Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
After struggling for years to have a child, Claire Rasmussen, 34, turns to adoption, only to find new obstacles on the path to motherhood. Then she gets an unlikely phone call and soon learns that a distant uncle possesses the secrets of time travel.
Within weeks, Claire, husband Ron, and brother David find themselves on a train to Tennessee and 1945, where adoptable infants are plentiful and red tape is short. For a time, they find what they seek. Then a beautiful stranger enters their lives, the Navy calls, and a simple, straightforward mission becomes a race for survival. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
Hannah’s Moon is the last installment in the American Journey series (you can view my reviews of the other books in this series here, here, here, and here). This story follows Claire and her husband as they struggle to get pregnant and then, failing that, to adopt. Of course, time travel and romance ensue.
The characters are the strong point in this book. Claire and Ron are sympathetic, of course, but I really enjoyed following David’s adventures in 1945 and the professor’s life in the present day. Without spoiling anything, I think the ending of this book provided a satisfying conclusion to the series.
On the negative side, I had some of the same issues with the writing as in previous books, and I wished the historical drama (in this case, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis) had occurred earlier in the book. I loved the historical aspect of books like September Sky, and I found myself wanting more in this book.
If you have enjoyed previous installments in this series, or if you like historical romances and don’t mind some superfluous descriptors, you will most likely enjoy Hannah’s Moon.
(On a side note, if you or someone you know are looking into adoption, I’d highly recommend the Fund Your Adoption boot camp. It offers a ton of information on fundraising, grants, loans, and much more related to paying for your adoption.)
I loved Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer, and I had heard great things about his Thursday Next series, namely that it’s an amazing series for bookworms. And oh my gosh, yes, it was.
There are four books in the original series, and in the hopes that you’ll read all of them, I’ll try to avoid spoilers. The series starts with The Eyre Affair (and yes, the title is referring to Jane Eyre). As the Goodreads.com summary begins, “Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously.” Set in alternate universe England, this book focuses on Thursday Next’s work in SpecOps as a literary detective, authenticating newly discovered Shakespeare plays and arrests poetry forgers. It’s not very exciting, until Thursday discovers that someone is kidnapping literary characters straight from the pages of fiction.
I think of this book as a time travel story for book lovers. It’s chock-full of literary references and textual jokes, something I love but am very bad at describing. Either way, Thursday is a great character, and the plot is fun without being too convoluted.
The series continues with Lost in a Good Book. This book starts to explore Thursday’s work with Jurisfiction, an agency that governs the characters inside books. The parts where Thursday learns to jump into and between books with the help of Miss Havisham (yes, that Miss Havisham) are just wonderful.
This exploration of BookWorld continues in The Well of Lost Plots (a super fun sequel) and has its culmination in Something Rotten. The series has such a good finish! Something Rotten wraps up plot points from not only this book, but all the way back to the first book in the series. The series finale allows us to have time travel, BookWorld, LiteraTec, and much more.
After the original quartet of books, there is a follow-up series in which Thursday is in her fifties, still secretly working for SpecOps and Jurisfiction and dealing with her old enemies and her teenage children. So far I’ve only read First Among Sequels, which is still as fun as the original series and allows us to keep up with the ChronoGuard, SpecOps, and Jurisfiction.
The Thursday Next series is a must read for any book lover, especially if you’re interested in time travel, text-based jokes, and an exploration of alternate universe England. These books are fun, funny, and ultimately satisfying.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
This series is stuffed with favorite quotes, so in keeping with my Lovely Words series, I’m sharing a few of them below.
“If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction-and ultimately, without a major resolution.”
“Governments and fashions come and go but Jane Eyre is for all time.”
“Death, I had discovered long ago, was available in varying flavors, and none of them particularly palatable. “
This post is part of the Write 31 Days series, Lovely Words. You can see all the posts in this series here.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When Mary Beth McIntire settles into a vacation house on June 2, 2017, she anticipates a quiet morning with coffee. Then she hears a noise, peers out a window, and spots a man in 1950s attire standing in the backyard.
In the same house on March 21, 1959, Mark Ryan finds a letter. Written by the mansion’s original owner in 1900, the letter describes a basement chamber, mysterious crystals, and a formula for time travel. Driven by curiosity, Mark tests the formula twice.
