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1. "Nobody reads" and book excellence (beware: multiple titles are herein celebrated)

I shall get to the end of this story momentarily, but I will begin with this: The other day, while running on one of those machines at the gym, I was accompanied by a young friend with whom I most often disagree. We sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Her tendency is to yell (she'd be the first to admit this; she's adorable when she admits this), while my tendency is to ask questions and listen. She is smart, fierce, interesting, and I don't mind. In her advocacy for the positions that will soon represent the U.S., I listen for facts I might not have otherwise encountered.

We were fifteen minutes into our workout when the conversation escalated. "You're what's wrong with America," she said, loud enough for the entire gym (okay, maybe only our section) to hear. "Nobody in this country reads."

"Are you suggesting I don't read?" I said, and for the first time in any of our conversations, I heard defensiveness creep into my tone. I thought of the hours upon hours, every day, that I spent during the election year—reading, watching, and listening. So many hours that my life had become knotted up with the news, that my conversations were always tilting toward the political, that my home life was growing obstructed by my dark glaring over the dinner table at a husband who was not responsible for the world tumult. So many hours that I was no longer reading the books that gave me comfort—the true works of art that stand above, and beyond.

I gave away so much time in 2016 to learning the issues and refining my point of view that I didn't just lose all kinds of professional ground. I lost one of the things that gives me joy—peaceful times with books that rise above the cacophony.

In this past week, in the post-Christmas quiet, I have returned, with force, to these many books that have been sitting here. I have a semester of memoir to teach at Penn, an honors thesis student whose fiction I will guide, four upcoming Juncture memoir workshops to plan for, and a number of book projects of my own. I don't know what will happen with any of this—I have not met my students, I have not advertised the workshops, I am perched on the ledge of essential revisions—but I do know that I can do nothing that I'm supposed to be doing if I do not sit and read.

And so I have been reading, and now you have reached that place in this post place where I list some of the books I have been curled up with these past few days. One after the other, these books have made me glad. For their intelligence and craft. For their beacon shimmer. For the inspiration that they give me.

Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner. For my thoughts on this collection of essays, go here.

Best American Essays 2015, edited by Ariel Levy. Within these pages I found old favorites (Roger Angell, Isiah Berlin, Sven Birkerts, Hilton Als, Justin Cronin, Rebecca Solnit, Zadie Smith, Anthony Doerr, Margo Jefferson) and new voices (Kendra Atleework, Tiffany Briere, Kate Lebo). Here is Atleework, in a gorgeous essay called "Charade," writing of her mother just before she died. Such simple words here. And so very moving.
A few months before, she was beautiful—you could still see it in flashes. Her hair was thick and blondish, and her body was round in some places and slender in others. Her hands, always cold, held pens and typed and cooked scrambled eggs. Her eyes were blue and her heels were narrow. She looked a lot like me.
The Art of Perspective, Christopher Castellani (Graywolf Press Series)—a refreshingly smart examination of narrative strategy and literary point of view. This may be a craft book, but there is, within the pages, a kind of suspense as the author presents his own quandaries about a story he might write. I could quote this entire book. But this should give you a taste for Castellani's smarts:
Why bother to write if you don't have a view worthy of sharing? I think we judge the literary merit of a text not merely by how closely we relate to the characters' experiences—that's the relatively easy part of the author's job—but by how strongly the author's ultimate vision compels us, provokes us, challenges us, or makes new the everyday.
The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, Caroline Paul illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton. I'll be honest. I did not know about this NYT bestseller until I read about it in Brain Pickings. I bought it for my niece (to be perfectly honest), and I was just planning to scan enough of it so that we might speak of it later. Well. Hold the scissors. I could not stop. This is a memoir/history/how-to/diary journal with pictures, all in one. But it's not just the cleverness of the design that strikes me hard. It's the cleverness of the prose. Paul begins with a story from her youth, when she set out to build a boat out of milk cartons:

I envisioned a three-masted vessel, with a plank off to one side (of course) and a huge curved prow that ended in an eagle head. So I set about collecting milk cartons. I collected from my school cafeteria. I collected from my friends. I collected from my family. I soon became familiar with the look on their faces when I explained I was building a milk carton pirate ship. It was actually a combination of looks, all rolled into one. Hahaha, what a crazy idea, the expression said. And Good luck, kid, but I don't think it's going to happen. And, Well, at least I'm getting ride of my milk cartons. Then at the very end of this facial conga-dance, I always caught something else. Actually, that sounds like FUN. I wish I could do that, the final look exclaimed.

(Sorry, Niece Julia, I did not write in your book or dog ear its pages. I hope you like it as much as I do.)

Upstream: Selected Essays, Mary Oliver. Truth Alert! I just got this book yesterday, and I haven't finished reading yet. But I do love the three essays I've read, and I want to share this small bit from the first page. This is from the first paragraph, right at the end. It goes like this:

What a life is ours! Doesn't
anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the

middle of the night and
sing?

(Just like that, Oliver breaks into a song. Huzzah!)

Time Travel, James Gleick. Full Disclosure, Which is Bigger Than a Truth Alert. I bought this book for another niece, Claire, because I have a little tradition with Claire that includes the purchases of books. What are you seeking? I asked her this year. She said science, nonfiction, a good memoir were her new cup of tea (a good memoir! did you see that?). I bought her a copy of this book and me a copy of this book, because I'm teaching concepts of time this year in my Penn classroom, and I might as well make myself cool and contemporary. Claire, I have not broken the spine on YOUR copy of this book. I hope we both love it and can talk of it someday.

Finally, sitting here during my many months of not reading much but that which I had to read, has been a book mailed to me by Carrie Pepper, a book called Missing on Hill 700. This is Carrie's tribute to a brother lost in a firefight during the Vietnam War. She was thirteen when the telegram arrived. Her family ultimately crumbled from the news. Carrie's decision was to seek out news of the brother she had lost, and through the letters and photos that others send, a mosaic of a life emerges—a mosaic and also hope that Tony's remains will finally make their way home. The subtitle tells you much about Pepper's heart and purpose: "How Losing a Brother in Vietnam Created a Family in America."

2 Comments on "Nobody reads" and book excellence (beware: multiple titles are herein celebrated), last added: 12/30/2016
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2. YA Book Release: Pirate Summer by HL Carpenter...

The creative genius of HL Carpenter shines in their latest book. Pirate Summer is the story of a sister and brother who discover the importance of each other and the consequences of lying. Enter the handsome privateer who steals Josey’s heart and commandeers her on the adventure of her life and you now have the perfect summer read for all ages.

Fifteen year old Josey is a liar. She’d like to stop. But after Mom left, the lies started popping out, like the time Josey left her little brother at the library and told Dad he’d run away.

Then Josey meets a boy who tells bigger whoppers than she does. He says he’s the son of a privateer who’s been dead two centuries. He’s so convincing Josey’s brother believes every word and sets off to find the privateer’s hidden treasure.

When her brother disappears, Josey is sure she knows where he's gone. But everyone thinks she's lying again. Everyone, that is, except the so-called privateer’s son. He knows she’s telling the truth because jeweled riches are only part of his tale. There’s also the snooperscope, a device that makes time leaps possible, like the one that brought him to the present.

