Today’s book review of a contemporary women’s novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara
Synopsis: When single career girl Jo-Jo steps onto a zebra crossing and gets hit by a car, she awakes to find herself in 1963. The fashion, the music, her job, even her romantic life: everything is different. And then it happens three more times, and Jo-Jo finds herself living a completely new life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The only people she can rely on are Harry and Ellie, two companions from 2013, and George, the owner of a second-hand record store. If she’s ever to return from her travels, Jo-Jo must work out why she’s jumping through time like this. And if she does make it back, will her old life ever be the same again?
This novel is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Step-Back-Time-Ali-McNamara/dp/075155023X and http://www.amazon.com/Step-Back-Time-Ali-McNamara/dp/075155023X.
Review (of the audiobook)
Laced with humour (flashing green men vs real ones) this book was a pleasure to listen to from the off. Being a Beatles fan, I enjoyed the regular mention of them, although I’m more a fan than Jo Jo, the owner (by default and hard work) of an accountancy firm, is until she realises the influence they’ll have over her life.
I queried the fact that Jo Jo is 29, loves shoes but doesn’t like ‘dressing up’, and I found it strange that Madonna was ‘before her time’ when Madonna’s still around in present time (2013).
There are some clichés: ‘firing on all cylinders’, ‘as happy as Larry’, ‘as clear as day’, ‘eyes wide as saucers’ etc., although they’re more forgivable because of the first-person (as they would be in third-person dialogue).
Speaking of clichés, the male love interests always seem to have blue eyes (‘sapphire’ in Harry’s case and ‘piercing’ in George’s) and why do the females often dislike them initially but we know they’re going to end up together?
Adverbs including ‘striding briskly’ (striding isn’t slow), ‘completely impractical’, ‘completely detached’, ‘he said distractedly’, ‘says apologetically’, ‘he adds hurriedly’, ‘reply hastily’, ‘asks hopefully’ etc. can be chopped because of what’s said in dialogue / description leading up to then. Ditto the likes of ‘nod in agreement’, ‘asks in disbelief’, ‘ask in astonishment’, ‘stamp my foot in frustration’ etc.
Ali’s strength is her characters and I can’t help liking Jo Jo (although my favourite was Ellie). Jo Jo’s reaction to being thrown back forty years (from 2013 to 1963) felt very realistic and the facts of that, and subsequent, decade(s), authentic.
In each era, Jo Jo discovers a fellow time-traveller which is comforting for both her and the reader, although they say they’re lonely, which is sad. On occasion Jo Jo is placed in situations and locations alien to her and each time, someone or something comes to her rescue (e.g. her finding out where she lives at that time) and while it’s said by many (including agent Carole Blake at the 2014 Chipping Norton literary festival novel critique event, which is back, by the way) that there shouldn’t be any coincidences to advance the plot but here they work.
Having skipped around four decades, Jo Jo is transported again and she wasn’t the only one who hoped she’d get back to 2013.
It’s a really intriguing plot and although highly unlikely, it’s plausible. A wonderfully entertaining read (listen), especially for lovers of Ashes to Ashes, Quantum Leap (both mentioned in this story), The Time Traveller’s Wife and of course, The Beatles.
I often mention the narrators of the audiobooks I review and while many of them could be improved, this book’s narrator, Katie Scarfe, is one of the best I’ve listened to, although being a first-person narrator (of the same gender) rather than third-person makes it easier.
Rating: 4 out of 5 – one of the best books I’ve read (listened to) in a long time but loses a point for the clichés etc.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.