A Family I Wish Would Adopt Me

From Goodreads

A very long time ago now, one of my best friends gave me a book that introduced me to one of my all time favorite fictional families. Crocodile on the Sandbank was the first adventure of Miss Amelia Peabody, a wealthy spinster who dreamed of seeing Egypt her whole life. Amelia is smart, stubborn, brave and has that fabulous British common sense that never ceases to amuse. Over the years, when I needed comfort reading, Amelia was one of the books I reached for. Because of that, I only just read the twelfth book this week. By the time Amelia reaches her twelfth adventure, she’s gained a husband, her own children, foster children and lots of good friends and enemies that seem to always pop up at the worse times. Seriously, I want that family to adopt me already. Amelia and her family never cease to make me laugh, make me anxious and make me want to reach in and shake them. I actually had to walk away for two days from the eleventh book because one of the characters infuriated me so much that I stormed about my apartment yelling at her. Yes, I am well aware she is fictional but if the book is that good, characters become your friends and so, as when any friend does something asinine, I wanted to help her out by telling her to snap out of it.

Another reason the Amelia Peabody mysteries rule is because of their setting. Egypt of the late 19th century/early 20th century was fascinating. They were still finding new tombs and temples. Egyptology was still being defined and Amelia and her family are the preeminent archeological experts of the day so they are involved with all the major finds of the time. I feel like I learn a lot about Egyptology into the bargain of fantastic characters and great mysteries.  My friend who introduced me to the series said recently, after visiting an Egypt museum exhibit, she hadn’t realized how much she had learned until she was talking about the exhibit.  It reminded me of touring the Egyptian wing at the British Museum back in 2005 and having the same realization as I explained to my mother why I recognized the names of the mummies. A book that teaches you as you solve a fun mystery and root for the characters? I need more of these in my life. I sort of live in dread of the day I catch up with Elizabeth Peters and where she is in the series because it will be a sad day when I need a comfort read and there isn’t a new Peabody mystery waiting for me on the shelves at the library. I think that is why I am not running through the series like I usually do but I recommend you rushing out and trying out the series if you haven’t yet. Amelia Peabody is the best thing that will ever happen to you.

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Why wasn’t I this cool as an 11 year old?

From Goodreads

I love a good, precocious, brilliant, pint sized heroine. R. L. LaFevers’ Theodosia was my reigning favorite but Flavia de Luce is now a tie. In fact, I think it is a good thing these two lived decades apart  – I’m not sure the fictional world would survive if they ever joined forces.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces readers to Flavia de Luce, the youngest daughter of an old English family growing up in a crumbling old estate in the 1950s. She has two older sisters, one obsessed with her looks, the other with her books. Her father is shell shocked from the disappearance and death of the girls’ mother and his experience in the war, so Flavia entertains herself with her chemicals. She inherited a chemistry lab in her great house from a long dead relative. Her passion lies with poisons and her encyclopedic knowledge of them is at once brilliant and scary at the same time. Flavia though is mostly bored and lonely. Luckily for her, a dead body shows up in her cucumber patch the day after a dead jack snipe with a rare stamp impaled on its beak shows up on her back stoop and sends her on a thrilling adventure.

The book is told from Flavia’s point of view and the author impressed me by creating an character who is brilliant and yet believable as an eleven year old. She knows her poisons but she’s a typical youngest sister who has trouble relating with her older sisters and yet loves them. She also clearly loves her father, she after all tries to confess to a murder she didn’t do to try to protect him, but has no way to relate to him. She still has a lot to learn about people which, as a kid, she should.

I am looking forward to the rest of the series definitely and recommend it if you’re looking for a good mystery and a plucky heroine to start off your new year.

Where was Theodosia When I was a Kid?

Fair warning, this will most likely be long. I am trying to cover four books after all.

From Shelf Elf

I had a very active imagination as a child, though looking back I played the strangest games. I fell in love with Samantha, the American Girl doll, and her books meant I spent more than my fair share of time pretending to be a young Victorian who befriends the servants and runs off for adventures on the streets of New York City. I also loved to play at being an immigrant coming to America. Going through my room, packing up a small suitcase with the few possessions I could bring to the New World…I said I had an active imagination. Later I graduated to pretending I’d been sent off to boarding school but that is neither here nor there (I may have been wishing to escape my little sister who wanted to play dolls. Dolls?! Pfff, I’d read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by then, I was too busy pretending to be a sailor on the high seas by then to play dolls.)

