Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


I started a book club at the high school and this was the first book we read.  It was a success and generated a lot of discussion- I was nervous that we would have nothing to say, silly me.  The students really enjoyed it and are all looking forward to the next one in the series.  I read this one on the Kindle and I don’t recommend the Kindle version, as the pictures were not as clear as they were in the book.  This book is definitely a visual experience and the pictures add so much to the story. The Kindle just doesn’t do them justice.  I mean, look how creepy these photos are:

Summary:  Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather tell stories of Miss Peregrine and her home for peculiar children, children who possessed special talents such as being able to fly, the strength to lift boulders, and the power of invisibility.  Jacob always thought they were just stories, nothing more.  When his grandfather dies, Jacob and his father visit the home where he grew up and Jacob discovers there may have been some truth to the stories his grandfather told.  The people his grandfather described seem to actually exist, but the strange thing is none of them have aged a day.   Suddenly, Jacob finds himself in a time loop stuck in 1940 and running from the same monsters who killed his grandfather.

Review:  The phrase I have been using to describe this book is “deliciously creepy”.  There is a certain darkness to this story that I found appealing.  The characters are intriguing and I liked that their peculiarities were not your typical special powers, but instead strange little quirks based on the photos the author discovered in his research.  The last third of the book moves very quickly in an intense climactic scene and I found myself rushing to see what was going to happen.  The author definitely left the book open to a sequel, which I believe is in the works.  I did find the relationship between Jacob and Emma (his grandfather’s childhood girlfriend) to be a little disturbing, but hey, maybe that’s just me.


Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

     If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Summary:  Mia, a talented cellist player, is a senior in high school.  She has applied to Julliard and everyone is sure she will be accepted.  She seems to have everything going for her:  two loving and unconventional parents that she adores, a boyfriend who is also a musician, an inquisitive younger brother who she enjoys spending time with and her whole future in front of her.  And then in an instant, everything changes.  A tragic car accident leaves Mia unconscious and lying on a hospital bed fighting for her life.  It is up to her to decide whether she stays or whether she goes.  The book takes place in a twenty-four hour span, as Mia recounts her life and the moments that shaped her and will ultimately shape her decision to live or not.

Review:  This book was heartbreakingly beautiful.  The narrative is different than one might expect, as Mia’s body lies in a hospital bed, she seems to hover over herself watching everything that is happening.  The book is loaded with flashbacks as we learn more and more about her relationships with her friends, her family and her boyfriend. The author develops the characters through these flashbacks in such a way that we feel as though we know them and understand them.  I found myself connecting to them all and loving them as much as Mia does.   It is a story of loss and tragedy, but more importantly the power of love and family, whoever that may be.  I would love to read this book with a teen book group.

I’m Back!

Well, I took a hiatus from this blog for a while (understatement of the year), but I am back.  I just recently accepted a job as a high school librarian and I figured I should get this blog up and running again. As it is summer right now, my reading should be heavy.  Hopefully I can keep up with my posting.

Right now, I am reading Dreams of Joy by Lisa See.  It is the sequel to Shanghai Girls, which I read a long time ago.  I had to go back and re-read SG since I didn’t remember much of it.  I will post my review of Dreams of Joy, once I am done.


Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Review:  This review has given me a lot of difficulty.  It is hard to really discuss the book without giving away too much plot, but I am going to attempt to do so.

Little Bee is the story of two women whose paths cross on a beach in Nigeria and neither one is ever the same.  The novel alternates between voices, that of Little Bee, a young woman from Nigeria and that of Sarah O’Rourke, a married woman who lives in England with her husband and four year old son.  The connection between the two women is not apparent at first, but as the novel progresses you begin to see how their lives are intertwined with one another and the profound effect they have on each other.  This is a story about friendship, love, compassion, loss and the things we do when confronted with our fears.

Of the two women, I felt a deeper connection with Little Bee’s character and preferred her chapters to Sarah’s.  Her voice was more convincing and I loved her fresh, sometimes humorous, perspective, even in the darkest of moments.  There was something lyrical to her voice.  She is one of those characters you won’t forget when you put the book down.

As far as this mysterious secret that is so hyped up in the book, I have to say it was pretty predictable.  It didn’t exactly take me by surprise, but that didn’t lessen my experience with the book.  I would recommend this book, especially for a book club looking for their next book.  It is one that will definitely generate discussion.

