The Time Key

The Time KeyThe Time Key by Melanie Bateman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here it is! My first blog tour post.  It was a fun to be involved and to be able to get to know the author Melanie Bateman a little better.  Be sure to check out my short interview with her here.

Buy The Time Key from Amazon or from Barnes and Noble

Summary

A chance encounter with a stranger leaves Stanley Becker with a device that allows him to travel through time. The opportunity to change his devastating past is too good to turn down.  However, in his quest he finds that there are powers in the world that he previously never knew or believed existed. His mission to make right the past becomes one of rescuing those he loves in the present through saving the future.

My Review 

I really wanted to like this book. And I really did like aspects of it. But overall it wasn’t as fulfilling of a read as I had hoped. It does have an interesting plot and the writer’s voice is refreshing and intelligent. The first chapter was fabulous! I was hooked by the mysterious narrator and the strange events that prevented Stanley Becker from taking his own life. My desire to learn the secrets that were introduced in the first few chapters kept me interested enough to read to the end.

The difficulties for me came in with the flow of the events and with the many and varied characters and fantasy elements involved in the storytelling. This is a time travel book so I was expecting the events would not follow a linear timeline, but the transitions between times and timelines was sometimes hard to follow. I also found the passage of time to be underdeveloped. Stanley is supposedly developing relationships in his “present” with other characters, but there wasn’t enough description of the time spent in those relationships for me to get attached or to really believe that the characters themselves were growing much closer. It was difficult for me to understand and believe the character’s motivations at times because the relationships between them seemed rushed and a little shallow.

I did enjoy Stanley Becker’s character development in the first half from an “intellectual” perspective. As he travels to the past to attempt to make a right a tragedy I found his decisions and reactions interesting. I am fascinated by psychology, how people react to the events in their lives and why they react that way. Stanley makes for an interesting psychological study; I just didn’t have much sentimental attachment to him. Several of the characters were still entertaining and I enjoyed their “voices” even if I didn’t fall in love with them.

What really prevented me from being fully wrapped up in the story was the lack of setup for the rules of the book’s world. I was expecting the time travel/science fiction element in the book, but I was caught a little off guard when a broad spectrum of mythical and mythological elements were introduced as well. Readers learn about “shadows creatures” in the first chapter and I while I hadn’t been expecting them, I was interested to see how they would fit in with the time traveling. However, as the story continued there were more and more creatures of fantasy and mythology, and fantastical powers to go along with them. Add to that the setting in late 1800’s London and a troop of gypsies having a major role in story, and it was all just a little too random and inconsistent for me. I couldn’t really settle in to the feel of the book with so much going on from so many different genre angles.

I kept reading though, curious to see if the connections between all of these various elements could be explained, but the explanations and connections just never fully formed for me. Each element was presented quickly and suddenly without much description of how and why the element exists, how it relates to all of the other mythical people and things, and by what rules it and its powers are bound.

While science fiction and fantasy, by definition, will include elements that are fictional, fantastic, and outside the realm of reality, the elements have to be presented in such a way that readers would find them possible and reasonable within the world created in the book. As a reader I need to be given reasonable explanation and description of the world and the rules that govern it so that I can suspend my disbelief in the magical and mystical for a little while and get wrapped up in fantasy. I never could get wrapped up because there was not enough information provided for me to see how all of these varied elements could and did coexist. I felt little suspense particularly through the second half of the book because there were very few rules explained for how all of these great powers functioned. It felt more like I was just sitting back and watching random worlds collide, and the events that followed were aimless. With no rules and connections to help guide my expectations or predictions for the characters or events, it was difficult to care about the outcome.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad read; I just wasn’t invested in it. I think it’s a decent work for a first time author. Her voice is so fun to read, and I hope she writes more! The pieces that were missing for me in The Time Key are all things that a little deeper and broader editing process could help flesh out. There are so many other aspects of good literature that aren’t easily learned or improved upon, and fortunately, Melanie Bateman has natural talent for those. So, I will look forward to reading whatever she has coming up next!

Age Recommendation: I would suggest this one for 18 or older simply because I think a more mature reader will appreciate the themes and characters better.  But it’s not a difficult read so mature readers of 14 and older would likely still enjoy it. ‘

Appropriateness: There is an attempt at suicide and drinking in the book.  There was nothing offensive in the book to me, but I mention these two aspects because there may be some readers that will be sensitive to them. There is no profanity, and while there is action and excitement there are no graphic descriptions.

