can only see the darkness and not the light at the end of the tunnel.

Chock full of metaphor and allegory, Johnny Ruin is a great short read for anyone who is able to suspend their disbelief. If you struggle with that then Johnny Ruin may not be for you. If, however, you wish to get a more in-depth look at depression then this may give you a small insight into what it is like for one person. 

Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton is available now.

For more information regarding Dan Dalton (@wordsbydan) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Unbound (@Unbounders) please visit www.unbound.com.

Title: Dear NHS – 100 Stories to Say Thank You

Author: Adam Kay

Pages: 295 Pages

Publisher: Trapeze

The Blurb

Curated and edited by Adam Kay (author of multi-million bestseller This is Going to Hurt), Dear NHS features 100 household names telling their personal stories of the health service. Contributors include: Paul McCartney, Emilia Clarke, Peter Kay, Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Sir Trevor McDonald, Graham Norton, Sir Michael Palin, Naomie Harris, Ricky Gervais, Sir David Jason, Dame Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Miranda Hart, Dermot O’Leary, Jamie Oliver, Ed Sheeran, David Tennant, Dame Julie Walters, Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai and many, many more.


The Review

Dear NHS is a collection of tales from celebrities celebrating our NHS. Now, more than ever we need to protect this fabulous institution. Each celebrity featured in this book has a personal connection with the NHS. It could be when they themselves were cared for, a loved one was cared for or even when they worked there. What is palpable from every story is just how much it is valued.

With this collection, Adam Kay has once again highlighted the importance of protecting the NHS from the nefarious hands of our current government who seem desperate to privatise it for monetary gain. The money from the sales of this book will go back into the NHS so even if you aren’t a reader, don’t want to read this book then please buy it anyway. Appreciate the NHS now, not when it is gone.

Dear NHS – 100 Stories to Say Thank You by Adam Kay is available now.

For more information regarding Adam Kay (@amateuradam) please visit www.adamkay.co.uk.

For more information regarding Trapeze (@Trapeze Books) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: True Story

Author: Kate Reed Petty

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: riverrun/Quercus

The Blurb

After a college party, two boys drive a girl home: drunk and passed out in the back seat. Rumours spread about what they did to her, but later they’ll tell the police a different version of events. Alice will never remember what truly happened. Her fracture runs deep, hidden beneath cleverness and wry humour. Nick – a sensitive, misguided boy who stood by – will never forget.

That’s just the beginning of this extraordinary journey into memory, fear and self-portrayal. Through university applications, a terrifying abusive relationship, a fateful reckoning with addiction and a final mind-bending twist, Alice and Nick will take on different roles to each other – some real, some invented – until finally, brought face to face once again, the secret of that night is revealed.

Startlingly relevant and enthralling in its brilliance, True Story is by turns a campus novel, psychological thriller, horror story and crime noir, each narrative frame stripping away the fictions we tell about women, men and the very nature of truth. It introduces Kate Reed Petty as a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Review

True Story is a very cleverly woven together tale. It focuses on an alleged rape of a young school girl by her peers however it is unclear if events took place the way some believe.

Kate Reed Petty has adopted a multi-perspective narrative with True Story which helps create the sense of unease and challenges the reader not to just accept what they are being told. Each of our narrators come across as unreliable so from the first page to the last you are constantly second guessing yourself as to what actually transpired and how much of it was hearsay or the overt blustering of toxic masculinity. Either way, both options are unsettling.

Reed Petty’s style is really engaging. Interspersed with the narrative is movie script style and these interludes punctuated the narrative and parallel the story being told. Along with the clever title we really have to work at figuring out what the ‘true story’ actually is.

Overall, this isn’t a book that you will find easy, you are made to work for your answers and you will be constantly questioning what you believe but the payoff is worth it

True Story by Kate Reed Petty is available now.

For more information regarding riverrun (@riverrunbooks) please visit www.riverrunbooks.co.uk.