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The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow by Matt Howard Preview Reviews

March 4, 2019

Our latest Preview title is The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow, by Matt Howard. Following the lives of four isolated people, thrown together by family and circumstance, the book is a humorous and heartwarming story of second chances and new beginnings. Take a look at what our Preview reviewers thought about the book:

‘I really enjoyed Howard’s writing style, he flicks back and forth between different character’s perspectives so you can get multiple perspectives of an event / situation, which is quite interesting. To begin with, I found most of the characters a little unlikable, I realise that they are intended to be flawed but their respective issues seemed to be quite extreme and intense. However, as I continued to read, the characters started to address their problems and became far more likeable and relatable towards the end of the novel. I enjoyed the relationship between Monica and Xavier, more so because it didn’t follow the stereotypical romance trajectory. Not my usual genre but an enjoyable and quite uplifting read!’ – Meg, VIC

‘This book seems to fit in well with the current popularity of Marie Kondo of Netflix fame. Whereas Marie’s aim is “cultivating empathy for the things that surround us”, Matt Howard is more intent on the benefits of cultivating empathy for the people that surround us. He does this through wonderful characters such as Monica, Xavier, Diane and Jamie each with their own battles to deal with but through unlikely friendships their battles are not fought alone. A delightful easy read extolling the virtues of short chapters by Xavier in the book as “easily and quickly digested, like peanut M and Ms”. I am now keen to read other books by Matt. Thank you for introducing me to yet another great Australian author.’ – Jo, SA

‘There have been a number of books published since the success of The Rosie Project of lonely, unusual characters who manage to find love in unexpected places. This, unfortunately, is not one of the better ones. I found the protagonists inconsistent. The author tells us Xavier is a minimalist and a harsh editor of novels, but is verbose. Monica and Diane, although traumatised by their brother’s death, sometimes live in the real world, and other times appear to have no connection to the era they live in. This is an easy and hopeful read for those who don’t seem to connect or fit in, but left me a bit flat.’ – Pamela, QLD

‘The Time is Now Monica Sparrow’ is the first book that I did not enjoy reading as a preview. Whilst I loved all the different characters, I felt that the title referring to Monica being the main protagonist confusing as I didn’t feel that there was a strong sense of her and her perspective throughout the narrative. I felt the style of the writing was quite jarring as each scene was short and didn’t allow for a lot of time to develop the plot or the characters. To me this book felt like a script for a movie which only including the stage directions. I wished the Matt had extended each interaction so that you could get to know the characters on a deeper level. Of course this is my own opinion and perhaps that is how Matt wanted to write this novel…and some readers may enjoy this fast paced and quick narrative. It’s an easy read if you are looking for something light.’ – Katarzyna, VIC

‘Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book as I was not enjoying reading it. I found the style of writing to be confusing and very word intensive. To quote from page 22 when Xavier was thinking about the books he edited for Tobias Balfour “….there were just too many (words) for Xavier to be comfortable.” (pg 22). I felt exactly the same. The book seemed to ramble and in some parts it felt disconnected with the storyline. Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend this book.’ – Sharon, SA

‘This book took a while for me to get into – but was worth the time spent. It is a light feel good story that will bring a smile to readers faces. Hoping for a second book!’ – Amy, VIC

‘As a reader I couldn’t wait to discover how these characters evolved and changed in this book. Monica Sparrow lives in a small village called Naesden, her home is packed with what she thinks are treasures but most is just junk. Monica is an author – she has published ebooks but longs to publish print books. Enter Xavier, her editor – he is another great character in this book. Monica also has a sister who is quite a nasty person who always puts Monica down and anyone else in her way, and also a step brother, Jamie, who is a strange young man. The characters in this book are all uniquely different which makes this book so interesting to read.’ – Deborah, NSW

‘This book tells the story of four unique characters and how their lives all ended up entwining together. The author made a decent effort to establish a decent storyline, however fell short of the mark. The story goes off on weird tangents and doesn’t seem to quite engage the reader. This book definitely needs more spark.’ – Heidi, NSW

‘I really enjoyed Matt Howard’s fourth novel. His four main characters are quirky but mostly genuine and, ultimately, easy to love. Monica and Xavier are at opposite extremes on the scale of acquiring worldly possessions, with entirely different things bringing them joy; Diane and Jamie also occupy opposite ends of scales that measure assertiveness or arrogance or nastiness. Even though it’s Monica Sparrow’s book, my favourite was definitely Jamie, kind and unassuming, but with an undeniable sparkle: so wonderful to see him develop and succeed. Both Xavier’s and Monica’s extremes were shown in a light that make them more accessible to people in the middle of that spectrum. (If dequiring isn’t a word, it ought to be!) There’s lots of laugh-out-loud humour in the dialogue (some of it quite black), but I also found myself choking up a time or two. Thought-provoking but also hilarious and heart-warming, my first Matt Howard novel will certainly not be my last!’ – Marianne, NSW

