Book Review: The Lie Tree, A Spellbinding Read

You know those books that you can’t stop reading? You get so immersed in them that you read them for hours at a time, like you were watching a movie, and when you’re done, you feel…a little empty. Not only do I enjoy those kinds of books, but I take copious notes as to exactly how they achieve it. It’s one thing to feel it, it’s another to understand why.  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was one such book for me, but honestly, I’m still not sure if I fully understand why it moved me so much. Let me tell you about it, and see what you think.

What Is The Lie Tree About?

Here’s the description from the back cover:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered–a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing–like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies–like fires, wild and crackling–quickly take on a life of their own.

Faith, in her pursuit of an outlet for her cleverness and answers to the questions posed by her father’s murder, nurtures the tree and ingests the fruit, but the things she discovers aren’t the things she thought she would.

What Makes It Great?

So picture a brambly English moor, like the one in Wuthering Heights, and a turbulent coast that hides lots of caves, like the kind in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (another great book I need to review here), or Willowkeep by Julie Daines. It’s moody and creepily magic. So a mystical setting is one thing that sets this books apart, but it’s not all.

And the prose is strong, as in this paragraph:

She was very aware of herself, of her own lungs filling and emptying. She could feel where the china saucer dented her fingers, and the shapes of her teeth against her dry tongue. Something warm was spilling from her eyes down her cheeks. Suddenly she was hotly, unbearably alive.

The whole book is like that, a great example to me as a writer of “showing” and not “telling.” But it’s more than the setting and the prose.

Its underlying theme of seeking respect, particularly women seeking respect from men who aren’t willing to give it, is one that was artfully woven into the plot and is relevant today. It’s Faith unwittingly seeking an answer, through the process of trying to solve her father’s murder, to the question of whether one should seek to demand respect from those who withhold it, or not worry about what anyone else thinks, even if that limits your circumstances. I think that’s a question all of us have sought the answer to at one time or another. So, it’s the setting and the prose and the theme.

But that’s still not sufficient. What makes The Lie Tree extraordinary is something that I’m not sure can be adequately articulated by anyone, and that is how it makes one feel. The reader wants Faith to get the notice she desires from her father before he dies, to have people recognize her intellect and help her nurture it, and to solve the mystery surrounding her father’s death. She’s a good, well-drawn robust character.

So, Who Would Like The Lie Tree, And Why?

There’s no romance, so if you like romance in your books, don’t read this. If you like mysteries like Shatter, you’ll like this. If you liked any book in the Harry Potter series, you’ll like The Lie Tree. It’s also a little like Colorless by Rita Stradling. It’s just a really good book!

 

Book Review: Anubis Gates

If you like complicated time-travel fantasy books, then I have a book recommendation for you: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Its premise is that time travel is possible if one knows where certain “gaps” in the flow of time are. It was a difficult read for me, but those that enjoy adult sci-fi of the time travel variety might enjoy this.

What Is Anubis Gates About?

From GoodReads:

Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives, and learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.

Why Would a Reader Like or Dislike This Book?

While I think this premise had great potential, I didn’t think this book fulfilled it in the way I would like to have seen. Once Doyle gets stuck back in 1800’s England, the plot becomes really convoluted. He goes from one life-threatening situation to another, and then even from one body to another, with little or no time spent by the author on emotional development or plot building.

Most really good books, even adult sci-fi ones, are those that have main characters that grow, that start out as something, go through a bunch of challenges, and end up as wiser, more mature versions of themselves. Doyle starts out as a likable character, and does indeed go through a bunch of challenges, but ends up living out Ashbless’s life, which the reader doesn’t care about, by virtue of the fact that the story’s supposed to be about Doyle.

So, if you like hard sci-fi, time travel books, books containing werewolves, you might like this book. If you don’t, don’t read it.

Book Review: Quiet As A Church Mouse, an Imaginative Picture Book

Looking at a children’s book from the perspective of my children is always a tricky thing because their reading tastes continually change as they get older. What appealed to my oldest, who is now a teenager, when he was quite young, is not the same thing that has ever appealed to my youngest, who is now nine. Yet, I believe I’ve read enough of them (hundreds) by now, with them, that I can say that not all picture books are created equal. For one to be good, it needs to provoke the imagination, both with text and illustrations, engage as many senses as possible, and basically, just be fun. If it provokes thought, that’s a bonus. I Can Be Quiet As A Church Mouse, written by Stephen Bevan and illustrated by Jeff Harvey, is a picture book that does pretty good on both counts.

