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27833670Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible. Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined–one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

aftermath-life-debt-674x1024Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig – In the aftermath of the destruction of the second Death Star and the defeat of the Emperor and Darth Vader, Han Solo and Chewbacca set out to liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk. Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy, bringing them to justice. Wexley abandons her official mission when she receives news that Chewie has been captured and Han has disappeared. Norra and her crew race toward the Millennium Falcon’s last known location, but they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them — or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

 

12799435Imprudence by Gail Carriger – Rue and the crew of The Spotted Custard returned from India with revelations that shook the foundations of the scientific community. There is mass political upheaval, the vampires are tetchy, and something is seriously wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most inappropriate military types.

 

 

26028483Time Siege by Wesley Chu – Having been haunted by the past and enslaved by the present, James Griffin-Mars is taking control of the future. Earth is a toxic, sparsely inhabited wasteland–the perfect hiding place for a fugitive ex-chronman to hide from the authorities. James has allies, scientists he rescued from previous centuries, but he also has enemies.  They include the full military might of benighted solar system ruled by corporate greed and a desperate fear of what James will do next. At the forefront of their efforts to stop him is Kuo, the ruthless security head, who wants James’s head on a pike and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

 

ujexaznangyeajthztdqThe Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Jeff & Ann VanderMeer – What if life was never-ending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, alongside a century of the eccentrics, rebels, and visionaries who have inspired generations of readers. Within its pages, you’ll find beloved worlds of space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk, the New Wave, and more. Learn about the secret history of science fiction, from titans of literature who also wrote SF to less well-known authors from more than twenty-five countries, some never before translated into English. Plus: Aliens! Space battles! Robots! Technology gone wrong! Technology gone right!

night of the animalsNight of the Animals by Bill Broun – Over the course of a single night in 2052, a homeless man named Cuthbert Handley sets out on an astonishing quest: to release the animals of the London Zoo. When he was a young boy, Cuthbert’s grandmother had told him he inherited a magical ability to communicate with the animal world–a gift she called the Wonderments. Ever since his older brother’s death in childhood, Cuthbert has heard voices. These maddening whispers must be the Wonderments, he believes, and recently they have promised to reunite him with his lost brother and bring about the coming of a Lord of Animals  – if he fulfills this curious request.  But his grand plan is not the only thing that threatens to disturb the collective unease of the city. Around him is greater turmoil, as the rest of the world anxiously anticipates the rise of a suicide cult set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves. Meanwhile, Cuthbert doggedly roams the zoo, cutting open the enclosures, while pressing the animals for information about his brother. Just as this unlikely yet loveable hero begins to release the animals, the cult’s members flood the city’s streets. Has Cuthbert succeeded in harnessing the power of the Wonderments, or has he only added to the chaos–and sealed these innocent animals’ fates?

online colorHello Readers! How is your July challenge coming along? Find anything amazing? Or are you going to keep yourself safely grounded in 2016?

I have been reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Well, I’ve been attempting to read it. King is very…….wordy, isn’t he? And this is a very long book. He’s a great storyteller, but this is not my favorite writing style. I’m not sure I’m going to finish a Time Travel book this month, but don’t let that stop you – this is such a fun and intriguing trope and kind of mind twisting – what would you change? what would be the consequences and ripple effects?

If you are struggling to find a Time Travel book that intrigues you, you might want to look at some of the alternate history books that are out there which also play around with the question of what if? What if the Nazi’s had prevailed and won World War II? (Try Fatherland by Robert Harris) What if Alaska became a Jewish refugee settlement in 1941 and Israel no longer existed? (Read the hilarious The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon) What if the Black Death had killed 99% of Europe’s population instead of one-third? (Find out in The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson) What if Roosevelt lost the 1940 Presidential election and now anti-Semitism is accepted in America? (Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America examines this idea.) What if dragons had been used by the English to help defeat Napoleon? (I’m not kidding and it’s actually a terrific book, especially if you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series or a fan of Jane Austen. Really. Naomi Novik creates a believable and fascinating world in His Majesty’s Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series)

The only question left now is, where will you travel to? Let us know in the comments!