The story is fantastical...and yet Josey will do anything to save her brother, including traveling back in time two hundred years with a boy she can’t trust.
EXCERPT

The basic tale hadn’t changed since the first time I’d heard it, though Gran had added a few embellishments. I wondered who she’d been practicing on, then remembered she was on call as a substitute teacher for the Sea Cove school system. Thanks to her, generations of Sea Cove residents knew the legend of Alastair Morgan, a pirate who’d haunted the Florida coast during the early 1800s. Andy jiggled on the seat. He had a vivid imagination, a by-product of his oversize I.Q., and he was caught up in the midst of the hurricane Gran was describing. The huge storm had blown the Morgan pirate ship off course and into Sea Cove.

“Alastair Morgan was familiar with Sea Cove,” Gran said. “He sought refuge in the harbor. When the skies lightened, the rain slowed. He rowed to shore with his son, some of his crew and seven trunks of gold and jewels. They had buried the treasure and were rowing back to their ship when the storm started again.”

“Didn’t he realize the calm was only the eye of the hurricane?” Andy asked.

“Good question, and no, he didn’t. He was surprised when the winds and rain picked up, only from the opposite direction.” 

“Silly of him. He should have known. Being a sailor and all.”

Gran met my gaze over Andy’s head. Her lips twitched.

I grinned, forgetting for a moment how annoyed I was. By the time I remembered, Gran had looked away, out the front windshield.

She gasped. “Brake, Josey!”

I jerked my head around. I’d only been distracted for a second—exactly enough time for the truck to drift to the right side of the road. A skinny teenage boy walked there, his back to us.

“We’re going to hit him!” Andy shouted.

I leaned on the horn, smashed the brake, and yanked the wheel to the left. The tires screeched. The seatbelt dug into my hips. Andy shouted again as an invisible force shoved him back, then forward. Gran shot out her arm to hold him in place.

In front of us, the boy whirled. He yelled and raised his palms toward us as if he could ward off the truck with his bare hands. At the last moment, he flung himself onto the dirty sand beyond the edge of the black pavement.

I lost sight of him as the pickup jolted to a shuddering, shaking stop, sideways across the highway.

 Amazon Buy Link

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

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3. The Blitz Next Door by Cathy Forde

For Pete Smeaton, age 10 going on 11, moving from London to Clydebank, Scotland had its good points and its bad ones.  He was sorry to leave a place he knew so well, and his two best mates Simon and Alfie.  On the other hand, in Scotland, Pete has a big bedroom to himself, away from the rest of his family, including baby sister Jenny and her incessant crying.  Not only that, but there's that old WWII Anderson shelter at the end of the garden, just past the bomb crater, perfect to use as his personal den. Now, if only the girl next door would stop crying - except there is no next door, not since WWII when it took a direct hit from a bomb.

But no sooner do Pete and his football-figure collection get to the shelter, then he is confronted by Dunny, who claims the shelter is his.  After a brief showdown, the two boys bond over the football figures and in no time, Pete had a new best mate.  Everything seems to be going well - the house comes with his dad's new job, his dad's boss, Jamie Milligan, loves old rock and rock music as much as Pete does, and he doesn't have to start a new school until after the Easter holiday.  If only the girl next door would stop crying and who is the creepy old lady that is always standing at the bomb crater and doesn't seem to see or hear anyone?

Little by little, with the help of Dunny, Mr. Milligan and his mum, Pete begins to unravel the mystery of the crying girl next door.  No one who has lived in this area in Clydebank seems surprised when they discover that Pete can hear her.  He learns from them that her name is Beth and she lived next door during the war.  On the night of the Clydebank Blitz, Beth was in the Anderson shelter when the bomb hit her side of the house and destroyed it.  A box of treasured items, including her mother's wedding photo got lost in the rubble. Beth's mother was killed in the blitz and she and her father migrated to New Zealand in the 1950s.

Beth is an old woman now, and all she wants is to see the photo of her mother once more, the one in her lost box.  On the anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz, the Anderson shelter becomes a portal that takes Pete back to that terrifying night.  Can he help Beth find her treasure box in the past, so she can die in peace in the present?

The Blitz Next Door is a nice blending of real events with realistic fiction and fantasy.  The story is told in the third person, from Pete's perspective.  He is a clever, sensitive boy, good to both his sister and the girl next door, for all their crying, and brave enough to take risks to help Beth.  The other characters, especially Dunny and Mr. Milligan are also well developed with definite personalities, even Jamie Milligan and Dunny's younger brother Wee Stookie are solid and believable, though Pete's mum and dad as minor characters never really evolve.

The Clydebank Blitz was, indeed, a real event, and happened over the course of two nights, March 13 and 14, 1941.  A total of 560 Luftwaffe bombed the city because of its munitions factories and shipyards, 578 people were killed and many, like Beth, lost their homes.  The Blitz Next Door is a basically a contemporary story and you may wonder, as I did, if there would still be a bomb crater from WWII.  I didn't find one specific to Clydebank, but there actually are still some craters in the area.

This is a story set in Scotland and there is some amount of British slang used.  It won't take long to figure out that footy is soccer, that a stookie is a plaster cast, and that bally doesn't what it sounds like it should mean.  It is actually a substitute for saying ?bloody" which at one time was considered to be an expletive, but isn't really, anymore.

The Blitz Next Door is a compelling story that should appeal to readers who like a mystery and time travel stirred into their contemporary adventure stories, and that explores themes about friendship, family, courage.  This would pair nicely with A Shirtful of Frogs by Shalini Boland.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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4. Blitzed by Robert Swindells

This post was originally posted in 2012, but something odd happened on Blogger and it had to be reposted.

It is 2002 and Georgie Wetherall loves two things - knowing all about England in World War II and creeping. Creeping?  That is when you “streak across a row of back gardens, over fences, through hedges, across veg patches...without getting caught or recognized.” (pg13)  And he especially likes leaving Miss Coverley’s garden is shambles.  Georgie knows she doesn’t like him - she's always watching him.  So when he has to repair her fence post as punishment for his last creeping adventure, Georgie discoveres she watches him - it seems he reminds her of someone, but who?

All this is forgotten, however, when Georgie’s class goes on a trip to Eden Camp, a former POW camp turned into a WW 2 museum of 29 huts each dedicated to one aspect of the war.  Hut 5 is a realistic replica of a bombed street in London during the Blitz.  The sounds and smells add to the realistic atmosphere - but wait, it is perhaps a little too realistic.  In fact, Georgie suddenly finds himself transported back to wartime London.

Finding himself faced with the real deal, cold, hungry, lost and scared, Georgie wanders around until he finds a friendly searchlight crew who give him something to eat.  After living through a night of bombing in a public shelter, Georgie notices four kids emerging from a bombed out pub.  He and the kids start talking and they tell him he can stay with them as long as Ma approves.  Ma turns out to be a 14 year-old girl who watches over orphaned kids in the pub's basement.

Ma has a job in a second hand shop owned by what she believes to be is a Jewish refugee from Germany called Rags.  But when Georgie discovers a radio transmitter locked in one of the shops upstairs rooms, the kids begin to suspect that maybe Rags isn't who they think he is.  And they decide to find out exactly what he is up to with that radio transmitter.  Trouble is, Rags begins to suspect Ma of snooping in his stuff and decides to find out what she is up to.  So, Georgie, along with Ma and the other orphans, is on a wartime adventure he never dreamt possible.

