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Monday, December 9, 2013

Samantha Sutton Blog Tour {Review and Guest Post}

I'm thrilled to have the Samantha Sutton Blog Tour stopping by  today! Below you can read my review of this middle-grade book and check out an awesome guest post from the author...

Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen
(Samantha Sutton #2)
by Jordan Jacobs
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

A secret society, a lost fortress, a precious artifact only Samantha Sutton can protect.

Twelve-year-old Samantha Sutton isn't sure she wants to go to England with her Uncle Jay, a brilliant, risk-taking archeologist. But the trip seems safe enough--a routine excavation in Cambridge--and Samantha has always had a love for the past.

At first the project seems unremarkable--just a survey to clear the way for a massive theme park. But everything changes when Sam uncovers something extraordinary. Are the local legends true? Is this the site of the ancient fortress belonging to Queen Boudica, the warrior queen? What treasures might be found?

When others begin to learn of her findings, Samantha senses she is in danger. Can any of her friends be trusted? Samantha will need to solve the mystery of the site in order to protect herself and let the world know of her remarkable discovery.

Find the book:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / Indiebound

I received an egalley of this title in exchange for an honest review

Jordan Jacobs’ Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen is a well-written middle-grade read bursting with action, adventure, mystery, and even a little romance. This second book in the Samantha Sutton series finds the 12 year old heroine once again on an archaeological adventure with her Uncle Jay. This time, Samantha, her brother Evan, and Uncle Jay find themselves in England (Cambridge University to be exact), as they join an archaeological team on what seems to be a routine project. But, Samantha soon finds herself caught up in a war between an arrogant professor and a secret society she isn’t even allowed to be a part of (no girls allowed!), on the run from old foes, and on the hunt for evidence of an ancient warrior queen. As it turns out, this project is anything but routine and tests Samantha’s courage, smarts, and patience.

Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen is an addictively entertaining story, with its suspenseful plot; intriguing mystery; and clever marrying of historical and scientific fact and fun fiction. Author Jordan Jacobs has created a book(and series!) that not only captivates, but engages and teaches middle-grade readers. As an actual archaeologist, Jacobs clearly knows his stuff, and his Samantha Sutton books stand out because of and benefit from this immense knowledge that gives Samantha’s adventures such authenticity. Like me, young readers will love exploring Cambridge with Samantha, soaking up all the history and lore, while being fascinated by the legend of the Warrior Queen, Boudica. The historical and scientific aspects of the story are, for the most part, seamlessly combined with the fictional story, but, at times, these elements (the historical and scientific) can be a bit dense and may go over some readers’ heads. But, young readers will learn a great deal and be encouraged to research and read even more about archaeology, science, and history, which is just awesome!

There may be a lot of facts in Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, but the fictional elements are just as well-crafted and addicting. There’s enough thrills, excitement, mystery, humor, and suspense to keep young readers glued to this book. With Samantha Sutton, Jacobs has created a relatable, capable, and worthwhile heroine. She felt very real and more like a friend than just a character. The “mischief, madcappery, and monkey business” of Evan and the other Iceni boys will delight and amuse readers, while the villainy of the bad guys will give you delicious shivers.

The book ends with a squeeworthy, "OMG" inducing ending that will leave readers excited for book three!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, with its wonderful mix of fact and fiction, and the authenticity its author brings to the story, stands out among middle-grade adventures. This book, and series, will not only entertain young readers, but feed their imaginations and minds.  


Top Ten Archaeological Sites I'd Love to Explore
by Jordan Jacobs

I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in the opportunities I’ve had to travel.  So far, my journeys have taken me to almost fifty countries: from the mud palaces of Ghana, to Tunisia’s Roman citadels, to Slovenia’s fairy tale castles and Cambodia’s Angkor plain.  But there are still many, many sites that I’m desperate to visit. Here are my current top ten:

10. Scythian Kurgans, Siberia, Russia

I’ve always been fascinated by the Scythians - the horsemen of the Eurasian steppe - who controlled a huge amount of territory and wealth in the centuries on either side of the BCE/CE divide. Their semi-nomadic culture makes for tricky archaeology, as they left behind little more than their stone-piled kurgan tombs.  But those kurgans are incredible: with Indian, Greek and Chinese grave goods and inhabitants, mummified and tattooed. A whole network of tombs has been found in Siberia’s Valley of Tsars, and I’d love a chance to visit.