Titles mentioned in this post include:

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online colorHello Fellow Avid Readers! July has arrived – time for fireworks, backyard barbeques, Bix and best of all, our next Online Reading Challenge!

July’s theme is Time Travel, a fascinating and intriguing type of fiction that attempts to answer the question, what if? What if you could go back in time, what would you do? Would you make a different decision that would change the course of your life? Would you be able to change the course of history? Prevent terrible disasters? Play the stock market? What if Hitler had won the war? What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? How would the world be different?

There are lots of great books that fall into this category and while all of them have at least some elements of science fiction (time travel!) many of these titles are far more interested in how the past has shaped us and how changing the past might make us into a different person. They tend to fall into two board categories – changing world history or changing personal history. Here are some great titles to get you started.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This one doesn’t easily fall into one of the above categories but more about how the very act of involuntary time travel affects one person (the traveler mostly but also the people around him) both physically and emotionally. Coping with disappearing suddenly (most employers probably wouldn’t take kindly to that) and reappearing in some unknown location and time – without clothes – can be, understandably, stressful. Finding someone to love and building a life with them seems nearly impossible and yet Henry and Clare manage to create their own version of a happy life. I loved this book – funny and suspenseful with a sweet/sad ending. I could barely put it down and cried and cried at the end (but read it anyway) My best advice for reading this is – go with the flow. Don’t try to make sense of the intertwining timelines or you’ll make yourself crazy, just trust the author. And skip the movie.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Well, I hardly need to introduce this book – who hasn’t heard of it and its many sequels and popular television adaptation? It’s popular for a reason – lots of action and angst and romance (not to mention a fair amount of sex!) this adventure tale of a 1940s era nurse finding herself in the Scottish Highlands during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie has got it all. Be careful, once this story has grabbed you, you’re not likely to return the 21st century Iowa for some time. Besides the sequels and television adaptation, there are companion books to help you keep track of what’s going on and yes, even a cookbook (The Outlander Kitchen). Yum – haggis!

Books by Connie Willis. Willis seems to specialize in books about time travel and most of them are serious and dark. Lincoln’s Dreams returns us to the bloody battlefields of the Civil War, The Doomsday Book takes us to England in 1438 and the Black Death and Blackout goes to England’s darkest hours of World War II. All of these books are beautifully written, with characters that you care about and the ability to transport you to another era. However, they are all rather grim. My recommendation would be to search out To Say Nothing of the Dog, an unexpectedly light and funny return to the Victorian past, loosely based on Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, this is a delightful romp, perfect for summertime reading.

Other titles well worth considering include Replay by Ken Grimwood,  with a theme similar to Bill Murray/Groundhog Day; The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes where a woman gets to go back and marry a different man; Kindred by Octavia Butler where a modern black woman is transported to the antebellum South; and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer with a woman thrust into two pasts, one in 1914 and one in 1941.

And what am I planning to read this month? Before I tell you, I have to make a confession. I’ve never read a Stephen King book. Ever. Mostly because I’m a wimp that is easily scared. But I’m going to change that this month and read 11/22/63. A high school English teacher finds a portal that allows him to step back in time and leads him to attempt to prevent the assassination of JFK. It’s gotten excellent reviews and looks like a real page-turner – I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now it’s your turn – what are you going to read this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

safetynotguaranteedWanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

After seeing this personal ad run several times in the magazine he works for, Seattle Magazine, Jeff (Jake Johnson from The New Girl) pitches investigating the person who is running the ad.  The editor agrees and allows him to bring two interns with him, Darius (Aubry Plaza, Parks and Recreation) and Arnau (Karan Soni) to Ocean View, Washington to track down the potential time-traveler, Kenneth (Mark Duplass).

Darius quickly takes over the investigation, building a bond with Kenneth, despite her early skepticism.  Plaza plays Darius so exquisitely that you begin to see Kenneth through her eyes. Quick to roll her eyes or let out an exasperated sigh on Parks and Recreation, she uses subtlety in her facial expressions in this movie that one might not expect. The story is dark, funny, and smart, and the actors all feel fluid and natural, despite their characters being thrust into odd situations.