I liked this coming of age time travel story.  It is told in the first person, and the author maintains the voice of a 12 year-old boy throughout, giving it an authentic quality - quick, witty, full of colloquialisms from 2002 that are questioned by the folks from 1940.  I also found Georgie's reaction to his predicament refreshing.  In most time travel stories, kids end up in a different time and place and seem to assimilate so easily.  But for Georgie, it isn't just a jolly adventure.  He worries throughout about not getting home, not seeing his parents again.  As wartime London loses its romanticized aura and becomes reality, it causes Georgie to experience real reactions like throwing up more than once and even wetting himself at one point.

But it is also a story of survival, complete with a cast of orphan characters right out of Charles Dicken's London, who become Georgie's family away from family, helping him adjust and carry on. And most importantly, helping him see the reality of war.

Blitzed is a fast paced but wonderful book.  The chapters are only a few pages long, but the events are exciting, making it an ideal book for a reluctant readers and certainly one that would appeal to boys as well as girls.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library

You can hear Robert Swindells speaking about Blitzed here.  It is on YouTube but the embed function is disengaged.

And there really is an Eden Camp in Yorkshire, so if you happen to be in England and would have an interest in visiting (you might want to go to Yorkshire anyway, it is a wonderful place to see.)  Information about visiting can be found here

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5. The House on the Strand

The House on the Strand. Daphne du Maurier. 1968. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land. There was no softness anywhere. The distant hills did not blend into the sky but stood out like rocks, so close that I could almost touch them, their proximity giving me that shock of surprise and wonder which a child feels looking for the first time through a telescope.

Premise/plot: Richard Young, the hero of Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand, becomes a guinea pig for his scientist friend, Magnus, while vacationing in Cornwall. Magnus has concocted a hallucinogenic drug that allows the user to time travel, though not physically. While Dick's first 'time-travel' experience has its downsides, he enjoys it just enough to keep taking the drug in different locales. Why different locales? Because location matters. Your body may stay in the present, but, your consciousness is far, far away. And your body-and-mind act together. Your mind sees the world as it was. Your body experiences it as it is. Whatever you're doing in the past, you're doing in the present--sitting, standing, walking, running, etc. Readers DON'T see this, of course, just the results and consequences. You may sit down and take the drug in one place, and come back to reality hours later miles and miles away with no real idea of how you got there.

The past is the fourteenth century. The 1320s through the 1340s. Dick is an invisible presence in the past. He can "spy" on the past and follow people around, seeing and hearing plenty that interests him. He becomes very caught up in the lives of Isolda and Roger. (They are not a couple.) The past is full of soap opera like DRAMA.

The present is the 1960s. Dick is married to a woman, Vita, who has two sons. His wife and two stepsons join him on his vacation. He's not excited about that. Why? He really, really, really, really likes taking this mind-altering drug. And he fears that if he's surrounded by his family he might have to be responsible and stay in the present.

The drama isn't all in the past, a few things happen in the present that are just as exciting. Particularly when Magnus comes to visit his friend...

My thoughts: Dick isn't the smartest hero. Perhaps he trusts his friend a LITTLE too much. Or perhaps the sixties were so truly different that taking mind-altering drugs was something you did without blinking--without giving it a second thought. What am I doing to my mind? what am I doing to my body? Are there any side-effects? Are the side-effects longlasting? Is this a good idea?

The book chronicles Dick's adventures in past and present. And the world-building is strong in both. Characterization. I can't say that the characterization was super strong. This is more premise-driven than character-driven. But there's enough drama and mystery to keep you reading.

Science fiction doesn't come to mind when I think about Daphne du Maurier, but, I must say that you can definitely see her unique style in all of it. Especially the ending.

Did I like it? I didn't LOVE it, but, I definitely am glad I read it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Time Cat

Time Cat. Lloyd Alexander. 1963. 206 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Gareth was a black cat with orange eyes.

Premise/plot: Jason is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But that begins to change when in the midst of complaining out loud to his cat, Gareth, Gareth surprises him by talking back. The cat reveals that he can visit nine different lives--any time, any country--and he can and will be happy to take Jason with him.

The times visited by Jason and Gareth: Egypt 2700 B.C., Rome and Britain 55 B.C., Ireland 411 A.D., Japan 998 A.D., Italy 1468, Peru 1555, The Isle of Man 1588, Germany 1600, America 1775.

If you're a cat lover who also enjoys time travel, this is a GREAT read.

My thoughts: I really, really, really found this to be a GREAT read. I found it entertaining and just FUN.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.
When I was a child, I always had cats. They seemed very fond of me. Then, after I became Pharaoh, they didn't seem to care for me half as much.
Jason thought for a while. "I don't know," he said at last. "Did you wear that headdress and that beard before you got to be king? That might have frightened them. And another thing," he added, "did you shout as much? Cats don't like being shouted at."
Neter-Khet brightened a little. "That might be it."
"Even so," Jason said, "when you weren't shouting, you'd think they'd have come around again."
"Oh, they did," said Neter-Khet. "But they'd never play or purr when I ordered."
"Did you expect them to?" Jason said. "No cat in the world will do that!"
"But I'm Pharaoh," Neter-Khet said. "I'm supposed to give orders."
"That doesn't mean anything to a cat," said Jason. "Didn't anybody ever tell you?"
"Nobody tells me," Neter-Khet said. "I tell them. Besides, they were my cats, weren't they?"
"In a way they were," Jason said, "and in a way they weren't. A cat can belong to you, but you can't own him. There's a difference." (19-20)
The only thing a cat worries about is what's happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time. (125)
Cats are good at being cats, and that's enough. (127)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Release Day Extravaganza for Legend of the Timekeepers...


There is no moving forward without first going back.


About Legend of the Timekeepers:

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.
Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.


Book Information:

Title: Legend of the Timekeepers

Series:  The Last Timekeepers, Book # 0.5

Author Name:  SharonLedwith

Genre(s): Young Adult, Time Travel

Tags: #‎YAlit‬ #‎timetravel‬

Length: Approx. 147 pages

ISBN: 9781619376236

Re-Release Date: August 1, 2015

Publisher:  Mirror World Publishing  http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/

Tour Host:  Sapphyria's Book Promotions  http://saphsbookpromos.blogspot.com/

Follow the Tour to Read Reviews, Guest Posts, and Spotlights: 


Read an Excerpt:

“Why are you here?” Lilith asked. “You’ve already got your life seal.” 

“I have more questions for Istulo.” She continued to stare at the disk. 

Lilith sighed. “My name is Lilith. What’s your name?” 

Her shoulders relaxed slightly. A hint of a smile broke out on her face. Her upturned nose wiggled. “She-Aba. I was born here in the Black Land. Both my parents arrived from Atlantis fourteen years ago yesterday. My mother gave birth to me the next day.”

Lilith perked up. “That would make today your birthday!”

She-Aba beamed. “Yes. That’s why I’m here. For my birthday last year, I had my life reading done by Istulo. But recently, there’s been a hiccup in my plans. It’s like my life seal rearranged itself, and now I’m confused. I’m here for a reaffirmation.” 

“What’s the problem?” 

