Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs• Hardcover: 352 p • Publisher: Quirk, 2011 • ISBN: 1594744769 • Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys creepy pictures with a plot to go with them. Quick Review: The pictures truly were the best part of this book. Which bugs me–pictures should complement a plot, not the other way around. The plot is definitely secondary to the pictures in this book. It’s all fun and games until you realize that you could have been reading a good book. Waste of time? The jury’s out on that one.
How I Got Here: As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I had to read it. So creepy! I figured it to be horror, or at least horror-related. I read this book for Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon.
The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
My Analysis and Critique: This book had great promise. Creepy photographs to go along with a quirky grandfather’s supposed tall tales. The grandfather gets murdered and so his grandson goes to Wales to investigate if there is any truth to the tall tales. I was intrigued– a creepy, potentially haunted wreck of an orphanage, bogs as portals to other worlds, mysterious, gory livestock killings all over the island. Then the protagonist finds the truth behind his grandfather’s stories and…it’s…boring.
At first it was interesting, but then I just stopped caring. There’s all this creepy build-up with wonderful descriptions of the island and menacing paranormal bad guys. Then, it ends up being hanging with the Lost Boys of Peter Pan. That is, if the Lost Boys were potential members of the X-Men. It ended up being that I didn’t care about the characters and I felt disconnected from the plot. The last chapters felt like a chore–I caught myself scanning the paragraphs rather than reading them. It’s apparent that there will be a sequel that I have absolutely zero interest in.
Overall, I blame Quirk. They published this book, as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Their books seem to be based solely upon kitsch and they are riding the kitsch all the way to the bank. They publish some fabulous coffee table books and gag gift books, but their novels are seriously lacking. Their plots are weak, but that’s okay because people buy their books for the “Quirk”y pictures. The pictures truly were the best part of this book. Which bugs me–pictures should complement a plot, not the other way around. The plot is definitely secondary to the pictures in this book. It’s all fun and games until you realize that you could have been reading a good book. Waste of time? The jury’s out on that one.
- Goodreads reviews
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s top ten list is “Top Ten Books I Read That Were Outside Of My Comfort Zone“.
My comfort zone has changed and expanded over the years. With that said, my list is designed around different genres–sometimes I read a book in a genre I feel completely comfortable with only to be bombarded with a book of the genre that freaks me out; other times, I simply have read a book that belongs to a genre that I don’t feel comfortable with and sometimes have very positive results, forcing me to expand my comfort zone. Then, there are those few occasions where the book itself just feels wrong to me–it’s not that it doesn’t fit the genre, but it doesn’t fit the established plot line created for the book itself (attention Twi-tards). Here are the genres and the books that challenged my comfort zone.
Horror- Young Adult
1. Monster by Christopher Pike
Talk about out of my comfort zone! At fourteen, with two years of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike reading under my belt, I knew all there was to know about young adult horror. I always knew the protagonist would win in the end, the bad guy wasn’t a paranormal spirit, but a pissed off ex-boyfriend, and every cover would have a tag-line like “She loved him…to death!” Then I read Monster in the summer of 1993. I was horrified! The protagonist was a flesh-eating monster. She was progressively killing all of her friends and eating them! This broke all of the rules I knew and I was appalled! I couldn’t finish it and I had to get rid of it before my little sister read it (she always read my books when I was done with them). What did I do? I ripped up my paperback into little pieces and flushed it down the toilet! Dramatic, I know, but I was entering the age in which I was allowed to be angsty. Lesson learned: Cannibalism is a majorly uncomfortable topic with me. One of my top fears!
Horror/ Paranormal (Vampires)
2. Interview with a Vampire series by Anne Rice
After the Monster fiasco, I began a new, more adult series. I read Interview with a Vampire, and the next four novels in the series, all through high school. I felt out of my comfort zone at the start–the only experience I had with adult novels in the past were my Stephen King novels and those weren’t difficult for me, as they felt like a conversation with a friend. However, the Vampire series felt difficult to me. It wasn’t until I was the ripe old age of 17 that I realized why–there were NO characters in these books for me to relate to. All of the characters are men–and are usually pretty weak. I felt absolutely no connection to these books! Lesson learned: There needs to be a variety of characters in a novel OR the protagonist has to be relatable. Otherwise, I just don’t care.
Modern American Literature Classic
3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Rape? Incest? Physical and Mental Abuse? Lesbian love? I was a very sheltered 17-year-old, so The Color Purple was an eye-opener for me. I read it for a summer reading assignment before my senior year. Without guidance, this was very uncomfortable for me, and yet I completely got it. I have read this for pleasure since my first experience and I appreciate this novel for being my first introduction to literature that really matters. I learned a lot from Celie and her experiences–both about myself and the human experience. Lesson learned: Read more novels that deal with cultures and experiences that are important, real, and different from my own.
