Review – A Boy Called Christmas & The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

Merry Christmas!

Okay, I get it, it might be a bit too late for that. But hey, it’s less than 49 weeks until Christmas, so you might as well start your preparations. 😉

Today I got two books for you. I read Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas and The Girl Who Saved Christmas in one go and thought it would be appropriate to just review them together.

A Boy Called Christmas
Image provided by Canongate¹

Nikolas and his father Joel live in a humble cottage in Finland when one day Joel joins an expedition to find elves in the Far North. When he doesn’t return after more than three months, Nikolas gets worried and follows him on a dangerous journey that will change his life forever.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas
Image provided by Canongate²

It’s Christmas Eve when catastrophe strikes and Elfhelm and Santa’s sleigh are destroyed by trolls. There is no choice than to cancel Christmas. At the same time Amelia, the girl who once had enough hope to create the magic necessary for Father Christmas to travel around the world, loses all hope when she is locked up at a horrible workhouse. Will there still be enough hope left for Father Christmas to deliver toys next year?

If you aren’t drawn to these novels by their beautiful covers with illustrations by Chris Mould – which can also be found throughout the books – I can’t help you, but you might want to know that I think Matt Haig has written another Christmas essential with A Boy Called Christmas in particular.
This story of a small boy setting out to find his father touched my heart. It teaches us a lot about bravery, friendship and forgiveness. Throughout his journey Nikolas also learns one very important thing: that family isn’t necessarily about the blood you share.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas, which is set in London and Elfhelm, deals with similar themes than its predecessor A Boy Called Christmas. Under desperate conditions, young Amelia has to learn to believe and trust again. Her perseverance has shielded her from becoming one of the many robotic faces at the workhouse that has become her home. Unfortunately, the second narrative thread revolving around the preparations for Christmas in Elfhelm pales in comparison to Amelia’s story. It is a nice background story but nothing memorable.

With A Boy Called Christmas and The Girl Who Saved Christmas, Matt Haig shows that he is a versatile author who can write more than fiction and non-fiction for adults. These two novels have the potential to become Christmas classics that will enchant children and adults alike.

5 Star Rating: A Boy Called Christmas  A Boy Called Christmas

4 Star Rating: The Girl Who Saved Christmas  The Girl Who Saved Christmas

¹ http://www.canongate.tv/a-boy-called-christmas-paperback.html
² http://www.canongate.tv/the-girl-who-saved-christmas-hardback.html
Review copies of the books were provided by the publisher.

Advertisements

Review – Some Rain Must Fall by Michel Faber

Hello,

There was a time when I associated short stories with school or university. Due to their length, they are just too popular with teachers and, because of all the work that is associated with them, not very popular with students. For years, I’ve tried to avoid short stories until I started to see them in a new light. Nowadays, I think short stories are great, because you can read one when you are in between books or during a commute and they contain whole worlds within just a few pages

Michel Faber’s short story collection Some Rain Must Fall And Other Stories certainly is a gem among short story collections. It was first published in 1998 and has recently been reissued as a Canons edition with a beautiful new cover designed by Yehrin Tong.

Some Rain Must Fall
Image provided by Canongate¹

It is always hard for me to review short story collections, especially if they are as diverse as this one. Some Rain Must Fall consists of fifteen brilliant short stories that showcase the broad spectrum of Michel Faber’s talent.
The book starts off with the story that lent this collection its name and “Some Rain Must Fall” isn’t for the faint of heart – it actually is one of my favorites and knocked me right off my feet. The next story, “Fish”, has a surrealistic, post-apocalyptic setting and feels quite oppressive, while “Toy Story”, a story about a lonely boy named God who finds a discarded planet in the trash, made me chuckle. Another gem in Faber’s collection is “Somewhere Warm and Comfortable” which is a heartwarming tale of trust between two siblings.

In Some Rain Must Fall, Michel Faber lets his vivid imagination run free. I almost always remarked, “Well, that was weird!” after finishing a story. If you want to ride an emotional roller coaster full of surprising and creative stories, I suggest you start reading soon.

5 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.canongate.tv/some-rain-must-fall-and-other-stories-paperback-canons-edition.html
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Review – The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Hello,

John Wray’s The Lost Time Accidents is a novel that I was very much looking forward to. Fortunately, I had the chance to read it prior to its UK publication day on June 2nd and I really needed all that time, as it took me three weeks to plow my way through the book.

The Lost Time Accidents
Image provided by Canongate Books¹

On Monday, at 8:47 EST, Waldemar Tolliver excuses himself from time at his aunts’ apartment in Manhattan to come to terms with his family’s past. Ever since Ottokar Toula’s sudden death in the early 20th century, Waldy’s ancestors have been trying to find the lost pages of his great-grandfather’s scientific work to solve the mystery of the Lost Time Accidents, and in the process becoming obsessed with time themselves.

