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‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ – Audrey Niffenegger


The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry was thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Firstly, I must apologise that I haven’t blogged for a while! Totally shameful, but life has taken a massive and positive turn and I have found my time to read significantly reduced. Hopefully I can get more time in the future (I certainly hope so!) but followers of Mrs Brown’s books, do not despair, I will read as and when I can and blog as soon as possible. Stay tuned!

So, although this did take me a while to read, I was revisiting a previous love. The one thing that always stood out for me was how Niffenegger makes the non-linear narrative work so effortlessly. Normally I would frown upon reading a book that doesn’t flow in chronological order or, in this case, one that switches between time and narrators in such a short space of text. But, once you get used to this and how it is a defining part of the story, it is difficult not to embrace it and enjoy the lack of predictability.

I love the whole concept of someone who can time travel. One of my favourite films is ‘Back to the Future’ but this is in no way similar. Forget the Delorian and a mad scientist, when Henry experiences intense emotion he finds himself transporting to another place, unfortunately ending up butt naked at his new destination. The near-misses he experiences with the law and the confusion he causes with his work colleagues at the library were particularly intriguing, especially the incident with the Cage…

The relationship between Clare and Henry is endearing. Clare is the backbone to the relationship, the steady  rock that progresses through time whilst Henry’s own memories are being jiggled around. As Clare is growing up, you can’t help but wonder how she and Henry will wind up married, especially as it feels as if she is waiting for the next appearance of Henry. Henry’s protectiveness towards Clare is sweet and as the novel reaches its climax, you know he is doing everything in his power to make sure she is strong right towards the end.

What I really enjoyed was how Clare and Henry shared his unique disorder with those around them, from the doctor to their close friends. I was always sceptical about how soon they seemed convinced Henry was telling the truth but then, with his strange behaviour and inexplicable ageing between encounters, I guess it was the only explanation that could really make sense to them. As I was reading this novel, I did wonder whether it would work if Niffenegger included some sections from those closest to Henry, such as Alba, Gomez or Ingrid. It certinaly would add another dimension to the story but I figure it would mean the novel would lose its charm.

If you have seen the film adaptation of this novel, I would still recommend you reading ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’. It is so different to other books out there and has so many plot elements that it will keep you guessing as much as Henry is with where he will next end up!


What a sad Stravagante!

‘City of Swords’ – Mary Hoffman


City of Swords - Mary Hoffman

City of Swords – Mary Hoffman

Desperately unhappy, Laura has resorted to secretly self-harming. But Laura is a Stravagante, somebody who can travel in time and space. When she finds her talisman, a small silver dagger, she stravagates with it to sixteenth-century Fortezza, a town similar to Lucca in Italy, where she meets her Stravagante, who is a swordsmith. But Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and falls for him. Their love for each other is tested when Ludo lays claim to the crown of Fortezza, and Laura finds herself fighting on the side of the Stravaganti opposing him.

So, Mary Hoffman brings the Stravaganza series to a close with ‘City of Swords’. It was a solid book but I do think that those who could access Talia at the end was just a little too easy for my liking; in my head, to be a Stravagante is something that is exclusive and a role the character had been chosen for, and I think this does get lost in the story.

But, my! What a sad Stravagante we meet in ‘City of Swords’! Laura is very different to the previous Stravagante and the issues Hoffman explore are quite thought-provoking and one that is every parent’s nightmare. The difficulty Laura faces in accepting her new role is unlike her predecessors and she often does not wish to return to Talia. I felt really sorry for Laura and her family after what she goes through and the twist towards the end of the book was really so unexpected, I felt like I had missed something earlier on! This twist really needed more attention and I think it would have been good if this had been introduced and explored earlier on in the novel.

Once more the story has a lengthy list of characters so it is either a good idea to read this book closely after ‘City of Ships’, or keep consulting the character list at the end of the book. I still found the characters and family loyalties a little confusing but liked the drama the extensive character list brought. Indeed, as the novel reaches its climax, it felt like there was tension and action from all of the the characters.

I really enjoyed reading this book and felt that the ending was nearly conclusive. Like so many films, Hoffman does not fully finish the story, leaving it open for further books in the series. I wish that it had been totally finished off because I would have found this far more satisfying, particularly as this has been quite a long series. What let it down for me is that it did seem a little rushed and I was keen to know what had happened to the Stravagante once they had returned to Islington after the final show-down.

True, the plot is a little predictable but this book is in keeping with the rest of the series. I think most of my enjoyment came from the fact that I knew this was the last in the series (I really hope Hoffman doesn’t open it up again) and the personal challenges that Laura has to face are almost reminiscent of Lucien’s in the first book. I would recommend it if you have already come this far in the series, just to see how it plays out, but don’t be surprised if you feel like the ending is a bit of an anti-climax.

