The Secret Runners of New York – Matthew Reilly

Rumours of an impending global apocalypse don’t stop the young elite of New York from partying. A newcomer to the Manhattan elite scene, Skye Rogers is shocked when she’s invited to join a secret club who call themselves the Secret Runners of New York. And what do the runners do? Why, they run through an underground portal that transports them years into the future, of course. But what they discover about the future is truly horrifying, and even the rich can’t survive the end of the world.

Okay, so this is quite a difficult book to review. To be honest, it was pretty terrible, but I enjoyed it. There are so, so many things wrong with The Secret Runners of New York: the key things being the dreadful characters, the number of elements that simply didn’t make sense, and most of all, the frankly disgusting attitudes towards mental health throughout the book.

Let’s begin with the characters. They suck. I know the main characters are all spoilt, rich socialites and are therefore supposed to be superficial and detached from reality, but the way they’re completely insistent on maintaining their social standing and bullying their inferiors despite knowing for a fact that the apocalypse is coming and half of them are going to be dead in just a few days was completely unbelievable. Secondly, they’re clearly modelled on the kinds of characters we know (and love) from the likes of Gossip Girl, but with the unavoidable difference that the Gossip Girl upper East-siders were funny and likeable as well as being flawed. The Secret Runners, on the other hand, are lacking any redeeming features to make them remotely likeable. Even Skye, who I think is supposed to be kind of nice.

Moving on to the plot, I thought the actual story was OK. I loved the gamma cloud idea for ending the world, and that element seemed pretty well thought out. What I didn’t love was that there was no point to the runs that the runners did. Why didn’t they explore outside of the tunnel sooner? What’s the point in just running through a tunnel over and over again, even if you are technically also travelling through time?

Finally, the most problematic element to this book: Mental health. In lots of cases, the abuse directed at characters with mental health issues come from the more snooty and judgemental characters, which can be forgiven because, as already discussed, they are horrible people. However, the author’s treatment of the survivors of the gamma cloud with mental health problems or a reliance on medication as psychos and savages is unacceptable.

Also, a middle-aged man has no business writing from the point of view of a teenage girl, as is clearly demonstrated in the scene where Skye finds Misty crying in a cubicle, holding her blood-stained shorts after getting her period unexpectedly.

And yet, I enjoyed reading it.

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

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A Trail Through Time – Jodi Taylor

43445723._SY475_Having died and been placed in an alternate universe of sorts, Max is reunited with Leon and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Unfortunately, they don’t even make it past breakfast. On the run from the Forces of Darkness, aka the Time Police, Max and Leon travel from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt to Pompeii, eventually taking refuge at St Mary’s, where the fight against the Time Police comes to a head.

A Trail Through Time has the Chronicles of St Mary’s back on the up. I was quite disappointed with the previous book, but in this one the lighthearted humour and general madness is back. As this story is essentially made up of a chase through time followed by a massive battle, the pace is fast and exciting, with almost non-stop disasters and witty quips.

I’ve always enjoyed Max as a main character, but it was definitely a relief to have her back to being less serious again. Although there are still a couple of darker, more serious themes, the overarching feeling is one of joy and general excitement, which is definitely what I want from this series.

Suffice it to say, A Trail Through Time has restored my faith in Jodi Taylor and the Chronicles of St Mary’s. This series can be very same-y, so a break is definitely needed between books, but I’m looking forward to reading the next one when enough time has passed.

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

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A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor

35150831In Book #3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, time-travelling historian Max travels to 17th Century Cambridge to meet Sir Isaac Newton, the Trojan War, and the Battle of Agincourt.

I enjoyed the first half of this book a lot. Max’s trip to Cambridge to see Newton was as hectic and funny as ever, while the Troy adventure was detailed and (although maybe not historically accurate) really interesting. Some of it was a little bit heavy going (the Greeks did massacre the Trojans, after all), but generally not too difficult to read and added a good level of seriousness to an otherwise light and entertaining story.

