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.

New to the Queue #2

Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner started this and I love it so I’m (politely) stealing it!

I add a lot of stuff to my TBR list, my Netflix queue, and my library holds list. Here’s stuff I want to actually seek out and consume right now.

Stuff I Want to Read

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

Time Travel by James Gleick

Stuff I Want to Watch

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The Boss

Drunk History

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Stranger Things

Undrafted

Stuff I Want to Can’t Stop Listening To

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

“Dancing in the Dark” ft. Von Smith by Postmodern Jukebox

“Light of the Seven” by Ramin Djawadi

“Pillowtalk” by Zayn

“Work from Home” ft. Ty Dolla $ign by Fifth Harmony

What did YOU add to your queue?? Let me know!

Top Ten: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2016

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was my most anticipated releases for the second half (July through December) of 2016.

Yay new books! I am also very excited about Roxane Gay’s new memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, and Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors.

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July

5: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson

12: Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

26: The Unseen World by Liz Moore

August

2: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward

9: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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16: The Gentleman by Forrest Leo / The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

September

27: Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates / Time Travel by James Gleick

December

16: Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

Top Ten: Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read Time Travel

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was ten books for people who’ve never read “x”, so I chose time travel because it’s something I love to think about and read about and dream about.

6506307Blackout by Connie Willis
Blackout (and its sequel All Clear) features time-traveling historians from Oxford University in 2060 and focuses heavily on how individuals initiate cause-and-effect during World War II in England. A must read for anyone even remotely interested in time travel or who just loves books set in England during the 1940s. Willis did a phenomenal job doing her research.

135414The Boy I Loved Before by Jenny Colgan
Flora (and her parents) go back in time in body only – and only a handful of people (including Flora’s bestie Sashy) are aware that Flora’s current consciousness has been transferred to her seventeen-year-old body. A fresh take on the theory of time travel and what it means to get a second chance.

548739Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
For all you Austenites out there – a cute romance about what happens when Courtney is abruptly pulled from her present-day Los Angeles life and wakes up in the body of Jane, a “gentleman’s daughter” from Regency England. Check out Rigler’s sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, for Jane’s side of the story.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Book one of Harkness’ All Souls trilogy about closeted witch Diana, vampire geneticist Matthew, and how the underground paranormal society turns upside when they meet. This is on my list because SPOILERS Diana comes into her ability to time walk, which features heavily in the book’s sequel, Shadow of Night SPOILERS but its a must read, even if you don’t like witches, magic, or vampires. The trilogy’s conclusion, The Book of Life, just came out in 2014 as well.

2595138The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
A modern take on time-travel through memory and reincarnation via its unnamed narrator, recovering in a burn ward following a car accident, and Marianne, a sculptor who insists the two were once lovers in medieval Germany. Davidson’s ability to write about (and totally inhabit) the different cultures and time periods is enough of a reason to pick up this book.

9182478Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The first book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy about people who have the time gene, Hourglass focuses on seventeen-year-old Emerson who sees apparitions, glimpses of what was bleeding into what is, and her gradual acceptance of how she fits into the larger time-travelling word. Check out the novel’s sequels, Timepiece and Infinityglass.

1105124I Went to Vassar for This? by Naomi Neale
The summary pretty much sums up why I love this book: “A microwave mishap blasts a modern-day ad executive back into 1959 – a strange new world with no Internet and no iPods, but one very hot next-door neighbor.” A quick read that still manages to pack in humor and critiques of 1950s society.

14050The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
One of more well-known books about time-travel, focusing on Henry and Clare – how and when they meet, the love between them, and fate. Trust me – the movie did not live up to how much I adore this book.

And to round out my top ten, here are some books I haven’t yet read:

11/22/63 by Stephen King
“Al, owner of the local diner, enlists high school teacher Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession – to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke.”

The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
“Zed is an agent from the future, a time when the world’s problems have been solved. His mission is to keep it that way – even if it means ensuring every cataclysm throughout history runs its course, especially The Great Conflagration, an imminent disaster in our own time that Zed has been ordered to protect at all costs.”

A Shortcut in Time by Charles Dickinson
“Euclid, Illinois, is a town of many shortcuts, between houses, through orchards, and across fields. Josh, a local artist and longtime resident, knows these irregular pathways well, but is thoroughly taken aback when a hasty dash down a familiar walk deposits him fifteen minutes in the past–literally. At first, Josh is more intrigued than alarmed by this accidental time travel. Then a lost young woman appears, claiming to be from 1908.”