Within hours, Mary Beth and Mark share their secret with her sister and his brother and begin a journey that takes them from the present day to the age of sock hops, drive-ins, and jukeboxes. In CLASS OF ’59, the fourth book in the American Journey series, four young adults find love, danger, and adventure as they navigate the corridors of time and experience Southern California in its storied prime. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
I’ve reviewed several of John Heldt’s books in the past (you can see those reviews here, here, here, and here). This book is the fourth installment in his American Journey series, a time travel/romance series which brings couples together against the backdrop of famous times and places in America’s past.
Unlike earlier books in the series, Class of ’59 opens with the main characters discovering the time-traveling tunnel without the help (or knowledge) of the professor. Mark, a collegiate boy living in the late 50s, discovers an unbelievable story about time travel hidden in a desk in the new house his family moved into. When he tries it out, he finds himself transported to the same house almost sixty years into the future, where he meets Mary Beth and her sister. The two girls make the trip back to 1959 and experience the glory days of southern California, participating in school dances and meeting stars in Hollywood.
Of course, the two girls find themselves falling in love with Mark and his brother. The romances are sweet, if a little rushed. But after a few weeks of bliss, the four new friends find themselves in danger, and they have to quickly make choices that will affect the rest of their lives.
Class of ’59 had a few of the same problems I encountered in the last book, namely the use of descriptors rather than names and some flowery sentiments (how many times do we need to be reminded that Mark views Mary Beth as “stunning” or “beautiful” or “never ceases to amaze” him?). Still, if you can get past those details and enjoy the romance and the historical setting, you might give this book a try. And if you’ve enjoyed the rest of the American Journey series, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
You might remember the classic book challenge that I’m doing myself (and you are welcome to participate too! Just post your links in the comments below with your latest classic book reads). These two books are the latest on my list (I actually finished A Room with a View just before I created my list, which is why it doesn’t appear there).
A Room with a View
One of E. M. Forster’s most celebrated novels, A Room With a View is the story of a young English middle-class girl, Lucy Honeychurch. While vacationing in Italy, Lucy meets and is wooed by two gentlemen, George Emerson and Cecil Vyse. After turning down Cecil Vyse’s marriage proposals twice Lucy finally accepts. Upon hearing of the engagement George protests and confesses his true love for Lucy. Lucy is torn between the choice of marrying Cecil, who is a more socially acceptable mate, and George who she knows will bring her true happiness. A Room With a View is a tale of classic human struggles such as the choice between social acceptance or true love. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
This book is sweet, reminiscent of Jane Austen. After a life-changing trip to Italy, Lucy has to decide which man to marry–Cecil, a protective and traditional man, or George, who refuses to live by society’s rules. I must say, I was confused about feminist overtones–I’ll admit, this is one of those classic books that I’m not sure I’m getting completely. Have any of you studied A Room with a View? I’d love your perspective on it!
Rating: Pretty Darn Good
Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
This is one of those classic books that I’m pretty sure everyone except me has already read. It’s actually an easy read, and the structure is interesting–Billy Pilgrim, the main character, thinks he has become “unstuck in time,” and his reminiscences shoot from one phase of his life to another, all centering on his experiences in Dresden during WWII.
Despite the ease of reading and the occasional humorous (or at least absurd) scene, the book tackles huge topics about the effects of war. It’s very reminiscent of Catch-22 (although it didn’t make me nearly as angry as that book did; Slaughterhouse-Five was more resigned and hopeless). It’s an unsettling look at the bombing of Dresden and its effects on the humanity of soldiers.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good
Have you read either of these books? What classics have you read lately? Don’t forget to leave your links in the comments!
If you haven’t heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the new Harry Potter play that was just released in book form, well, you’ve probably been living under a rock. It has been hyped beyond all belief, and early readers have had wildly varying reactions. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy from my library the day after the book was released, so I’m sharing my thoughts with you. (**Mild spoilers follow, so don’t read on unless you’re okay with that.**)
When I started reading this book late one evening, I thought I would only read the first act or two. Then I decided to read just a few more scenes… and then the next act… and, readers, you know how that ended. All that to say, this is a fun read with interesting characters, and it’s a quick read because it’s a play, rather than a several hundred page tome like the original novels.
First, let’s discuss the plot. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione are all in their late 30s, preparing to send their children off to Hogwarts. Albus Potter befriends Scorpius Malfoy, and the unlikely pair of friends team up using a Time-Turner to go back in time and right the wrongs Albus feels his father committed. Meanwhile, Harry struggles with being a father and Ministry of Magic worker, as well as with feelings of guilt toward all who sacrificed so that he could live all those years ago.