What Is Quiet As A Church Mouse About?

“I used to have trouble sitting reverently,” reads the first page of the book, “so my mom said I should be as quiet as a church mouse.” The rest of the twenty-seven pages of this book strive to answer the question in terms of what young Stephen Bevan imagined a church mouse to be. “Is it a spy?” he asks on one page. “Is it sneaky?” he asks on another. Each illustration depicts a mouse in the various scenarios he imagines, and they really are cute illustrations that are just detailed enough to draw in a 3 – 6 year-old child without overwhelming him or her. The question itself is a good one to provoke imagination in a child, since no one actually seems to know what a church mouse really is.

If there were one thing that might confuse a child, it is that the author refers to himself as “I” at the beginning. The fact that it’s the author speaking, as opposed to the main character of the book, a red-headed little boy, isn’t clear. As an adult, and someone who’s conversed with the author via email, I understand that, but a child might not.

Who Would Like Quiet As A Church Mouse?

Anyone, no matter the Christian denomination, who has kids who are toddler age on up to about 6 or 7.

Do You Want to Win a Copy of Quiet As A Church Mouse?

I’ve got an extra copy I’ll give away to a random entrant who uses the Rafflecopter form below and completes the steps:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, if you’d like a “behind-the-scenes” look at the book and Stephen’s writerly process, subscribe to my newsletter!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, Cedar Fort, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Memory of Fire, a Rich Read

I found myself jumping back and forth between four books this past week: Memory of Fire by Callie Bates (speculative), Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (YA sci-fi/apocalyptic), Torment by Lauren Kate (paranormal?) , and Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis (sci-fi/paranormal?).  Let me tell you about Memory.

What Memory of Fire is About And Who Would Like It

Memory is the sequel to The Waking Land, which I reviewed here. Like that book, it is a rousing story of magic versus evil, told in vivid first-person. It is rich in storylines, thick in ambience, and strong in style. It’s the story of Jahan Korakides, who is called to broker peace with the nation of Paladis after he helps his girlfriend, Elanna Valtai, win peace over the despotic ruler of the smaller kingdoms of Eren and Caeris. Elanna and Jahan are both sorcerers, though Elanna’s magic is a much more powerful, land-based power.

As Jahan seeks that peace with the monarchs of Paladis, the story also becomes very much one of him striving to overcome the damage and trauma done to him when he was young by a woman hired by his father to grow his magical powers, and find his brothers, who were also hurt by her. The monarchs of Paladis want to eliminate sorcery altogether, and don’t know that Jahan is a sorcerer and tied so closely to Elanna. The citizens of Paladis want Jahan to lead a rebellion that would have sorcerers holding just as much political power, if not more, than non-sorcerers. He just wants to heal, find his brothers, and get to safety, but quickly finds his way blocked and a different course laid out for him.

If I were to depict it in a video, as I’m wont to do, it would be this one:

 

..only perhaps sped up a little bit and with multi-colored threads as opposed to only white ones. The finished product is intricately-woven, moves at breakneck speed, and satisfies not only those readers looking for fantasy, but also those looking for high political intrigue, romance, and deft world-building.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

There are a few swear words and one or two allusions to sex. There are many references to the importance of family ties, no matter how difficult they can be to maintain. There is mention of a gay relationship, handled in a very gentle way. A good amount of violence.

Anything Wrong?

If I gave Memory of Fire anything less than a full 10 stars on my 10-star scale, I’d have to dock all books with the trope of a power-hungry antagonist (or two), and there are too many of those to count. I’ve read so many books lately where the antagonist is a flat character only motivated purely by a lust for power. What does it say about me that I want a little more dimension in the antagonists I read about?

 

Disclosure: I received a free ARC of Memory of Fire from NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review of the book.

The Thorn Necklace: A Book and a Writing Journey

“Frida Kahlo had polio as a child,” said Francesca Lia Block in her book The Thorn Necklace, referring to the painter, “survived a horrific accident at eighteen that shattered her body and pierced her pelvis with an iron hand rail, and suffered through a number of resulting miscarriages. To add insult to injury, her husband…had an affair with her younger sister. But Frida produced hundreds of works of art…that elevate unbearable grief to shocking beauty. Some artists survive their pain, some do not. But all channel it into art.”

