Book Review: The Show By John A. Heldt

***I received a free copy in exchange for a review***

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.

17381278I loved this 70 chapter book. If you’ve already read the first book in the series, then it starts off a little slow because it explains the back story of Grace and Joel’s relationship while providing details of how she found his note about returning to the year 2000. Once that section is over, the book has an interesting love story. Keep in mind, a person can love a significant other, friend, and family member.

My favorite lines: 1) “Most people call it a shopping mall,” Katie said. “I call it organized chaos.” 2) How could a man, any man compete with a memory? 3) When you abruptly abandoned loved ones, you left wreckage behind. 4) And with that, three women once separated by time, space, and death were reunited.

The author had a brilliant talent with characterization and setting.

  • There were a lot of characters for the reader to juggle, but the author did a great job of having each character’s personality shine through as well as revealing different motivations. I wasn’t confused nor lost at all. I loved seeing Penelope, Edith, and Katie in different stages of their lives. I thought their personalities and mannerisms stayed consistent while they were older women, teens, and in Penelope’s case, a little girl. John A. Heldt managed to make all the relationships three-dimensional.
  • The story covered three time zones: 1941, 2000, and 1918. As a reader, I wasn’t confused because the clothing, body language, dialogue, gender belief systems and expectations were established clearly in a very descriptive way. It felt like I was transported in the different time zones alongside Grace. I thought it was cool how Grace managed the unexpected twists–talk about utter confusion for her.

A love story can’t be perfect so, of course, there were some obstacles. On Grace and Joel’s anniversary, they attended an event at the remodeled movie theater. This is where the story really got entertaining for me. My favorite sections and chapters–the ones that featured Grace getting to know her ancestors in 1918. I respected that everyone was skeptical and didn’t just blindly believe Grace; it made the story more realistic. Being invested in Grace and Joel’s relationship since the first book in the series, I didn’t care for John, the next door neighbor in 1918, trying to pursue Grace.

My favorite scenes: 1) when Grace saw her mom and dad for the first time 2) Grace’s interactions with her great uncle, Alistair 3) the scenes in the remodeled movie theater (present and past)

The ending was intense. Did Grace end up with John? Or was she trapped in 1918 forever due to the movie theater fire? Could she find her way back to 2000 to be with Joel? You’ll have to read the story to find out. I can say that the cliffhanger definitely motivated me to want to read the next book!

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

An Interview With John A. Heldt, Author Of The Show

Yawatta would like to welcome her special guest John A. Heldt, author of The Show. Please enjoy his insightful interview.

173812781.  How long does it take you to write a book?

I guess it depends on what you mean by write. I finished the first draft of The Show in thirty-five days but needed another two months to get it ready for publication. I needed about four months to outline, write, and edit The Journey, and more than seven to complete The Mine. The first draft is usually the easy part.

2.  Can you tell us about your challenge in getting your first book published?

Publishing The Mine as an e-book on Amazon was easy. Preparing it for publication was the hard part. Writing and editing are extremely time consuming.

3.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

That depends on the time of year. I read a lot in the winter and occasionally snow ski. In the warmer months, I fish, camp, bike, and walk. I really like walking. It’s a great way to clear a mind and come up with new ideas.

4.  What does your family think of your writing?

They generally like it but think I spend too much time doing it. (I do.)

5.  How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best in your genre?

I make use of social media, email, and review sites. I like working with bloggers because many are writers themselves and know the challenges facing new authors. By going to reviewers who favor certain genres, I have also been able to market my books to readers most likely to enjoy them.

6.  What do you think makes a good story?

Most writers and English teachers would probably say conflict, and I suppose they are right. Stories without conflict tend to be boring. But I think it is just as important to offer characters and a plot that readers can relate to. The characters in my second novel, The Journey, are ordinary, the epitome of everyday. None are truly awful people. None were dropped on their heads as children. None, except my time-traveling protagonist, keep any secrets. But they are nonetheless compelling. And they are compelling because they are real people who experience life as most of us experienced it.

7.  Can you tell us about this book?

The Show is the third book of my Northwest Passage time-travel series and the sequel to my debut novel The Mine. It is the story of Grace Vandenberg, a shy honors student who gets the shock of her life on December 7, 1941. Grace reads a letter from her boyfriend Joel Smith minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked and discovers that he is a time traveler who has left her for a future he insists they cannot share. She follows him to the year 2000 but finds trouble before she can find lasting happiness. She accidentally enters a second time portal and is thrown back to 1918, just as the Spanish flu sweeps through Seattle and World War I draws to a close. Grace meets her parents and her aunt as young, unmarried adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. How she handles this unexpected trial is at the heart of The Show.

