Hannah’s Moon – John A. Heldt

34212850In the latest instalment of the American Journey series, the Bells send Claire and Ron Rasmussen back in time to 1945 where they will be able to quickly and easily adopt a baby. Taking Claire’s brother, David, along for support, the three set up to spend a few months in Tennessee while the adoption is being finalized. However, not everything goes according to plan. In Heldt’s darkest story yet, David finds himself falling for their engaged neighbour, while Ron finds himself forced to join the Navy during a time of war, and Claire is left to care for their new baby on her own.

This book has a much more complex plot than previous books in the series, and a bigger focus on time travel issues than on actual life in the past. The times still appear to be still well researched (although I know next-to-nothing about American history so I can’t really judge) and, as ever, the story is very well written. I really liked that some of the issues of time travel are dealt with in this book – it adds an element of realism to the series, because there’s no way the Bells could do and organise all this time travel without someone eventually noticing. Also, for the first time, there’s some serious risk that a character could actually die. I won’t give any detail, but it’s pretty intense.

*Caution: semi-spoiler but not really* I really loved the ending. Bringing together characters from the rest of the series was a genius move. It was really nice to find out how the people from previous stories are getting on and a neat way to tie together the whole series.

Hannah’s Moon is another charming and easy read from John Heldt. (Although it is longer and more complex than his other stories). As always, if you like time-travel romance, this is for you.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan – Jack Cheng

2594057711-year-old Alex loves space. He has been recording sounds from Earth on his golden iPod, to launch into space on a rocket so that alien lifeforms can find it and hear about life on Earth. He and his dog, Carl Sagan (named after his hero), travel to the Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival to launch the rocket and iPad, where his journey takes an unexpected turn, landing him in Las Vegas in search of his father.

We are told the story in the form of recordings on the iPod, as Alex travels from Colorado to New Mexico to Vegas to L.A and home again, recording all kinds of things to send to his friends in space. This style of narration took a bit of getting used to but was effective and original. The feel of the book reminded me a lot of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but with a very different storyline. The plot is quite fast-moving, and at times difficult to follow because we only get to know what Alex is able to record, but it’s a fun way to read.

I liked the range of characters. Alex is a brilliant lead, full of questions with an interesting take on the world, and I love dogs so Carl Sagan was obviously a delight. The characters they meet along the way are all interesting and – mostly – likeable, especially Terra and Zed. I didn’t like Ronnie at all to begin with but he is an important part of the story, uncovering some of the mystery behind how an 11-year-old was able to hop on a train to another state all by himself.

Although this is ultimately a children’s story, some of the content is pretty heavy and moving. I would definitely recommend it to adults as well.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Halfway Dead – Terry Maggert

25827242.jpgCarlie McEwan is a witch. She spends her days working in the local diner, and spends the rest of her time protecting her town from magical creatures. When a stranger comes to town, Carlie is sent on a dangerous mission to rescue a lost spirit, and defeat a monster.

I’ve read one of Terry Maggert’s books before (a book about angels, called Heartborn) which was, basically, a huge disappointment. However, I didn’t let it put me off reading more of his work – and I’m so glad! I really enjoyed Halfway Dead, and already have the rest of the witchy series waiting on my kindle. The plot is very simple and straightforward, which I actually liked. There are only a few characters with big roles, so the story is easy to follow and there’s some nice character development. Carlie is a snarky but likeable protagonist, and I liked Jim and Wulfric as her sidekicks. The mild romance aspect of the book was a bit sudden and underdeveloped, but the story doesn’t focus much on the romance so it didn’t matter that that aspect wasn’t perfectly done. It was actually pretty nice to read a YA book with a female protagonist without a big romance. (I also LOVED that Carlie has problems with her hair and isn’t constantly referred to as beautiful, or even unusual. Aside from being a witch, Carlie’s character is relatable and pretty realistic.)

It’s a light, quirky adventure with plenty of magic and humour. One I definitely recommend.