She-Aba traced her life seal with the tip of her perfectly shaped fingernail. “My lifetime occupation was supposed to be to design clothing for the people of the various positions in the court and temples.” 

Lilith smirked. “That makes perfect sense.” 

“I know, right? So why, all of a sudden, would my life seal change from designing clothing to something completely different?” 

Lilith arched a fair brow. “How different?” 

“Well, instead of clothing people in lavish robes and gowns for others to appreciate, the seal suggests that I’ll be doing the opposite by covering up and hiding the truth. I don’t understand it at all. I thought my life was all planned out for me.” 

“I thought mine was too, until my country blew up and slid into the ocean,” Lilith muttered. 

“Hey, look at the bright side, at least your hair isn’t red like mine.” 

Lilith eyed She-Aba carefully. “What’s wrong with red hair? My uncle has red hair and it suits him fine.” 

She-Aba moved in closer. “If you haven’t noticed already, there aren’t many redheads around here. The natives think red is magical, and anyone with red hair is considered a freak of nature.” 

“That’s ridiculous!” Lilith said loud enough to cause an echo down the marble hallway. “Is that the reason why those artists were rude to you? Because you have red hair?” 

“Red is a very powerful color,” a raspy voice said from behind both girls. 

Lilith and She-Aba jumped. They slowly turned to find Istulo hovering over them. 

Wearing the same white gown and orichalcum headband Lilith saw her dressed in before, Istulo nodded slightly before she said, “Red represents the essence of life—if we are drained of blood, we are drained of energy. The people of the Black Land understand this, and therefore red is reserved only for their gods and goddesses.” 

Lilith giggled. “Don’t tell She-Aba that, she’ll think she’s a goddess.”

Purchase Links:

Amazon



Mirror World Publishing



Barnes & Noble



Giveaway Information and Entry Form:

One winner will be selected to receive the following prizes ~

• A signed paperback copy of Legend of the Timekeepers

• A custom crafted ceramic Spiral Life Seal

• A signed postcard

• Two ‘The Last Timekeepers’ wrist bands

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8. Set Sail with MG author Rita Monette’s newest Nikki Landry release…

Batten down the hatches! The pirates are coming!  

The Curse at Pirate’s Cove, the second installment in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legend series, is due to be released next month, on November 17. 

It was previously scheduled for October 17, but was postponed due to unforeseen problems. 

But Nikki and her friends know exactly what the problem was…it was those pesky pirates…and the curse. Yes, they’ve been at it again. 

Here’s a description of the book and what’s going on with Nikki in book two:

“When one man’s treasure is another one’s curse.”

Nikki Landry is turning eleven years old, and is looking forward to riding her bike to school. That is until it falls apart. Papa can’t afford a new one. Is she doomed to ride the smelly old school bus from now on? 

Hearing of an old pirate ship, and a legend about long-ago pirates burying treasure on a nearby swamp island, Nikki sees a way out. But when she makes a birthday wish for the pirate’s gold, things go terribly wrong. Did her wish trigger an ancient curse?

Join Nikki and her friends as they find themselves sailing away aboard a haunted schooner with ghostly pirates into the Gulf of Mexico … and into the year eighteen fourteen. 

How will they ever find their way back home? 

Here’s an excerpt from the book: 

“How do you know it’s a pirate ship?”
“It has to be, Nikki. Listen.” He turned toward me. “I was out at Uncle Luke’s this past weekend, and he told me all about it.”
“I ain’t believing there’s no pirate ship out in those swamps.” I lifted my chin.
“Just hear me out, Tomboy.” He sounded impatient. “There’s a legend that goes along with it, see.” He leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “There might even be a curse.”
“A legend?” He had my attention. I prided myself in being a super legend buster ever since I solved the one about Ghost Dog Island last year. I even got my picture in the newspaper. “Well, tell me about it.”
“I’m trying to.” He waved his hands in the air.
We propped ourselves against a couple of large limbs and got out our lunch bags.
“Uncle Luke says he first heard about it back when he was a kid. He says a friend of his grandfather, by the name of Beco, was out trapping on Fog Island with his buddy Clamare. They came across this here hole in the ground with a half-buried wooden chest, see. It had a big old lock on it. There was a couple of coins in the dirt, so Clamare picked them up and slipped them in his pocket. Beco decided he’d go back for some tools and shovels to dig the rest of it out, and told Clamare to stay there and watch the chest. On his way out to the edge of the island, he saw this ragged old ship. Thinking it was kind of odd looking for being in the swamps and all, he got a little closer. It had a broken mast and raggedy sails.” He poked me with his elbow. “When was the last time you ever saw a fishing boat with sails?”
I shook my head. “Never.” I unwrapped a peanut butter and jam sandwich and took a bite. “What’d he do?”
“Well, he started to board it, see?” Spikes dug into his own lunch bag. “But then he heard some talking coming out of the boat. He stopped right then and there, ’cause he didn’t know who might be on that old wreck out in the middle of nowhere, and there weren’t no other boats around. This one had a big old hole in the hull, so it couldn’t have sailed there on its own. At least anytime in recent history.”
“Then what?” I licked some of the jam off my fingers.
“Then someone stuck his head up over the bow, see. He had on one of them three pointed hats that pirates always wore. Old Beco yelled a big hello, and the man took out a pistol and shot over his head. Well, Beco took off right then and there. That night, he went down to T-Noon’s bar and got drunk, and told some other fellows about it. The next day, they all went back out to the island with shovels and brought guns just in case that crazy guy in the boat was still there.”
“Was he?” I asked.
“Nope. The ship was gone, and so was Clamare.”
“What about the treasure?”
“They never could find it. Not even the hole it was in.”

About the author:

Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. She loves to write stories set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. 

Her middle grade series, The Nikki Landry Swamp Legends, is based on tales told by her father, who made his living in those bayous.


She currently lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. Besides writing and illustrating, she loves watching the many birds that inhabit the Cumberland Plateau.

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9. FORGET TOMORROW by Pintip Dunn

Review by Elisa  FORGET TOMORROWby Pintip DunnAge Range: 12 and up Series: Forget Tomorrow (Book 1)Hardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: Entangled: Teen (November 3, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided...by your future self. It's Callie's seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision -- a memory sent back in time to

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10. Sugar Time in Astounding Books spotlight (link)

Thanks to Astounding Books for including Sugar Time in their Astounding Authors spotlight: https://astoundingbooks.wordpress.com/

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11. PASSENGER By Alexandra Bracken // Blog Tour, Review, & TWO Giveaways You DON'T Want To Miss!!

by Becca... Woot, woot! Today is a great day, because I FINALLY get to spread all my Passenger love around! Thanks Hannah for organizing this amazing blog tour, and Disney-Hyperion! I'm so excited to be apart of it, and share ALL THE FEELS with our readers today with my review, a giveaway of Passenger, AND a super special (cough painted by me cough cough) giveaway, exclusively for

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12. Read or Ditch: INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor

by andye I was really excited to get INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor in the mail. I love books about time travel, and this cover looked really great. When I read the description and it takes place in Scotland, I was really intrigued. HELLO! Outlander for teens?? Yes! But there have been quite a few things as I've been reading, made me think that this book isn't going to be for me. The first

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13. Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project by Dan Gutman, 240pp, RL 4


Although his is a prolific and much loved author, I had not read any of Dan Gutman's books until my son and I started reading The Genius Files together in 2014. We were both immediately hooked by Gutman's sense of humor and I was especially impressed with the amount of fascinating factual information he packed into his books. Taking a cross country trip from California to Washington D.C. in a motorhome with their parents, twins Coke and Pepsi (of course there is a funny, interesting story behind their names) see some of the stranger (real) sites in the U.S., like the Pez Museum, the world's largest ball of twin and the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. With his new series, Flashback Four, Gutman brings the same sense of humor and way with the fact to this story of four twelve-year-olds from Boston who get the chance to travel through time, with great cover art by Scott Brundage. For years I have wondered why no one has taken the formula of the Magic Tree House books and applied it to middle grade novels, which is what I think Gutman is brilliantly doing here.

