Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Wonderful! I love a good time travel book and this one had me unable to put it down on a rainy Saturday and just keeping on until the end. And then I kept thinking about it afterwards-always a good sign that a book has gotten into my head.

This one had me often making comparisons to The Dream Daughter, since it involved a parent and child and makes the reader wonder just how the author will be able to figure out a satisfying ending.

Kin is a time travel corruption bureau field agent from the future who ends up stranded in 1990s San Francisco. As his brain forces out memories of his old life Kin makes a new one for himself. He has a job in IT, he gets married, he has a daughter. Life is pretty good except for the blinding headaches and dizzy spells he sometimes gets.  And then a man shows up who makes him brain start unlocking memories and the past (future) is told to him. Kin is forced back into the future, away from his family. He is desperate to connect with his daughter, but also he needs to reconnect to his past life, which includes people who care about him who he doesn’t remember.

I loved the future details, the set up of the story, the emotional core, and all the little details that made things from the future and past click. I thought this was great.


Time and Again by Jack Finney

I read this book many years ago and it was one of the ones I wanted to reread this year. In particular, two scenes from this book had stayed with me, and I thought of them often when I thought of time travel (as one does.) The one scene was in the beginning when Si is on a catwalk in a warehouse looking down on a hot summer day in a recreated small town from another time period and first learning of the time travel project.  Of all the time travel books I’ve read I always thought this was the most bizarre method created-that one would be so immersed in a time they would just slip into it being real not recreated (having separated themselves from things of this time.)
I found this a little slow and that may have been because I just was eager to get to the time travel itself. In fact, once I got to that scene I remembered I thought I might just stop there, having scratched my itch of wanting to read that scene again. But, I found that I was hooked on the story and wanted to see it though. I’d forgotten that there were sketches and historical photographs included in the story. And, it turns out, I’d forgotten the major plot event! So all in all, I really enjoyed this story all over again though I did find the writing a little odd. I’m curious if this style writing would be published today (first published in 1970.)
There is a sequel to this, which I don’t recall if I read, but perhaps I will.

Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

This was absolutely wonderful! First of all, it’s time travel (that came out 2 years ago and I just found out about it now) and it was so good and I happened to have moments in the day and was able to read it in one day. (It’s not too long.)
It starts in 1940 and I immediately liked the main character, Lottie. She’s 10 and loves to read and play make believe games with her best friend, Kitty. She’s the best. I say that because a. she’s like me b. I would have been friends with her and c. she is keenly interested in time travel.  The reason for that is because her father is a scientist who fully believes in it and is researching it. He’s signed the Official Secrets Act so he can’t actually disclose his findings or work. Then a surprising incident occurs and Lottie jumps through a portal not knowing where she will end up but certain-since her father has always said so-that she will never be able to come back. She ends up in current day Wisconsin. Most of the time travel I read involves people traveling to the past. I enjyed this take on someone from the past coming to our time. Here’s what I loved about this book: she behaves as I would if I were a time traveler and acknowledges that because she and Kitty have talked so much about it and accept its existence she isn’t going to waste time in disbelief but instead figure out where she is and what to do. The book takes some interesting turns because now she is stranded in time and needs to just continue on with her life. She’s a child so she ends up with a very nice foster family. But always, always, she is wondering if she can connect with Kitty and find her way back to her.
I loved how this ended up working out even though, as I keep dwelling on it, the crux of the time travel matter somewhat doesn’t make sense to me(even though it simultaneously makes perfect sense.) I also liked the middle grade friendship storyline. And I especially loved the role books played in Lottie’s life and libraries. I’m thinking Ms. Sales must know some librarians because she was spot on with her description of us!!

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

An intriguing time travel like premise + the author of A Boy Called Christmas? Sign me up!

Our character (Tom? that’s his name for now, but he changes it often) is literally hundreds of years old. He has a rare condition that makes him age so slowly that by the time he is 400 years old he only looks about 40. Turns out he’s not the only one, and these people have joined together into a sort of secret society to protect themselves from being found out. Although this is the main plot point of the story, it is the part I liked the least. Why did Hendrich (the mastermind) have to be so evil/threatening? Why was he so sure they’d be found out? (Tom, and others, would move and take new identities so that people didn’t catch on to the fact that they looked exactly the same.) And so manipulative to the people he’s found? A lot of that made no sense to me. However, I loved everything else about the book.
Tom has rubbed elbows with Shakespeare and Captain Cook, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s lived through not just WWII and WWI, but also the American Revolution and the Elizabethan age. I loved his stories of those times and the back and forth between the present and those time periods. Tom has truly been a witness to history and what I thought was unique was that he was a witness to such a looooooong time of history that he saw the changes in humanity as a whole, and the ebb and flow of civilization.
This was great!

*although this isn’t really time travel, it has the elements of time travel that I enjoy in it, and it is a time manipulation novel, so I’m grouping it with the others.

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!