Because the plot hinges on time travel, I was a bit skeptical when I picked it up. I thought the story would be ridiculous or overly convoluted. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was able to use this plot device. Some of the events were a bit… questionable in terms of the likelihood of them actually happening (more on that later), but on the whole, it provided a fun way to look back at memorable events and characters from the original series. (We even get a cameo from Snape, who is just as dry and strangely lovable as ever.)
The characters, however, were the thing I was most worried about. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are some of the most beloved characters ever written, and many Harry Potter fans grew up alongside them. And I must say, this is where the play falters a bit. Still, Albus and Scorpius, children of these beloved characters, are really great. Albus has a huge chip on his shoulder (reminiscent of Harry in some of the later books), and Scorpius is a nerdy, quirky boy who remains loyal to his friend even when their fathers’ history threatens to interfere.
The adult characters were fairly consistent with the original series characters. Harry is brooding and conflicted and sometimes lashes out at the people who care most about him. Draco is even better than he was in the books–he is still imperious but actually gets a bit more depth and becomes more sympathetic in this play. But unfortunately Ron and Hermione–especially Hermione–get very little page time. They may be the Ron and Hermione we know and love, but we see so little of them that it’s hard to tell. As a life-long Hermione fan, this was my greatest disappointment with the play.
Now, there is one huge exception to this consistency (**spoilers ahead**)–Cedric Diggory. As a friend of mine pointed out, his new life as a Death Eater in one of the alternate histories Albus and Scorpius inadvertently create was totally out of character for him.
Many of my friends who have read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have discussed how this play reads like fan fiction. I have to agree. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are many nods to the original series and to popular fan theories, but it’s a good thing to know before you read it. Also realize that the play doesn’t have nearly the depth in terms of character or world building as the books do; it’s much more simplistic. This is mostly the fault of the format–a play can’t have long paragraphs of description, and the inflection is brought by the actors–so I wonder if those who have panned the book would enjoy it in its original form. I would love to see the play myself!
So, to summarize: I actually really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It’s a quick, fun read in which you can revisit the magical wizarding world and the characters you know and love. There are some inconsistencies in world building and characterization, but if you can look past a few flaws, it’s a fun ride. I’m glad I read it.
Have you read the book? What did you think about the characters and the plot? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When doctoral student Cameron Coelho, 28, opens a package from Indiana, he finds more than private papers that will help him with his dissertation. He finds a photograph of a beautiful society editor murdered in 1925 and clues to a century-old mystery. Within days, he meets Geoffrey Bell, the “time-travel professor,” and begins an unlikely journey through the Roaring Twenties. Filled with history, romance, and intrigue, INDIANA BELLE follows a lonely soul on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for love and answers in the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
I’ve read and reviewed several of John Heldt’s books in the past (see the reviews here, here, and here), so I was excited to receive his latest book in the American Journey series, Indiana Belle. It’s full of romance, a bit of mystery, and, of course, time travel.
Cameron has very few ties in his present-day life, so when he gets the chance to go back in time and investigate the beautiful journalist who is a part of his doctoral dissertation, he jumps at it. When he meets Candice, the vivacious woman who captured his imagination through an old photo, he instantly falls in love and determines to do whatever it takes to save her from her tragic death–despite the warnings of Professor Bell.
The story is sweet, despite the bad case of insta-love that Cameron suffers from. You get a good feel for what the Roaring Twenties were like in small town Indiana, including everything from speakeasies to the KKK. Later in the book, Cameron takes a short trip to the future, which I found pretty fascinating (I’d love to find out more about it in later books!).
There were a couple of problems that I had with this book. The habit of using descriptors rather than names (the time traveler, the Rhode Islander, the society editor, the stodgy relative, etc.) gets a little annoying at times–I know the characters’ names, so why not use them? Also: *spoiler* I found the ending kind of unsatisfying–it celebrates Candice’s decision to quit the reporting job she had wanted the entire book to raise children and be a wife. Sure, this is probably the most historically accurate decision, but it rubbed me the wrong way.
On the whole, this is a sweet romance with the added benefit of an interesting backdrop and a little time travel, too. Check it out if you’ve enjoyed the rest of the American Journey series–you won’t be disappointed.