Gutman begins Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project with and introduction that gives readers a peek at the climax of the book. It's Thursday, November 19, 1863 and Abraham Lincoln is delivering the Gettysburg Address. In the crowd, a boy holds a small device in his hand, "silvery and metallic, it's small enough to fit in one hand, but powerful enough to change every history book ever written." Chapter one introduces the four main characters, David, Luke, Isabel and Julia, each of whom receive a mysterious yellow envelope that contains an invitation to a meeting with the CEO of the Pasture Company and four crisp five dollar bills. Assembled in the office of Chris Zandergoth, the four are a bit surprised when the CEO turns out to be a woman. Gutman writes, "Although we've come a long way in the last fifty years, here in the twenty-first century, most of us still assume that any rich, powerful person is a man." And the assumption is an accurate one: as of this writing, there are only 23 women who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, making up a whopping 4.6%. But, that's pretty heavy for a kid's book. And hopefully Gutman and his very cool character Chris Zandergoth, a prodigy who dropped out of Stanford to start Findamate, helping people find their "love match" by hacking into the computers of the NSA, will inspire young readers to break through the glass ceiling.

Julia, Isabel, David and Luke learn all this about Zandergoth when they Google her while she is, strategically, in the bathroom. Returning, she tells the kids, "I figured that letting you kids do a little research would be a lot easier than telling you my own boring life story." She goes on to tell them that she has chosen them very carefully using her powerful software algorithms. This revelation is followed by my favorite scene in the book during which Gutman brilliantly uses his characters to directly address a somewhat cynical observation I had made. David somewhat sneeringly responds, "Two boys. Two girls. I guess you picked me because you needed a black kid?" Isabel chimes in with, "I suppose I'm the token Hispanic?" Luke caps it by saying, "What, no Asian? How do you expect to win Multicultural Humanitarian of the Year?" Miss Z laughs it off, telling the four that she matched them up for their, "compatibility, not your ethnicity." Diversity in kid's books is a front burner issue these days, especially with Matt de la Peña becoming the first Latino to win the Newbery Medal for his picture book Last Stop on Market Street. de la Peña has said that this book is representative of his new approach to featuring diverse characters in his books, where he strives to continue to feature diverse characters but "now I try to place them in stories that have nothing to do with diversity, not overtly anyway." Not only is that what Gutman is doing here, but he is also letting us know that he is doing it in a very funny way that I think is great. 

Miss Z., who has a passion for photography, a love of history and a great collection of photos from important moments in time, has enlisted the four kids to travel back in time and take pictures of monumental moments using a very smart smartboard, known as the Board, that she and a team worked years to perfect. The first assignment for the Flasback Four, as they name themselves: travel back to the Gettysburg Address and take a picture of Lincoln as he delivers it. This is not as easy as it sounds since the speech lasted less than three minutes. And, understandably, David has some serious concerns as an African American, despite the fact that he will be traveling to the Free North, saying, "I saw that movie Twelve Years a Slave. That guy was in New York when he got kidnapped. I'm not about to get myself sold into slavery just to take a picture." Miss Z. reassures him and prepares the kids for their trip, giving them a list of expression from the era and, of course, clothes. She also gives them a Text Through Time device that looks a lot like a smartphone and allows the kids to communicate with Miss Z and a snazzy new Nikon camera. Everything should go swimmingly.

But it doesn't. Miss Z. makes a typo and sends the Flashback Four back in time a day early. Instead of spending a couple of hours in 1863 they now have to spend twenty-four. Then there is the problem of Julia, who seems to be a bit of a kleptomaniac who is obsessed with making money, even though her family is wealthy. She manages to sneak into the home of David Wills, the man responsible for creating a cemetery honoring Union soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg, and the place where Lincoln spent the night before the address. Luke, David and Isabel stop her from stealing Lincoln's draft of the speech, but not before they encounter Tad Lincoln and his toy gun.

I learned quite a bit reading Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project, and not just boring stuff like dates and places. At one point, the kids end up in jail next to the town drunk who just happened to be one of the civilians who tried to bury the dead after the battle. He tells the kids of the gruesome facts of the battle, the amputations, and worse. Gutman includes a "Facts & Fictions" at the end of the book where he sheds more light on interesting aspects of the book and fesses up about some liberties he took. Does the Flashback Four get the picture? Do they make it back to Boston safely? And where are they headed next? I can't wait to find out!




Source: Review Copy

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14. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle | Book Review

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic novel from award-winning novelist Madeleine L'Engle.

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15. Reread #40 All Clear

All Clear. Connie Willis. 2010. Random House. 645 pages. [Source: Bought]

If you want a gushing review of the book, I recommend visiting my first review of the book.  It is always interesting to me to see which books reread well, and which ones don't. Mood obviously comes into it. And apparently, I was not in the mood for All Clear. Perhaps because I was taking my time, instead of rushing through, I found myself less enthusiastic with the stories and characters. Too much time to think and ask questions, maybe?!

Is All Clear a disappointing novel? Yes and no. On the one hand, I certainly didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it the same way I loved Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. Since I love reading books set during World War II, one would think that I'd almost have to love, love, love these two time travel books set in England during the war. I mean, I love time travel, I love books set during this time period. It would seem like the most natural thing in the world for me to ecstatically love Blackout and All Clear. But. That is not the case. On the other hand, the books are enjoyable enough. I certainly came to care about the characters and wanted to know what happened next. But there wasn't an urgency to KNOW if you know what I mean. I found both books less compelling than the previous time travel books. I found a handful of characters enjoyable or interesting. But I didn't LOVE any of the characters.

Would the books have been better if they'd been published as one book, perhaps an edited-down one book? Probably. Hard to say for sure. It wasn't that any one section or chapter proved boring or irrelevant. It is just that both books were so very, very thick. And the books weren't necessarily action-packed. Which I don't have a problem with actually. I prefer character-driven books typically. But essentially the books are just about three characters realizing they are trapped in the past and may never get back to the future. They think about being trapped a lot. They brainstorm. They panic. They brainstorm. They cling to hope but give into worrying.

Without any previous books in the series to compare it too, Blackout and All Clear are certainly enjoyable enough on their own. It is really only in comparison to Willis' earlier time travel novels that the novels become a bit disappointing.