However, about halfway through the book, the plot takes quite a surprising turn and the rest of the story focuses much more on some of the ongoing relationships of the series. I actually thought some of the author’s decisions were pretty lazy in terms of plot development, until things played out further and her plans became a bit clearer. Although I could accept that she had things play out a certain way for a reason – not just laziness – I’m not totally sure I liked what she did with the story.

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are still decent, funny and worth giving a go, but I hope Book #4 is better than this because there are too many of them to keep reading if they’re only going to be mediocre.

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A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor

43450940.jpgIn Book #2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, things are as crazy as ever. The St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research are an organisation of historians who travel back in time in order to carry out research and make sure that History stays on track. In the second instalment of the series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, observe the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett, undertake the recovery of some dodos with no survival instincts, and make a risky visit to Mary Queen of Scots in an attempt to prevent an old enemy from changing the course of History.

A Symphony of Echoes is fast-paced and action-packed. Multiple adventures are stuffed into one book, so it’s a bit full-on but very well done and so much fun. I really love the quirky humour and adventures of these books; there really isn’t a dull moment. The characters are incredibly likeable and reasonably well developed, and I enjoy the time jumps. The historical elements seems to be reasonably well researched and accurate, up to the point where accuracy becomes irrelevant due to the actions of the characters.

My only criticism would be that there’s too much going on. The plot is a bit hard to follow because it really doesn’t stop, and story-development takes a clear back-seat behind the humour and wackiness. That being said, it’s such a fun read that none of that really matters.

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Blog Tour: The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Today is my stop on the tour for a book that I’m really excited about: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas. I hope you enjoy my review, and do check out the other stops on the tour.

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40803091In 1967, four female scientists build the world’s first time travel machine. But, just when they’re presenting their invention on live TV, one of them has a mental breakdown. In order to prevent negative attention being drawn to the project, she is exiled from the team. Fifty years later, the exiled pioneer and her granddaughter receive a newspaper clipping from the future, reporting the murder of an unidentified woman. Is Granny bee the victim? Who would want to kill her? And can the murder be prevented?

The Psychology of Time Travel covers a lot of very real issues in  time travel that other books ignore. The psychological effects of time travel (through not being able to change events, seeing family and friends die, etc) were really interesting and it was great to see a book based around this.

Besides the interesting topic, the story is really good. Told from multiple perspectives in different time periods, there are a lot of different story threads that all connect to the main event. This was a little confusing and difficult to follow, but it was also very effective in reflecting the general difficulty of keeping track of events when you can travel through time. Because every thread linked together, the actual order of events didn’t really matter, which made the jumping from one person and time to another much easier to cope with.

This is a fantastic science-fiction novel, combining time travel with mystery, mental illness and characters filled with personality. I loved it.

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

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River Rising – John A. Heldt

36274542.jpgAfter their parents disappear on a hike, Adam and his siblings discover that they have secretly been travelling back in time and something must have gone wrong. The siblings gather the information they need and follow in their parents footsteps, all the way back to the 1880s. Once there, they find adventure, danger and romance, but can they find their parents?

I am a fan of John Heldt, but, since historical romance isn’t one of my preferred genres, I am getting a little bit tired of how similar his books are. On the one hand, they follow a good formula, and are different enough to not be boring. On the other hand, some issues are starting to crop up for me.

Firstly, I know it’s a romance novel but why does every character have to fall in love? In this one, five siblings travel back in time and all except one of them have some kind of romance. They also don’t seem to have any qualms about effecting people’s lives who they know they’re going to leave, or doing things that might change the future in some way.

Secondly, I found River Rising to be much too long. Because each character has their own storyline, there was a too much going on and I found myself skimming through chunks of the book.

That being said, this book had a level of drama that I was not expecting and really enjoyed. Without giving too much away, by the end it wasn’t all rainbows and happy endings. Just when things were seeming too wonderful and kind of dull, an extreme event happens and everything changes. It was refreshing for one of John’s books to have a larger element of tragedy, alongside the romance.

As always, the story was well thought-out. However, the writing was a little bit stilted and the way characters spoke to each other did, at times, feel rather unnatural.

