Book Review: Mercer Street by John A. Heldt

February 3, 2016

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Mercer Street by John A. HeldtMercer Street by John A Heldt
Series: American Journey #2
Published by Self-Published on 21st October 2015
Source: Author
Pages: 431
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.

The one thing I love with books by John A. Heldt is that I’m guaranteed to enjoy them. Mercer Street was absolutely no exception, and a stellar addition to the American Journey series. I loved how three generations of a family were sent time-travelling by the mysterious Geoffrey Bell in Mercer Street, and how Elizabeth’s past was woven into their new present in 1938. Reading about Princeton was great, and Heldt never fails to disappoint with his rich descriptions of the past. I love travelling back in time with these books, as I honestly feel like I’m right there with the characters in the past.

I enjoyed the romance in Mercer Street, as it really tied in well with the plot and added to the story, and I found myself desperately rooting for Amanda and Kurt’s relationship to make it through to the end of the book, even though it seemed, at times, that their differences were just too difficult to work through. I enjoyed Susan’s relationship with Jack as well, although it didn’t have the outcome I wanted it to, I understand and appreciate why Heldt chose to follow that path.

It’s so hard to talk about these books without giving something away, as they are full of little twists and turns that have a huge impact on the outcome, but don’t let my vagueness stop you from picking up these books, because John Heldt is definitely a master of his craft, and I would absolutely LOVE to see his works getting more recognition in the future.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading Mercer Street, and found it to be yet another fantastic addition to John A Heldt’s work,

Book Review: September Sky by John A. Heldt

April 27, 2015

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: September Sky by John A. HeldtSeptember Sky by John A Heldt
Series: American Journey #1
Published by Self-Published on 1st January 2015
Source: Author
Pages: 409
When unemployed San Francisco reporter Chuck Townsend and his college-dropout son, Justin, take a cruise to Mexico in 2016, each hopes to rebuild a relationship after years of estrangement. But they find more than common ground aboard the ship. They meet a mysterious lecturer who touts the possibilities of time travel. Within days, Chuck and Justin find themselves in 1900, riding a train to Texas, intent on preventing a distant uncle from being hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their quick trip to Galveston, however, becomes long and complicated when they wrangle with business rivals and fall for two beautiful librarians on the eve of a hurricane that will destroy the city. Filled with humor, history, romance, and heartbreak, SEPTEMBER SKY follows two directionless souls on the adventure of a lifetime as they try to make peace with the past, find new purpose, and grapple with the knowledge of things to come.

There’s one thing I can quite confidently say about John Heldt: his books never disappoint me. September Sky introduces us to a whole new range of time-travellers, and took us on an unforgettable journey to 1900’s America.

I did wonder whether September Sky would hold my interest in the same way the Northwest Passage series did. On paper, the books sound so similar, but upon reading, this certainly isn’t the case. I loved how time travel was introduced in September Sky – it wasn’t accidentally stumbled upon, but explained and presented to Chuck and Justin by Professor Bell, who I reckon may play a larger role in future books. Maybe he’ll even have his own book? Who knows!

I didn’t expect to love 1900’s America, but I surprised myself by becoming so invested in Chuck and Justin’s travels, and the characters they swiftly became attached to. Of all the characters we were introduced to from the past, my favourite had to be little Anna, Emily’s sister who Justin immediately fell in love with, even if it did take Emily longer to warm to Justin! Their romance was so sweet, as was Chuck and Charlotte’s. It wasn’t the romances that really took me though, but the thought that a murder was going to take place, and Chuck’s determination to make sure that his long-distant relative wasn’t charged with the murder again. I honestly didn’t guess who the murderer was, and I was so, so shocked when the big reveal happened!

All in all, September Sky is an excellent opener to a brand new series by John A. Heldt, and I absolutely cannot wait to dive into the next book as soon as I possibly can.

Book Review: The Mirror by John A. Heldt

April 14, 2014

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Mirror by John A. HeldtThe Mirror by John A Heldt
Series: Northwest Passage #5
Published by Self-Published on 1st March 2014
Source: Author
Pages: 384
On September 11, 2020, Ginny and Katie Smith celebrate their nineteenth birthday at a country fair near Seattle. Ignoring the warnings of a fortune-teller, they enter a house of mirrors and exit in May 1964. Armed with the knowledge they need to return to their time, they try to make the most of what they believe will be a four-month vacation. But their sixties adventure becomes complicated when they meet a revered great-grandmother and fall in love with local boys. In THE MIRROR, the continuation of THE MINE and THE SHOW, the sisters find happiness and heartbreak as they confront unexpected challenges and gut-wrenching choices in the age of civil rights, the Beatles, and Vietnam.