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Carnivalesque – Neil Jordan

31451203When Andy and his parents visit a carnival on their way to the mall, things don’t turn out quite as expected. Andy walks into a mirror in Burleigh’s Amazing Hall Of Mirrors, and becomes a reflection. He watches a boy who looks like him, but is not him, go home with his parents and finds himself a part of a magical carnival world.

I wanted to like this book. The blurb sounds so good and the cover is pretty cool, but I was really, really disappointed. Firstly, nothing much happens. The story moves very slowly and, as far as I could tell, there was no real plot. There’s just a bit of history about the carnival, Andy hanging out with the carnies and some side plot about his mum (which could have been good but ended up falling flat and feeling kind of pointless). Overall, it’s boring.

Secondly, there are far too many words. There isn’t even large amounts of description (which is a pet hate of mine), there’s just a lot of unnecessary words – whole paragraphs – which don’t add anything to the story or move the plot along at all. It was confusing and annoying and made the book drag.

Finally, there are a lot of characters who aren’t explained well enough, along with aspects (like the mildew) that I never really understood. It’s extremely possible that, by this point, I just wasn’t paying enough attention to understand properly, but it made the book more difficult to follow.

Usually I can find something good to say about a book, but in this case I really can’t. I didn’t enjoy a single part of this book, and I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

33828677.jpgAnthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Collecting lost items and writing stories about them, he has been seeking redemption for losing an important keepsake himself. As the end of life nears, Anthony leaves all his belongings and his quest to return the lost items to their owners to his assistant, Laura. She inherits his treasures, his house, and the irritable ghost living in it. As the new keeper of lost things, Laura strives to uncover the key to Anthony’s redemption and lay the spirits to rest.

I really liked the inclusion of ghosts in this story. They’re relevant and active, but they don’t take over the story. The focus is very much on the living.  We follow two timelines, one with Anthony and Laura, the other following Eunice and Bomber. The two timelines are loosely connected, but the link is tenuous until the end, so it is very much like reading two separate stories at once. The book also includes short stories about the lost objects. This was a nice detail but the many different stories did detract from the main plot at times. There’s good character development within both timelines, which is quite impressive considering the array of different characters. However, I found it hard to bond with the characters, especially Eunice. Whether this was because I had very little in common with them or because there were just so many of them, I can’t be sure. In some ways, I found Bomber’s ghastly sister Portia the easiest to understand (although it’s possible that this says more about me than about the book).

The Keeper of Lost Things is a very interesting story. I liked the general concept, liked the ghostly aspect and the diverse characters (namely, Sunshine), and there was a nice amount of humour and romance. But I didn’t love it. I didn’t find it especially charming or moving, and I was never fully drawn into the story. It’s good, but it’s not great.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Epileptic – David B.

39916.jpgThis graphic autobiography explores David B’s life growing up with an epileptic brother. What started out as an idyllic childhood playing on the streets of France with his brother, Jean-Christophe, and sister, Florence, quickly turned into a life of anger and frustration when Jean-Christophe is diagnosed with epilepsy. David and his siblings are dragged from place to place as his parents search for a cure, which always ends in disappointment.

David’s account is touching and incredibly honest. The way he talks about his feelings towards his brother is both brutal and compelling. I have to say I was impressed by the sheer openness. However, it didn’t do anything to improve my understanding of the illness. As he himself wasn’t afflicted by it, I’m not convinced David himself truly understood either (although it is interesting to look at an illness from the viewpoint of someone who is affected but not afflicted by it). The story is also quite difficult to follow in parts. The time frames jump regularly but in no particular pattern and usually without warning. I struggled to understand the relevance of some of the stories he included. The book is much longer than it needs to be.

That being said, this is of course a graphic novel and is therefore driven by images rather than words – a thing a graphic novel newbie like me struggles with. I did not find the images particularly skilful or attractive to look at, which I think is the main reason I did not get on very well with this book. The characters look the roughly the same throughout, which made understanding their age and progression almost impossible. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who does not already have a strong interest in either epilepsy or graphic novels.