9.  Valley of the Kings, Egypt

I’ve gazed into Egypt from across the Red Sea, but have yet to visit. When I do, though, I’ll plan my trip around Luxor, and its adjacent Valley of the Kings.  With its 65 known and numbered tombs, the area is not only archaeologically significant (to say the least!), but important to archaeology’s own past. It was in Egypt, and Luxor, where what archaeology began to adopt its scientific approach.  And it’s Egypt!  Who wouldn’t want to visit?!

8.  Tiwanaku, Bolivia

Bolivia is high on my list of must-see’s, and Tiwanaku is a big part of the reason. This massive city, complete with sprawling suburbs, may once have been home to almost 1.5 million people, and served as a major power center until the Inca came in.  Now it’s a vast complex of columns, walls and courtyards, many of which are exquisitely carved.

7. Kiet Siel, Navajo Nation, USA

Many of my most treasured archaeological memories relate to the Ancestral Puebloan sites of the American Southwest (called Anasazi, still, by some...though there are good reasons not to use that term). The sites of Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelley, Hovenweep, and Aztec (not actually Aztec) Ruins are stunning, and their floors still sprinkled with artifacts, despite the many tourists.  But Kiet Siel is off the beaten track, and even better protected.  After a rigorous permitting program, a long hike through a canyon of waterfalls and a climb up a precarious ladder, visitors are greeted by a dramatic cliffside ruin: with pictographs, intact pottery, and the remnants of day to day life, a thousand years old.

6. Mirador Basin, Guatemala

Another visit that will require a hike - but this one comes with deadly snakes, jungle heat, and the threat of (ugh!) bot flies (Google at your peril). At the end of the trail lies what may have been the cradle of Mayan civilization: the remains of at least four major cities--barely excavated--and La Danta, the Mayan world’s tallest pyramid.

5.  York, England

I’ve passed through York many times, but have never had a chance to explore it.  That will have to change. There may be no better place to appreciate the layers of cultures and invasions that created the England we know today: from Celtic, to Roman, to Anglo-Saxon, to Viking, to Norman.  I’m particularly interested in visiting York Minster cathedral, and climbing its Medieval tower.

4. Chavin de Huantar, Peru *

Okay, okay: I’ve been to Chavin, before.  In fact, I’ve written a whole book about it.  But since my last visit, the Stanford University-led excavation has uncovered new underground chambers, an intact tomb, and cache of conch shell trumpets. And with its enormous temple, high Andean setting, and ancient special effects, Chavin is calling me back.

3. Midas’ Tumulus, Gordion, Turkey

No, not that Midas, almost certainly--and likely not Midas, at all. This tomb is essentially a wooden cottage, encased in an enormous earthen mound.  And inside, the body of a king, surrounded by the bronze settings and dining set of the last banquet held in his honor, or the one left for him in the afterlife.

2. Easter Island, Chile

Everyone recognizes the great, stone moai of this pacific island.  But new discoveries are being made all the time (for instance, many of the heads have necks, and torsos, extending down deep into the earth).  Now is the time to visit this tiny island, before it’s overrun completely with tourists.

1. Khara-Khoto, China

Tourists aren’t lining up for the #1 site on my list: the so-called “Black City” of Inner Mongolia.  Marco Polo wasn’t too impressed with the outpost’s people (“idolaters,” he said, who “have no trade”) or its extreme isolation (a twelve days’ journey to the closest town, and on the edge of a desert forty days across). But today it’s those things that make it exciting.  How did this great city thrive in the middle of nowhere? And why do locals warn archaeologists of a curse? Answers may still lie in the site’s incredible artifacts of ceramic and silk, preserved by the same dry desert that’s protected it from looters for more than seven hundred years.  

Jordan Jacobs has loved archaeology for as long as he can remember.  His childhood passion for mummies, castles and Indiana Jones led to his participation in his first excavation, at age 13, in California’s Sierra Nevada. After completing a high school archaeology program in the American Southwest, he followed his passion through his education at Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge. Since then, Jordan’s work for the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and UNESCO Headquarters in Paris has focused on policy and the protection of archaeological sites in the developing world.

Jordan’s research and travel opportunities have taken him to almost fifty countries— from Cambodia’s ancient palaces, to Tunisia’s Roman citadels, to Guatemala’s Mayan heartland and the voodoo villages of Benin.

Jordan now works as Head of Cultural Policy at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.  He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

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