8.  What’s your next project?

I plan to publish the fourth book of my five-part series by the end of this year. In that book, Kevin Johnson, the son of Brian and Shelly Johnson of The Journey and a geology student of Professor Joel Smith’s, will travel as a 22-year-old in 2013 to Wallace, Idaho, in 1910. He will see Halley’s Comet and experience the Big Burn, the largest wildfire in U.S. history. The fifth book also will feature the grown children of characters from an early book, but it will be set in Seattle in 1964. After that, I will probably move on to historical fiction.

9.  Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes. I appreciate their support. When you are starting out as an author, you treasure every thoughtful review and every word of encouragement. They keep you going.

10.  Social media you’d like to share?

I have a blog. I have a Facebook author page.

Book Review: The Journey By John A. Heldt

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.

I loved this 60 chapter book. It was told through Shelly’s third person point-of-view and Michelle’s third person point-of-view, each rotating chapters. What if you were transported back to your high school days and got to relive your life again? Had a chance to meet the younger version of yourself and see the people who had died along the way? Man, I don’t know what I’d do, but I respected that Michelle took charge to make sure she made a positive influence on people’s lives so they could rethink mistakes made in the past. I liked the shout-out to The Mine character’s Joel and his mom meeting Michelle.

I thought it was sad when Michelle reflected on her life after her husband Scott passed away. She had missed the opportunity to become an author. Since that’s my dream, I couldn’t imagine letting someone stop me. I enjoyed hearing about Writer’s Market and other writer terminology through her perspective.

My favorite lines: 1) There was a lot to remember when you lived a lie. 2) Sometimes the right answers come in unusual packages. 3) Michelle sat up and shifted her eyes from one tablemate to another, as if searching for a source of sanity. She came up empty. 4) I knew her better than anyone and she was still a mystery.

John A. Heldt did a wonderful job with imagery, especially with metaphors. I thought they were really original, and I loved the humor throughout the novel. He also has a great talent with writing romance. The way he built up Michelle and Robert’s relationship was engaging and sweet. I really rooted for them. I also loved how the story focused on Shelly and her friends, April and Brian, trying to search for true love in school. He made me root for all the characters to have a happy ending. My favorite aspect was the friendship dynamic. There were positive female friendships instead of girls being catty with one another. A refreshing change.

My favorite scenes: 1) in the classroom, Robert asked Michelle out on a date 2) in present day, Michelle hung out with her old friends at the class reunion; they were funny together 3) when Michelle realized Brian had a crush on Shelly. The reveal was cute 4) when Michelle met her dad and fainted 5) when Michelle and Shelly first met in the school office

I wish I could discuss the ending because that was my favorite part too. I’ll just say that Michelle was my favorite character, and I thought she was really brave. The last few chapters made me cry, which I happened to be sitting at a table in a busy coffee shop.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: The Mine By John A. Heldt

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 altar 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 loved this 70 chapter book. Joel, Ginny, Grace, and Tom were my favorite characters. Their friendship dynamic was cool, and the sense of humor in the book made me laugh. I’m a huge fan of the “what if” scenario, so I thought of how I’d get along if I was transported back into the 1940’s. Joel was from 2000, trespassed into an abandoned mine, then entered 1941. Being a charming guy and one to think swiftly on his feet, he managed very well.

My favorite lines: 1) He had an encyclopedic mind, the curiosity of an inventor, and the judgment and discipline of a three-year-old.  2) Sensing an opportunity to clear the air, he pressed ahead with the kind of candor that would make their relationship or break it. 3) Her thirty-six months at the university were less a full educational experience than a frustrating self imposed exile. 4) What sane woman traded love and security for a stranger who would not even come clean about his past?

There were a couple of parts in the story that made me shed a tear. One of their friends, Katie, was a Japanese character. I kept thinking how drastically her life would change once World War II started. Plus, it was sad how the young men in the story wanted to get married and start a career after college graduation, but they were drafted into war. Most scared. Had no choice in the matter. I especially felt bad for Tom.

