In 2012, Peter is a retiree in Snohomish, Washington. He buys an old house and starts fixing it up, when he notices something odd about his shed. One night Peter sees lights out there and when he goes to investigate, he meets Henry, the old man who sold him the house. Henry let’s Peter in on the secret: The shed is a time portal. You set your mind to “when” in time you want to go, and walk through it, and there you are. Simple as that. And thus we have a time travel story.
Peter loses no time exploring the Snohomish of his youth in the summer of 1958. He crosses over almost daily, gets an apartment, buys a car, and establishes an identity there. During a return trip to 2012, his granddaughter Emily notices something weird and soon Peter comes to the conclusion he has to confess. Emily is let in on the secret. Since Emily is only 15 and a minor, they also include Emily’s mom.
For reasons that I can’t fathom, other than making a story, they decide that Emily will take a quarter of high school in the fall of 1958. They make preparations and put the plan in motion. But there is a school bully and he is one “bad hombre” to use the author’s word.
This book is really bad for a lot of reasons, so bad that it is worth pointing it out. There are about 50 reviews with high ratings on Amazon and I just don’t understand how that can be. Half of them seem to be by Snohomish residents who obviously like to read about their cafes, streets and businesses. There is a nostalgic element. But why is this book so bad? I will list the main reasons:
Grammar and Spelling:
The book it littered with grammar and spelling errors, so many I didn’t count them. Here is an example – red highlights are mine.
As we ate, she asked, “Why did I remembered what happened and the other kids didn’t?” I explained, “We kept our memories by returning though the portal. To the other kids, it was like rewinding a tape and recording over it.
There are two major grammar oversights in one paragraph. This might be acceptable to some readers, but to me it’s an insult. I paid $3 for this book. I now have a list of bookmarks of all the grammar and spelling errors that annoyed me enough to mark them. Did anyone at all, including the author, ever read this book before publishing it? Apparently not. But they expect the public to pay for this.
The book is full of clichés and trite expressions. When the author didn’t know how to describe something, he resorted to some colloquialism. It felt cheap.
Bad Writing in General:
The author does not know how to make a dialog work. There is some dialog, like in the example above, but it’s stilted at best. Since he can’t write dialog, he uses exposition throughout and indirect dialog. For instance, on the same page as the above excerpt:
I gave her a hug and told her I was proud of her and that I loved her. She began sobbing and turned and buried her head in my shoulder as she hugged me back.
Pretty much all the talking in this book is done this way. The narrator says what he said, rather than saying it. Sometimes that works, but this entire book is written that way. None of it is real. The entire book tells us what happened, rather than showing us what happened.
The book is stuffed with unnecessary descriptions, of what the characters are wearing every day and what they are eating:
She ran to the entrance in her new, knee-length, gray wool skirt that Dorothy had made for her a few days earlier. She had on white bobby socks, her saddle shoes, her white Jansen sweater, a light blue jacket, and a bright blue scarf around her neck. I watched as she ran to the door. It made me tear up a bit when I realized how much she looked like her grandmother had when I’d first met Linda at WSU.
Ok, you get a picture of what Emily looked like that day, but the author does it in every appearance. It does nothing to move to the plot along, just fills pages with words. He does the same thing with food. Every time they eat, and they do a lot of eating in this book, he describes the menu in detail:
As I entered the kitchen, I gave her a hug around the shoulders and asked if I could help. She gave me the chore of setting the table while she finished with the rest of breakfast. It was a wonderful breakfast of fried eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast, and orange juice.
There is nothing special about the breakfast. But why list it? Why talk about every item they eat every time with every meal? If it does not contribute to the story, it should not be there. My estimate is that the whole book could be condensed to about 50 pages if the author just left out all the filler stuff that has no need of being there. Here is another example:
Dorothy had prepared a great meal. The dinner started with a wonderful salad of lettuce, nuts, raisins, tomatoes, fresh peas, croutons, and blue cheese dressing. The main course was sirloin steaks and baked potatoes—the ones left from the bag I’d purchased at Safeway the day before. They were dressed with sour cream, whipped butter, and bacon bits. Dessert was fresh apple pie à la mode. Dorothy told the kids that she and I had driven all the way to the Monroe Farmers Market to get the apples. They all enjoyed the meal immensely.
This is the author’s attempt to make it seem real, kind of like Stephen King does when he describes details. But he picks the wrong boring details at the wrong times in the story to provide color. The fact that dessert was fresh apple pie à la mode just isn’t advancing the plot. And we don’t need to know all the ingredients of the salad. Really!
This is supposed to be a time travel adventure, and while there was room for it to be just that, the author missed the chance. It’s basically a nostalgic story in 1958 to pander to Snohomish residents and their memories. He could have just written a period piece. The protagonists didn’t need to step through a portal in a shed from another time to do any of the stuff they did. They could have just lived there and the story would have mostly been the same. The time travel pieces of the plot were very minor, unimaginative and in some cases nonsensical. This was not a time travel book.
I don’t like to blast a book with negative criticism, but in this case it’s necessary. The author clearly didn’t bother to have an editor read the book even once before he started selling it. Why didn’t he ask one of his friends who wrote a Five-Star Amazon review to give him a list of grammar fixes? He could have done that in an hour. This shows me that the author really does not care about the quality of the book, but he does expect us in the reading public to pay money for the privilege.
I read all the way through, because that’s my policy. Some books I just can’t read all the way through. When that happens I don’t give myself the right to actually rate them. I just state that I couldn’t keep going. This book was short enough that I kept with it, even though I suspected it wasn’t going to get any better.
So here goes:
This is zero stars, by the way. The real stars are gold covered. See some of my other reviews.