I liked All Clear. I didn't love All Clear.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Magic in the Mix (2014)

Magic in the Mix. Annie Barrows. 2014. Bloomsbury. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Magic in the Mix is the sequel to Magic Half. I enjoyed both Magic Half and Magic in the Mix. Both books star Miri, a middle child. In the first book, Magic Half, Miri travels back in time and "rescues" Molly, a girl living in 1935. Molly fits right in with Miri's family when the two return. In fact, Miri and Molly are the only two that remember Molly's true origin. To everyone else, Miri and Molly are twins. Molly has always been a part of their family. In the second book, Molly and Miri do more time traveling. First, they travel back in time to 1918. Molly recognizes her mother, Maudie, and her aunt, Flo. The two are teens. Flo sees Molly and Miri as unwelcome intruders--gypsies, she calls them. Maudie, on the other hand, while still thinking of them as gypsies, sees them as potential friends. Second, they travel back in time to the Civil War era. I'm not exactly sure the book names a year. If it does, I can't recall it. Here's where everything turns tricksy. Molly and Miri aren't the only ones doing time travel. (view spoiler)

I liked the book fine. However, there were several things that didn't charm me. I don't necessarily enjoy the family scenes. I don't know about the two youngest, but the oldest four children are irresponsible, disobedient, and disrespectful. All of the children are rude and insult one another. I didn't like some of the phrases they use. The children think absolutely nothing of lying and sneaking around. The dad. Has he had even a sentence or two in either book that could count as characterization? The mom. On the one hand, her children are always, always doing something they shouldn't be, and are very proud of the fact. But she seems to have only one tone: angry. The time travel also seemed even less realistic to me. I'm not sure how either girl managed to fool anyone in the Civil War era. (Rolling up your pants so they just see your T-shirt doesn't seem very a very authentic way of passing, even if you go the extra step and take off your glasses.)

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. {Review} Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

Review by Kit Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone Sequel to Time Between Us Age Range: 12 and up Grade level: 7th and up Paperback: 368 pages Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition (October 14, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never

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18. Ranger in Time by Kate Messner




Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail
by Kate Messner
Scholastic, January 2015
ARC received from the publisher

This is going to be a great series for grades 2-5!

Ranger is a golden retriever who failed search and rescue school because he can't stop chasing squirrels. He also love to dig, and one day, he finds a old first aid kit while he's digging in his back yard. When he slips the strap over his head, he is transported in time to 1850. He uses his search and rescue skills several times along the Oregon Trail to help Sam Abbott and his family.

After the story, Messner has included a very readable 10-page author's note about the time period and her writing process.

Next up in the series, Ranger travels in time to Ancient Rome!


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19. Parallelogram 4 Now Available for Pre-Order!

Parallelogram 4

Happy 2015! And here’s a new book for you!

Parallel universes. Time travel. And a race for teen amateur physicist Audie Masters to save her own life before it’s too late.

Enjoy the exciting, mind-bending conclusion to the PARALLELOGRAM series.

You’ll never look at your own life the same way again.

I am BEYOND ecstatic to be able to tell you that PARALLELOGRAM (Book 4: BEYOND THE PARALLEL) will be coming out January 20, 2015, and is available right now for pre-order! Yes! Finally!

This final book in the series took me a long, long time to write (as those of you who have been waiting for it can attest), but you’ll understand why once you read it. It’s full of adventure, mystery, love, some very cool science, and the return of what I hope are some of your favorite characters.

In celebration of the final book coming out, each of the first three books in the series will be a mere $2.99, and the new book will be only $4.99–but only until January 20. After that, all of them return to their regular prices.

So if you haven’t read the first three books in the series yet, now’s your chance. I’m your book nerd friend who’s saying, “Come on! Come on! Catch up so we can discuss it!”

Can’t wait to hear what you all think. I truly wrote this series for YOU!

You can pre-order Book 4 from:
Kindle
Nook
iTunes
Kobo

Thanks for being my readers! Hope you love the book!

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20. Ranger in Time

Rescue on the Oregon Trail. (Ranger in Time #1) Kate Messner. 2015. Scholastic. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sam Abbott lugged another sack of bacon to the wagon and sat down to wipe his forehead.

Premise/plot: Ranger is a golden retriever who has been trained as a search and rescue dog. But he failed to graduate his training. Ranger wanted to let the humans know that in a real situation, he'd not be distracted by squirrels. But, of course, he couldn't make them get that. Thus he failed, despite his good intentions. But he's given a second chance, of sorts, when he digs up an old first-aid kit. This kit magically transports him BACK in time. Ranger suddenly finds himself in 1850 in Independence, Missouri. He finds a missing girl, Sam Abbott's sister, Amelia, and joins the Abbott family and the wagon train heading west to Oregon. On the way, Ranger will have PLENTY of opportunities to alert Sam and his family--really, the whole wagon train--of dangers on the trail. He proves himself trustworthy when it counts.

My thoughts: It's the first in a new series. I liked this one. I did. You do have to suspend your disbelief a bit, I admit. But once you do, it's just FUN. Time travel can be great fun after all. Readers learn facts about the Oregon trail AND meet a lovable dog. And since this is the first book in the series. Readers shouldn't worry about this dog-on-the-cover book. The book realistically portrays the dangers of trail life, but, not at the expense of the star of the book: Ranger.

Rescue on the Oregon Trail releases this month. And the second in the series, Danger in Ancient Rome, will release this summer.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Time as a representation in physics

A previous blog post, Patterns in Physics, discussed alternative “representations” in physics as akin to languages; an underlying quantum reality described in either a position or a momentum representation. Both are equally capable of a complete description, the underlying reality itself residing in a complex space with the very concepts of position/momentum or wave/particle only relevant in a “classical limit”. The history of physics has progressively separated such incidentals of our description from what is essential to the physics itself. We will consider this for time itself here.

Thus, consider the simple instance of the motion of a ball from being struck by a bat (A) to being caught later at a catcher’s hand (B). The specific values given for the locations of A and B or the associated time instants are immediately seen as dependent on each person in the stadium being free to choose the origin of his or her coordinate system. Even the direction of motion, whether from left to right or vice versa, is of no significance to the physics, merely dependent on which side of the stadium one is sitting.

All spectators sitting in the stands and using their own “frame of reference” will, however, agree on the distance of separation in space and time of A and B. But, after Einstein, we have come to recognize that these are themselves frame dependent. Already in Galilean and Newtonian relativity for mechanical motion, it was recognized that all frames travelling with uniform velocity, called “inertial frames”, are equivalent for physics so that besides the seated spectators, a rider in a blimp moving overhead with uniform velocity in a straight line, say along the horizontal direction of the ball, is an equally valid observer of the physics.

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, in extending the equivalence of all inertial frames also to electromagnetic phenomena, recognized that the spatial separation between A and B or, even more surprisingly to classical intuition, the time interval between them are different in different inertial frames. All will agree on the basics of the motion, that ball and bat were coincident at A and ball and catcher’s hand at B. But one seated in the stands and one on the blimp will differ on the time of travel or the distance travelled.