I found myself starting The Mirror with both feelings of excitement and sadness. Excitement, as it was another book in the Northwest Passage series, a series I have loved since I started it two years ago, and sad as it was the last instalment of this fantastic series. I’ve always had a soft-spot for this series, so I knew that bidding it farewell would be difficult, but I knew that Heldt wouldn’t disappoint when it came to delivering a fantastic story for the series to bow out on.

The story focuses on the lives of Ginny and Katie Smith, twin daughters of Joel and Grace, the main characters of the first and third books in the series. I liked both of the girls, although I have to say that I prefered Katie over Ginny as I just found Katie a touch sweeter and a little less cruel than Ginny. They were both lovely girls though, and I loved how they found a way to get by in the sixties without making fools of themselves, by getting jobs and accommodation as soon as humanely possible, instead of leaving it all to the very last minute. All the characters in The Mirror were wonderful to read about, with the exception of Steve and his family – I could not warm to them whatsoever! It was great to be able to revisit Virginia too, as I loved her character in The Mine. That didn’t change in The Mirror, in fact, if its possible, I think I loved her character more!

I have come to appreciate the way that Heldt crafts wonderfully believable relationships in all his books, and The Mirror was certainly no exception. Mike and Katie’s relationship in particular was incredibly touching, they were both shy and almost determined to remain ‘just friends’, which was admirable but it was clear that they would definitely end up as much more than that. I loved the way Heldt tackled the sixties era realistically too. Things were very different in the sixties, especially where racial equality is concerned, and he weaved this into his story respectfully and thoughtfully.

The Mirror, much like The Fire, had an ending that certainly had my eyes misting up at various points! I almost didn’t want to write this review, as then it means that this series is over, at least for the moment. The Mirror did not disappoint me at all, not that I expected it to. John A Heldt has proved over these five novels that he is a master when it comes to crafting an excellent time-travel romance, and I cannot wait to see what he produces next.

Book Review: The Fire by John A. Heldt

November 4, 2013

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Fire by John A. HeldtThe Fire by John A Heldt
Series: Northwest Passage #4
Published by Self-Published on 31st August 2013
Source: Author
Pages: 367
When Kevin Johnson, 22, goes to Wallace, Idaho, days after his college graduation, he expects to find rest and relaxation as his family prepares his deceased grandfather's house for sale. Then he discovers a hidden diary and a time portal that can take him to 1910, the year of Halley's comet and the largest wildfire in U.S. history. Within hours, Kevin finds himself in the era of horse-drawn wagons, straw hats, and ankle-length dresses. Returning to the same time and place, he decides to travel again and again and make the portal his gateway to summer fun. The adventure takes a more serious turn, however, when the luckless-in-love science major falls for pretty English teacher Sarah Thompson and integrates himself in a community headed for tragedy. Filled with humor, romance, and heartbreak, THE FIRE, the sequel to THE JOURNEY, follows a conflicted soul through a life-changing journey as he makes his mark on a world he was never meant to see.

There is something I find incredibly comforting about reading the latest installment of the Northwest Passage series. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I have enjoyed every single book of this series so far, and The Fire was no exception to that rule.

I love how all the books in this series are connected to one another in a way. The Fire reintroduces us to Kevin Johnson, who we last saw as a child at the end of The Journey, the second book in the series. I liked Kevin right from the start of this book. He was an incredibly intelligent young man, and was just an all-round good guy. Whoever said ‘nice guys finish last’ had obviously never come across this character, as he was simply brilliant. I liked how he had worked out how to time travel, and spent parts of the book constantly flitting between present day and 1910. It was a nice addition to the book to have a main character consciously go time-travelling, and it was quite fun as well.

The characters from 1910 were amazing. Heldt has this wonderful knack of being able to create these fantastically authentic characters who I can’t help but fall in love with. I adored Kevin’s two love interests, Sarah and Sadie. Sadie’s vulnerability mixed with her smarts just made her instantly likeable, and I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending, as she had been through so much and really deserved it. And Sarah was just so…lovely. I don’t think there’s a better way to describe her. Andy, the newspaper reporter who took Kevin under his wing and became a very good friend to him, was a really great guy, and I loved the humour that he brought to the book. He was definitely a reporter through and through, wanting to know the ins and outs of everybody.

The end of The Fire had me so close to tears. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe once when I was reading the climatic action scenes, especially when Kevin was finally able to reach the hospital. I felt so sorry for him, as he was such a lovely guy, and really didn’t deserve that kind of sadness. I liked the ending to The Fire, everything was wrapped up neatly, but it was very believable thanks to the characters and their traits.

This is a series with books that just keep getting better and better as they are released. I cannot wait to see what Heldt releases next, as I know for sure that it’ll be nothing short of brilliant.

Book Review: The Show by John A. Heldt

April 3, 2013

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Show by John A. HeldtThe Show by John A Heldt
Series: Northwest Passage #3
Published by Self-Published on 16th February 2013
Source: Author
Seattle, 1941. Grace Vandenberg, 21, is having a bad day. Minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked, she learns that her boyfriend is a time traveler from 2000 who has abandoned her for a future he insists they cannot share. Determined to save their love, she follows him into the new century. But just when happiness is within her grasp, she accidentally enters a second time portal and exits in 1918. Distraught and heartbroken, Grace starts a new life in the age of Woodrow Wilson, silent movies, and the Spanish flu. She meets her parents as young, single adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. In THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, Grace finds love and friendship in the ashes of tragedy as she endures the trial of her life.
The Show is a direct sequel to The Mine, the first book in the Northwest Passage series, but instead of following Joel, the novel focuses on Grace, the girl Joel fell in love with but left so he could return back to the year 2000. The Show opens up with Grace determined to travel into the future, and back into the arms of the man she truly loves. I really admired Grace’s determination throughout the entire book. She never gave up on Joel, no matter what era she was in, and I loved that about her.

I found it interesting that Grace managed to travel both forward and back in time in The Show. Within the first quarter of the book, Grace has found herself in the year 2000, with a little money and no clue on how to find Joel. Yet, as with Heldt’s previous two books, the kindness of strangers steps in, and Grace finds herself helping Penelope Price, in return for a roof over her head. And once she was reunited with Katie, her college friend whom she left back in the 1940’s, Grace soon re-enters Joel’s life, much to their delight. I loved their reunion, as we read about it from Joel’s perspective in The Mine but didn’t really get to see how it happened, but with The Show we did. From that point on, the book seemed like it was flowing towards a blissful happily ever after situation, but of course, that wasn’t quite the case. Grace finds herself stuck in 1919, reunited with her Great-Uncle, and eventually her mother and aunt.

The first time Grace travelled into the future, she remained calm about her surroundings and how foreign they were to her, which is an aspect I really appreciate in Heldt’s books, as I love watching them battle between acting normal and completely having a meltdown when they realise their world is totally different to what it should be! I though Grace adopted to the technology and totally different pace of the 2000’s really well, probably a lot better than I would have done if I was in her situation! Unfortunately though, Grace turned slightly hysterical after her second whirl with time-travel, although I can understand why, because it was far more traumatising for her the second time round!

I loved reading about Grace in 1919. I did feel sorry for her, especially when she realised what it was that made her travel through time, and the realisation that she would probably never make it back to 2002. I accepted her decision to move on and live her life, and I really enjoyed John Walker’s character. I liked Grace and John together almost as much as I like Grace and Joel together, although I did wish that Grace had explained her situation to John a lot sooner in the book, because I want to believe he would have just accepted Grace’s story and loved her all the same.

The Show was an extremely enjoyable installment to the Northwest Passage series, and I cannot wait to see where Heldt takes us next in his next book. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, I highly recommend you do, because it’s time travel done fantastically well.


Book Review: The Journey by John A Heldt

November 30, 2012

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Journey by John A HeldtThe Journey by John A Heldt
Series: Northwest Passage #2
Published by Self-Published on 3rd November 2012
Source: Author
Seattle, 2010. When her entrepreneur husband dies in an accident, Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and directionless. She yearns for the simpler days of her youth, before she followed her high school sweetheart down a road that led to limitless riches but little fulfillment, and jumps at a chance to reconnect with her past at a class reunion. But when Michelle returns to Unionville, Oregon, and joins three classmates on a spur-of-the-moment tour of an abandoned mansion, she gets more than she asked for. She enters a mysterious room and is thrown back to 1979.

Distraught and destitute, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets widowed teacher Robert Land and finds the love and happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates. Filled with humor and heartbreak, THE JOURNEY gives new meaning to friendship, courage, and commitment as it follows an unfulfilled soul through her second shot at life.
Where do I start with this review? I read The Mine, the first book in the Northwest Passage series earlier this year, and I have been thinking about it ever since. So when I was given the opportunity to review The Journey, the second book in the series, I was practically jumping up and down in excitement.

