Posts Tagged ‘Time Travel’

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

September 29, 2014

This was one of those books I practically devoured in one sitting. The story sticks with me, particularly in light of the Ebola virus running rampant in West Africa.

Prenna is an immigrant to the USA, but it’s not where she’s from that makes her so unusual, it’s when she’s from. Prenna and her group are time travelers. They come from a future in which a blood borne illness carried by mosquitoes has wiped out large chunks of the population. Her world is a wetter, hotter, and swampier environment because of climate change. There is no government to speak of, schools are closed, and there is mass panic. For Prenna and others in her group the rules are simple. Assimilate to modern 21st Century life, don’t get too involved with time natives, and you can’t go to doctors or hospitals.

For Prenna these rules are hard. She likes a time native boy, Ethan, who is in her AP Physics class. He seems to be interested in her as well. Prenna also loves to be outside in nature, even though most 21st Century kids prefer TV and video games. How can she explain her love for an outdoor world, a pristine world in her eyes? Her mother struggles to keep Prenna from breaking the rules to much. However, her mother is grief stricken from losing two children to the plague, and a husband who chose not to come.

Things turn really weird when the homeless guy in town wants to talk to Prenna. She gets suspicious because he knows things he shouldn’t. How does he know these things? He wants her to stop something in the future that would alter the time line. Of all her group’s rules, this is the most sacred, never interfere with the timeline. However, there might be a chance of a better future if Prenna intervenes. Can she find the courage to do the right thing?

Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now was an interesting dystopia romantic suspense book. A perfect read for a sunny day by the pool, or a rainy day stuck indoors.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Travis H’s Picks

December 26, 2013

I’m the manager of the Zebulon Community Library and have a long tenure with the library system. I majored in English and have had my fill of “good books.” Since then, I read mostly nonfiction, techno thrillers and things I find funny.

The Lost Prince by Seldon Edwards  
Edwards’ first book, The Little Book, captivated me but left me unsatisfied. The Little Book had a great plot, likable characters and an interesting setting during interesting times. It lacked however a flow that compelled me to keep turning the page. The Lost Prince though, at least for me, was a page-turner. Both of the books focus on Eleanor Burden. In the first book, Eleanor has a life altering experience. In the second, we see how her experience plays out. Time travel and predestination are the respective devices in these two books.

Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s Three Men, Five Great Wines, and the Evening That Changed America by Charles A. Cerami
Thomas Jefferson fascinates me. Discovering Cerami’s book was exciting. I did not get what I was expecting however, as the evening referenced in the books was just a small part of it. By serving as Washington’s Secretary of State, Jefferson, the agrarian anti-federalist, found himself in an administration trying to establish a Federal Government. Key to these efforts was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who Jefferson thought might be a closeted Royalist. No wonder, the author explains, that Jefferson was a migraine sufferer and postulates that he also suffered from depression.  The dinner that the book’s title references was Jefferson’s way to hammer out a compromise between Hamilton and Congress (represented by Madison) over Hamilton’s Report on Public Credit. Hamilton wanted the federal government to assume the various states’ Revolutionary War debts, to the detriment of those states. The lasting impact of Jefferson’s dinner is why Washington DC, carved out of Virginia and Maryland, is our seat of government as opposed to New York City, or Philadelphia. By centering this history on such a pivotal event, the author gives us a focused and revelatory exposition of the key players and times. The included recipes are interesting as well.

Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon by Howard E. Covington Jr.
Biltmore always seemed to me to be a rich man’s folly, like Hearst Castle in California. Hearst’s folly is owned and run by the State of California. Biltmore is still in the hands of Vanderbilt’s descendents. I’ve long be interested in historic preservation and what drew me to this book was the struggle Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, Sr., has had in keeping the property private. Ultimately, to keep family control, it seems national inheritance tax law would need to be amended. Nonetheless, as the book details, the Cecil family has skillfully managed to make Biltmore relevant, productive and viable as a privately held venture. This accomplishment mirrors the skill it took to build the Vanderbilt fortune in the first place.

Outlaw by Angus Donald
This retelling of the Robin Hood saga is in the voice of Alan-a-Dale, the Merry Men’s minstrel. Donald’s realistic and believable Robin is a leader and provider of those wanting their freedom from various injustices. Donald set his tale, earlier than most retellings, during the reign of Henry II, an unsettled time a few generations after the Norman Conquest. Outlaw is the first of five novels featuring Robin Hood. If you like Bernard Cornwell’s books, you’ll probably like this.

Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippy Dream by Neil Young
Young writes in his autobiography that he wrote his autobiography to cash in.  At age 66, Young seems to have had a wakeup call. He gave up cannabis and alcohol, fears dementia and writes about some projects he wants to pursue that do not relate to music. Young has yet to give up on the promise of the sixties; long may he run.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

November 26, 2013

milkThis is Neil Gaiman’s fifth book published this year! The other books include, Chu’s Day: a picture book about a sneezing panda, The Silver Dream: co-written with Michael & Mallory Reaves – the sequel to the teen novel Interworld, Make Good Art: Neil’s commencement speech from the University of the Arts, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane: a magically creepy book that is only for grown ups. Fortunately, the Milk, however, is for kids and for grown ups of all ages. It is the story of an ordinary dad who has a very extraordinary adventure on his way to the corner store and back to get some milk for his kids’ cereal. What makes this fun adventure even better are the illustrations throughout the story by Skottie Young.

You see, when the dad in this story steps out to get some milk for his kids (because who wants to eat dry Toastios?) he is kidnapped by Aliens on his way back home. The dad escapes only to end up on a ship with nasty pirates. He’s made to walk the plank, but at the very last second is saved by a time traveling stegosaurus in a balloon (Professor Steg invented the time traveling device). Soon they are beset by volcano god worshipping islanders who want to sacrifice them, but some finagling with the space-time continuum pops them away. They travel into a dark land inhabited by vampires, who want to have the duo for breakfast. The traveling companions once again manage to escape certain doom only to end up back home and to be captured once again by the same aliens from the beginning. The aliens then also bring the pirates, the islanders, and the vampires on board their space ship to further menace dad and Professor Steg. During each part of this fun and funny adventure dad almost loses the milk, but fortunately, the milk makes it home with dad, so his kids can eat their Toastios, and he can have his tea.

Kids who read this book will grow up to like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series; and adults who love Douglas Adams will really enjoy this kids’ book! Fortunately for the kids in the story, their Dad survives his adventures to bring home the milk, and fortunately for all of us, Neil Gaiman continues writing (and at an amazing pace!) and created this wonderful story about time travel and breakfast cereal.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

August 20, 2013

Jacob and his grandfather have always been close. As a child, Jacob was riveted by his grandfather’s tales of how he was raised. Abe Portman was a child of the Holocaust, and fled Poland, parentless, to wind up at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

What exactly is a peculiar child? Well, they’re all different at Miss Peregrine’s. Like a feeder school for the circus, Miss Peregrine’s hosts among its ranks a girl who can control fire, an invisible boy, and a little girl who would float away if she weren’t tethered to the ground by heavy shoes. Jacob has grown up seeing pictures of these strange children and vacillates between an unquestioning belief of everything he is told to humoring his grandfather in his old age.

When Abe dies a sudden and violent death with his grandson minutes too late to save him, Jacob begins to realize that there might be more to his grandfather’s tales than meets the eye. With the assistance of his psychiatrist (who his parents force him to see after Abe’s death), Jacob manages to convince his father to take him to the Welsh island that housed the orphanage to find closure there.

Rather than closure, Jacob discovers Miss Peregrine’s Home, and the peculiar friends that his grandfather had made some 70 years before! Using vintage photographs that he collected, author Ransom Riggs brings the peculiar children to life and tells Jacob’s story as he jumps between the children’s world in the 1940s and present day.

I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel, Hollow City, to come out in early 2014!

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

July 22, 2013

bookcover.phpThis is one of those books that people kept telling me I “had to read”, which is always off-putting. First of all, it is about a middle school girl and I am a man in my forties. Also, judging a book by its cover, it looks like historical fiction and I tend toward Fantasy and Science Fiction. But I trust my 11 year old daughter’s taste in literature, so when she told me she loved it I gave it a try. I’m happy I did.

This Newbery winner from 2010 is a fun little puzzle of a book. While it sits somewhere between the genres of mystery and science fiction, this book could be appreciated by any adult who spent some formative years during the 1970s. Set in Manhattan, it follows a few months in the life of a sixth grader named Miranda. Miranda lives with her single mother and is tasked with helping her prepare for an appearance on the “$20,000 Pyramid” game show. Her mom is convinced that their lives will be better if only she can win the big prize.

Miranda’s ordinary life takes a turn for the weird when a boy randomly punches her best friend, Sal. Miranda soon meets the bully, Marcus, at school. She befriends him while discussing Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Marcus is convinced that time travel is possible but points out discrepancies in L’Engle’s plot. Miranda soon begins to find cryptic notes around her house and inside her belongings, notes that may have come…FROM THE FUTURE! Her life begins to spiral out of control as she tries to make sense of the oddness.

This book is an intriguing examination of finding meaning in the strange little coincidences that happen around us and the difficulty of having and keeping friends. It is still totally relevant to this 40 year old’s life and I would presume, yours as well.