A re-energised Stravaganza story

‘City of Ships’ – Mary Hoffman


Image courtesy of goodreads.com

City of Ships – Mary Hoffman

Isabel Evans has just made a very surprising discovery: she is a Stravagante, somebody who, with the help of a talisman, can travel in time and space to the country of Talia in a parallel world. When faced with the extreme danger that Talia presents, the normally shy and quiet Isabel is forced to dig deep and find strength she never knew she had, as she is plunges into a world of pirates, ferocious sea battles and deadly adversaries…

Just when I thought Mary Hoffman had covered all original ideas for the Stravaganza series, ‘City of Ships’ brought a fresh and interesting plot that I really enjoyed. This time set in a coastal town featuring pirates and a pending attack, ‘City of Ships’ felt more of a unique story compared to the rest in the series. I can’t guarantee this review won’t contain any plot spoilers, so if you are reading this without having read the earlier books in the series, then I definitely recommend that you check out my other reviews, for Mary Hoffman.

The town of Classe felt different to the rest of the cities in Talia and this might be because of the pirates and sea-faring espionage. The pace seemed to move a lot quicker and there was always the sense of impending danger to what appears quite a vulnerable province. I enjoyed the battle scenes on the sea because it was so different to the previous duals and sword fights in Talia but, admittedly, I did find it difficult to keep track of which ship was on which side.

Another refreshing part to this story is how the talismans have evolved. The present day Stravagante work more as a team and want to help their newest recruit, Isabel, understand as much as possible about Talia. Indeed, Hoffman throws a few surprises in along the way and whilst I don’t want to ruin it the for other people, I have to stay it made the book just that even more fantastical and enjoyable. I enjoyed the freedom that the Stravagante seem to have and the unpredictability of the journeys means that I just cannot predict how the sixth (and final?) instalment will develop.

I’m relieved that ‘City of Ships’ had more of a unique plot as I always feel that a long series is in danger of becoming repetitive. Instead, this was exciting and unpredictable, both for scenes set in England and Talia. I have enjoyed how this series has developed and certainly felt that this is more of a stronger plot than some of the others. Time travel meets war and tension, this book is a great read.

On the edge of your seat

‘Taken by Surprise’ – Jessica Frances


Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Taken by Surprise – Jessica Frances

Five strangers scattered across America have three things in common with each other. 

One: They each have special abilities that shouldn’t be possible. 

Two: They’ve all just had people try to kill them. 

Three: They’ve all just been kidnapped and taken away from their home, families and friends. 

Their lives will never be the same as they’re taken to a government facility and told that their abilities mean that they must train to become soldiers and fight. But are they being told the truth? Or is something more sinister going on? They must learn to trust each other and decide if they should stay on this path or run away from it. Either way there is no going back.

This is the first book that I have read by Jessica Frances and I am really glad I have had the opportunity to review this. Taken by Surprise reminded me of an action series you would find on television and I couldn’t put this one down.

The plot contains a range of elements that work together very well. When readers are first bring introduced to the different characters, the story is being narrated from their point of view. The character we first meet is  Zoe and when I felt that Frances spent more time on her story, the reason why became evident later on as she continues the narrative. On the back I this, I did find myself wishing that the author had given readers more of a snapshot into the final character’s story as this bit did seem a little rushed.

As mentioned before, this books has a range of genres successfully brought together into one thrilling package. Thrilling this definitely is, as you don’t know why each of these characters are being kidnapped until much later on in the story. This is also a science-fiction story with prospects of time travel and changing the course of history. There is also a lot of romance between two characters which, at times, I found a little stifling. Whilst the feelings did make sense, it kind of moved too fast to be believable. Coupled with the fact that Zoe does come across as a weak lead character who always seemed to be crying, I found her just a little too irritating and wanted her to “man up” and get on with things.

Jessica Frances brings on plenty of unexpected twists in the plot and the story ends on a neat cliffhanger. It keeps you guessing as to what the next story will bring and I am really lucky to already have this in my hands, ready to be picked up and read! Whilst some may consider this as teenage fiction, I think this is one that older readers will enjoy. It is an easy and exciting read that keeps you guessing throughout.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Stravagante adventures continue

‘City of Secrets’ – Mary Hoffman


Image courtesy of goodreads.com

City of Secrets – Mary Hoffman

When Matt turns seventeen, he is shocked by how drawn he is to an old leather-bound book — especially since he is dyslexic and has never liked to read. But the book turns out to be far more powerful than Matt could have imagined. It is his talisman, an object that allows him to stravagate through time and place to a country called Talia. There, Matt arrives at Padavia University, where he meets other Stravaganti — including Luciano, who is in great danger after killing the head of the powerful di Chimici family in a duel. Together, Matt, Luciano and Arianna, a Duchessa in disguise as a boy, must fight the di Chimici family before they make a terrifying breakthrough into our modern world…

Mary Hoffman returns with the next book in the Stravagante series and if you liked her previous books, then you will not be disappointed. Set in Padavia, we are introduced to a new Talian location but, unlike the previous books, there is less of a focus on there geography and more on people, action and politics.