Note: I received the following books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All summaries are via Goodreads.com.
This post, the latest in my series ofARCroundups, is focused on some of the YA and middle grades novels I’ve read lately. (There are more to come in a future post–be on the lookout!) Hopefully you’ll find a book in this list to enjoy.
The Girl from Everywhere
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question . . . Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything.
I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately, and I must say, the cover is gorgeous. I haven’t read any other bloggers’ reviews of The Girl from Everywhere because I wanted to form my own unbiased opinion, so here it is: This is a fascinating YA novel. Although they are probably out there, I’ve never read a book with this kind of time travel via boats and maps, and I thought it was really interesting.
Nix is constantly battling with her father over his life’s obsession to find his way back to her mother. Nix knows that if they ever find the perfect map to take them back to that year, she might very well cease to exist, a fact which seems to escape her single-minded father. But when the crew of the Temptation end up in Hawaii just a few years after their intended date, Nix starts to learn more about her mother, her father, her crewmates, and herself–and she might even learn how to Navigate using maps, as her father does.
I loved the various places that Nix and the crew traveled, from 21st-century New York to 1800s Hawaii to lands only found in mythology. Nix’s best friend Kashmir, for example, is from the world of Arabian Nights, and the crew sometimes spends time searching for magical items (like a bottomless bag) to make their lives easier. But I also enjoyed Nix’s complicated relationship with her father and her growing romance with Kashmir. All the characters and settings were well drawn, and I’m definitely interested in seeing what other adventures the crew of the Temptation go on.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good
Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy
Amanda Lester wouldn’t be caught dead going into the family business. Her ancestor, Sherlock Holmes’s colleague Inspector G. Lestrade, is a twit. Nevertheless her parents refuse to see his flaws, and she’s going to a secret English detective school for the descendants of famous detectives whether she likes it or not.
When Amanda arrives at the dreaded school, she considers running away–until she and her new friends discover blood and weird pink substances in odd places. At first they’re not sure whether these seeming clues mean anything, but when Amanda’s father disappears and the cook is found dead with her head in a bag of sugar, they’re certain that crimes are taking place. Now Amanda must embrace her destiny and uncover the truth.
The book opens with Amanda and her dreams of becoming a filmmaker. These dreams, however, are interrupted when her parents tell her the family is moving to England so Amanda can attend a prestigious (but secret) school for detectives. Amanda pouts her way through the first few days of school, trudging her way through classes about how to create a good disguise, the psychology of criminals, and how to create a detective “mystique.” But Amanda starts seeing weird things around the school, and she’s not sure if they are part of a school project or if they have something to do with the sudden disappearance of Amanda’s father.
This book definitely leans more toward middle grades level than YA. The mystery is silly, and Amanda creates a lot of problems for herself by being super stubborn and not open to criticism. Your pre-teen may enjoy it, but it’s definitely forgettable.
Rating: Good but Forgettable
At Earth Ranch, things can get a little magical (some might say strange). Intrepid readers will discover a runaway boy, fishy cruise ship, strange cave paintings, dragon-like footprints, and other mysteries that Clay and his friends need to solve. Danger, adventure, mischief, mystery, llamas, and a delightfully irreverent and hilarious narrator make bestselling author Pseudonymous Bosch’s anticipated new novel irresistible.
This book is the second in the Bad Magic series, and I have not read the first book. Still, I wasn’t too lost to enjoy the book. If you’ve read any of Pseudonymous Bosch’s other books, you’ll already have a good idea of what to expect from this one–silliness, magic, over the top villains, and precocious kids. (I think this series is tangentially related to the author’s previous series, but I haven’t read enough of that series to know for sure.)
This is not a bad choice if your kid loves crazy, silly, over the top stories with a bit of magic thrown in. I’m interested to see where this series goes next.
