The Doomsday Book By Connie Willis

doomsdayThis was a re-read for me,and one that was a long time coming. I probably first read this back in college and have been fondly remembering and referring to it ever since! I love time travel stories, and especially enjoy Willis’s version of time travel-set in Oxford, it’s for academics and historians.As usual with Willis the history in this story is impeccably researched and lavishly detailed. It’s easy to imagine her sitting in the Bodleian Library poring over prime sources and ancient original documents, to make sure that everything-village names, distances between villages, geography, speech patterns, etc.-are authentic and accurate.
Kivrin is an eager historian at the University ready to take her first trip to the Middle Ages, a trip her informal mentor thinks is ill-advised and dangerous. She’s confident that since her destination is before the plague is known to have arrived she’ll be fine. Once she goes through, though, things go wrong in both times and you find yourself quite caught up in the mysteries and race against time. The parallel plague stories are heartbreakingly similar, something I either didn’t remember or possibly didn’t even notice the first time I read this?
I was pleased to find that it had been so long since I read this that I didn’t remember the ending! There were bits and pieces that did come back to me as I read though. (One detail my mom and I never forgot is that they wanted to cauterize Kivrin’s nostrils, or inside I guess, thinking the odor of the Middle Ages would be too intense for a modern person.)This was every bit as wonderful as I remembered and I shall continue to recommend it and think well of it for another twenty years!

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Awesome. And apparently this has been around for a long time and I somehow never read it (even though when I enthused about it both my brothers and my mother all were like “oh yeah, that’s a great book, I loved it.”)
This is a time-loop novel, one of my favorite premises. What makes this so interesting is that it’s not a time loop of a day, but TWENTY-FIVE years. A man at age 43 dies of a heart attack and wakes up when he is 18. He figures out what’s going on and continues to live his life all over again, trying to use his knowledge of the future to have a different outcome. But again he dies at 43. Over and over again!! Can you even imagine having to live a whole 25 years over and over? And the 25 year period is from the 60s to the 80s, so it was fascinatingly historical. (Note: this book is from the 80s so it was really just contemporary, not historically fascinating. Also, my friend tells me that the author was going to write a sequel but died of a heart attack quite young. So clearly the author himself was a replayer because that coincidence is too freaky.)

I found the whole story riveting and surprisingly thoughtful. My one issue with it is that a replayer manages to have several different very successful careers, and I just don’t believe that most individuals have it in them to be so many varied types of people.

Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara

jojoA perfect time-travel treat! This caught my eye on the library bookshelf and it appears this author writes specifically for me. I was delighted to see she had a couple other books right up my alley, but foolishly left them on the shelf since I was already picking up two others. Anyway, this is not only time-travel, but also romance, and laden with Beatles allusions.

Jo-Jo (yes, almost every character has a name that is from a Beatles’ song or a real person connected to the Beatles) is a go-getter accountant with not much time for fun or love in her life. She does take the time to have a cup of tea from time to time with George, the owner of a record shop that has been in the same place on King’s Road since the early 1960s. While leaving the shop Jo-Jo gets hit by a car in the zebra crossing and…wakes up in 1963.  Throughout the book she wakes up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  In each place she meets George (who always knows she’s time-travelling), Harry, the guy she’s falling for, and friend Ellie.  Each time she has a different job, is a different age, and manages to have a positive impact on those around her.  But each time she wonders what it is she needs to figure out for herself so that she can make it home again.

In the beginning I felt this suffered from what I call “Forrest Gump Syndrome.” That is when a character is in a time period and the author tries to stuff as many iconic things about that time period into the story, including brushes with people who will be famous (e.g., a lad buying a record and saying someday he wants to own a record shop is Richard Branson.) But I quickly got over it because you know what? It was good fun. And I liked the pattern of Jo-Jo quickly figuring out the time by assessing the tv references, fashion, makeup, handbags, etc.  It was fun that every time she went into a pub the drinks were different (and now I must know what “babycham” is and if I can get some.)  And the fact that the Beatles were so omnipresent in the story was fun because Jo-Jo herself realizes it and starts looking for those things as clues. So it wasn’t like the author was trying to be subtle (and, in fact, at the end she provides a list of every reference.)