I love how Michelle had a huge role in Shelly’s life. Michelle was able to guide her into making the right decisions for herself, including breaking up with her boyfriend Scott and choosing the right college for herself, no matter what the costs. Had it not been for Michelle’s encouragement and guidance, Shelly would have simply relived the live Michelle had been living, something that Michelle desperately did not want her to do. After all, the past thirty-one years had been miserable for Michelle, so why would she want Shelly to suffer the same fate?

What I loved in The Mine, and I continued to love in The Journey was the fact that Heldt’s characters do not get themselves into terribly awkward situations when they find themselves in a decade from the past. When Michelle finds herself transported back to 1979, she is panicked, and not entirely sure what’s going on, but she dusts herself off and finds a way to support herself, by getting a job in the high school she previously (and currently) attended. I liked how she used her knowledge of the future for the good, instead of choosing to make money off it, she really used her power to change the lives of those around her. I felt Michelle took a huge step by pawning off her wedding ring, and her story really began for me from there. I was pleased she was able to find love with Robert Land, the pair could relate to each other in more ways than one, although I was sad that she chose to keep her time-travelling past a secret from him, especially as she ended up having no way of telling him in person.

The way that Heldt managed to weave in characters from The Mine into The Journey was simply masterful. I was kicking myself for not realising sooner who the Franklins were, and I adored seeing a much younger Joel pop up into the story too. The characters from The Journey were fantastic too. I loved Michelle and how she was determined to change the lives of those she loved. I felt for Brian, Shelly’s best friend who was in love with her, but Shelly refused to acknowledge him as anything more than a friend. And Scott, who I disliked right from the first chapter. He was controlling, manipulative and rude, and I wanted nothing more than for Shelly to get rid of him! Unfortunately that took too long to happen, but I eventually got my wish.

The Journey has an incredibly bittersweet happily ever after. Michelle makes the ultimate sacrifice in trying to save the lives of those she loved, although it was that sacrifice that stopped Shelly from turning into Michelle, and realising that everything she could have ever wanted was living only a few yards away.

The Mine turned me into a huge fan of Heldt, but if I thought The Mine was good, it was nothing in comparison to The Journey. This was a book that tugged at my heartstrings, made me laugh, got me close to tears, and left me eagerly wanting more.

Book Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

May 31, 2012

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Mine by John A. HeldtThe Mine by John A Heldt
Series: Northwest Passage #1
Published by Self-Published on 12th February 2012
Source: Author
Pages: 200
In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.
I was pretty much sold on The Mine as soon as I read the synopsis. Time travel and 1940’s history? Yes please! I was interested to see how well the time travel would be pulled off, and I am extremely pleased to say that John Heldt executed it wonderfully in this book.

The first few chapters of The Mine started off a little shaky for me. I wasn’t a fan of Adam, Joel’s best friend, and I wasn’t completely sold on Joel either. However, as the story progressed, Joel became a much stronger character, and I found myself completely invested into his story. I think my favourite thing about Joel was the fact that he was smart. When he finds himself transported back to the 1940’s (thanks to the mysterious mine), he didn’t pity himself over his ‘misfortune’. Instead, he tried to find a way back home to 2000, and when it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, he then tried to find a way to support himself in the 1940’s by hopping a train to Seattle. It was refreshing to see someone just accept that they had travelled back in time instead of making a complete fool of themselves. I also liked that when he realised he could use his knowledge of the future to earn himself some money, he did just that. Whilst it’s not honest, it was a very clever way to earn himself some money.

Alongside Joel, the rest of the characters from the 1940’s shone. I absolutely adored Tom, a guy who Joel saves from getting a beating, and I loved how kind-hearted he was. He didn’t have to take Joel in, but he did. Nor did he really have to introduce Joel to Ginny and her friends, but he did. Tom was one of my favourite characters, purely because he was an all-around great guy, and my heart ached when I found out what would eventually happen to him. Ginny, Joel’s grandmother, was introduced in a clever way, and knew better than to take Joel at face-value, which made sure Joel was kept on his toes all the time! Grace’s introduction was possibly one of my most favourites ever. Admittedly, I did at first think that this was Joel’s grandmother, but I was quickly proved wrong, and we were able to watch Grace and Joel fall in love. This wasn’t without it’s problems, of course, as Grace was engaged, and had to choose between two men. I also thought that the significance of Katie’s character was great, especially towards the end of the book.

I don’t want to give anything away about the end, but I can safely say that it was absolutely brilliant! I thought it was a really smart way of ending the story, and tied up a few loose-ends that we had remaining. This novel was cleverly written, as most of the parts that were included all held a relevance to another part of the story, or linked two characters up together.

This was my first foray into the world of self-publishing, and whilst this book isn’t perfect, it is most certainly a great and enjoyable read!