Clearly, I had an odd sense of play but having read all four Theodosia books, I so would have added pretending to understand Egyptian magic and raiding tombs in the name of secret brotherhoods to my repertoire. Of course, seeing Indiana Jones movies from a young age meant at some point I pretended to be an explorer for lost antiquities. I usually was his daughter and I had to go rescue him from evil Nazis who’d stolen a pyramid or something (Historical fiction may have captured my childhood attention but that doesn’t mean facts had any place in my fantasies). But Theodosia would have rocked my world. Imagine, a young girl who can do Egyptian magic, who has a museum full of artifacts for her playground and who is continually having to save the world because of it? My mind would have been blown. It was like Samantha meets London meets Indiana Jones and The Mummy. It is blowing my adult mind; I am not sure 12 year old Krystal could have handled it.

There are four Theodosia Throckmorton (I adore the Brits and their names, don’t you?) adventures. The fourth is slated for release in April of this year and I was lucky enough to be able to read it and review it already. It pays to be on the outskirts of the library/book review world. But let us start at the beginning and do quick summaries/reviews for each book.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos introduces you to Theodosia and her world in this adventure which orientates a reader in the world of Theodosia. This is 1908 London and Theodosia’s parents run the Museum of Legends and Antiquities. They however have no idea their daughter is continually removing curses from objects in their museum. Theo has a talent for Egyptian magic. She can feel and see curses and along with her cat, Isis, she helps corral the curses her parents keep bringing into the museum. Included their latest discovery, the Heart of Egypt, an artifact protected by a curse so awful, Theodosia has to find a way to get it back to Egypt before it brings about the fall of the British Empire! To make matters worse, a secret society, the Serpents of Chaos would like nothing better than to make sure Theodosia fails on her missions. With the help of her younger brother Henry, a streetwise pickpocket Sticky Will and a secret brotherhood of her own, Theodosia can hopefully get the Heart of Egypt back to where it belongs in time. Theo is the kind of heroine I love: Bold, brilliant but also practical and realistic. She is able to use her resources and get her work done, even when that work is masterminding a major theft on the docks on London or stowing way on a ship bound for Egypt. I also loved Theo’s take on the adults that surround her. She loves her parents and wishes she could help them but is annoyingly aware that they see her as simply an eleven year old child, not an equal in their work.

In Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, Theo is assigned cataloging in the “catacombs,” the basement of her father’s museum. While down there, she comes across two very special artifacts. Suddenly, the mummies of London keep showing up in her museum and her father is the main suspect. The Serpents of Chaos are back too and want the artifacts Theo has discovered in order to cause havoc throughout London. As always, Theo must thwart the group while keeping her parents in the dark and avoid the parade of governesses her grandmother keeps trying to saddle her with. Usually a second book in a series drags for me but not this time. The action continues to be fast-paced and well-written. LaFevers seems to know just how much ancient history a reader can take before becoming bored with her plot.

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus begins when Sticky Will takes Theo to a magic show starring the mysterious Awi Bubu and suddenly Theo is off on her next adventure. Still trying to finish up cataloging the catacombs, her brother Henry stumbles across an artifact that alchemists have been looking for for centuries and now she has to try to protect her brother and make sure the artifact doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Theodosia is a hard character  to keep consistent. She is both a wise character and still an 11-year-old girl. I loved the introduction of yet another secret organization to the books and especially Henry’s reappearance. The sibling relationship adds a welcome element to the story and yet another ally for Theo to count on as she continues to protect her family from ancient Egyptian curses.

From Goodreads

Theo’s latest adventure, Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh, finds Theo in Egypt to return artifacts entrusted to her in England by the brotherhood and Awi Bubu. Of course nothing is ever that simple for Theo. This is by far my favorite book of the series. Theodosia is once again in trouble with more secret societies than you can count and this time, she’s not even in London. She’s come to Luxor to help her mother excavate the annex she found back in The Serpents of Chaos and also to return some artifacts she stumbled upon in the last two books of the series. In fact, a lot of this book is devoted to giving us answers to questions that have been building in the series. I did miss some of the series regulars who are back in London for the story but the new characters (who often contrasted nicely with their London counterparts) were entertaining and added a lot to the story. Normally, open-ended endings such as this book has give me a headache. Would it have killed a writer to give me one more chapter to tie everything nicely up with a bow? But here, I really liked it. One, I am assuming I have more Theodosia to look forward to (right?!) and two, it’s so well in keeping with the tone of the series and also the character of Theodosia, who we see grow up a lot in this installment of the series, that I can’t complain too much.

See? Theodosia is one of the best fictional heroines I have come across in a long time and I cannot recommend her story enough. I think adults and kids will enjoy her adventures as she navigates the London and Egyptian worlds of 1908 as well as the Egyptian magic of the ancients.