Even on something simpler, and already in Galilean relativity, observers will differ on the shape of the trajectory of the ball between A and B, all seeing parabolas but of varying “tightness”. In particular, for an observer on the blimp travelling with the same horizontal velocity as that of the ball as seen by the seated, the parabola degenerates into a straight up and down motion, the ball moving purely vertically as the stadium itself and bat and catcher slide by underneath so that one or the other is coincident with the ball when at ground level.

hourglass
Hourglass, photo by Erik Fitzpatrick, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

There is no “trajectory of the ball’s motion” without specifying as seen by which observer/inertial frame. There is a motion, but to say that the ball simultaneously executes many parabolic trajectories would be considered as foolishly profligate when that is simply because there are many observers. Every observer does see a trajectory, but asking for “the real trajectory”, “What did the ball really do?”, is seen as an invalid, or incomplete, question without asking “as seen by whom”. Yet what seems so obvious here is the mistake behind posing as quantum mysteries and then proposing as solutions whole worlds and multiple universes(!). What is lost sight of is the distinction between the essential physics of the underlying world and our description of it.

The same simple problem illustrates another feature, that physics works equally well in a local time-dependent or a global, time-independent description. This is already true in classical physics in what is called the Lagrangian formulation. Focusing on the essential aspects of the motion, namely the end points A and B, a single quantity called the action in which time is integrated over (later, in quantum field theory, a Lagrangian density with both space and time integrated over) is considered over all possible paths between A and B. Among all these, the classical motion is the one for which the action takes an extreme (technically, stationary) value. This stationary principle, a global statement over all space and time and paths, turns out to be exactly equivalent to the local Newtonian description from one instant to another at all times in between A and B.

There are many sophisticated aspects and advantages of the Lagrangian picture, including its natural accommodation of   basic conservation laws of energy, momentum and angular momentum. But, for our purpose here, it is enough to note that such stationary formulations are possible elsewhere and throughout physics. Quantum scattering phenomena, where it seems natural to think in terms of elapsed time during the collisional process, can be described instead in a “stationary state” picture (fixed energy and standing waves), with phase shifts (of the wave function) that depend on energy, all experimental observables such as scattering cross-sections expressed in terms of them.

“The concept of time has vexed humans for centuries, whether layman, physicist or philosopher”

No explicit invocation of time is necessary although if desired so-called time delays can be calculated as derivatives of the phase shifts with respect to energy. This is because energy and time are quantum-mechanical conjugates, their product having dimensions of action, and Planck’s quantum constant with these same dimensions exists as a fundamental constant of our Universe. Indeed, had physicists encountered quantum physics first, time and energy need never have been invoked as distinct entities, one regarded as just Planck’s constant times the derivative (“gradient” in physics and mathematics parlance) of the other. Equally, position and momentum would have been regarded as Planck’s constant times the gradient in the other.

The concept of time has vexed humans for centuries, whether layman, physicist or philosopher. But, making a distinction between representations and an underlying essence suggests that space and time are not necessary for physics. Together with all the other concepts and words we perforce have to use, including particle, wave, and position, they are all from a classical limit with which we try to describe and understand what is actually a quantum world. As long as that is kept clearly in mind, many mysteries and paradoxes are dispelled, seen as artifacts of our pushing our models and language too far and “identifying” them with the underlying reality that is in principle out of reach.

The post Time as a representation in physics appeared first on OUPblog.

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22. Because Waiting Is So Boring

Parallelogram 4

I know I said Parallelogram 4 (Beyond the Parallel) wasn’t coming out until next Tuesday, January 20.

Weekends are for reading. It’s out now. Enjoy!

Kindle
Nook
iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords
Paperback

And the prices for the first 3 installments will still stay nice and low until next week, so if you haven’t read Parallelogram 1, 2, or 3 yet, you can scoop them up at a bargain!

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23. Interview and Giveaway: Gwyn Cready, Author of Just in Time for a Highlander

 

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning, Gwyn!   Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Gwyn Cready] Etsy-shopping, Scrabble-playing, hot-bath-loving kilt tipper.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Just in Time for a Highlander?

[Gwyn Cready] Just in Time for a Highlander, and the whole Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series, is a reversal of the usual time travel Highlander romances with the woman traveling back in time. In JITFAH, young, beautiful and fiercely independent Abby Kerr, the head of Clan Kerr, seeks the help of a fortune teller in order to find a strong arm who can help her maintain order over her men in the borderlands of 1705. But this is clearly a case of “Be careful what you wish for” because she ends up with Duncan MacHarg, a dashing Scot working on Wall Street in the twentieth century who knows little about clans and nothing about fighting battles—until she teaches him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Gwyn Cready] In my favorite scene, Abby must teach Duncan to fight with a sword. Earlier, he has accidentally caught a glimpse of her bathing, which infuriates her, and to get even she tells him that the best way to teach a student to pay attention in a sword fight is to make him fight naked. Duncan complies and is forced to strip under Abby’s carefully scrutinizing gaze.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Gwyn Cready] All of it, really. The sex scenes, of course, but it was also fun being in the villain’s head in this one. He’s quite amusing.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Gwyn Cready] My phone and Pink Lemonade Lip Smackers.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Gwyn Cready] I don’t have a desk. I curl up in the corner of comfortable leather couch to write, so a lap desk from IKEA, an ancho chile latte, and Socks, my silky terrier.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Gwyn Cready] A cheese plate made by my husband.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Gwyn Cready] Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Tina Fey.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Gwyn Cready] The power to look good in a pair of jeans. Shop.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Gwyn Cready] I loved, loved, loved Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? If you’ve ever taken care of a loved one in their later years, you’ll love this touching and humorous graphic novel. I’m reading Diana Gabaldon’s Written in My Own Heart’s Blood now, and it is, of course, wonderful.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Gwyn Cready] On Twitter, on Facebook, at cready.com, or at gwyn@cready.com.

Title: Just in Time for a Highlander

Series: Sirens of the Scottish

Author: Gwyn Cready

ISBN: 9781492601937

Pubdate: February 3rd, 2015

From RITA winner Gwyn Cready comes a Scottish borderlands time travel romance perfect for fans of Outlander

For Duncan MacHarg, things just got real…

Battle reenactor and financier Duncan MacHarg thinks he has it made—until he lands in the middle of a real Clan Kerr battle and comes face to face with their beautiful, spirited leader. Out of time and out of place, Duncan must use every skill he can muster to earn his position among the clansmen and in the heart of the devastatingly intriguing woman to whom he must pledge his oath.

Abby needs a hero and she needs him now

When Abigail Ailich Kerr sees a handsome, mysterious stranger materialize in the midst of her clan’s skirmish with the English, she’s stunned to discover he’s the strong arm she’s been praying for. Instead of a tested fighter, the fierce young chieftess has been given a man with no measurable battle skills and a damnably distracting smile. And the only way to get rid of him is to turn him into a Scots warrior herself—one demanding and intimate lesson at a time.

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The post Interview and Giveaway: Gwyn Cready, Author of Just in Time for a Highlander appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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24. Kickass Women of Science Fiction: Including Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Another Giveaway!

Some people say I’m a book pusher. I’m okay with that. I get impatient with friends when they still haven’t read that book I recommended at least A WEEK AGO, for heaven’s sake, so I just go online and send it to them. Pushy? Bossy? I will not apologize. People need to read certain books and yes, I do know what’s good for them.

Which is why I’m about to go full-on pushy once again, and not only recommend some books that you need to read RIGHT NOW to fulfill your need for kickass science fiction heroines, I’m also going to go the extra step of enforcing that by actually giving them away free to one lucky winner.