‘Lovers of ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ will also warm to this heartwarming tale. Monica and the other wonderful characters in this story evolve page after page. This novel leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling.’ – Daneka, QLD

‘What I got was an intriguing tale of self discovery. Of finding who you are, and where you fit into the world and your family, and about realising family isn’t necessarily about blood. It actually really spoke to me, because I think we all go through times where we feel like we are adrift and don’t know where we belong. It starts with a bang, and then the story settles into a bit of a slower pace. It’s an enjoyable tale, told in short snappy bites that make you just want to read one more. There were a few moments that I felt I had to suspend belief, particularly in relation to the changes that Monica and Diane undergo. Xavier and Jamie’s character arcs just seemed a bit more true to character.’ – Tanya, WA

‘I thought at first that this story of social misfits would be enjoyed by those who loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, which I truly loved. Halfway through I began to have doubts. I felt on a couple of occasions that I missed key bits of information about why characters suddenly seemed to change. I did like Jamie/James as much as I liked Eleanor though, and I think he was the real star of this novel. His story and development over the novel really touched me. I quite enjoyed Matt Howard’s writing and humour, but my confusion at what was happening got in the way a little bit. I look forward to reading more of his work. Thanks to Better Reading’s #BRPreview and Transit Lounge for the advance copy.’ – Natalie, NSW

‘“The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow” is not my usual genre – my favourite books tend to be thrillers. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is quiet and reflective with wonderful descriptions and phrases. It is a heart warmer. The book follows several people who are not living their best lives due to a number of factors including a sad loss years ago. This loss impacted the characters in different ways. The characters are well drawn, developed and likeable. I was cheering for them as they took steps to improve their lives. I cared about the characters and enjoyed the interactions between them. The interactions proved to be the mechanism for ongoing positive changes. It was interesting gaining some insight into the world of the writer and particularly the editing process at the publishers. The chapter lengths are short as the book moves from character to character. I was not confused by the switching as it is noted at the character heading and is apparent anyway. I highly recommend this book for a peaceful read.’ – Sandra, ACT

‘Fans of Anne Tyler will appreciate Matt Howard’s ability to describe the extraordinary in the ordinary. He expertly develops characters to demonstrate that what we see of people on the surface can lead us to make inaccurate assumptions and categorisations. This is the revelation that sweeps one of the characters towards the end of this book: “We are not one or the other: black or white. We are all grey, hopelessly yet deliciously grey”. The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow is an entertaining, feel good but also thought-provoking book. It kept me eagerly turning the pages absorbed in the world of its characters.’ – Fiona, ACT

‘A very enjoyable read. I loved the characters, and all their quirks. The author has a good knack of drawing the best out of their characters. Their growth from the start of the book to the end is outstanding. Engaging and a very satisfying ending. Highly recommended.’ – Ros, ACT

‘This story examines the effect a tragedy can have on a family and those who know the family. In this case it is the younger brother of Monica Sparrow, who unfortunately was the driver of the car involved. Each character has flaws and many quirks which are compared throughout the story. Most had some connection with the world of publishing, which was both entertaining and somewhat informative. The conclusion was believable and offered hope for the characters. An enjoyable read.’ – Sue, WA

‘My journey with “The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow” was challenging at times – I found myself often comparing the characters in Matt Howard’s latest book to people I know in real life! We follow Monica and Diane, Xavier and Jamie, seemingly at first four disparate people, as their often intersecting lives meander along various paths. As we progress through the book we find that our characters surprise us with almost complete turnarounds in their attitudes to life and living – through intertwined happenings our characters blossom from where they started to much more likeable individuals. I did however feel that there were gaps in the flow of the book where we find ourselves having to guess what happened to get to the next point in the character’s life – there are so many threads to the book, while they often intersect they each have a path of their own, with the result being that we sometimes have to go back to previous parts of the book check that we hadn’t missed something. While I loved the characters in this book, I sometimes struggled with keeping track of the plot.’ – Jane, NSW