Note: I received a free copy of Mercer Street from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Weeks after her husband dies in the midst of an affair in 2016, Chicago writer Susan Peterson, 48, seeks solace on a California vacation with her mother Elizabeth and daughter Amanda. The novelist, however, finds more than she bargained for when she meets a professor who possesses the secret of time travel. Within days, the women travel to 1938 and Princeton, New Jersey. Elizabeth begins a friendship with her refugee parents and infant self, while Susan and Amanda fall for a widowed admiral and a German researcher with troubling ties. Filled with poignancy, heartbreak, and intrigue, MERCER STREET gives new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and commitment as it follows three strong-willed souls on the adventure of a lifetime. (Summary via Amazon.com)
I have read and reviewed a couple of Heldt’s books before, and they are always a pleasure to read. This book is the second in the series which began with September Sky, a book I really enjoyed. If you have read September Sky, some of the beginning, in which the professor explains how time travel works and guides his protegees in their adventure into the past, will be familiar to you. This is good news to brand new readers, though, because you don’t have to have read September Sky to understand and enjoy Mercer Street.
In this book, three generations of women who have recently experienced tragedy are taking a much-needed vacation when they come across the eccentric professor. They slowly begin to believe his incredible stories and decide to take the professor up on his offer to send them back in time. The women travel to New Jersey in the late 1930s, with war brewing across the ocean. As Elizabeth, Susan, and Amanda begin to settle into their new but temporary life in the 30s, they are each faced with difficult decisions about how their past will affect their futures.
I must admit that I did not enjoy this book as much as I did its predecessor. Although I love WorldWarIIfiction, I enjoyed the lesser-known events of the previous book in the series. I’m also not a huge fan of romance, which takes up a lot of space in this book. However, the characters were well-written and interesting, and as always, Heldt has a gift for making the reader feel present in whatever era his characters end up in.
If you’re a fan of time travel historical fiction and you don’t mind a bit of romance with your story, you will love this book! I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series.
Note: I received a digital copy of this book through Masquerade Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Becoming a wizard is hard work. For Pete Riley it’s almost impossible. He tries to follow the rules, but he’s impatient and being impatient only leads to trouble. Big trouble.
He messes with a time spell when he shouldn’t, and he and his bookish friend, Weasel, are swept into Victorian England, where they will be trapped forever if that wizard-in-training can’t find a way to reverse his bad spell by the next full moon. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
I truly wish I had been able to read the first book of this series before I read this one! There are talking alligators, magic galore, and tons of relationships that I didn’t quite get because there wasn’t much backstory explained. Still, I gathered enough to enjoy the book for what it was.
Pete, an impatient young wizard-in-training, messes up a spell that he should have left alone and ends up transporting himself and his reluctant friend, Weasel, back to Victorian-era England. Once there, they get into all sorts of trouble, from being kidnapped to using the skills of their new friend to help them find the mysterious Dr. Dread Wraith. Even Pete’s alligator familiar (who is somewhat creepily referred to as Pete’s “special friend”) gets in on the act as Pete and Weasel attempt to fix the timelock and get back home.
I didn’t much enjoy this book for myself, as I found it pretty shallow in terms of plot and characters. However, it was a fun read, and one that I think middle grades kids would definitely enjoy. So if you’re a teen or adult, you’re probably better off skipping this one, but feel free to pass it on to your younger kids. They’ll enjoy Pete’s antics and his adventures through Victorian England.
Dear Connie Willis, I am so sorry I waited so long to read another of your books after reading To Say Nothing of the Dog. I loved that book, but I couldn’t bring myself to pick up your 500+ page tomes until recently. And oh my gosh, they blew my mind.
Blackout and All Clear were apparently originally slated to be one book. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages total, I can definitely see why the author chose to divide her story into two books rather than one. But as I said in my top books of 2015, I only wish they could have been longer. These books take place in the same universe as To Say Nothing of the Dog, a world of time travel centered in 2060 Oxford, and they are sweet, funny, sad, and totally engaging.
In Blackout, we meet the main characters, all of whom are working as time traveling historians to WWII: Eileen, who is working with evacuated children; Michael, on a mission to find the everyday heroes of WWII; and Polly, who is posing as a shopgirl in the midst of the London Blitz. But when things start going wrong with their drops, the three must band together to survive the most dangerous part of the war and hopefully make it back to their own time. All Clear continues that story, watching as the friends band together, along with the courageous people of London, to survive without affecting the outcome of the war.
The story is fascinating, the characters are relatable, and the setting is fantastic. I’m a huge fan of any fiction related to World War II, and this book duo has taken its rightful spot near the top of my list. I laughed, I cried, I read with a hot cup of tea and drank in the utter Britishness of the book. There is nothing not to love about these books. They are a must read. I can’t wait to see what else Connie Willis has in store (Doomsday Book, I’m coming for you)!