April 10, 2017
rcno-book-list taxonomy="author" header=<b>"More from this author"</b>]
rcno-book-list taxonomy="author" header=<b>"More from this author"</b>]
The cover, with a simple sepia photograph of a woman from the era of the 1920s is effective and evocative. It sums up the story and the main character’s motivation without giving away the plot.
The story starts off a bit on the slow side, with a description of Cameron Coelho’s attraction to the woman in the photograph, and background information on his work on a PhD thesis about the social life in Middle America during the Roaring Twenties. The time travel aspect is introduced through his discovery in Candice Bell’s notes and diary (sold to him by her elderly niece) of references to a mysterious cave that holds the secret to time travel. It’s difficult to know which motivates him more, his attraction to Candice’s beauty or his fascination with the prospect of time travel being real. The author goes into more detail than absolutely necessary as Cameron takes action to find more information—details of him moving through a room, sitting, or taking a drink, don’t really add to the story.
This tendency to map out a character’s every move lessens significantly as Cameron meets the ‘time traveling’ expert, Geoffrey Bell, and travels from 2017 to 1925. A seemingly impossible task is set our hero; he knows that Candice will be murdered, and he is forbidden to try and prevent it because doing so might irreparably change the future, in particular the fact that Geoffrey Bell is the great-grandson of her cousin, who, distraught after her murder, wanders into a destitute part of town where he finds the woman he will marry, and who is Geoffrey’s great-grandmother.
From Cameron’s arrival in 1925, the story picks up the pace. The reader is introduced to all of the major supporting characters, including Tom, the black custodian at the newspaper where Candice worked as a social page reporter, who was wrongly accused of her murder and executed.
The story from the point that Cameron knows that he’s in love with Candice and that there are evil, corrupt men in the small Indiana town where she lives and works, is the strongest section of the book. The author skillfully plants clues and the tension mounts as he has to choose between fulfilling his commitment to Geoffrey Bell or saving innocents from death. While a few of the resolutions felt a bit contrived or were not explained to full satisfaction; such as how the town’s major drug dealer was finally caught and convicted, or what happened to the crooked lawyer who was Candice’s former fiancé, these are minor issues.
The author makes references to previous time travelers that Geoffrey Bell has sent into the past, including a father and son who traveled to Texas, which was the subject of an earlier novel. At one point, reference is made to ‘numerous’ travelers, but it’s never explained.
Finally, Cameron finds a way to avoid tempering with the timeline, things are set on the proper path, and the reader is treated to the news that Cameron is somehow related by blood to Geoffrey’s wife—but, this is also never explained in any detail.
The denouement is, except for the aforementioned unanswered questions, satisfactory. Justice prevails and true love overcomes insurmountable obstacles.
With the exception of the previously mentioned excessive detailed descriptions of character actions, and the few unanswered questions, this is a solidly plotted novel. Action (in a thematic sense) moves forward, characters encounter obstacles and overcome them, and this reader at least was left with the feeling that things worked out the way they should.
I give this book four stars.
In 2016, Charles Townsend has been laid off from his job as a newspaper reporter. While he’s taking stock of his life, he decides to reconnect with his son, Justin, who is also having his own life crisis and has dropped out of medical school. While on a cruise, they meet Dr. Geoffrey Bell, a lecturer who holds out the possibility of time travel as a reality.
When Charles and Justin attract Bell’s attention, and he makes them an offer of the chance to travel back in time, their curiosity is such they accept the offer. They travel back to 1900, to Galveston, Texas just before a deadly hurricane that wiped out a large portion of the city. Although Bell has warned them not to interfere with events of the past, Charles is driven to save the life of a distant relative wrongfully executed for a murder he didn’t commit. In the process, both he and Justin find what had been missing in their lives in 2016 – love.