Despite the problems I had reading this book, I still really enjoyed it. I just think that maybe I need to take a break from these books, before I become too judgemental of them.

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

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Inevitable Ascension – V. K. McAllister

29563845.jpgOn receiving enough wealth to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, hunters Violina and Lux accidentally discover the means to time-travel. Thrown into an apocalyptic future with mankind on the brink of extinction, the feisty girls strive to build a new world – at any cost.

If you knew your world would soon be torched to carbon, would you fight to save it?
…Or light a match of your own?

Violina and Lux are both incredibly fun and spunky characters. The majority of the story is actually told through speech between these two, which isn’t my favourite way to read but worked quite well in this case because the girls have such fantastic voices (especially Violina). The relationship between the two heroines is brilliant. They have each other’s backs in any situation, and really care for each other. Strong female characters with a positive relationship is always good.

The plot itself is action packed and a little bit complex. There is a lot going on, with some pretty heavy sci-fi. The time travel aspects, leaping into different time-zones, was quite difficult to work out but the story is still fun and enjoyable even if you don’t fully understand the science.

Inevitable Ascension is well-written (surprisingly so, considering that it is written by a husband/wife duo, writing in secret before putting together what they’ve come up with). Despite the complicated plot and large amount of speech, the story flows well and is easy to read.

The one and only downfall is the questionable morality of the whole thing. Are the girls really doing good, if they’re committing mass-murder to save the world? Plus, Lux is described on multiple occasions as being innocent and sweet, with an incredibly sensitive conscience, but seems to be totally fine with stealing and killing. It doesn’t quite compute.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Inevitable Ascension. An exciting sci-fi adventure with positive female leads, suitable for those who might not usually think they enjoy sci-fi.

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

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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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Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor

29661618St Mary’s is a unique establishment, involved in “investigating major historical events in contemporary time” (also known as… time-travel). The team at St Mary’s are eccentric and disaster-prone, and one false move can have dire consequences. Just One Damned Thing After Another follows St Mary’s catastrophic historians as they venture through time, from World War 1 to the Cretaceous Period, where all manner of madness ensues.

Our heroine, Max, is brilliant. Her narrative voice is witty, smart, dense and bold all at the same time. She’s not a damsel-in-distress but also not unrealistically feisty. The whole host of characters at St Mary’s are loveable and very entertaining. The characters and writing style were definitely my favourite aspects of this book, but the story is pretty strong too. A hell of a lot happens (there’s so much plot, I can’t even explain); the book covers a time frame of around six years so it’s pretty fast-paced but the transitions across time and events are smooth and easy to follow.

There really was so much more to this book than I expected, considering its size (not very big). An amazing amount of detail is well and truly crammed into a fairly short story, topped with humour, romance, action and pure madness, as well as some serious moments. It met my tastes perfectly.

There are a tonne of books in this series and I’m so excited to keep going.

Class of ’59 – John A. Heldt

classof59In the fourth stand-alone book of the American Journey series, a young man from 1959 discovers a way to travel forward in time, where he runs into Mary Beth McIntire, who is vacationing with her sister, Piper, in the very same house 60 years in the future. Sharing his secret with this beautiful stranger, Mark and his brother, Ben, invite Mary Beth and Piper to travel back with them to 1959 for the adventure of a lifetime. But how can four people from different times build a lasting friendship? And what happens when someone else gets a hint of their big secret?

Class of ’59 is my favourite John Heldt book so far. There is absolutely no dilly-dallying around: the story gets into full flow within minutes. There is a danger aspect in the form of LA mobsters, but the majority of the book focuses on the romantic relationships between Mary Beth and Mark, and Ben and Piper. It’s a sweet, well-written romance a good deal of history and some excitement thrown in for good measure.

The insight into 1950s America is fascinating: from drive-ins to school dances, the period has been researched well and presented in a surprisingly believable manner. The characters are likeable and realistic, if a little too optimistic considering the situation they’re in. As always with Heldt’s stories, the outcome is predictable but how it will come about is a mystery until the end.

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