Review: The Timekeepers by Jenn Bregman

thetimekeepersThe Timekeepers by Jenn Bregman

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 4th, 2017

Publisher: Triborough Publishing

Pages: 334 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: A fast-paced thriller, The TimeKeepers plunges headlong into the depraved underbelly of Big Law and big money where greed is king, murder is incidental, and winning is the only thing that matters.

Attorney Sarah Brockman is young, idealistic, and naïve. Having left Big Law in search of work that would make a difference, she finds herself barely scraping by running her own personal injury law firm working for clients who can’t pay and pursuing causes she can’t win. Then a random horrific car crash shatters everything. Now she’s staring into the darkest shadows of the very system she’s dedicated her life to upholding, filled with corrupt judges, dirty cops and attorneys, offshore banking, massive fraud, and twists and turns through the highways and byways of Southern California, Mexico and the Cook Islands.  

Facing off against a cunning and deranged adversary, Sarah is aided by a sharp-witted socialite, a felon and occasional crackhead, and a shameless Mexican raconteur. All while kindling a tender romance with Sam, her boyishly handsome new love, who has been following the same trail but from the other end – and the wrong side of the law.

Sarah feels invisible strings pulling her ever closer to the core of the conspiracy. But if she’s just a pawn in someone else’s game, are the strings being pulled for good or for bad? Or, even, both? And will she be on the side that wins?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This novel is a bit out of my normal reading comfort zone. However, I always love giving any book from any genre a try—and from the synopsis, The Timekeepers sounded like an interesting, high-stakes mystery. Unfortunately, what I ended up with was a slow-paced, confusing story, one-dimensional characters, and no mystery.

There was absolutely no suspense in the plot due to the style of narration that Bregman chose for it, and there were very few riveting plot points to grip readers. Throughout my experience with this novel, I never found myself eager to turn the next page. And rather than the book motivating me to read it, I had to motivate myself every time I picked it up.

A book that could have been fast-paced and exciting is bogged down by repetitive narration and an extensive amount of scenes that solely contain descriptions of the various workings of Big Law. It’s not that I minded learning the details about law or what goes on behind-the-scenes at law firms—it was specifically that topic which caused me to want to read this novel. But instead of mixing definitions and facts fluidly with a heart-pounding and interesting plot, the plot fell flat and facts overtook almost every aspect of the novel.

In this novel, according to the synopsis, we follow a young attorney named Sarah Brockman, who is struggling to run her own law firm specializing in personal injury cases. One day, her life changes when she begins dealing with the case of a man who has been hit by a car. This seemingly common personal injury case inadvertently throws Sarah into a world she is not prepared for—a secret side of law, where the dealings are quite suspicious and spell danger for all involved. All of a sudden, she finds herself mixed up in a risky face off with some major names of Big Law, where ethics have no place.

Now, this is where one of my biggest issues begins. The synopsis has practically nothing to do with what the novel is actually about. Sarah Brockman, the supposed main character, barely plays any part in the main storyline itself. She is primarily there to jump in and save the day at the very end of the novel and, of course, to add a touch of romance at various points. Even her love interest Sam has a bigger and more important role than she does. The main character, I would say, is the main villain of the piece, who has considerably more screen time.

The characters themselves served their purposes well; the good ones were likeable and the bad ones were detestable. However, I never truly cared about or connected with any of them. They are fairly cookie-cutter type, one-dimensional characters, and really never stray from their very predictable storylines. In the same vein, the romance between Sarah and Sam, a fellow lawyer, is exceedingly unsurprising and just far too immature and cheesy to be believed.

One of the most glaring problems character-wise is that there is not nearly enough distinction between their voices. And since the narrative jumps from person to person multiple times per chapter, it becomes very tricky to know immediately whose perspective we have just fallen in to. To add to this, very little is done to make any of the characters particularly memorable, and they are left feeling quite inconsistent personality-wise through the entirety of the novel.

And then there was the ending—the astoundingly convenient chain of events that allows the story to finally come to a predictable close. One of the most perfect examples of the term “deus ex machina”. Everything works out perfectly. All the most important pieces fall flawlessly into place. Sarah and Sam literally stumble across absolutely every piece of information they need to take down the bad guys. And in the final climactic scene, a physically impossible feat is pulled off to save the day.

The writing itself is not necessarily bad, but it definitely leaves much to be desired. As I mentioned before, each chapter of the novel jumps around between multiple characters’ points of view. However, there is barely any fluidity in how this occurs, making for a very choppy and confusing narrative that can be hard to follow at times.

The narrative is also far to wordy and repetitive, and it drags along in far too many places. There are numerous points throughout where characters chronicle the exact events that have just happened mere pages before to another character that wasn’t there to witness them. Then, there are tedious monologues about the inner workings of law that play no part in moving the plot forward nor in giving facts to the reader that might become necessary knowledge for other events later in the story.