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Top Secret Twenty-One – Janet Evanovich

21119763.jpgIn this instalment of the Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie is hunting for Jimmy Poletti, a used-car dealer caught selling more than just used cars. At the same time, she finds herself having to take in and protect the annoying Randy Briggs after someone fires a firebomb into his apartment, and help Ranger track down a dangerous killer with a personal vendetta against him. Lula, Grandma, Morelli and the other usual players are there to help out (and cause extra problems) as well.

There are good things and bad things about this book (and the whole series in general). The main good things are that the characters and storylines are always witty, action-packed, exciting and completely likeable. The bad thing is that nothing ever changes. 21 books in and it’s still the same story over and over again: Stephanie chases some bad guys, she and Lula get into trouble, Grandma causes mayhem, while Ranger and Morelli hang about in the side-lines being sexy and manly. There’s next-to-no character development, which is a real shame because the characters have a lot more potential.

If you can accept this series for what it is (the same easy, fast-paced story over and over again) then you cannot go wrong with some Stephanie Plum. There’s humour, guns, violence, sexy men and doughnuts. How can you not love it?

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Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

30809689.jpgThis is a collection of stories of Norse mythology, based on the old Norse gods. They feature the might of Thor, the cunning of Loki, the wisdom of Odin, and appearances by all the other key players in Norse myths.

I already knew most of the stories and characters featured in this book, but that did not detract from the reading experience. You certainly do not need to be at all familiar with Norse mythology in order to enjoy this book. In fact, I’d say that it would probably be more enjoyable if you don’t have any previous knowledge.

I loved the stories in this book. They are short and easy to follow, making Norse Mythology a quick and entertaining read. However, I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and would have loved for there to be more of his unique style and creativity. Gaiman has a fantastic imagination, and this book lacked that.

While this book was still entertaining and a great introduction to Norse mythology, I highly recommend reading The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris, for a much more detailed, more creative and more humorous take on all the same stories, and more.

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Special Post: Welcoming ShelfJoy

logo.pngThis is a super short post just to let y’all know about a new bookish site, ShelfJoy. The idea is that book lovers can discover new books, based on specific interests (or shelves). The shelves are hand-curated by fellow book lovers and it’s basically just a really great place to get some book recommendations and new reading material, and to recommend books you love to others!

Take a look at ShelfJoy here… And happy reading!

The Fifth Letter – Nicola Moriarty

32599703.jpgJoni, Trina, Deb and Eden have been friends since school. Every year they go on a trip away, to maintain their friendship. In an attempt to reconnect, they decide to each write an anonymous letter revealing a secret about their lives, to be shared with the group. But as the secrets come out, the four women seem to become further apart, and then Joni discovers a fifth letter. A fifth letter revealing a deep and vicious grudge against another member of the group – but who wrote it?

Now, this book isn’t fantastically written. It’s not bad and there’s a good story in there, but the writing style could use some improvement, and the story itself lacks excitement and – for a large amount of the book – drama. What it doesn’t lack, however, is suspense. I couldn’t work out who’d written the fifth letter until the very end (which is a good thing for this type of book, in case that wasn’t clear).

The story is written from the viewpoint of Joni, as she tells a priest about the trip and the letters. This was a really fun way of telling the story (the priest was actually my favourite character), but it did sometimes get lost in parts where time jumps were unclear and took some working out. My main problem was with the characters. As I said, the story is told from the point of view of Joni, who is very self-obsessed and I didn’t like her. Nor did I like Deb or Eden particularly. The only one I really thought was okay was Trina. This made the book a little bit harder to enjoy, but overall it probably didn’t make too much of a difference.

The ending was pretty anticlimactic. The content of the fifth letter wasn’t really all that shocking, and the revelation of who wrote it was undermined by other events. And I hated the little twist at the end with Trina (if you read this book, you’ll understand what I mean).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.