The novel The Lost Time Accidents counts over 500 pages and spans more than one century. Of all the characters Waldy is the one who stays with us from the beginning until the end, so we might as well call him our main character. The plot meanders between Waldy’s current situation in his aunts’ apartment, his past love affair with a woman called Mrs Haven, and his chronologically recounted family history.

In the first half of the book, I had problems with these sudden changes of setting. This is where you are introduced to a great part of the important characters and as soon as I got a feel for one of the narrative threads, it was cut and the plot continued elsewhere. This way, I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters and soon I had to bring myself to continue reading, because the plot moved so slowly. If I were one to just give up on books, I probably would have done so after 1/4 of the novel, but I like to read until the last page and in this case I’m glad I did.
I don’t know if it’s me, or if The Lost Time Accidents really increases its pacing in the second half. This half reads much better than the first one. Maybe because we already know most of the characters and also, because the pieces finally start to fall into place. It’s also this process of digesting the complex plot in combination with a fitting ending (that I still don’t quite understand) that leaves me satisfied that I finished the novel after all.

As you can see, The Lost Time Accidents isn’t an easy read and it isn’t easy to review. It is a very complex novel with lots of talk about physics and time. You will meet many diverse characters, but you’ll never get to know them very intimately (except for their shared obsession with time). If all this sounds good to you and you aren’t afraid to be challenged by this 500-page tome, then you should have a look at The Lost Time Accidents.

3 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.canongate.tv/the-lost-time-accidents-ebook.html
A digital review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Second Blogiversary – Two Years of Magic

Hi There,

I’ve been a little quiet over the past few weeks because writing my thesis is taking up quite some time and energy. I might have to make temporary changes to my review format to be able to publish book reviews on a regular basis up until my graduation. I’ve not stopped reading books, and I won’t stop writing this blog. So please bear with me 🙂

And now on to the fun part 😉

Blogoversary

It’s All That Magic‘s Second Blogiversary today! Two years of reading, writing, cooking, eating, crafting (in secret [I’ve just sewn a book cover]), taking bad pictures, going to book fairs and making new friends. I wouldn’t want to miss any of that.

Last year was particularly exciting. I got to be part of a cooperation between bloggers and a local bookstore (Rupertus Buchhandlung) and made new friends this way. I went to Frankfurt Book Fair for the second time, met old friends and got acquainted with new ones. I also won 10 Penguin Random House books in a reading challenge for reading 49 English-language books in 2014.

Which brings me to the last part of my blogiversary monologue: I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me so far. The publishers who kindly supply me with review copies, among them Canongate Books and Penguin Random House UK, Rupertus Buchhandlung for the great time I had in the past months, the authors who spend months writing books for us, and I’d like to thank You for stopping by and for reading what I have to say!

P.S.: Like last year, I will run a book giveaway on World Book Day, April 23rd.

Review – The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Hi,

In January, I had the chance to read Michel Faber’s latest novel The Book of Strange New Things which Canongate sent me in exchange for an honest review. I can’t thank them enough for this gem of a book – inside and out.

The Book of Strange New Things
Image provided by Canongate¹

When Peter Leigh is chosen to be the new minister on a planet in another galaxy he and his wife Bea are sure that this is the Will of God and a chance to spread The Word. Unfortunately, Bea has to stay on Earth because she didn’t pass the selection process. As Peter’s contract is limited to a few years and the two of them can communicate through a long-distance messaging system, Bea agrees that Peter should go. What the two of them don’t know is that the physical distance is accompanied by an even bigger emotional distance that threatens their relationship.

I was a little concerned about Peter being a Christian missionary, but this book is not about religion. It is about freedom, friendship, and trust. When Peter arrives on Oasis, he is a very obedient Christian who never strays from the path. This also makes him open to embrace other peoples like the Oasans, the natives whose priest he is to become. Soon, Peter decides to live with them and that changes him as well as some of the Oasans.

Speaking of the Oasans: We all know all sorts of aliens from various movies we’ve seen. The Oasans are different and they are very hard to picture, probably because our brains aren’t capable to do so ;). With his description, Michel Faber does the best anyone can do to make them imaginable by the human brain. To Peter’s eyes, and to those of the other humans on Oasis, they all look the same except for their differently-colored robes. They also hardly show any feelings or signs of personality, which basically makes them indistinguishable until you get to know them better. But when the Oasans and Peter finally warm up to each other, Michel Faber’s brilliant characterization of this unique people becomes visible.

Even though The Book of Strange New Things is almost 600 pages long it never feels like it. Michel Faber transports you right into this engaging, gripping and simply mind-blowing story about a man who does something most of us wouldn’t have the guts to do.

5 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.canongate.tv/the-book-of-strange-new-things-hardback.html