‘Rows of semi detached style homes adorn the front cover of The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow, by established Australian author Matt Howard. With the front cover scene set at night and the lights clearly visible inside these houses, a sense of intrigue was soon established. I wanted to know who Monica Sparrow was, and why it was her time. The prologue definitely drew me in, just as much as the cover. I was keen to delve into Monica’s character journey. I got the feeling early on when reading this novel that it was going to go along the lines of recent misunderstood or quirky characters (think The Cactus, or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine). I was a little off the mark on this assumption. Instead, this was a slow burn style character intersection and introspection piece. Themes defining this book include self discovery/realisation, acceptance, belonging, identity and cultivating relationships. The structure of the book, which utilizes short and sharp chapter styles, encouraged me to read ‘just one more’ page of this book. A few surprises were issued along the way, but on the whole, I felt a distanced from this one and the characters, for reasons unknown.’ – Amanda, WA

‘Alright. How do I start this book review? It took me a long time to get this book read and I found it rather mundane. Another book about dysfunctional families, wayward siblings and love. Yes there was a story, a plot and numerous characters. Monica and her sister Diane both with their own problems, both dealing with the death of their brother. Then there is Jamie, the brother who found himself cast into the lives of these two women by default and of course Xavier, the publisher whom I found rather boring. There was no real flow to this book for me with each chapter jumping from one character to the next or one situation to the next sometimes confusing the story and confusing me. It is an easy read but for me it just didn’t have enough substance, the story didn’t seem any different to other similar style books I have read in the past. Thank you Better Reading for the chance to read and review this book and to share my thoughts. I’m just sad I didn’t like it more.’ – Donna, TAS

‘A heartwarming story, with easy to like characters and a fast moving plot…reading this book was like receiving a warm hug at the end of a long day. I fell in love with Xavier very quickly, and enjoyed reading Jamie’s character develop as the story unfolded. A satisfying ending, without tying everything up in a neat little package, I would recommend this book for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.’ – Erin, QLD

‘A thought provoking book about four people, drawn together as family, friends and colleagues, but all with completely different personalities. There’s Monica, hoarder and wannabe author, her bitter sister Diane, their lost puppy step-brother Jamie, and Monica’s newly acquired editor Xavier. We follow their lives over the course of a couple of months, through the good and bad, thick and thin. These characters are beautifully drawn, and the story woven slowly reveals the course that they follow. Honestly, the story was a bit slow for me, I prefer a bit more action in my reads, but I can’t deny the pull that these characters convey as they banter, bicker, love, and face loss together, as they all look to turn their own lives around for the better. There is a real depth to this book, one that would definitely be suited to book clubs and lovers of slow burning domestic fiction. My thanks to Transit Lounge Publishers and Better Reading for a proof to read and review. The opinions are entirely my own.’ – Kylie, QLD

‘Delightfully written. This novel captures the essence of how we all influence each other through our interactions however small and how minor interactions can change the trajectory of our lives. The characters are written with soul, you immediately form relationships with them on their journey throughout the novel. I found myself cheering each character on as they grew and developed. Truly written with passion for the day to day nuances of life and how we are all connected. I loved this novel, which left me wanting to learn more of the characters lives.’ – Dianne, SA

‘In The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow, Matt Howard introduces us to a multitude of characters who remind us of everyday people, that could well be our neighbours or work colleagues. The underlying theme of Howard’s boom is of loss and the ways in which we deal with this in our lives, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Howard shows how community and friendship can help people overcome the limitations they have placed on themselves in the way of self sabotage. The feeling of belonging is found through the most unlikely people and places when we least expect it.’ – Mel, NSW

‘One has to wonder what Xavier Swift would think of The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow. A champion minimalist and literary editor, Xavier would possibly turn the novel into a short story. The writing seems to frantically introduce the diverse cast of characters in the opening chapters, then the book ambles along to slowly create links between them. The result is a sense of impatience for the reader, wanting to get to the crux of the story’s “problem” and work towards a solution, but without really building the necessary tension and without neatly wrapping loose ends at the conclusion. Fans of titles like The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) will recognise similar personality quirks among the characters, such as obsessively minimalist Xavier and hoarder Monica, but it is difficult to form a connection with any of the lead players. All in all, a pleasant read about a troubled writer’s quest to be published, but with some superfluous plot lines along the way.’ – Laura, NSW

‘I immediately fell for the crazy characters in ‘The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow’ (though Di did take a little longer to start to redeem herself). I loved the uniqueness and “differences” in the characters, and how they handled what life had handed them. It was such a wonderful journey, watching them grow and change, and seeing them all really start to live. Families and family dynamics are complicated and changeable, and the surprising change to this “family” is beautiful. Thanks Better Reading for the chance to meet Monica and her group of interrelated individuals…’ – Ayesha, NSW