In ‘City of Secrets’ we follow Matt,the new Stravagante. He, like his predecessors, faces some modern, personal challenges to overcome and it is these that lead him to securing his talisman. The same characters return once again and they reunite to help Matt when he is in danger. Surprisingly, however, the Stravagante secret circle broadens a fair bit, with Matt’s girlfriend and Lucien’s parents finding out about the Brotherhood. I was quite surprised that Hoffman chose to do this, particularly with the offer that Matt’s girlfriend could “visit” Talia and felt that this lessened the magic of stravagation. Indeed, Lucien even returns to Islington a couple of times and I thought this did kind of go against the warnings he received early on in the series.

That being said I really enjoyed the politics and treachery of ‘City of Secrets’ and could not predict how the plot would develop. The ending is a bit of a surprise and, if I am completely honest, a bit of an anti-climax to what had happened previously, but I enjoyed the happy ending that prevailed. This time Hoffman finishes with an Epilogue and tied up all the plot strands very neatly.

I am really keen to see how the next story in the series progresses. It is clear that the political tensions from the di Chimici family are becoming more threatening for the Stravagante and I look forward to seeing them triumph over such a dangerous power. Definitely read this if you enjoyed the other books in the series because Hoffman keeps it fresh and enjoyable to read.

The last in a trilogy that is not

‘City of Flowers’ – Mary Hoffman

Image courtesy of fantasticfiction.co.uk

City of Flowers – Mary Hoffman

Sky doesn’t know it yet, but he is Stravagante: somebody who, with the help of a talisman, can travel in time and space to the parallel world of Talia. With his own talisman, Sky is transported to the Talian equivalent of Florence, Italy. He must beware though, for much in the City of Flowers that appears beautiful and ordered is in fact deadly. He is propelled directly into the midst of feuding battles between the rival di Chimici and Nucci families, who think nothing of sliding a knife between a man’s ribs for revenge. And as tempers are inflamed by the extravagantly orchestrated plans for a magnificent di Chimici wedding, Sky and his fellow Stravaganti need to do their utmost to avoid further bloodshed, safeguarding both the prosperity of the city and the personal safety of those they love. 

Since reading this book I have discovered that there are more than three books in the series. And I guess that there is scope for the story to continue beyond this third conclusion. This book continues almost straight away from the previous and the quick pace continues throughout.

I enjoyed reading this book but once again found the large number of characters confusing. This book introduces another new Stravagante and it is clear by this point that they are, in some ways, a social outcast in the present world. Again, this is set in a different part of Talia, but the plot still links back to the characters from the previous stories.

It was difficult to predict how the story would conclude because there were so many different aspects of the plot that needed to be tied up. I found this made the story all the more enjoyable and how it did eventually finish was completely unexpected. Knowing that there are more books in this series makes me curious to find out what happens to the characters and I look forward to getting my hands on them.

If, like me, you were slightly disappointed in ‘City of Stars’, this will restore your faith in the Stravaganza series. It is fast paced and with all the familiar characters from the previous novels, I found myself desperate to know how this adventure would conclude. It is great to know that the story has not finished and there are more adventures to follow in Talia.

For my review of the first novel in this trilogy, ‘City of Masks’, click here:  https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/masked-delights/

For my review of the second novel in this trilogy, ‘City of Stars’, click here: https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/the-second-novel-in-the-trilogy-that-moves-in-a-slower-gear-than-the-first/

The second novel in the trilogy that moves in a slower gear than the first

‘City of Stars’ – Mary Hoffman

Image courtesy of goodtoread.org

City of Stars – Mary Hoffman

Georgia would love nothing more than to ride horses every day and avoid her annoying stepbrother at all costs. But she could never have guessed that a tiny, antique winged horse figurine would be the key to her escape to another world and another time. When Georgia arrives in a sixteenth-century city called Remora, she is plunged into a dangerous and treacherous world of horse-racing, family honour and deadly rivalry. And there, as a new Stravagante, Georgia will have a dramatic and extraordinary role to play…

Continuing the series, ‘City of Stars’ did not grip me as much as the first instalment to this trilogy. Whether this was because the action has moved away from Bellezza or because it had the theme of a horse racing running through it, this novel took me longer than I expected and I found at times that I was a little bored.

Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman uses the same formula as the previous story and whilst the story is set in another Italian town, we are still reunited with Lucien from ‘City of Masks’. We are introduced to a new Stravagante, Georgia, and the author makes some clever links with her and Lucien in the present day. Unlike the first book in the series, it feels like there is a bit more of a focus on Georgia’s present day life, and this intensifies as the plot develops.

Whilst I found the book less gripping than the first, the pace certainly picks up half way through and the tension and excitement builds. The number of characters does become a little confusing and at times you do need to pause and consult the family tree! I think it was this that did take away a bit of the enjoyment because you are having to work a bit more at the story, rather than just let it take you along.

Although I found this book a little disappointing, it is still worth a read if you enjoyed the first book in the series. I liked the continuation with characters and once again, Hoffman’s descriptions do her credit with bringing this alternate, historic place in Italy to life.

For my review of the first novel in this trilogy, ‘City of Masks’, click here:  https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/masked-delights/