Other Book Recommendations: If you liked this book or if it sounds interesting to you than I suggest you also try Eruption by Adrienne Quintana, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, Fablehaven Series and Beyonders series both by Brandon Mull, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks, Gossamer by Lois Lowry,  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

Follow along with the blog tour and find out what others have been saying about The Time Key: 

“The Time Key” blog tour schedule:
June 16: Community Bookstop
June 17: Jodi Woody
June 18: Making Life a Bliss Complete
June 19: Kaylee Baldwin
June 20: Rockin’ Book Reviews
June 21: 2 Kids and Tired Books
June 22: Choco Meiske | Literature Approved | Fire and Ice
June 23: Bookworm Lisa
June 24: The Reader’s Salon
June 25: Bookworm Nation
June 26: Wishful Endings
June 27: Connie’s Bookmark
June 28: Once Upon a Time
June 29: Storyweaver
June 30: The Unabridged Girl
July 1: Mel’s Shelves
July 2: Blooming with Books
July 3: The Book Addict | Inklings and Notions
July 4: Novel-ties
July 5: Singing Librarian Books
July 6: Reading Lark
July 7: Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews 

 

The “how” of reviewing (part 3) – author’s voice

Writing Style and Voice

The Tale of Despereaux

When all story elements (setting, characters, plot, conflict, theme) are present and accounted for a work can actually be defined as a story. But what about making it a “good” story? Or how about a Newbury award winning story? What sets those books apart? That all comes from the storytelling. How each element is presented is just as important as its presence. An author’s writing style or their voice is a key element in any “good” book.

An author’s voice is what may set him/her apart from all the other writers out there for good or for bad, depending on the preferences of the reader. If you don’t like a particular writing style in can be more difficult to enjoy a book. I have tried some high fantasy books by a couple of different authors and I have determined that it is just not the genre for me because of the writing style that seems to accompany it. It feels like such hard work to wade through all of the description and background information for these epic fantasy worlds that the authors dream up. I need the plot development to move more quickly. I felt that way with Eragon, The Eye of the World (From The Wheel of Time series), Mistborn, The Hobbitand The Fellowship of the Ring

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time Series)

The extreme detailedness of these books kept me from loving them, but I didn’t necessarily dislike them either. I am able to appreciate some of their other “good” qualities and even understand why all of that extra information is important. In writing fantasy an author must suspend our disbelief in magic. We have to believe that the world they have created within the pages could actually exist and work. We have to know the rules of the book’s reality and agree that if those rules were to in fact possible that the events in the book would then also be possible. I may get bored by the way author’s describe their epic fantasy worlds but I can still respect the skill and genius it takes to think it all up in the first place. Add in consistent characters with relatable desires and motivations and you have a very interesting story. Unfortunately, just not interesting enough to make it worth trudging through pages and pages of supplemental information that in no way develops either the plot or the characters.

Rebecca

In addition to well paced plot and character development, I love any writing style that can “show” the people, places, things, and events rather than “tell.” When an author does too much “telling” it can feel like reading a grocery list – “This happened. Then this. They were wearing this. It looked like this. It felt like that.” Boring.  “Showing” allows us to experience the story events and live them in our imaginations. The words we read register more as images in our mind’s eye, and in addition to the sights, sounds, and events of the story emotions are illuminated and created as well.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is the ultimate reader sensory experience. The words paint vibrant colors, action, and feelings that envelop you and take you on a journey through rhododendron lined drives, a stylish mansion, and a haunted life. It has been years since I read that book, but I can conjure an image of the Manderly estate as easily as I can picture my toothbrush all because the words actually took me to that place. It wasn’t just described to me; I feel like I actually saw it.

There are all kinds of other “technical” terms we could use when talking about good writing; we could analyze sentence structure and dialogue, or the use of similes and metaphor, but good writing is more complex than a checklist literary jargon.  While these checklist items can certainly help a writing style to be more engaging, the real sign of success is that we don’t notice the use of specific writing conventions. Instead, we as readers are simply caught up in the flow of the words. We might pause to reflect on a particularly beautiful word arrangement, or choice of descriptors, but if we are paying attention to sentence structure and other conventions while reading it’s probably because it has been written badly.

The Book Thief

The criteria for judging good writing style or voice is not really measurable or specific; opinion and personal preference certainly play a role in it, but that’s where exposure to a variety of author’s and genres will help us develop more educated opinions. The more different writing styles you read the more you will be able to pinpoint the differences and then justify why you like or dislike something. I guess that old TV slogan was right: “The more you read the more you know.” You just know when writing flows well, sounds good, and works; or on the other hand you know when it is confusing, awkward, and just missing something.

Next up, my last post on the art of reviewing. We’ve covered the “why” and “how”; now it’s time to talk about the “what”.