Blog Tour: Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials.
Evie Shao and her sister, Kass, aren’t on speaking terms. Fifteen years ago on a family camping trip, their father and brother vanished. Their dad turned up days later, dehydrated and confused—and convinced he’d been abducted by aliens. Their brother, Jakob, remained missing. The women dealt with it very differently. Kass, suspecting her college-dropout twin simply ran off, became the rock of the family. Evie traded academics to pursue alien conspiracy theories, always looking for Jakob.
When Evie’s UFO network uncovers a new event, she goes to investigate. And discovers Jakob is back. He’s different—older, stranger, and talking of an intergalactic war—but the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. If the family is going to come together to help Jakob, then Kass and Evie are going to have to fix their issues, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and if their brother is telling the truth, possibly an entire space armada, too.
The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years From Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.

Light Years from Home by Mike Chen

Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I am a part of the blog tour for this book so thank you to MIRA books for the opportunity to share my thoughts about this one!
I’ve read all of Chen’s previous novels and while they are all technically science fiction stories, they are all so different from one another that I never really know what to expect going into them. That was accurate for this story as well. I sort of thought I was getting into a hard sci-fi story full of action and adventure and space wars. But this is really the story of three siblings: Jakob, Evie, and Kass. Jakob’s disappearance fifteen years earlier fractured this family so much that when the three are finally reunited fifteen years later, it might not be possible for them to mend what’s been broken. Especially considering that Jakob has returned with stories of a war that’s raging between aliens and while Evie absolutely believes him, Kass thinks it’s more likely that Jakob is suffering from a mental illness. I definitely didn’t think this was going to turn into an “is it really aliens or is it actually mental illness” story, but the author totally had me convinced when I was reading the chapters from Kass’ perspective.
Since we get three points of view, one from each sibling, it felt like we really got the whole story. We really got to know each of these siblings. I really enjoyed that. I think having all three voices really made the story what it was because if it had just been from Jakob’s perspective it would have been a totally different story. Each sibling brought something different to the story. I liked all three of the main characters. It was interesting because when I was reading Evie’s chapters, I totally agreed with her resentment of her older sister, but when I was reading Kass’ chapters, I also totally agreed with her disdain toward her siblings. I think Chen did an excellent job with these characters.
Overall, I loved the blend of family drama with the science fiction genre. The threat of an alien war coming to earth unless Jakob can get certain information to them raised the stakes of the story and set the pace. But the characters were absolutely what made this book what it was. The family dynamics were compelling and the issues between the siblings weren’t resolved with a nice neat bow, which I appreciated. I think there will be some mixed reviews on this one from those that are expecting more of a sci-fi story. But I will definitely be continuing to recommend Chen’s work.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

GoodReads Summary:
Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.
In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.
Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.
Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.
A Beginning at the EndReview:
After reading and completely loving Mike Chen’s first book (Here and Now and Then) I had really high hopes for A Beginning at the End and it was definitely one of my anticipated releases. Sadly, I’m really glad I got it from the library so I didn’t waste money on this book. I really didn’t love it.
Chen’s writing definitely had me drawn into the story and I felt like I was enjoying it while I was reading and actually in the story. But once I finished the final pages and closed the book I felt like I had no idea what I’d just read.
We’re in a post-apocalyptic world, one that’s managed to rebuilt (or is in the process of rebuilding anyway). There are three characters that we follow and they each have a different view on the world. I did like the characters, they were pretty much what made this book because their actions were so low stakes (in an overall sense) and I loved that they were all brought together, but their goals were just not what this book should have been about. I don’t want to complain too much because there was growth and development for each character, but I just was disappointed after how much I loved Chen’s first book.
Overall, this was a miss for me. But I love this author, so I’d definitely still recommend it because not all of us have the exact same reading taste. So, feel free to give it a try!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

GoodReads Summary:
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.
Here and Now and ThenReview:
Here and Now and Then had me hooked just from the premise. But once I actually started the book, I seriously could not put it down. The pacing was just right. There were times when things moved quickly and other times when things slowed down for a beat, but nothing was ever happening too quickly or too slowly. I honestly didn’t think I was going to like this book when I was about a third of the way through. I was liking it well enough, but after a certain time travel incident, I didn’t like some of the characters. But Chen really brought everything full circle.
I really loved Kin. I at first his ‘agent brain’ was a little annoying and at times, choppy. But that got better the further into the story we got. He really loved his family and that was my favorite part of the story. This whole book was based on one man’s love for his family. Kin was passionate and just trying to figure out what to do that would be fair to all of the people he loves. I really admired his quick thinking and the fact that he tried to considered all sides of any decision.
Penny was one that I didn’t like for the first half of the book. She’s his fiancé in his original timeline. But I preferred Heather and Miranda, his family he made in the 90s. But Penny proves herself worthy over and over and I really grew to love her. I would have liked to see her stand up for herself to her parents, but we can’t have everything.
Heather and Miranda were my favorite part of this story. The time travel aspect really created some wild dynamics. I’m not going to say too much about Heather other than I liked her. Miranda though, had a pretty bumpy life. All because her father was a time-traveling secret agent. I was so intrigued by the ways that Kin managed to communicate with Miranda from the future and how things came full circle in the end.
Overall, there was so much to this story. Ideas that are completely over my head, but they were explained well and without info-dumping. I loved this book. Time travel, family values, what more could I ask for? If you’re a light science fiction lover, this is the story for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.