Book Review: The Time Thief

November 29, 2010

The Time Thief (The Gideon Trilogy: Book Two)
Linda Buckley-Archer
Time Travel
Age 12 and up
368 pages

The Time Thief, by Linda Buckley-Archer, is the second book of her time travel series The Gideon Trilogy.  Without giving away the ending of the first book, The Time Thief continues the adventures of twelve-year-olds Peter and Kate and the many acquaintances they made along their journey in book one.  I recommend reading The Time Travelers (book 1) first, because this book does not completely stand on its own.  The author does attempt to bring new readers up to speed, but the nature of the story is such that the reader should start at the beginning.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book.  It moved too slowly and the characters never really resonated with me.  However, while the pacing wasn’t ideal, the plotting and her use of time travel were some of the best I’ve come across.  The second book was much better on all fronts.  The characters really came to life and the pacing improved as well.

The Time Thief uses many different viewpoint characters which does help in telling the story, but at times I felt there were a few too many.  On the other hand, while the author uses a lot of viewpoints, she doesn’t randomly add characters to suit her needs.  Characters that came and went in the first novel (that I had completely forgotten about) make appearances and play rather large roles in the second book.  It really is quite a feat of plotting.

This novel takes place in modern day England, 18th century England and revolutionary France.  The amount of detail is amazing…sometimes a little too much as it bogs the story down…but the research that had to be done for this novel is truly mind boggling.  Through all this history the action still does a good job of moving the story forward and it’s never predictable.  As a reader I never knew what would happen next or even how the novel would end.  I loved that the book kept me guessing the entire time.

If you want to study how a good time travel works, read this book.  It’s a really, really good example, despite its slow beginning, and plot-wise it is a masterpiece.  The author sets up rules and strictly follows them.  The consistency with how the time travel works, the effects it has on the characters and the consequences of those effects are brilliant.  The time travel isn’t static either.  The characters learn how to manipulate time.  Time affects the characters.  There are so many layers to the time travel in this novel—when I say brilliant I’m really not exaggerating.

I can’t say I loved this book, but I absolutely appreciated what the author has accomplished. I definitely think it’s worth the read, especially if you’re interested in time travel.

On a side note: I never quite understand why, when a British book gets “translated” into American English, the titles sometimes change too.  I actually like the British titles better and even the series name is more suited to the novels—The Time Quake Trilogy (British) vs. The Gideon Trilogy (American).  The books really are more about the time travel than Gideon.  I just wonder sometimes, who makes these decisions and why.  I even like the British book covers better! (comparisons below)

Book Covers

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Book Review: The Demon King

November 23, 2010
The Demon King
Cinda Williams Chima
Fantasy
Grade 7 and up
506 pages

Han Alister is a reformed streetlord trying to earn money to take care of his mother and little sister. He gathers rare plants to sell at market, carries news and mail up and down the mountain, and runs alcohol from Lucius Frowsley’s still down to taverns in Fellsmarch. Life would be a lot simpler if he could sell the one thing of value he owns—rune-covered silver cuffs that have been on his wrists as long as he can remember. They have magical properties, for they grow as he grows. And he’s never been able to get them off.

After an unsuccessful day of plant gathering, Han and his clan friend Fire Dancer decide to hunt deer instead. They run into three wizards—too young to be working magic—who have set fire to the meadow in an attempt to drive the deer down the mountain where the Queen and her entourage are set to begin a hunt. An altercation ensues and Han has to stop one of the wizards from jinxing Dancer. At bow point, he forces the wizard to throw down the amulet that is the focus for his magic. Han’s possession of the amulet sets a series of deadly events in motion and his difficult life becomes much worse.

Fifteen-year-old Raisa ana‘Marianna is the heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells. After spending three years with her father’s clan family in the mountains, she’s back at Fellsmarch Castle feeling trapped by her royal duties and throng of suitors. The High Wizard has too much influence with her mother, the Queen, and Raisa has had a premonition that there is danger ahead. She also wants to be a more informed queen than her mother and so convinces her friend Amon to take her into the city in disguise.

It is there, late at night, where our protagonists meet. And not under the best of circumstances. Han has been accused of murders he didn’t commit and is desperate. In an attempt to get away, he kidnaps Raisa, not realizing she’s the princess. And she doesn’t tell him. He releases her the next day, but not before more complications arise. From there to the end of the book, these two characters are on a trajectory to meet again as their individual circumstances become more dire.

I’m a huge fan of fantasy and decided to pick up The Demon King because I enjoyed Chima’s contemporary young adult fantasy series, The Heir Chronicles. Han and Raisa’s story doesn’t disappoint. Be aware, however, that it is part of a series and the second book, The Exiled Queen, only recently came out. I imagine the third book won’t be in print until fall of 2011. If you don’t mind waiting, I recommend reading this one right away.

Chima does a wonderful job with world building. There are a couple of fantasy staples that will feel familiar—the native tribal people, the monarch under the influence of evil magic—but Chima pulls it off with unique magical twists and compelling characters. I’m ready to dive into The Exiled Queen.

For more information on Cinda Williams Chima and her books, check out her website: www.CindaChima.com.


Contest: Little Blog on the Prairie

November 19, 2010

Cathleen Davitt Bell said in her interview that she thought of the idea of a “frontier camp” when she was a child obsessed with the “Little House” books…then saw PBS’s series Frontier House twenty years later, which had a very similar idea.  When I was in Brussels in September, the Musem of Musical Instruments proved to be the museum I’d dreamed of opening as a twelve-year-old music lover.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Little Blog on the Prairie, what idea, misconception, or obsession from childhood have you seen played out as an adult, or are still wishing to find an outlet for?  Anything goes, so have fun!  Winner will be announced next Friday, Nov. 26.


Interview with Cathleen Davitt Bell

November 17, 2010

  Please welcome Cathleen Davitt Bell, author of Little Blog on the Prairie, to Damsels in Regress.  If you read through this interview and want to find out more, visit Cathleen’s own WordPress blog, www.cathleendavittbell.com.  And be sure to come back Friday for a chance to win her book!  For now, enjoy hearing how she came to write her hilarious YA novel.

1.  How did you come up with this wonderful idea?  Is any of the story based on the experiences of you or someone you know?
 
I read Little House on the Prairie in October of third grade and from the second I’d closed the book I was hooked. I wanted to live on the frontier. I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to cook over a woodstove and churn butter. At some point, I noticed the papier machié in school tasted like bread when it dried––I started working on cooking my own “bread” by mixing flour and water in cereal bowls and sticking them in the oven. (My single mom was taking night classes…) By fourth grade, I’d been given a sewing machine, learned to make yeast bread, grown my hair down to my waist, and was ready for the total immersion that never came. In the midst of this frenzy, I came up with the idea of frontier camp in the back seat of my dad’s car on some extended road trip. I had it all sketched out––you would check in for two weeks and be assigned a life in a fully-functioning village. I remember explaining to my parents that you could be the blacksmith or the general store owner or whatever you wanted, just as long as you wore the clothes and ate the food.

The next time I thought about this vacation was when the PBS reality show Frontier House was aired. Boy, did I miss my calling as a reality show inventor. I was twenty years ahead of them, though I think my little world would have been a lot more “interesting…” Imagine the scene of a 21st century computer programmer or office manager trying to work in a blacksmith’s shop? Nothing like massive burns and a full blown fire to send the ratings through the roof, no?

The next time I remembered my vacation idea was in Brooklyn, where I live. I don’t know what brought it to mind, only I had this flash of the camp I’d designed, and then the idea of what a modern teen would make of it made me snort the cup of coffee I was drinking and turn heads.

I started writing the book that very day.

Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: Little Blog on the Prairie

November 15, 2010

Little Blog on the Prairie
Cathleen Davitt Bell
Contemporary
Grades 4-7
276 pages

Thirteen-year-old Genevieve, or Gen, Welsh has no idea what her family is getting in to when they spend the summer at Camp Frontier in Wyoming.  Gen, her parents, and her younger brother, Gavin, relenquish all their electronics, toiletries, clothing, and all other modern conveniences to live in a small cabin designed to reflect frontier life in 1890.  Three other families live near them, doing the same thing, along with the camp owners and their teenage daughter, Nora.  But as Gen learns to churn butter and milk a cow, she also sends texts to her friends back home on the new cell phone her parents promised her if she gives Camp Frontier a chance.  One friend turns her texts into a popular blog, and the modern world meets 1890 in surprising, hilarious ways.

As you can tell by the summary, Little Blog on the Prairie isn’t exactly historical fiction.  It’s set in the present day with a modern teen narrator who is used to eating pre-packaged food, playing soccer, and using consumer electronics like computers and iPods.  But Gen spends some time in a re-created historical world, trying her best to live authentically (minus the texts), and the result is a book full of detailed tidbits of life on the American frontier.  So, not historical fiction per se, but still a book I enjoyed and wanted to include on Damsels because it celebrates history.  Gen’s mother has an idealized version of what the camp will be, until she learns just how hard it is to cook over a fire and do laundry by hand.  The Welsh family comes together in ways they never imagined, but not in a sappy, unbelievable way.  By looking at history through the eyes of a modern character, readers can get a real sense of how hard life was on the frontier, even more, perhaps, than by reading the Little House books.

Unlike many of the book reviews and interviews we do here, I didn’t know anything about this book or its author before I stumbled across it at the library.  The title caught my attention as I wandered the teen section, and the jacket copy had me laughing from the beginning.  I am so glad I did stumble on it, because it turned out to be a funny read, full of great teen energy and sarcasm that wasn’t crass or laced with references to the more unsavory aspects of modern teen life.  And unlike a lot of teen books, which almost seem to be set five years ago, this one has up-to-the-minute technology that, sure, may be dated someday, but which reflect the day-to-day lives of many teens and dares to ask the question, “Just how far can we take this premise?”

Stay tuned for an interview with Cathleen Davitt Bell and a chance to win your own copy of this delightful book later this week!


The Everyday from the Past: Thank you to our Veterans

November 11, 2010

This letter gets me misty eyed every time I read it. Some things don’t change much over time. Sure we’ve got email today, but letters home to love ones haven’t changed much. Maybe it’s because my brother, after a very hard and sad deployment, has just returned home that this letter especially gets to me.

I have to smile at the end as he ends the letter “x x x x x x x x x” Lots of kisses! I can, to some degree, understand this longing to be with your love one. This great great (not sure exactly how many) uncle never made it home. He gave his life fighting in Italy during WW2.

Today’s Veterans Day. Take a moment to thank a soldier. So many have served this great country. So many have paid the ultimate price and gave their lives for this country.

Thank you, to my brother, father, grandfather, and every man and woman who’s served. Read the rest of this entry »


Curds and Whey

November 9, 2010

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider, who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

by Dr. Thomas Muffet

I got the children’s rhyme stuck in my head one day and remembered the questions I used to ask my parents about this rhyme—which as a child I found very confusing—except for the parts about a spider scaring Miss Muffet away. What is a tuffet? And what are curds and whey? I learned that a tuffet was another name for a footstool—a rather silly name (or so my six year old self thought).  And that curds and whey was cottage cheese.  The rhyme didn’t hold quite the same appeal when I said footstool and cottage cheese…

CURDS AND WHEY RECIPE

Take a small piece of rennet about two inches square. Wash it very clean in cold water, to get all the salt off, and wipe it dry. Put it into a teacup, and pour on it just enough of lukewarm water to cover it. Let it set all night, or for several hours. Then take out the rennet, and stir the water in which it was soaked, into a quart of warm milk, which should be in a broad dish.

Set the milk in a warm place, till it becomes firm curd. As soon as the curd is completely made, set it in a cool place, or on ice (if in summer) for two or three hours before you want to use it.

Eat it with wine, sugar, and nutmeg. When perfectly well made it always looks greenish.

From Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry Cakes by, Miss Leslie of Philadelphia