It is that channeling that Block refers to as the thorn necklace for which she names her book. Kahlo herself said: “my painting carries with it the message of pain,” and that pain is definitely evident in her painting Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, which you can see here. To be an artist, to a certain extent, is to take the pain that life gives you and channel it into something beautiful, to show that something good can come from something bad.  I believe it’s also to don a painful mantle as well. In the painting, Kahlo wears a necklace made of thorns. It pricks her skin and makes her bleed. To produce true beauty–no matter the artistic form–one has to undergo a certain amount of “pain” at worst, or challenge at least. To create whole worlds from nothing, in the case of science fiction and fantasy literature, and structure them into cohesive and compelling plots populated with characters that feel real is no small task.

Block’s book is a memoir of sorts, describing the challenging life path she’s traversed and couching that in her thoughts on writing. “A way to help a reader to identify with a protagonist,” she says, “(and thereby gain more life-enhancing insight from the story) is to the show that character’s…flaws. Flaws…get a character into trouble, which satisfies the reader’s need for story.” She provides this before describing the flaws of some well-known book characters as well as some of her own flaws and those of her parents. That reminiscing passage, as well as many others woven throughout the book, is somewhat rambling. She calls it “excess exposition in memoir” which “comes from being engulfed in a tidal wave of vague memories that haven’t solidified into scenes yet, and, in turn, [results in] a passive character…who feels and thinks but doesn’t do much.” She sums up her book quite succinctly.

But  there are undeniable nuggets of wisdom interspersed among the rambling, excessive parts, nuggets that could be very useful for a writer, such as:

  • When you claim your creativity, when you say, “I am a writer,” it becomes a vital part of your identity. You’re not only braver on the page, you’re also braver in the rest of your life because you’re a change agent, a builder of new worlds.
  • When we write from our deepest longings, our stories have broader appeal.
  • In order to get in touch with your obsessions [and thus flavor your character’s], try making a list of anything that fascinates you. Be as specific and detailed as possible.
  • One of the biggest mistakes writers make is not having a clear story problem from the beginning (or sometimes at all).
  • [The antagonist] must be complex and dimensional, not a mustache-twirling caricature.
  • Setting should reflect character.
  • [Voice]…is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many people and can take years of hard work to hone. But don’t give up! Once you have your voice, the rest is much easier. To develop your voice, read widely, write consistently, and live fully. A strong writing voice can connect us to others, and more deeply to ourselves.

Some of these nuggets I’ve heard before in other writing books and at writing conferences, so they weren’t necessarily unique, but the way they were phrased helped me see better how I could apply them in my writing life.

So, The Thorn Necklace, while rambling and repetitive, was also helpful and encouraging. I would recommend it to my writer friends.

 

Where I’ve Been: Futurescapes

Oh, it’s been a busy week! You guys, it was awesome! I just got back from Futurescapes, which is an awesome, intense workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. Hosted at the Sundance Ski Resort in Utah’s Provo Canyon, it was three days of meeting in small groups with agents, publishing house editors, and published authors to get their critiques (and those of other group members) of a couple of my manuscripts. Since attendance at the conference was capped at about 60 to allow for close attention by the agents, editors, and authors, I had to submit a writing sample. And, once accepted, I had to pay a relatively large sum to go, but it was so worth it.

I was assigned to three separate groups of about eight people each, each group led by a different literary agent. My first group (go Group A!) was led by Seth Fishman, an agent with the Gernert Company. The members of that group reviewed the first ten pages of my book Stranger in My Own Head. While I had already had those pages (and more) critiqued and beta-read, and I’ve queried (i.e., sent a cover letter about and the first few pages of one of my books) and revised that book several times, I still haven’t received an offer of representation for it, and the feedback the group, and especially Seth, provided was invaluable. Until I send that manuscript out for critique and no one finds anything wrong with it, I’ll keep working on it until it gets published.

Seth’s the one in the gray sweater in the back.

 

Seth being crazy.