Diving into the Wreck ebook cover webFirst, Diving Into the Wreck, part of the Diving Universe series by Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I’ve been a fan and student of Kris’s for about 13 years, and have always viewed her as a pretty badass woman and author in her own right. But she also writes amazingly complicated and strong women characters who are always so much fun to spend time with. Kris has generously offered to give the lucky winner a signed copy of the book. She also answered some interview questions for me that I’ll share below, so hang on. It’s always fun to hear how other writers think.

 

The Lost WorldSecond is Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, and if you were a fan of his Jurassic Park you may think you already know all there is to know about this sequel, but I think perhaps you don’t. Because the reason I’m pushing it is that it has one of my favorite heroines of all time, Sarah Harding, who is both scientist and never-say-die person-you-most-want-with-you-in-a-crisis, and I am so inspired by her intelligence and toughness I actually reread this book about twice a year just to pump myself up. I think once you’ve experienced Sarah Harding for yourself, you’ll be totally hooked, too.

 

Parallelogram OmnibusThird is my own Parallelogram seriesWhy am I book-pushing my own series? Because I wrote it for a particular reason: to show two very different girls who are entirely kickass in their own separate ways. One is a scientific explorer, willing to try out all sorts of bizarre (and potentially hazardous) physics theories she’s come up with, and the other is a teen adventurer who has been raised by her very badass explorer grandmother to handle all sorts of physical risks with a cool head and a deep will to survive.

In my spare time I like to read a lot of true adventure books by real-life explorers, and I based the teenage adventurer Halli and her grandmother Ginny on two women explorers I really admire: Roz Savage, who rowed solo across the Atlantic (why not??), and Helen Thayer, who was the first person to ski solo and unsupported to the magnetic North Pole. When she was 50, by the way. So yeah, I think you should read Parallelogram for the same reason you should read the Rusch and Crichton books: because the girls and women in these books will entertain and inspire you.

I asked Kristine Kathryn Rusch a few questions about her own writing process and what inspires her to write the strong kinds of characters you’ll find in all of her work:

RB: What qualities do you admire in the heroine of your book Diving Into The Wreck? Did you write those qualities into her character on purpose, or did they develop over time on their own?

KKR: Boss is her own person. She only lets people call her Boss, and she won’t tell anyone her name, because it’s her business. What I love about Boss is that she is so secure in who she is. She knows what she can and cannot do, and she knows just how much she’s willing to tell/give in any situation. She admits when she’s wrong, and she analyzes everything. She’s very strong, but she also can be vulnerable.

My characters come fully formed, but they do reveal parts of themselves over time. Boss & I share a love of history, but she’s so much more adventurous than I am. She would go crazy in a room writing all day. I love it. I never add traits consciously. Subconsiously, who knows? I assume so. But the characters are real people to me, with their flaws and strengths, and that includes Boss.

RB: Who are some of your favorite kickass heroines in other people’s science fiction books and movies? What about them inspires you as a person and/or as a writer? (I’m a big fan of Ripley’s in the Alien series. When she’s rescuing the little girl Newt from the breeding area in Aliens and fighting off the queen alien and her posse–you’d better believe Ripley makes me want to be braver in real life.)

KKR: Favorite SF women. Honestly, that’s a tough one for me. Most of the sf I read is short fiction, and the characters are one-offs. None of the women in the stories I read rise to the level of favorite. I like Ripley–and she was inspiring to me–but is not someone who comes to mind easily.

In SF, my examples were always negative. For example, in Trek, I was so happy that Kathryn Janeway had her own ship. Then I saw the dang first episode, and when she was faced with a big issue that James T. Kirk could have solved in 45 minutes, she gave in, and made her crew suffer for **years**  I think most of the sf films/TV suffer from stupid women problems.

The strong women I read about appear in the mystery genre. I adore Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski. I used to love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Malone, especially when I encountered her in the 1980s. The female lead detectives were unusual women, who did their own thing in a man’s world. They’re the inspiration for my sf heroines.

RB: This is a chicken-or-the-egg question: Do you give your characters some of your own kickass qualities of bravery, wisdom, compassion, etc.–or do you feel inspired as you write their stories to be more like them yourself?

KKR: LOL, Robin. I love that you think I have kickass qualities. I think my characters are more articulate than I am, smarter than I am, more adventurous than I am, and more courageous than I am. I am blunt and stubborn and difficult, and in my fiction, those qualities are virtues, so there’s some of me there. But these folks are not people I want to be: they’re people I want to meet.

RB: Which character of yours has changed you the most as a person? Why?

KKR: The character of mine who has changed me the most as a person is Smokey Dalton, from my Kris Nelscott mysteries. He’s an African-American detective in the late 1960s. He’s a true hero, in my opinion. But his situations are beyond difficult. I always put him in the middle of a historical situation, and then ask him to respond. Some of those historical situations–I keep thinking, if I were there, would I have had the courage to do what he did? Would I have known what to do? And the thing I admire most about Smokey: His world, horrid as it is, doesn’t break him. It makes him stronger. That has had a huge impact on me and my thinking and my writing.

RB: What do you prefer in your favorite heroines, whether it’s the ones you write, read, or watch: More stoic than compassionate, vice versa,or a particular ratio of both? (For me, 80% stoic, 20% compassionate.)

KKR: Compassion first. I quit reading a mystery series set in the Middle Ages because our heroine–a smart and active woman–had a baby, and then abandoned that baby to go on a crusade. Well, this is the Middle Ages, and yes, she might have done that historically, but it would take 2-3 years to return to that child, and there would be no guarantee that the child was safe or well cared for. So I quit reading right there. The woman was too selfish for me to read about. Stoic, yes. But willing to sacrifice someone she loved for her own ends. Not someone I want to read about.

RB: Bonus question: I know you’re a big fan of the time travel series OUTLANDER, as am I. (I just finished the fourth book. What a ride!) If you were in Claire’s position, catapulted back to 1745 Scotland, what skills would you want to bring to the mix? I love her medical knowledge–it’s such a huge asset. But is there some skill you’d find just as valuable?

KKR: Great question. I have a wide variety of historical knowledge and weird trivia. I know how to make a match for example, and I know how to sterilize a room (even back then) and I know what’ll happen when in most of the English-speaking world. So I like to think all of that will be beneficial. Knowing outspoken me, though, I’d probably be jailed as a witch and executed. :-) I also know that I’d be panicked as hell about dying of something preventable, like the cold that has felled me this week in 2015. If it became an infection in 1745, I could die. And I’d probably worry about that more than anything (except the food, which–yuck!) So as you can tell, I’m probably too much of a worrier to time travel safely.

SPEAKING OF TIME TRAVEL …

Kris and I both have novels in the Time Travel Story Bundle, which is on sale for just two more weeks. Here’s your chance to score a whole bunch of great fiction at an incredibly low price. Don’t miss it!

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And as soon as you buy the bundle, head on over to my GIVEAWAY PAGE and enter to win those three fabulous science fiction books! I push them because I love–the heroines in those books and you, Dear Readers. Enjoy!

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25. Loop, by Karen Akins | Book Review

It’s the twenty-third century, and while time travel is the norm, along with pesky robotic tru-ants and the ability to identity check through hair strands, there are still some things from the past that will never change, including mid-term assignments.

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