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The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

July 17, 2013

bookcover.phpHave you ever wondered how differently your life might have turned out if you had lived in another era? That’s the question Andrew Sean Greer explores in his new novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells.

When we first meet Greta she lives in New York City, circa 1985. She has lost her beloved twin brother to AIDS and her lover of ten years to another woman. Depressed, she seeks help, and is prescribed electroshock therapy. It works better than anyone could have imagined. Not only does it begin to jolt Greta out of her depression, it sends her back in time, specifically to 1918 and 1941.

In her other lives, she’s still Greta, lives in the same area of New York, and has the same family and friends. But the choices she’s made and can make as she shifts from decade to decade are affected by the social customs of the time. The book follows Greta as she discovers things about herself and the people she loves that sadden, delight and surprise her. There’s a lot of interesting observations about the tradeoffs made no matter when people live.

I’ll stop there with the plot summary, because I don’t want to give any more away. I liked this book very much and was fascinated by the choices Greta faces. This book reminded me of another recent book, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. I found Atkinson’s book to be more about how you would change your behavior if given some foreknowledge and a second chance, while this story was more about how the same person’s life would change (or not) based on when they lived.

An engrossing, engaging read with a sympathetic main character, I would recommend it to fans of Jack Finney’s Time And Again, The Time Traveler’s Wife and fans of time travel books in general.

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

January 11, 2013

11/22/63If you had the chance to go back in time and change history to prevent a national tragedy, would you? That is the chance given to Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Maine. Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, lets Jake in on a secret: there’s a “rabbit hole” in his storeroom that leads back to 1958. Al has a plan to go back and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing President Kennedy. But, Al is now dying of lung cancer, so he needs Jake’s help to complete his self-appointed mission to save the country by changing its history.

Jake also teaches adult GED classes and he read a theme written by his school’s janitor on “the day that changed my life.” It seems that there was a very gruesome and horrible event in Harry the janitor’s childhood – something that has scarred him for life, both physically and mentally. Jake’s not quite sure what to make of this time travel stuff, but decides that if it’s for real, he’s also going to try and change the course of events that led to this personal tragedy, in addition to trying to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy.

Of course, no story this good (and yes, it really is a good as everyone has said) would be so simple and straightforward. We learn that the past is obdurate. Don’t worry, I had to look that word up too. It means “unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding.” Basically, when you try to change the past, the past tries to stop you. The larger of a change you are making, the more the past will try to stop that change. And stopping Oswald from assassinating Kennedy is a mighty big change.

What makes Stephen King‘s novel so great is not just the premise (a fairly neat twist on the time travel idea), but the story itself and the characters about whom we come to care so much. Since the “rabbit hole” dumps Jake out in Maine in 1958, and Kennedy’s date with destiny is in Dallas in 1963, that leaves Jake with five years of living to do – as well as making sure that Oswald really did do it and acted alone. Along the way he gets a job teaching, meets a librarian named Sadie, and falls in love.

Does Jake stop Oswald? What would happen to our history if Kennedy had lived? What about Jake and Sadie? You don’t really want me to tell you, you really want to pick this book up and discover its wonder yourself. I’ll just end by saying that I’m not what you’d call a crying man, and it’s rare for a book to bring me to tears, but this is one of two books I read in 2011 that did just that.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Dan B.’s Picks

December 13, 2012

Now that we’ve shared some of our favorite new books from 2012, we’ll also tell you about some of our favorite “New to Us” (older) books that we each discovered this year. Again, different library staff will take turns blogging about 5 of our favorite “New to Us” books from this year. Here are mine:

Somewhere in Heaven by Christopher Andersen
This is the fascinating story of Christopher and Dana Reeve’s lives in front of, and away from, the cameras. Chris, a graduate of Julliard and a huge star after Superman, returned to Williamstown, MA  each summer for their theater festival, and it was there that he met Dana, a singer and actress, who became the love of his life. The story continues with their touching courtship, eventual marriage, blending families, and Chris’ horrible paralyzing accident. Through it all, Dana’s devotion to Chris never wavered for an instant, and she helped him with his physical therapy, their profuse charity work, and raising their son. Read my full review.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell
John Geary was a soldier in the first battle of a war that has been raging for the last century. He’s also the sole survivor who held off the Syndicate forces and escaped into a hibernation pod that was just now rescued from oblivion by the flagship of the Alliance fleet. Now “Black Jack” Geary, a man returned from the dead who became a legendary hero, must find a way to lead the Alliance after they lost the latest battle very badly. He must also deal with the culture shock of being thrown a century into the future. Read my full review.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Eighteen year old Wade Watts escapes his life in this dystopian future by plugging into the OASIS, a virtual world where anyone can be anything – given enough credits. The reclusive inventor of OASIS, James Halliday, has died and left a video will in which he states that whoever can solve his 1980’s themed riddles to find three keys and unlock three hidden gates to find his “easter egg” will gain his fortune and control of OASIS. Wade is one of millions of hunters looking for the egg, including several friends, but so is the evil mega-corporation IOI – and they’re using every cheat code they can. Read my full review.