September Sky by John A. Heldt is a multi-genre tour de force, combining adventure, romance, and science fiction in an entertaining story that holds a reader’s interest from the opening paragraph. Heldt does a fantastic job of painting a compellingly authentic picture of a bygone era—it’s customs, settings, and people—that puts the reader solidly in the center of the action. Fictional and historical events are woven together in a consistent and coherent narrative and are peopled by characters that you love, hate, empathize with . . . in short, that you believe in.
This is also something of a mystery, as Charles finds himself first trying to prevent a murder, and when that fails, identifying and fingering the true killer. Nothing is what it seems in September Sky, and readers will be constantly amazed as the true nature of characters unfold.
This is a truly entertaining book. A word of advice—don’t start it unless you have the free time to finish it, because you’ll quickly find yourself hooked and unable to put it down.
I give September Sky a resounding five stars.
On September 11, 2020, twins Ginny and Katie Smith go to the Cedar River County Fair to celebrate their 19thbirthdays. They’ve been going to the same fair for eight years, but this is the first time they go without their parents. Bored, they visit Marta the Magnificent, who warns them that they’re about to embark on a ‘strange and dangerous’ journey. What they don’t realize until it’s too late, though, is that the journey they will take is not to ‘where’ but ‘when.’
When Katie steps through a mirror in the House of Mirrors, and Ginny goes after her, they find themselves in Seattle on May 2, 1964, unsure if they can ever find their way back home to their own time.
The Mirror by John A. Heldt is a story that seems on the surface to be science fiction – after all, it is about time travel – but, is in fact about culture shock and growing up. Ginny and Katie face the kind of dilemma that ancient travelers from developed cultures must have faced when encountering less developed societies for the first time. How much are you allowed to interfere based upon greater knowledge? The two intrepid time travelers also learn a lot about themselves and their family as they deal with smoking in restaurants, the lack of plastic bags in grocery stores, the war in Vietnam, and race relations in the U.S. in the 1960s.
I hesitate to call this a ‘charming’ story, because that seems dismissive, but it is in fact, charming. It is also profound, in that it addresses issues that are with us in 2015, only slightly changed from the 1960s, but does so in a way that allows us to assess them dispassionately as remote observers. The characters are believable, and the picture the author paints of the era absolutely authentic. The Mirror explores human relations and the human condition with a measure of humor mixed with seriousness that will keep you reading, and leave you thinking.
Without hesitation I give this book five stars.
While on a family trip to Wallace, Idaho, Kevin finds a relative’s secret diary that explains the shed in the back yard is actually a time machine. Being young and adventurous, Kevin decides to have a go and is transported to 1910. He makes friends, develops a positive reputation within the town, and even lands a serendipitous position as a school teacher. Kevin’s reason for staying in 1910 for as long as he did is a lovely lady named Sarah. Additionally, he meets a second young lady (Sadie) who seems to have affections for him.
While I expected Kevin, as the main character, to be the only point of view, the story was built through multiple points of view, some even being minor characters. The author was kind enough to announce these changes at the beginning of each chapter. As three-fourths of the novel was from Kevin’s perspective, it felt like a lazy way of telling the reader about a character. The point of view changes were distracting, especially when Sarah or Sadie took the stage. It allowed for redundant reflections that the reader knew from previous interactions told from Kevin’s perspective. Instead of adding a sense of romance or heartache, it slowed down the progression of the, otherwise engaging , narrative. The love story plays out rather unpredictably through charming dialogue.
The premise of the novel was unique and Heldt’s research on the time period shows. His description of the town of Wallace and the nuances of life lived in 1910 bring the reader back in time with Kevin and create a wistful desire to return to simpler times. The year itself acts as a character and creates a tension in the back of our mind since we readers (and Kevin) know about the forest fire that will occur in August of 1910.
While The Fire is billed as a historical romance, let it be known that the novel breaches two genres: historical romance and science fiction. The novel also champions the subjects of science and history by casually mentioning the importance of both during dialogue and internal reflections of the characters. An excellent starter for sci-fi fans wishing to branch out.