My group B, led by Thao Le, an agent with Sandra Dijkstra, reviewed my query letter for Stranger, and my group C, led by Martha Millard with Sterling Lord Literistic, critiqued my Stranger synopsis. All of those agents specialize in science fiction or fantasy, and a couple of them specifically requested that I query  them, which is very exciting. The food was great, although the food served at the reception Tuesday night was…interesting (see below).

On Tuesday afternoon, I had to go down into the valley to get a signal to call and see how everything was going at home, so I went to the Orem Public Library, where I happened to find a few very well-priced books in their used books section. I’d also gotten a couple of books in the mail that day too. Look at this book haul!

 

The setting was beautiful, and the help and the camraderie were amazing. I have a long list of things to do to improve Stranger, and I’m excited to do that. Not only that, but my Highland critique group is looking at one of my other manuscripts, so I’ll need to make those revisions soon too. And I’m in charge of a Utah Valley Writers meeting tonight at which Shadow Mountain Publishing editor Lisa Mangum is going to speak. And I’ve been asked to join another critique group. Ah, the life of a writer. Now, wouldn’t it be awesome if I were making money doing all of this?

 

Book Review: Fallen is a Mesmerizing Read

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my husband flick through Amazon Video options when he came across a movie called Fallen.  Its premise—that a teenage girl has to go to reform school because she was blamed for (and is sure she accidentally caused) the death of a young boy,  and she finds herself drawn to a fellow student at that school, unaware that he is an angel who has loved her for thousands of years—sounded intriguing to me. Since my hubby deemed it too “chick flick” to watch, I looked it up and found that it was based on a book of the same name. So, of course, I bought the book. It was indeed a “chick” book, centered as it was upon the relationship between Luce, the girl, and Daniel, the boy, and for that reason, as well as reasons of its own, it was a very enjoyable read.

What Fallen Is About

As mentioned, it’s about Luce (pronounced like “loose”) meeting Daniel and trying to figure out why he steadfastly avoids her and is even occasionally mean to her, though she keeps finding herself in weirdly dangerous circumstances from which he has to save her. It’s about the friends she makes while there, the terror she lives with every day because of her fear that whatever she saw kill that other young boy will come back, and the fact that memories of Daniel–many memories–keep surfacing in Luce’s head.

Why Fallen Is Enjoyable…Maybe Even Addictive

After reading the book, I had to get the movie, which was only available for purchase through Amazon Video (it’s not on Netflix or Redbox). I was struck, while watching it, with how much it resembled the first Twilight movie. They shared similar themes: a teenage girl inexplicably but powerfully drawn to a very handsome teenage boy, but he does everything he can to avoid her, even though he’s drawn even more powerfully to her. The Fallen movie and the first Twilight movie also shared a similar “indie” feel, drawn from rainy surroundings, non-mainstream music, and creative-and-definitely-not-high-budget special effects. There’s also a definite love triangle going on.

The books are thus easily comparable, and in that vein, there’s much less internal dialogue in Fallen than there was in Twilight. Luce is an intriguing main character who has a refreshingly good relationship with her parents, though they don’t feature prominently in this book. She’s kind, cute, and smart.

And while Fallen doesn’t end with a cliffhanger per se, it does end with at least as many open questions as answered ones. I immediately ordered the sequel to it, and the sequel to that, and expect that I’ll get the last two books in the pentalogy after that.

Who Might Like Fallen

Obviously, anyone who liked Twilight will like this book. If you like star-crossed love stories, you will love this story. If you like books with a bit of a gothic feel, you’ll like this.

Book Review: Genesis is an Extremely Intense Read

I think I set a record even for myself recently: I read a 500-page book in two days. On Monday of this week, we drove from Salt Lake City, Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona, a 7.5-hour drive, and on Tuesday, we drove from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, another two. I read almost the entire time. It’s not every book that could’ve commanded that much of my attention. What’s the book, you ask? Genesis by Brendan Reichs. I picked it up at Costco, having read its prequel Nemesis. I liked the first book, except for the massive cliffhanger at its end. It was so massive that I almost didn’t buy it, but I did, so I guess I fell for that. I’m glad I did, though. Genesis was one of the most taut, intense, dark books I’ve ever read.