The author also says how she was inspired by Quantum Leap, which was a tv show I loved, and yes I could totally see that.  I love time-travel but don’t often read books like this one, and I think it was really fun how she set it up.  I really enjoyed this a lot and even though her other novels aren’t time travel I’m looking forward to them too!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

timeI’ve had a prepub of this for a while and been dying to read it. I finally got to pick it up yesterday and it’s an engrossing, zippy, not-too-long read, so I’ve already finished it.  Here’s the premise in a nutshell and you will see why I wanted to read this: time travelers escape a future that has been ravaged by global warming and pandemics by travelling to 2014, where despite strict rules, one of the teens falls for a time native.  It’s like Brashares just made a list of things I like and stuck them all together. And you know? That works for me.
An attempt to identify a pivotal moment and change the damned future? Check.
A realization that the pills you are made to take every day are not for your “health and safety”? Check. (Dude-NEVER take the health pills. They are always controlling you!)
Uncanny surveillance which makes your growing intimacy with another and realization that things are not as they seem quite dangerous? Check.
One day of happiness where you both get away from it all and pretend the world doesn’t hinge on your actions? Check.

I loved this. It reminds me of After Eden, The Clearing, and Across the Universe. I had forgotten (until I searched “time travel” among my books read) that Brashares had written My Name Is Memory, which I had liked as it was romantic and incorporated not exactly time travel, but reincarnation and a time travel feel.  Much as I loved all the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books when they came out, I really love this direction she’s going in and hope she writes more stories like this.

After Eden by Helen Douglas

edenI just finished reading this and was about to write up a nice review, went to Goodreads to grab the image and what did I see that has immediately spoiled the happy end of book feeling I was having? That it was called After Eden (After Eden #1) No. No. No. Not every book needs to have a sequel, or more likely, be part of a trilogy. This was a terrific, fast read, standalone story with a fully satisfying conclusion. I’m getting disgusted with publishers. Seriously. Ugh. But how was it? Well, it was just what I needed today. I’ve been taking a long time to read books lately and this was a nice fast one day read. Plus it has time travel. Which I adore. Eden lives in a village on the Cornwall coast. It’s her last year of school and things are pretty great, including with her best friend Connor. Then a new boy shows up-Ryan.  He’s out of her league, but wants to hang around with her.  There’s something kind of strange about him, though-he doesn’t know what pizza is or who Hitler was.  Eventually she figures out the unbelievable, that Ryan is visiting from the future. Turns out he’s on a mission involving Connor and the fate of the Earth depends on his success.  Good time travel fiction and a sweet romance, as well.

Everybody Sees Ants by A.S. King

This is one of those books I’ve had laying around the house for a long time.  Months ago I read a few pages and then stopped, and then I saw that it was one of the books on the Best of the Best list and figured I would try again.  My few pages here and there (late at night, no less) really gave it short shrift.  Because once I got a full chapter or two in I was totally engrossed in the story and couldn’t wait to see how it all resolved itself.

Lucky Linderman is an only child. His dad is a chef and spends most of his time at work, or trying to connect with his family by cooking for them.  His mom seems vaguely unhappy and copes by swimming laps for hours and hours every day.  Lucky’s grandfather served in the Vietnam War and was MIA when Lucky’s dad was just a baby.  Lucky’s dad seems to still feel this loss, but Lucky has for years, been visiting his grandfather in the Vietnam jungle every time he falls asleep.  It seems like dreams, but when he awakes he has objects that he had when he was there.  Every visit he tries to help his grandfather escape to come home.  These visits become especially important to Lucky when he turns 7 and a horrible boy called Nader begins to bully him.  Now a teenager Nader is still a grade A a**hole and he torments Lucky.  When he physically hurts Lucky, Lucky’s mom takes him to Arizona where he stays with a family more messed up than his own.

This book was so beautifully written, moving between times and realities (?) so easily.  The pacing of the book was excellent-this book was exactly the right length-it did not drag on, but it did not wrap up too quickly.  I really thought it was great-the scenes with Lucky and his grandfather were often very moving, his mother-who at first I thought a pitiful character-grew on me, and even his late night meeting of the tough girls doing the Vagina Monologues (which really seemed like the sort of thing that happens all the time in books and absolutely never in real life) fit in neatly.

Oh, and the ants? A clever part of the story.  Not to keep harping on this, but not only did the story grab me, but I was just so impressed and taken in with how wonderfully written this was.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I briefly wrote about this book in a post I did about time inspired books on The Hub. It won the 2010 Newbery Medal and is indeed, wonderfully written.  I admire a book with an interesting construct and this is put together wonderfully.  Miranda and Sal were friends, but then things start to fall apart.  And when Miranda receives little notes that indicate someone knows her and her friends and things that have not happened yet, she wonders what it in the world is going on.

You won’t know until the end of the book how it all fits together, and watching those pieces fall into place is really cool.  it’s also a bit of a tender, moving story.