Review: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Title: Here and Now and Then
Author: Mike Chen
Rating: ★½
Summary: Kin Stewart is an everyday family man trying to keep the spark in his marriage and struggling to connect with his teenage daughter. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career as a time-traveling secret agent. Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s, Kin has kept his past hidden until the afternoon his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late. Their mission is to return Kin to his proper timeline in 2142: where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and a family he can’t remember is waiting for him. Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten his daughter’s very existence, it’ll take one final trip across time to save her—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley & Edelweiss+.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a week or so, but I cannot figure out what to write. Like, Here and Now and Then was a book? And I read it?? Time travel stories are some of my absolute favorites to experience, but after I finished this one, I realized that there were a lot of things that happened but nothing that really grabbed me or made me feel truly invested in the narrative. Everyone feels like silhouettes of themselves, reduced to fictional stereotypes in a paint-by-numbers sci-fi romp.

I can tell that Mike Chen spent a lot of time thinking about the story—especially how time travel would work—but the prologue introducing Kin was too brief for me to really empathize with him getting stranded in 1996. And then the next time we meet him, in 2014, feels like another blip on the way to the real story: Kin being forced to return to 2142 and subsequently trying to figure out a way “back to his daughter”. (I won’t write how he accomplishes this, but I literally said out loud “Oh, that’s not what I thought would happen but okay sure” after reading it.) But once he’s back in his proper timeline, Kin is able to “process both eras clearly and cleanly,” the huge barrier providing tension to the previous chapters magically removed. Kin also talks a big game of having to choose between Heather, his wife in 2014, and Penny, his fiancee in 2142—but he never has to, not really. The choice ultimately becomes Penny or his daughter, but he doesn’t have to choose between them, either, getting to have both with little conflict. Everything just kind of… works out.

It’s not that Here and Now and Then wasn’t good, it’s that it wasn’t for me (even though I really wanted it to be). Chen’s characters are stilted outlines without much filler, the plot moves forward but doesn’t feel like it goes anywhere, and every scene is so full of extraneous stuff that you don’t notice how ultimately bland and empty the book is until you finish. With too much focus on the how instead of the why, the story, unfortunately, becomes forgettable, one of those books you’ll close with a “hmm” and then never open again.

Top Ten: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was my most anticipated releases for the first half of 2019. Let’s go!

How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson (1/8) // Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom (1/8) // Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (1/29) // Giant Days vol. 9 by John Allison (2/19) // Trump Sky Alpha by Mark Doten (2/19)

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson (3/26) // Ms. Marvel vol. 10 by G. Willow Wilson (4/9) // If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (4/23) // The Clockwork Ghost by Laura Ruby (5/14) // Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke (5/21)

Top Ten: Books on My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my winter 2018/19 TBR. These quarterly posts are my favorite to post: not only because I love to peek at what’s being published in the next few months, but also because I love the structure this kind of TBR provides. (Even though I almost never follow my own choices!)

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green // A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness // Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen // How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone by Brian McCullough // In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker // Night Film by Marisha Pessl // On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden // The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder // You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian

* ETA: Nasty Women by 404 Ink was replaced by In Cold Blood.

Month in Review: October 2018

month in review - oct

Favorite Media

I knew The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory was going to be a fun, contemporary romance but boy did I NOT expect Guillory’s ability to write. Her characters are fully-fleshed, the plot flies, and everyone just happens to be non-white and non-hetero. (Woot.) Here’s to hoping I love The Wedding Date just as much!

Y’ALL. I binged the first two seasons of The Good Place in four days then sat on my couch and plaintively asked, “What do I do now?” out loud once I’d finished. The third season feels ~different somehow, but I can’t figure out if it’s because the crew is SPOILER[on earth] or because I’m not watching six episodes in a row on my iPad under a blanket. I have thought many times about rewatching the first two seasons because I loved them so much.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

Honestly, I have no idea where I first encountered Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young (maybe on Lit Hub?), but I absolutely love the cover and the summary kind of hits all my buttons, too.

A fellow librarian purchased Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great Is Not Okay for the young adult collection, and the cover intrigued me so much that I felt compelled to read the summary… and that sounded so interesting that I added it to my TBR. #whoops

I will pretty much look into anything that mentions time travel, but not all time travel books are the same. Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen has so many different parts to it that I can’t wait to figure out how they all fit. PLUS it’s set in the ’90s. AND I love that cover.

A NEW ALL SOULS BOOK aka Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera seems to be inspiring both great and terrible reviews, but I adored Love, Simon and have They Both Die at the End on my TBR, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a teenage romcom featuring two guys. (AND THAT COVER.)

On My Radar

  • I made myself a blog calendar via Google Sheets to better organize the content I want to include on thewasofshall – very heavily influenced by Shealea over at That Bookshelf Bitch btw – and it’s either going to make me extra a+ organized or super overwhelmed.
  • I got so many books this month that I have enough for another book haul video!
  • I’ve been trying to be more active in seeking out ARCs, and I was recently approved for three great-sounding ones: Here and Now and Then (01/29/19), My Favorite Half-Night Stand (12/04/18), and You Know You Want This: ‘Cat Person’ and Other Stories (01/15/19). It means I have to figure out when to read them but then again I also get to read them.

What were YOU up to in October? Let me know!