Overall, this unfortunately did not end up being the enjoyable new read I was looking for. One idea I had that I think could have massively increased the mystery and suspense of this novel would be leaving the villains faceless.

Since we switch between all characters’ points of view, we always know, from the start, who everyone is, how they are connected, and what part they are playing, nefarious or other. This erases all sense of intrigue and uncertainty, and really sucks the interest out of the narrative. If Bregman had left out the perspectives of the bad guys, or—better yet—kept them in but not given a name to the voice, this novel could have been remarkably more dynamic and enthralling.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

addisonstoneThe Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 12th, 2014

Publisher: Soho Teen

Pages: 256 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won’t let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison’s life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28. —Adele Griffin

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This novel is structured in a way that makes it sort of like the literary equivalent of “found footage”. It is a work of fiction, but it is written as if it were an actual biography about an up-and-coming young artist named Addison Stone, whose life ends very suddenly when she mysteriously falls from a bridge during an art installation. Adele Griffin writes as herself and functions as a journalist who is compiling this biography; she adds in short pieces written from her point of view throughout the novel. The book is comprised of interviews with a number of Addison’s family and friends, and pictures of Addison and her artwork are interspersed within the text. All of these elements are meant to work together to make the reader feel as if this might be a real account of a person’s life.

When I first discovered this book, the concept and the format it is told in piqued my interest right away. The inclusion of the photographs of and artwork by the subject of the “biography” itself further sold me on it, and I was eager to pick it up. However, while the idea was incredibly creative and the layout of the novel quite artistic, unfortunately, the story ended up falling rather flat for me. Now, this is not at all because I started out believing this was not a work of fiction; that was clear to me from the start, and did not affect the reading experience in any way. I simply felt that, while the concept was clever, it was not executed quite as well as it could have been.

It is clear that this novel is trying to address celebrity culture in today’s society, and the idealistic views that people tend to have about those in the public eye. To construct a plot that did just that, Griffin creates the tale of a person that embodies the type of celebrity that might encounter something akin to worship from their fans. And while this is a fascinating and relevant topic, everything was far too exaggerated. Instead of presenting the reader with a subtle commentary that inspires thought, the story forms characters, situations, and relationships that are far too stereotypical to be taken seriously.

Addison is too special, too perfect to be believable, thereby making it difficult to become invested in her story. Every single person who she crossed paths with throughout her short life became instantly enamored with her; they all found some reason to utterly worship her and everything she did. It was as if she could do no wrong in anyone’s eyes no matter how poorly and immaturely she acted, and this became tiring quickly.

Addison has some problems, some struggles and issues to deal with, but it’s hard to connect with and feel for her despite that. In fact, mental illness appeared to be her only “flaw” which, quite frankly, really bothered me. Overall, I was not thrilled with the way mental illness was addressed. It was not taken as seriously as it should have been, and was many times passed off as something that simply made her life into that of an alluring, tortured artist. The strange discover at the conclusion of the novel regarding one major aspect of her mental troubles also seemed to further diminish the true severity of her illness, and was very unsatisfying and nonsensical.

As a whole, many aspects of this story were very formulaic, using far too many common literary tropes. The excessive use of clichés made this story and each of the characters feel far too much like caricatures. Many aspects of the plot were too over-the-top, and I found it challenging to bring myself to care about any of the storylines.

In terms of the format of the text, the main issue I had was that it was nearly entirely told in the transcripts of the interviews that had been conducted by the narrator after Addison’s passing. This took away from the experience for me, and slowed down the plot massively. While all the writing is the work of the real-life Griffin, the fictional author is writing next to nothing, which is very unrealistic. We see a short paragraph from her a handful of times throughout the text and that is all; mainly, we are reading the exact words of the interviewees. Overall, that ended up counteracting any attempt to give this the feeling of a real biography, and made it feel more like reading paperwork rather than an intriguing account of someone’s life.

Artistically, I loved the layout of the book. My favorite part of this reading experience was seeing the way the pictures connected to various points in the plot as it unfolded. I thought this concept was incredibly inventive and unique; this is the first time I have ever come across a book like this. I had no issues with the visual format. From a design perspective, this book completely nailed it.

Overall, this had a lot of potential. Adele Griffin had a number of good thoughts and intentions in her creation of this novel, and I would definitely be interested to read one of her other novels to experience more of her writing. She had a clear and interesting point that she was trying to make, and if she had employed more subtlety in the creation of her characters and their relationships, it would have come across in a more convincing way. The book lacked depth, and ended up feeling more like a caricature than anything. Using common stereotypes, while effective when it comes to conveying the themes clearly, ends up taking away a lot of the integrity and sincerity, making it less thought provoking and believable.

1.0 TARDIS

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