‘What a wonderful read, easily one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. I really enjoyed the characterisation. Each character was detailed, quirky and interesting. The interconnected relationships helped each character grow, and the results were great to read. The storyline itself moved well and made me want to keep reading. Definitely a story I’ll pass on to friends and family.’ – Jodie, WA

‘I enjoyed The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow, it’s a quirky and perceptive novel. The lead characters are real and endearing. There are laugh-out-loud moments as well as touching scenes; surprises and great insights into loneliness, betrayal and grief.’ – Terese, TAS

‘It’s rare that a book will shock you so much that you’re re-reading sentences by page two just to make sure you truly comprehended what has happened, but Matt Howard has managed to do it in ‘The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow.’ Maybe such a shocking start is hard to live up to throughout the rest of the book because, despite the little twists and plot reveals as the story progresses, finishing this book becomes difficult without any major plot driver. It’s interesting to dive into the stories of the characters, each making their way through life in their own ways often taking radically different paths to cope with the thing that links them. Howard has a talent for making small interactions enjoyable to read. The seemingly mundane interactions between characters like Xavier and Jamie are some of the best parts of the novel. In the time of Marie Kondo’s ‘does this spark joy?’ it’s particularly satisfying to read about Xavier’s minimalist lifestyle and Monica’s attempt to cull. A lot happens in this book and occasionally it feels like we lose sight of who the main characters are, or what we should be focusing on, but overall it’s an enjoyable read.’ – Emma, NSW

”The time is now, Monica Sparrow’ is a heartwarming tale about family, new beginnings, love and forgiveness. Each of the four main characters have a unique and authentic voice. I was thinking about these characters long after finishing the novel. This novel gave me an insight into the world of publishing; an industry I know little about. Matt Howard’s writing is witty, and full of affection for his characters. I look forward to reading his three previous novels. Thanks Better Reading for giving me the opportunity to review this book, and in doing so, to discover a new author. My only criticism of the book is that the character development was perhaps a little bit too fast paced.’ – Louise, VIC

‘The Time Is Now, Monica Sparrow was an enjoyable read, a nice easy pace and filled with key characters you want to know more about. The way the characters interact and influence each other’s lives, all centred around one key event, makes you want to keep reading, to see how they change & evolve. It’s a great example of how one event, and key people that come into your life can have a profound impact on who you become. I’d recommend this an easy read.’ – Claudia, NSW

‘This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The novel surrounds 4 quirky characters which bear some resemblance to Don Tillman from The Rosie Project. Matt Howard’s writing is easy to read and I will definitely read his future works. Thanks to Better Reading for providing me with a copy of this book 🙂’ – Marleena, VIC

‘Oh, I so liked the start of The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow. I thought the death of Monica’s brother Caleb, was so horrifying for her and the way she found out… and that this event is going to lead into a book of dysfunctional families and friends…my kinda book. But sorry to say, I got half way and thought what has happened in the last 150 pages I don’t recall much…where is this book going… I know it’s about four people, Monica, Diane, Jamie and Xavier but that’s about it so why am I still reading this. I found the chapters jumping between the characters confusing, causing me to lose my train of thought. So I started again and soon into it I felt the same. I don’t blame the book I blame where my head is at. So I’ve decided to stop retrying and will read another book and try this one again. Was so looking forward to reading Matt Howard’s book and looking forward to retrying it again soon.’ – Maria, SA

‘If you liked ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ you’ll love Matt Howard’s ‘The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow’. Monica Sparrow prospective author is forever dealing with the death of her brother Caleb. Monica lives in Neasden the ‘loneliest village in London’; she is lonely and collects ‘stuff’ to fill her life, but there is a lot more to Monica. Diane, older sister and a judgemental visitor in Monica’s life is constantly trying to get Monica to do things her way as her own life is apparently so much better. Jamie the step brother who Monica feels she needs to protect is a constant in Monica’s life. Jamie is socially awkward but has a kindness and compassion for others. And finally Xavier, the minimalist and book editor at Wyatt Dean Publishing house who is assigned Monica as a new author. Xavier is an interesting character and his relationship with Monica, Diane and Jamie sets them all on a journey that is certainly worth reading. Heartwarming at times infuriating this cast of characters will have you wishing them well in their life decisions. Simple deeds can indeed bring great rewards.’ – Karyn, ACT


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