4. The Republic by Plato
I read this for my first (and only) philosophy class in college. I read it, thought I understood it, wrote a paper on it, and got a D on it. I had never received a D on an essay before. Apparently, I didn’t get it. When my professor tried to help me understand The Republic I still didn’t get it. Lesson learned: I don’t do philosophy, but I keep trying.
5. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
“What do you think, young lady?”
“Maybe you should pay more attention to the discussion instead of staring out the window.”
Doesn’t sound like much, but this dialogue between my 20-year-old self and an old professor with a Greek accent as thick as his bushy eyebrows changed my life! I was a Civil Engineering major who needed to satisfy a general ed. requirement, and so I signed up for an Introduction to Shakespeare class. I spent most of the time spacing out, probably thinking about the night before or something, when I got called out in front of the whole class. After blushing furiously, I paid close attention to the class discussion of Hamlet, read the entire play that night to get caught up, and found that it spoke to me personally. I got more out of it than my physics or calculus classes. It mattered to me, and as I read more of Shakespeare’s plays, I found this to always be the case. Shakespeare seemed to be writing my soul–very sentimental, I know, but that’s how it felt at the time. I got a B in the class and the following semester I added English as my minor, and a year later, I was a full blown English major. Lesson learned: The Canon might have been written by a bunch of dead white guys, but they knew their stuff. A lot of the classics are as relevant today as they were in their own time. That’s why they’re “Canonical”–they are timeless and necessary.
6. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
I read this in a Modern American lit class and it truly changed my life. I had never read a “period piece”, a piece of writing that showcased the manners and errors of a certain time period. The exquisite details provided in this book blew me away. These types of books always seemed untouchable to me, and after reading this, I was hooked! From here, I went to The Age of Innocence and then on to Austen. I was never the same again. Lesson learned: Nothing is untouchable or too hard (except, maybe, philosophy). At least try everything once.
Guilty Pleasures from the Drugstore
7. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
I don’t know. Maybe I read this one because I fell totally in love with Ryan Gosling when I watched the movie and wanted more. But, I read it, and I have yet to live it down with my husband. It made me cry and I enjoyed it. I admit it. There is a purpose for every book and at the time I was just a gushy romantic lovey-dovey and wanted to be surrounded by love. So, it served its purpose. Lesson learned: Don’t be embarassed by what you read. It serves a purpose and as long as it meets your needs, it is good. So, read that Harlequin paperback girl!
8. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
So, I didn’t have the problem in this case. Stephenie Meyer had the problem. I had read the first three books in the Twilight series, enjoyed them, thought the plot was good and working evenly towards its end. And then this happened. Meyer screwed up her own plot line! Now, I realize that authors are the gods of their own plots and can do what they want. But, when you set up foreshadowing, when you set up a potential theme, a lesson, over the span of three novels, each over 500 pages, you’re pretty much stuck with the ending you have designed. Bella wasn’t supposed to get married in the first chapter of this book. Meyer set up this perfect storyline where Bella starts out not knowing what to do, is rather weak, depends heavily upon this gorgeous guy/vampire who abandons her, she finds strength without him, he comes back and now she’s not sure who she is because she has to find a place for both her burgeoning strength and her neediness when the vampboy’s around. She needs to make a choice. Clearly, she will learn that she is strong enough on her own, she needs to continue to develop her strength, and then she can choose from the two boys. Instead, Meyer jumps the shark and marries her off in the first chapter! What?!? It’s all a dream after that. So, I was out of my comfort zone with this book because, for the first time, I read a book with a major glaring error in plot. It was very disconcerting and upsetting. Lesson learned: Just because an author gets published doesn’t mean they know a damn thing about plot.
9. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
I rarely read history, but I enjoyed the mini-series of this so much that I wanted to know more. It was a fascinating and engaging read! I was so into it that I also plan on reading D-Day by Ambrose as well. Lesson learned: Not all history books are bores!
Autobiographies and Biographies
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I know, I know. This isn’t an autobiography in the truest sense. It’s a fantasy novel. Yet, as I am reading it right now, I am feeling very much out of my comfort zone as it seems to be mostly a man telling his life story. Sure, there’s magic involved in his autobiography, but still. I really don’t like autobiographies or biographies. I’m not sure why. I think it has to do with someone literally telling me what happened in the past. But, it’s history. Not as exciting as present tense action. I know that I will love this book, but I wish he’d hurry up and finish his story! I want to know what happens next! Lesson learned: As curious as I am about the new Steve Jobs biography, I won’t pick it up. I know I’ll be bored. I’d rather read the snippets on the internet!
Disclaimer: I don’t read too many books that I dislike. When I do, I tend to be very passionate and sardonic in my review. Just a warning on tone…Quick Review: The Ice Queen was dull and hard to get into with far too much going on, most of which I couldn’t care less about.
How I Got Here: In the last year, I have fallen in love with the novels of Sarah Addison Allen and her particular style of magical realism. I have been seeking out other magical realism novels and had previously read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I hoped that this book would satisfy my desire for more magical realism. Also, this book satisfies a task for the Fall Reading Challenge.