Among Others by Jo Walton
I usually need a lot of action in a story to get me hooked and to really enjoy it. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate character development and ideas. But, that’s why I’ve had a hard time trying to describe this Hugo & Nebula Award winning novel and explain why I really liked it. It’s about Mori Phelps, a 15-year-old girl who ran away from her insane mother in Wales and is now in boarding school in England thanks to her estranged father’s family. There’s also magic, faeries, libraries, and books – oh so many wonderful science fiction & fantasy books!

Blackout & All Clear by Connie Willis
These two novels form one award winning story from Willis. Time traveling historians from Oxford suddenly have their schedules altered and trips to the past cancelled for no known reason. Three such travelers, Michael, Polly and Merope, mysteriously become trapped in the past while observing the events of World War II. Willis does a fabulous job of putting the reader in the midst of history and letting us know what daily life was really like for Londoners during the Blitz, or the Dover area fishermen during the Battle of Dunkirk. A wonderful mix of time travel and history with plenty of suspense.

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde

November 28, 2012

I don’t usually write about sequels in a series, but the new Thursday Next novel is the best in the series since The Eyre Affair, so I just had to write to let you know how great this book is. Jasper Fforde‘s writing style is such that he fills in enough for a new reader to be able to enjoy the story and get some of Thursday’s background. Of course, you’ll likely get more out it if you’ve read the others, but I think readers could jump in and start with this newest one, and then go back and read the others.

Thursday Next lives in an alternate universe that resembles ours, but with a few significant differences. Time travel is routine, cheese is an illegal substance, and books & literature are taken very, very seriously. Thursday is a literary detective who was semi-retired when the government disbanded SpecOps, a group of highly specialized police forces. But now they are reversing their decision and reinstating the various SpecOps agencies. Thursday is invited to meet with her old boss and thinks she’s about to be offered the job of head of Literary Detection, but instead she’s offered the cushy job of Chief Librarian for the town.

The new job may sound cushy indeed, especially when one considers that libraries in this world have budgets large enough for an employee spa, an executive chef, and armed security to hunt down overdue books, but Thursday’s life is anything but. Aside from having to learn the ins and outs of librarianship, she also has to deal with the evil mega-corporation Goliath trying to replace her with automatons, her son’s discovery that he will murder someone this week in his letter of destiny, and that same day Swindon is scheduled for a smiting by the Almighty. The book covers Thursday’s life over the course of one incredibly busy week, and we get to know her family better than we have before. Will Thursday be able to defeat Goliath’s attempts to replace her with a creation of their own? Can she help Swindon avoid being smited?

Bibliophiles and library lovers will enjoy this book with Fforde’s British wit and obvious love of books. A couple of quotes from this book really made me smile, including this one from Thursday’s first day on her new job, “Do I have to talk to insane people?” “You’re a librarian now. I’m afraid it’s mandatory.” One that is less humorous, but more touching, is the author’s dedication: “To all the librarians who have ever been, ever will be, are now, this book is respectfully dedicated.”

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The Future of Us by Jay Asher

February 8, 2012

Did you ever read that Ray Bradbury short story, A Sound of Thunder? It was assigned reading for my 10th or 11th grade English class, and has always stuck with me. The basic premise is that, in a world set in the near future, a time machine allows people to take guided tours of the past. A hunter on a safari to track and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex accidentally falls from the levitating path that he has been told to stick to, crushing a butterfly beneath his boot. This one small change in the past snowballs, and when the hunter returns to his own time subtle changes can be seen everywhere.

Jay Asher’s young adult novel The Future of Us is like a more modern-day version of Bradbury’s 1952 story. Fast-forward to 1996 when Emma receives a free AOL CD-ROM (doesn’t that sound so dated?) and tries it out on her brand new computer. Once she’s logged in, a strange blue icon appears connecting Emma to a cluttered and confusing website called Facebook where someone with her own name and hometown is posting information about herself. (As you may know, Facebook didn’t debut until 2004, some 8 years later.)

Emma and her friend Josh slowly figure out how to navigate the website, and realize that the Emma and Josh on Facebook are surely their future selves. Or perhaps just versions of them? The two high-schoolers begin to make small changes to their lives based on what they see of their futures, changes that then effect the future being reflected back at them.

While officially a young adult novel, this is an interesting read for adults as well. I zoomed through it in a couple of nights and enjoyed thinking about the possibility of time travel through the web.

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