Fans of Jeff Who Lives at Home, Win Win, Crazy Stupid Love, and Silver Linings Playbook will want to pick up this quirky story about regret and love.

For this installment of Book vs. DVD, I did something a little different.  Instead of reading a book, I listened to an audiobook.  The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of a man who is, as Kurt Vonnegut so elegantly put once, “unstuck in time.”  Since the age of 9, Henry DeTamble regularly found himself naked in an unfamiliar place and time, visiting strangers, his loved ones, and occasionally himself, several years in the past or future.  When Henry is 28 and working as a librarian in Chicago, he meets Clare Abshire, a beautiful woman who tells him that they’ve met before, despite Henry not remembering.  As a man, Henry has time traveled to Clare’s childhood, and it is there that she first met him.  The book contains chapters alternately told by Henry and Clare detailing their stages of courtship and married life, including their attempts to find a cure for Henry’s condition and trying to have a baby.  This beautiful and at times heartbreaking story is well-told by audiobook readers William Hope and Laurel Lefkow, who evoke such emotion into their telling of the story that it’s hard not to feel like a part of Henry and Clare’s story.

The movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife follows fairly closely with the storyline of the book.  Henry and Clare are played by Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, respectively, and both were very close to what I imagined when listening to the audiobook.  The two have beautiful chemistry that feels very true to Henry and Clare’s relationship in the book.  The only changes that are made to the story are certain scenes from the book being shortened or completely cut out.  This isn’t surprising, as the book is rather lengthy and a film true to that would have been several hours long.

After trying out both the book and the DVD, I have to say that I was left a little disappointed by the movie.  Though it is well-acted and the story is incredibly romantic to see unfold before your eyes, something just feels missing once you’ve read the book.  Parts of Clare and Henry’s story are left out or rushed over, and I was left longing for them.  I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to watch the movie check out the audiobook or the book version of The Time Traveler’s Wife first, because it helps to fill in those little details that you might be confused without.  But of course, no movie can be a perfect adaptation of a book, and I felt that this one did a fairly decent job.

s WifeAudrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife will be released as a movie starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana on August 14th. This combines two excellent genres – novels featuring librarians and time travel. (There can never be enough stories about “hip, handsome” librarians).  Henry works for the Newberry library in Chicago and involuntarily pops up in his own past and future.

Add to this, time travel as an “impossible romantic trap” and you have box office magic. Consider the romantic traps inherent in movies such as Somewhere in Time, The Lake House and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When your lover is aging at a different rate or is in a different time zone, so to speak, it makes for a relationship complication.

So, here’s your chance to expand your travel choices – really expand them. Outside our time/space continuum.

time-of-my-life1What if you had the chance to live your life over? Would you make the same choices? Marry the same person? Work the same job? How different would your life be now, and where would you be? These intriguing questions are at the center of Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life when Jillian Westfield gets the chance to re-live part of her past.

Mired in an unhappy marriage, feeling trapped by her “perfect Mommy” image, Jillian finds herself dreaming of her former boyfriend and how different he was than her husband. While life with Henry was steady and reliable, life with Jackson had been exciting and fast-paced, and her career had begun to take off. She begins to believe that if she had stayed with Jackson everything would be glamorous and fun.

One morning Jillian wakes up seven years in the past, before she left Jackson, before she married Henry, before her daughter was born. Now armed with 20/20 hindsight, she aims to get things “right’ this time. But it’s not as simple as she thought – the absence of her daughter is a sharp, constant ache, the fast-paced job isn’t as alluring as she’d remembered and fond memories of Henry keep returning. There are poignant moments too, such as when she sees her friend Meg who, in her former world, would die is a couple years, and when she runs into the current Henry and realizes she’s still in love with him. Can she change the course of her life and the lives of those she loves? What might appear to be a simple chick lit is in fact a thoughtful look at choices and consequences and living the life you’re given.