The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:
From the bestselling author of Practical Magic, a miraculous, enthralling tale of a woman who is struck by lightning, and finds her frozen heart is suddenly burning.
Be careful what you wish for. A small town librarian lives a quiet life without much excitement. One day, she mutters an idle wish and, while standing in her house, is struck by lightning. But instead of ending her life, this cataclysmic event sparks it into a new beginning.
She goes in search of Lazarus Jones, a fellow survivor who was struck dead, then simply got up and walked away. Perhaps this stranger who has seen death face to face can teach her to live without fear. When she finds him, he is her opposite, a burning man whose breath can boil water and whose touch scorches. As an obsessive love affair begins between them, both are forced to hide their most dangerous secrets–what turned one to ice and the other to fire.
A magical story of passion, loss, and renewal, The Ice Queen is Alice Hoffman at her electrifying best.
My Analysis and Critique: The Ice Queen was dull and hard to get into with far too much going on, most of which I couldn’t care less about. Hoffman’s writing felt forced and over the top. She overused sensory details and figurative language, her characterization felt false, the themes were numerous and stretched thin, and her protagonist made a huge character judgement that had me yelling at my speakers (audiobook, remember?).
Alice Hoffman, meet Dan Brown. Have a baby. He or she will be an excellent writer!
It is rare that I say this, but Hoffman shows too much! She really took the old adage “Show, don’t tell” to heart. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate colorful descriptions of setting and characters, and there is really nothing better than a dead-on metaphor. Yet, Hoffman gets carried away! Every tree has to be described, every observation explained through simile. I get it- she’s the ice queen- she’s cold! You don’t have to beat me over the head with a gazillion literary devices to get me to understand! How many ways can you describe the color red? Hoffman has probably utilized each and every one. Everything in this book is shown to the umpteenth degree that I began to despise figurative language! Here is an example from the first paragraph:
Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things. They burn your tongue the moment they’re spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I’ve made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old. Not the sort of wish for ice cream or a party dress or long blond hair; no. The other sort, the kind that rattles your bones, then sits in the back of your throat, a greedy red toad that chokes you until you say it aloud. The kind that could change your life in an instant, before you have time to wish you could take it back.
Rather nice for an opening paragraph, but this goes on and on and on! In the first chapter, more than half of the paragraphs contain some sort of figurative language. Perhaps this is why it was so easy to space out. She told very little, her plot didn’t feel concrete enough. She needs a dose of Dan Brown- he could teach her a thing or two about telling…
I’ve got a few more pages left to write…just enough to squeeze in one more irrelevant theme!
The Ice Queen weighs in at a measly 211 pages. Yet, Hoffman manages to explore at least nine major themes and topics! She explores wishes (as read in above excerpt), the protagonist as “Ice Queen”, lightning strikes, fairy tales, the relevance of colors, death, reading habits, uniqueness as a personality trait, and then, for good measure, she throws in butterflies during the last chapter. I’m not even sure I covered all of the themes here. She does a poor job in writing on all of these themes and topics, either because she beats them to death, or throws them in momentarily and then drops them. Some of these themes she pursues strongly, even seeming to base her entire novel upon them, only to reveal briefly at the end that there was no creedence to them: the narrator was wrong, that wasn’t what it was about at all.
I couldn’t give a damn about you…No wait! I love you! Let’s move in together!
Hoffman’s characters make uncharacteristic choices. Sometimes, they just disappear all together. I would go into more detail, but that would mean spoilers, and even though I believe you will choose NOT to read this book after reading my review, I still try not to do spoilers. I think the above heading illustrates the erroneous ways of Hoffman’s characterization. Perhaps if Hoffman spent less time on sensory details, figurative language, and over/underarching themes, the choices her characters make would make more sense. But, she doesn’t really do much with characterization, so it all feels false and forced.
What?! No! No! That’s not what that means! How can you say that?!
So, as I have illustrated, Alice Hoffman’s The Ice Queen was a rather unmemorable experience as it just seemed to drag on…except when it didn’t. There was one little tiny plot twist that had me arguing with Nancy Travis and her Three Men and a Baby voice. The protagonist, a librarian, snoops into her sister-in-law’s circulation records and discovers that she (the sister-in-law) has just returned a book titled “A Hundred Ways to Die”. This causes our busybody, uniformed librarian to conclude that her sister-in-law wants to kill herself. What?!? Are you kidding me? As a reader of a variety of genres, I was offended by this gross misjudgement. Last year, I bought a book titled Demons and Demonology and The Witch’s Magical Handbook. Am I a witch? A satanist? Heck no! I hope to write a book one day dealing with the paranormal, and books with witches and supernatural creatures always fascinate me. So, I’m doing research! How could a librarian make such a ridiculously based judgement? She goes on to confront her sister-in-law, who reveals it wasn’t for her, but for someone else who might want to kill themself. I still say that’s stupid. Just another illustration on why this book is poor, poor, poor.
Don’t read this book. Just. Don’t.
- Goodreads reviews