What Genesis Is About

It’s dark because of the premise, which is that, in the face of a cataclysmic event that has killed all life on Earth, 64-members of a small-town high school’s sophomore class have been preserved as digital versions of themselves inside a super computer. Every detail of their lives within the little valley of Fire Lake, Idaho has been preserved, but they’ve been told that the super computer doesn’t have the capacity to preserve all of them digitally forever. Thus, they need to fight things out until they get down to the right amount of kids. There are no rules, because if one of them dies or gets killed, they just “reset,” kind of like in a video game. There are no parents, no other people, and a limited supply of food and other resources. Some students hide, most fight, and those that fight discover that each kill they make imbues them with more strength. So, picture Hunger Games combined with…The Andy Griffith Show? Min, one of the two main characters, doesn’t want to kill anyone, and she hates Noah, the other main character, because she’d started to fall in love with him at the end of the first book, and then he shot her in the back. She tries to hide at first, but is drawn out by some of her classmates because she’s a “beta.” Noah’s determined to figure out the program they’re inside of, and feels like it’s finally given him a purpose, a chance to lead that he’d never had in real life.

If I had known how violent this book would’ve been before I bought it, I wouldn’t have bought it. It’s very violent. As it was, I shouldn’t have read it all the way through. But I did, and I didn’t get nightmares, which I’m prone to.

So the thing that drives the plot forward at breakneck speed is the discoveries Min makes about why they need to limit their numbers, and the continual formation and dissolution of various alliances the kids make to protect themselves against those students who become bloodthirsty tyrants, all against the backdrop of “hey, why is Greg Kozowitz, who I used to sit with at lunch, shooting Floyd Hornberry?” or “why is skinny Jacob Allred, the school chess club champion, hoarding all the barbed wire?” It’s kind of crazy, and at some points, all-out insane, especially toward the end, when discoveries–really big ones–pile up on every page. It’s so insane that I very much wish that Reichs would’ve provided a map of Fire Lake, and a roster of the kids,  similar to the one provided of the enemies in GeminaIn fact, I think that Reichs could’ve easily made this into a YA graphic novel like the ground-breaking Gemina and its prequel Illuminae by providing those things, as well as things like code from the binders they discover, Tack’s map, maybe a short summary or timeline of what happened in Nemesis, etc.

So it’s dark, and has a plot that moves at break-neck speed, but more than that, it also has a certain intensity that comes from its characters and style. Reich has a gift for showing things so vividly they’re almost blinding, in a way that simultaneously develops characters. Noah and Min, for example, are very different characters, so they notice vastly different things, and describe them very differently. It’s wonderful to read a book that doesn’t sacrifice beauty for the sake of action.

And, best of all, it didn’t end with a cliffhanger. It ended with a very big question, but resolved this story’s question—that of whether the kids could maintain their humanity so that they’d be worth saving—very nicely.

Who Would Like Genesis?

If you liked any of these books, or like anything post-apocalyptic, I can almost guarantee you’ll love this one:

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Nutrition facts label? A fair amount of swearing. No sex or nudity. Lots of violence, as mentioned.

 

If all books came with nutrition facts labels showing the essential “ingredients,” what would you like to see listed?

Book Review: Nothing Human, a Fascinating Read

As I wrap up this week, which has been full of:

  • volunteer hours at my kids’ schools,
  • preparations for Easter and Spring Break,
  • writers’ club meetings,
  • church meetings,
  • family get-togethers, interspersed with
  • gaming (I’m loving Horizon Zero Dawn, by the way),
  • geocaching, and
  • reading, of course…

I can’t help but be thankful for a good life. Some things feel scary, and I have thoughts that I’d really like to get into a blog post to see if I can get some real, constructive conversations going about issues that concern all of us. In the meantime, though, I’ve got a review of Nothing Human by Nancy Kress. Nancy is an American female science fiction writer, which is partially why I bought and read this book, but I was also intrigued by the premise of Nothing Human, which is:

What Nothing Human Is About

…that, in a setting where Earth has been ravaged by global warming, aliens contact and genetically modify a group of 14-year-old kids, inviting them to visit their spacecraft. After several months of living among the aliens and studying genetics, the students discover that the aliens have been manipulating them and rebel. Upon their return to Earth, the girls in the group discover that they are pregnant and can only wonder what form their unborn children will take. Generations later, the offspring of these children seek to use their alien knowledge to change their genetic code, to allow them to live and prosper in an environment that is quickly becoming uninhabitable from the dual scourges of global warming and biowarfare. But after all the generations of change, will the genetically-modified creatures resemble their ancestors, or will nothing human remain?