The author had a brilliant talent with setting. He was so descriptive that I could picture the story vividly in my head–like a movie. I thought of The Notebook while reading this because the way Grace and Joel’s relationship blossomed was so sweet and romantic. I appreciated that even though the characters accepted and liked Joel, they still were suspicious that he never mentioned his past. That at times they caught him in a lie. I also liked how history facts were revealed throughout the narration when Joel would know what would happen in the future but the other people didn’t have a clue. I loved that he felt the need to keep his identity a secret; it made for great inner-conflict scenes.

My favorite scenes: 1) whenever Joel would visit Grace in the library 2) Joel and Grace’s picnic date at the park 3) when Joel realizes that Ginny is his grandmother 4) when everyone says goodbye to Tom before he heads off to train for the war 5) the twist at the end (can’t give it away)

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

An Interview with John A. Heldt, Author of The Journey

I’d like to welcome John A. Heldt as my special guest today. He’s the author of The Journey. Please enjoy his insightful interview…

1.  Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

Yes. Don’t give up. Don’t put off your project. And don’t let your inner critic overrule your inner artist. Write the book you want to write.

2.  What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?

I don’t mind promoting my works, even though the job is very time-consuming. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot about writing, literature, the publishing business, and myself.

3.  What genre do you write for?

That’s a question I’m still trying to answer. I wrote The Mine with the romance reader in mind. The Journey, my latest work, is a coming-of-age story. Both are time-travel stories set in the Pacific Northwest in the 20th century. Each offers romance, humor, and intrigue, though in different amounts. For the most part, I didn’t give a lot of thought to genre when I wrote the two books. I wanted to produce works that would appeal to people of all ages and all reading tastes. Both novels are ones I believe most readers would enjoy.

4.  What are your current/next projects?

My current project, The Journey, went on sale November 3. My next book, The Show, is the third title in the Northwest Passage time-travel series and the much-anticipated sequel to The Mine. I expect to publish it by next summer. Told primarily from the perspective of Grace Vandenberg, the heroine of The Mine, The Show will address many unanswered questions from the first book.

5.  Do you prefer to work alone or with critique partners/beta-readers?

Both. I usually work alone when producing a first draft. But I depend on beta readers when preparing rough drafts for publication. I have found my beta readers to be indispensible.

6.  How do you find time to write?

I make time, usually in the evenings. Writing is a very time-consuming task.

7.  Is there any writing ritual you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

Yes. I listen to music from the relevant time period. When I wrote The Mine, I immersed myself in music of 1941 and the Big Band Era: Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and others. When I drafted and wrote The Journey, I reacquainted myself with music I had listened to in high school in 1979 and 1980: the Knack, the Cars, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, even disco. When I write The Show, I plan to familiarize myself with ragtime as much of the book is set in 1918 and 1919.

8.  Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

I always write the beginning first. I outline the book, write chapter summaries, and then write the chapters themselves. The process is very methodical. I don’t think I could write a novel any other way.

9.  While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of your characters?

Yes. When writing something as complex as a novel, you have to identify with your characters. You have to get inside their heads. I still think of Joel and Grace, the primary characters from The Mine. They seem real to me and probably always will.

10.  How did you come up with the title?

I honestly can’t remember. I just know that The Journey was my choice from the start. It is also very appropriate. Both of my primary characters, Michelle Richardson and Shelly Preston embark on life-changing journeys during the school year of 1979-80.

11.  What inspired you to write your latest book? What is the book about?

I was inspired by everything from books and movies to my own educational experiences. The Journey is a novel that I believe will appeal to those of us who came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is the story of Michelle Preston Richardson. Childless, unfulfilled, and directionless after the death of her entrepreneur husband in 2010, the 48-year-old Seattle widow decides to reconnect with her happier past by attending a 30th class reunion in her rural hometown. 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. Shocked, depressed, and nearly penniless, Michelle slowly builds a new life. She lands a secretarial job at Unionville High, makes new friends, and falls in love. She also guides her younger self, Shelly Preston, and her childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Unlike Joel Smith, the time-traveler in The Mine, Michelle does not shy away from changing the fate of others. She charges forward. But she quickly learns that even good deeds can have complicated and potentially deadly consequences. The Journey is a book about two remarkable women: a regretful widow making the most of her second shot at life and a high-school senior making big decisions as she enters adulthood. What makes this story compelling, in my opinion, is that the two women are the same person.

12.  Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby