The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The concepts of multiple lives and alternate universes make up the bulk of Matt Haig’s newest book, The Midnight Library. Given the current state of the world, I found the concept of an alternate universe to be refreshing even though I’m still not certain if that is something that I would want. Haig does an excellent job of discussing the morality of switching universes versus keeping your root life, a philosophical conundrum that most people do not think about on a daily basis.

Nora Seed wants to die. That is how this novel begins. Nothing in her life is going her way. She has lost her job, her pet, her best friend, and her brother. Her existing relationships are on the verge of disaster and Nora is struggling to find the will to live. She doesn’t see the point in living anymore and decides to kill herself.

Then she wakes up. Instead of ending up in an afterlife, Nora finds herself in a middle ground: a library. In fact, she is in the Midnight Library. Walking inside, Nora discovers that the library is full to the brim with books and the dutiful librarian in charge is the librarian from her early school days, Mrs. Elm. Confused and unsure what to do next. Nora turns to Mrs. Elm for help. Mrs. Elm explains to Nora that in fact this library is where people go when they are stuck between life and death. The library appears to people in many different ways, but the contents stay the same: every book that Nora sees is a different version of her own life, including her original life aka her root life. The millions of decisions that Nora choose during her life, and the subsequent decisions she said no to, all live within this library. Most importantly, Nora has the ability to choose to live any life that she wants to now, with restrictions and strings attached of course.

Overwhelmed with this knowledge, Nora has no idea where to begin. She is wracked with regret about what happened, and didn’t happen, in her root life. Mrs. Elm suggests she learn more about her regrets, sending Nora down a journey of self-discovery through a multitude of parallel universes that all have the power to change Nora’s perspective of her root life. As Nora tries on life and life, she slowly realizes that she’s never truly happy in any of these alternate lives either. This causes her to panic and wonder if she will be stuck in the Midnight Library forever. Nora must decide what she truly wants out of life and try to overcome the crushing regret that threatens to destroy her. As Nora goes on this journey, Mrs. Elm is right by her side, guiding her to what she truly desires even if Nora has no idea what that is.

If you’re looking for an escape, I recommend this book. If you’re looking to read about life struggles, alternate histories, parallel universes, or if you just want to pick up book about someone who is struggling to find their way like most of us are, this book is for you. It turned out in a way that I wasn’t expecting and I can’t wait to talk about it with you.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Greetings Challengers!

I hope you have safely returned from your time travel adventure by now. Time travel can be exciting, but also a little dangerous – one misstep and you put the whole future in jeopardy! Fortunately, at this time (as far as I know), time travel only exists in books and movies. Did you read something great this month? Please let us know in the comments!

My time travel adventure never took off – I failed to find anything that kept my interest. Of course, I threw this month open to any science fiction title, but I still came up short. This month (and year!) has been somewhat distracting!

If you too are still looking for something time-travel-y, check out some Doctor Who episodes (we have both classic and reboot series) which are loads of fun. C, one of our librarians, recommends Stephen King’s 11/22/63 about a man that goes back in time to try and prevent the assissination of John F Kennedy. They also suggest H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, an early classic in the genre.

So, now it’s up to you – what can you recommend for time-traveling/science fiction fun?

Online Reading Challenge – November

Hello Challenge Readers!

Welcome to the November Reading Challenge. This month our inspiration movie is Back to the Future!

This beloved film gives us a lot of options for books to read. Obviously, time travel would work, as would alternate histories. I’m also throwing it open to any science fiction title – maybe there’s one on your TBR list, or one that’s a little out of your usual reading choices that you’d like to try. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I do have some favorites.

Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is an obvious choice, but it’s a good one. Skip the movie, the book is much better with lots more character development and a deeper emotional impact. It is, in fact, a love story about a man who travels through time (without his consent or control) and the woman that waits for him.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loved this book, but it might hit a little too close to current events for some (it was written in 2014, long before COVID) In this book, a deadly flu wipes out 99 percent of the human population. The story moves between flashbacks to the “before” and of the survivors struggling in the “after”. Despite this description, the book is full of beauty and joy and community and most important, hope.

Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara is a fun and romantic time travel novel. After Jo-Jo is hit by a car she wakes up in 1963 where everything is different. It happens again and again, sending Jo-Jo to the 1970s, then the 80s and then the 90s. Why is she traveling through time and how will she ever get back to 2013?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This one strays a little bit from our film inspiration, but it is an excellent book full with spells and secrets. Agnieszka loves her quiet rural village, but an ever present threat hangs over it – an evil forest known as The Wood. A wizard that lives in the nearby castle keeps it at bay, but in exchange, every 10 years a young woman is recruited from the village to serve as his apprentice. When Agnieszka is chosen, no one is more surprised than she is. For an excellent series of alternate history, read Novik’s Temeraire series starting with His Majesty’s Dragon where dragons are part of the naval fighting forces of the Napoleonic era. No, really. It’s excellent!

I am going to read A Murder in Time by Julie McElwen, the first in a series about Kendra Donovan, an FBI agent that is thrown back in time to 1815 and into the life of a servant where she becomes involved with solving the mystery of a serial killer. Hmmm. Intriguing. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How about you? What will you be reading this month? Let us know in the comments!

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

She appears suddenly, out of thin air, on a cold December morning, wearing an out-of-style dress and no coat, confused but not lost. It’s early and Grand Central Station is quiet, filled with the bright light of the just-rising sun. Joe Reynolds, on his way to work, stops to ask if she needs help. She tells him she’s fine and they part ways and Joe never expects to see her again.

Except he does, exactly one year later, at the same place and time. Joe has not been able to forget about her and admits that he has always hoped to see her again. Joe finds out what her name is (Nora Lansing) and they spend some time together, wandering around Grand Central Station. Joe offers to walk Nora home but a few blocks from the station she disappears again.

Dumbfounded and intrigued, Joe starts researching Nora and the address she had given him; what he discovers shocks and unsettles him, but what he is sure of is the connection he had with Nora and that he must see her again.

Set starting in 1937, Time After Time takes place almost entirely at Grand Central Station which Grunwald brings vividly to life. Filled with people constantly on the move, it is also home to multiple shops, restaurants, hotels, classrooms, an art gallery and even a tiny hospital, all orbiting around the trains and their schedules. Against this lively backdrop, Joe and Nora fall in love and learn how to be together under unique circumstances.

This book has a lot going for it including a historical setting (the World War II era), intriguing facts about the trains and about Grand Central Station (which is nearly a character in the book itself), Manhattenhenge (which is critical to this story),  interesting characters (some real, some fictional) as well as a love story that stands firm no matter the hardship, across time itself. Highly recommended.

 

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

My Friends, it has happened. I have experienced an Epic Failure this month – I did not complete a book for our Alternate Histories challenge.

It’s not the fault of the book (The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn), it just wasn’t the right time for me to connect with it. Does that ever happen to you? Where the book just doesn’t work for you, even though you think it should? I have had this happen more than once; I often (although not always) return to the book later and everything clicks. So I’ll put this book on my TBR (to-be-read) list and try again another day.

However! All is not lost – I did finish watching the first season of Outlander (from the Diana Gabaldon books) and enjoyed it so much that I’m going to continue to watch more seasons (two more are available on DVD; season four is currently airing). At the end of season one, Claire and Jamie have decided that they’re going to try to change history and therefore save the Scots. This is, of course, the great temptation of time travel – changing what went wrong. But what are the ripple effects of one change, even a small one? What is the cost and would it prevent the tragedy, or is it doomed to happen no matter what? Intriguing questions, if impossible to answer.

What about you – what did you read that was intriguing and interesting? Or was this an epic fail for you too? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-In

Hello Challenge Participants! How is your November challenge going? Have you found something wonderful? Please share!

I admit that I haven’t gotten very far with my book choice (The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn). It’s just not compelling me to read it – although when I do pick it up, I find it interesting. Hmmm. Well, I haven’t given up on it yet!

However, I have fulfilled the November challenge – I’ve been watching Outlander. It’s quite possible I’m one of the last people to do so, but this way I can binge watch it (as time permits) I’m halfway through the first season and, while I haven’t gone completely head over heels for it, I do like it a lot.

Outlander is about an English Army nurse in 1945 who, while on vacation in Scotland with her husband, steps through a stone circle and is transported to 1743 Scotland, It’s a dangerous and volatile time period when the Clans of the Highlands are in constant conflict with the English. Even more so when you’re an Englishwoman alone and lost and confused. Watching Claire navigate this slippery path (and making several missteps) is fascinating. It’s also an in-depth introduction to Scotland during this time period, far beyond what a history book can teach, and of a way of life that was nearly wiped out. The costuming and scenery are spectacular (although, good heavens, it rains a lot!) and the story lines are interesting and often very suspenseful. I’m looking forward to watching more of the series!

Here are a few more movie recommendations for Alternate History.

Groundhog Day starring Billy Murray and Andie McDowell. OK, who hasn’t seen this? And who doesn’t love watching it again and again? It never gets old with comedic genius Murray playing arrogant TV weatherman Phil who is doomed to repeat the same day over and over until he gets it right. Spoiler alert: it takes awhile.

Big starring Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins. An encounter with a mysterious carnival fortune-telling machine grants Josh his greatest wish – to be big. Suddenly forced to navigate the world as an adult but with his teenage personality intact is both hilarious and poignant.

Back to the Future starring Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Wow, one classic after another, right? Grab that DeLorean and head back to 1955 with Marty McFly and watch how he fixes the future while trying to avoid wiping out his own existence.

Let us know what you’re reading or watching this month!

Online Reading Challenge – November

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s November and that means it’s time for reading – Alternate Histories!

Alternate Histories are kind of like brain teasers for the reader by asking the unanswerable What If? question. They fall mostly into two categories:

General. What If Lincoln had lived? Or JFK? What If the Nazi’s had won World War II? What If Rome had not fallen? How would the world be different now? Better? Worse? Some titles that fall into this category include 11/22/63 by Stephen King (about preventing the assisination of John F Kennedy), Fatherland by Robert Harris (if the Nazi’s had won WWII), and multiple titles by Harry Turtledove. Or perhaps you believe history could use some spicing up – try Naomi Novik’s excellent His Majesty’s Dragon where the Napoleonic Wars are fought with the help of dragons (it’s quite good – really!).

Personal. What If you could go back and make different choices in your own life? How would your life be different? Some examples would include The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Greer about a woman who finds herself transported to other lives she might have  lived: Replay by Ken Grimwood is about a man who dies repeatedly, only to wake as his younger self again and again, each time with a chance to reclaim a lost love, make a fortune on the stock market or correct a wrong; or If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison about a successful but unhappy 38-year-old who, after a knock on her head, wakes up just before her 18th birthday.

A kind of “sub-category” would be the Time Travel novels (remember, there are no Library Police! Read what interests you! Plus, I just made up this genre and I get to make the rules!) These would include Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and it’s many sequels and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Be sure to stop by any Davenport Library location and check out the Online Reading Challenge displays for lots more ideas and suggested titles.

I am planning on reading The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn about two researchers that go back in time to recover a suspected unpublished Jane Austen novel. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?

Now, what about you? What you be reading this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Book Lovers!

How was your October reading adventure – did you meet the challenge to try a Young Adult book? There are a lot of great ones – I hope you were able to find one you liked!

In October I read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. This book was recommended to me a long time ago and it kind of dropped off my radar. Now I wonder, why on earth didn’t I read it right away? It’s remarkable.

revolutionAndi is a depressed, modern-day teenager, mourning the breakup of her parents marriage and the death of her little brother. Her Father decides that accompanying him to Paris over winter break will be just the thing to help her break through her depression. Andi, of course, is less than thrilled but changes her mind when, poking through some antiques, she comes across a diary written by a girl who lived in Paris during the French Revolution. Alexandrine is feeling many of the same turbulent emotions as Andi as she struggles to survive the horrors of the war. As Andi delves further into the diary she begins to feel a kinship with Alexandrine that crosses culture and time and allows her to put her own suffering into perspective.

I had a little trouble with this book at first – Andi is very angsty and very angry at the beginning of the story and I had to force myself to push through. But the historical details, the weaving of the love of music (by both Andi and Alexandrine) throughout the story and an ending that is intense and gripping add up to a book that is very hard to put down. Beautifully written, complex and with just a tiny bit of magical realism, this is a wonderful all-encompassing read.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read in October? Tell us how you did with the Young Adult theme!

New Science Fiction & Fantasy in August

Featured new additions to DPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.

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?

Time Travel – Midway Point

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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