It’s a fascinating apocalyptic premise borne out by an interesting storytelling structure. It’s very intriguing to consider how we as a species could evolve to survive a slow apocalypse, especially if “guided” by an alien “human” species. It was a very thought-provoking read.

But…

I wouldn’t give Nothing Human a full 10 stars for a few reasons:

  • It didn’t play out as tautly as After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, a book also by Nancy with a similar premise. That book is more YA and more intense.
  • Nothing Human is told in three parts and from various perspectives. I think the story would’ve been told better just from Lillie’s perspective, as she was the one character that all the parts and perspectives had in common.
  • The ebook copy that I got from Amazon was, for some reason, not a finished copy. There were a lot of typos, to the point that it was detracting.

I’d still give it at least 8 out of 10 stars, though. Sometimes, I like books that really make me think, but that also have interesting and relatable characters in thoroughly unrelatable circumstances.

 

Partial nutrition facts label:

Swear words: 55

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

Book Review: The Time Key, a Charming Read

It’s been more than a week since I posted my last review, which puts me behind schedule! For those of you who eagerly await each new post of mine, and are disappointed by this lag, bless you and I apologize. For those of you who don’t mind a little wait as long as the reviews are good and helpful, bless you too. You guys are all awesome. I’ve been looking for a job (as an editor, of course), beta reading a friend’s manuscript, reading four books, and writing my own, among other things. I could tell you all about Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore, a book that describes the ketogenic diet that I’ll probably be starting in a couple of weeks, but I don’t know if you’d be interested. If you are, let me know. I did finish The Time Key by Melanie Bateman, and thought you’d like to know about it.

What The Time Key is About

It’s about a time machine that looks like a pocket watch, shadows that move on their own, a man who misses his dead wife and daughter so desperately that he wants to kill himself, and a mugging. Stanley, that man, finds that he holds the Time Key because he saved someone from being mugged, a coincidental diversion from his own suicide attempt. He also finds himself the guardian of a five-inch tall “vaelie,” or fairy-like girl. Stanley’s story, told by an unnamed narrator other than himself, takes him from those dramatic circumstances backwards and forwards in time as he seeks to exorcise his own inner demons and save others whom he meets from demonic shadows as well.

What’s Great About The Time Key

The voice. Oh my goodness, the voice. It’s told, as I mentioned, by a narrator who sounds like someone standing backstage relating what’s happening on stage (Stanley’s life) to someone who can’t see. Take this paragraph, for example:

It is possible that the beginnings of stories are best when they reflect the happy events of life, simple moments that Stanley Becker missed. Or they might observe critical events that can alter and change the path of life. Throughout my travels, I have seen many things and met many people, but none of their stories have impacted me as much as Stanley’s. I often find myself returning to this particular night, where I see Stanley’s hunched figure motionless in the cold December night of 1897.

It’s that voice, the slight distance of it from Stanley’s heart, that balances out the dramatic events of his life after he gets the Time Key. If it were told in first-person, from his point of view, as he goes from abject depression to elation and back and forth all over time, I wouldn’t have been able to read to the end. I would’ve been too stressed.

Stanley himself is a good, sweet character too. He’s real and broken, but a very good person at heart who tries to protect as many people as he can.

What Could Have Been Better

The connection between Stanley, the Time Key, and his desire to be rid of the grief he feels for his wife and daughter was very opportune, and really drove the first half of the book. Who wouldn’t want to wind back the hands of time to be with lost loved ones, if one could? Stanley gets that opportunity, and he takes advantage of it, but (spoiler alert) he can’t stay in the past with them forever and he can’t bring them to his present, so he eventually has to let them go. Once he does, the emotional core of the story is gone. From then on, it’s just Stanley trying to evade the shadows who will kill him for the Time Key and a treasure they think it contains, and trying to rescue the man who gave him the Time Key, who he only met twice and didn’t know. The second half of the book seems almost to be a different story, a good one, but a different one, nonetheless.

Who Would Like This Book

If you like books with magic, you’ll like this book. If you like time travel books, you’ll like this one, although I can’t think of any time travel books that I know of that are similar to this. If you’re looking for romance, you won’t find it in The Time Key. There is a little bit of violence. No swearing, no sex. Some valor. A good amount of happiness.