Book Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red (The Ruby Red Trilogy, #1)

Title: Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy #1)
Author: Kerstin Gier
Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel, Paranormal, Historical
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 2012 (first published January 2009)
Pages: 324
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesly. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.

She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any centrury . . .

My Review:

Gwen has always known that time travel is possible. Rare members of her family have been born with the time travelling gene allowing them to go back into the past. Her cousin Charlotte is one of the chosen few and has been training for her trips to the past since birth. But Gwen unexpectedly travels through time and isn’t ready for the pressures that being a time traveller brings. Her clothes are wrong, she can’t fence and languages aren’t her forte. Lucky for her that Gideon’s family also have the time travelling gene and whilst he may be unbearable – at least he knows Victorian era manners.

I’ve been excited about this book for a while and am glad that I finally took the plunge. As the first book in a series, Ruby Red does a brilliant job at laying the groundwork. Gwen is as new to the world of travelling though time as we are and its great learning about how the gene works as Gwen learns herself. There are some amazing characters from the best friend Lesly who is an expert at using the Internet, pop culture and has Gwen’s back no matter what to Gwen’s eccentric and possibly psychic Great Aunt Maddie. I was impressed with the wealth of detail regarding the difference between the past and present as well as some of the difficulties one might face if they were to go back in time. Another thing I loved was the insufferable Gideon – gorgeous yet obnoxious. It’s great to have a potential love interest that the heroine isn’t head over heels for the moment she meets him. There’s some bickering and frustration that I found to be fantastic.

There is a lot going on in this book and by the end a lot is still a mystery. Whilst it’s great at making me want to read the second book, Sapphire Blue, it meant that in terms of action, Ruby Red fell a little short. With all the descriptions and back story, there wasn’t a huge climax in terms of drama and activity in this first book. That said, and without having read the next book yet, Ruby Red is fantastic at laying the ground work. There’s so much happening – from Gwen’s inexplicable ability to talk to ghosts to a future hinted at though one of Gwen’s travels. It’s exciting and I loved being a part of the journey. The time travel is different from ones I’ve read before and I liked this particular take. The family mystery and quirky relatives are fascinating yet formidable.

Ruby Red was originally written in German and I wonder if perhaps that was a reason for why the novel read a little young for me. There were times when the book felt like it was more suitable for middle grade rather than young adult but it’s possible that some of the nuances were lost in translation.

I enjoyed this book and bought a copy of Sapphire Blue as soon as I finished Ruby Red! The main character, Gwen, is exciting, brave and intelligent. The banter with Gideon is a pleasure to read and there are so many secondary characters who are both mysterious and amusing. This was a great book to read and I liked the different take on time travel.

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Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Genre: Time Travel, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 2013 
Pages: 362
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn’t happened yet.

Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture – being kept apart, overhearing each other’s anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There’s no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It’s from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that’s about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future.

My Review:

“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.” 

Finn and Em are trapped as prisoners by the Doctor. Somewhere – some time – everything went wrong. But together they have a chance to change the past to avoid this future.

I adored this book. Time travel is one of those concepts that doesn’t always connect with me but I admired how Cristin Terrill approached the idea. Travelling back, having two of one person in a certain time, was never confusing in this novel. Em, Finn, Marina and James are all well-rounded characters. Em is world wise and I really liked how her personality contrasted with the somewhat sheltered Marina. Finn is the same and yet different in his past and present forms and James is interesting. I found myself enjoying how oblivious and vague he was regarding Marina.

The time travel in this book is easy to grasp. There is  a changing in point of view from Em to Marina and back however for the most part of this novel events happen in the present time. There’s no confusion as to what is happening to whom and when. I loved the ideas in this book. It’s a cereal for dinner kind of book – the kind where instead of stopping to make a meal you just eat something easy and able to eat with one hand (so you can hold the book with your other hand)! There are a lot of twists and turns but they progressed in a way that felt natural and not just added to create some faux suspense. Em and Finn have some great chemistry and do a great job at moving the story along. There’s some heart-break and moments when I really felt for the characters and the trouble Terrill put them though. One of the things that stuck with me throughout this book and well after reading it was how much I liked Em loving Marina. I think it’s lovely that throughout it all, Em saw that she was a person worth loving and was proud of herself as a person.

This book works perfectly as a stand alone and I’m interested and surprised that All Our Yesterdays is the first book in a series. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Terrill comes up with next to put her characters through. This book has been one of my favourite reads of 2013 and I highly recommend it to lovers of well writing and interesting young adult novels.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy

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Book Review: Advantage Erin by Kris Kreisman

Title: Advantage Erin
Author: Kris Kreisman
Genre: Contemporary, Sports, Time Travel
Publisher: self-published
Publication Date: 22 August 2012
Pages: 140
Rating: 2.5 stars

Click here to read the first chapter of Advantage Erin.

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Erin’s mom is driving her crazy. Especially about tennis. Erin is good and enjoys the game. But it’s not her fault she’s not the megastar her mom claims to have been when she was Erin’s age. If only there was some way to get Mom to understand…

Spring break arrives, which means a visit to Grandma and Mom’s old hometown. Grandma is eccentric, but she’s also cool and understands Erin’s frustrations. And she can help. By taking Erin on a visit to Mom’s old high school. Not Mom’s school today. But Mom’s school as it was in 1970.

Erin experiences the trip of her lifetime. Back in time, where she struggles to fit in with a bunch of kids who never heard of the Internet or laptops or cell phones. Where she meets some very cool kids. And one not so cool kid named Catherine. Now known as Mom.

Talk turns to tennis, and inevitably the challenge is made and accepted. And they play the tennis match of the century. Erin had repeatedly heard how Mom was undefeated. Now was her time to do something about it. They battle hard until, in unexpected fashion, it’s over. But when she returns to the present Erin learns the truth about her Mom. And Mom learns some lessons as well.

Enjoy Erin’s thrill ride, her fun, her excitement, her anxiety. And discover how her trip to the past changed her present.

My Review:

More and more lately I’ve been thinking about what life must have been like for my parents back when they were my age. Through a magical computer and a crafty grandmother, Erin gets to go back to the sixties and meet the teenage version of her mother. Before children, before her tennis dreams were crushed and before life got complicated and “grown up”, Erin’s mother Catherine is like a different person. Erin realizes that maybe there’s more to her mother than she ever realized.

Conceptually I thought this book was great. Time travel, tennis and sixties fashion – I loved it all. However I had some problems with the pacing. Everything happens too quickly (Erin’s entire time travelling adventure occurs within an 10 hour or so window). I also thought that in terms of emotion and drama, Erin managed to deal with all that was happening without any trouble. I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle being dragged back in time five decades anywhere near as well as she did.

There were some surprises and fun quirks along the way that kept me reading up until the last page. Advantage Erin is a fun and quick novel about mothers, daughters and how sometimes the time and distance between them isn’t as large as you might first think.

Thank you to author Kris Kreisman for providing me with a review copy.

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