Coming Soon: Review of Little Bee

My principal came back from February vacation and told me I had to read Chris Cleave’s Little Bee. I finished it last weekend and am working on my review. It is giving me some trouble because I don’t want to give too much away, but I promise to complete one.  Until then, I just would like to say that Chris Cleave is an author to keep your eye on.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Okay, so apparently I am the LAST person to read this book.  What took me so long?  Why hadn’t I read this one earlier?  I can’t even explain how much I loved this book.  I was reading it today at the gym on the treadmill and literally had to stop and go wipe the tears that were falling.  I may have looked a bit odd to the other people in the gym, but I love when a book does that to me.

Summary: This book is told entirely in letters, something I do not usually enjoy, but more on that in my review section.  The “narrator” is Juliet Ashton, a well-known author.  The story begins right after World War II, in England.  London, and everywhere else for that matter, is still reeling from the aftermath of the war.  Juliet is struggling to pick up her own life and find something to write about, when she receives a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey (located on the English channel).  Apparently this man had found a copy of book that once belonged to her.  The two begin corresponding to one another and he tells her about his life in Guernsey during the war.  Juliet finds his story fascinating and decides she wants to publish a weekly article about what it was like to be under German occupation.  Soon other people on the island begin writing to Juliet and she finds herself swept up in their lives. She decides to go to Guernsey so she can learn more and complete her research.  While many of the stories she hears are heartbreakingly sad, there is always an overwhelming amount of love, strength, and triumph of human spirit.  This is the kind of story that makes you remember all the kindness and good in the world, even in the darkest of times.

Review: I do not normally like books that switch voices, I usually experience a disconnect with the characters, but this was not the case.  I loved all the characters, each one was fully developed and had their own adorable and charming quirks.  We all have heard of the horrors of the concentration camps and what life was like there, but this story tells a whole other side of the war that I knew nothing about.  In fact, I had never even heard of Guernsey before this book.  And the stories!  Parents forced with the decision of sending their children to England or keeping them home and under the threat of Nazis, women who faced death to save and feed starving prisoners, German soldiers facing death to give starving children a potato off their truck, these stories will stay with me forever.  If you are one of those people who haven’t read this book yet, don’t waste another minute… it today!!

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I have been meaning to read Tess for a long time now, but I just never got around to it.  I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I wanted to read it and she bought me a copy for Christmas.  Love her for this.  I loved this book.  I love discovering classics for the first time.

Summary: Tess Durbeyfield is a common girl, with a father who tends to drink more than he works and a mother who is always tending to the children and household duties.  When her father discovers that the Durbeyfields may actually be descendents of the D’Urbervilles he sends his oldest daughter, Tess, off to try and claim some of their fortunes.  Tess meets Alec D’Urberville, who takes an instant liking to Tess.  What happens between Tess and Alec is not quite clear.  However, what is made clear is that Tess no longer has her virtue and is now with child.  Whether is was rape or not is sort of glossed over by Hardy.  Tess returns home, unwed and with child.  She gives birth to a son whom she names Sorrow and who dies within the first few months of his life.  Tess again leaves home and goes to work as a milkmaid.  Here Tess meets and falls in love with Angel Clare.  She wants to tell Angel the truth about her past, but fears he will no longer love her when he discovers she is not a chaste woman.  They marry and on their wedding night Tess is honest with Angel, hoping his love for her will overcome her past.  However, this is not the case and Angel cannot handle the truth.  He separates from her and heads off to South America, leaving Tess alone and devastated.  Can their love overcome past mistakes?  Will Angel ever forgive Tess?   You need to read this book to find out.

Review:  Again, I loved this book.  Hardy’s style is so engaging. There were moments when I just wanted to punch Angel Clare in the face, which to me is always a sign I am connecting with characters and am engaged in the story.

I felt as though the author sometimes hovered over the characters giving an overview of what was happening, distanced from the characters, and then zoned in on the characters and their emotions. Like a bird, who comes in for a closer look.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the role that nature and setting took.  They were crucial parts of the book, reflecting Tess’s conflicts.  I am considering using excerpts of this book with my students so they can analyze this aspect.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman (Codex). Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children’s series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he’s tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he’s taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family’s world mundane and domestic when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater’s powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.

My Review:

I loved this book.  This is the Harry Potter I have been waiting for.  It is not quite so quaint and wholesome, there’s sex and drugs involved and  the characters seem much more multi-layered to me and more convincing.  I will admit that the last third of the book went a little too much into the fantastical for my taste, but the realness of the characters and their conflicts helped to keep the story grounded.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I am just going to advise you all to READ THIS BOOK!!

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

My book group chose this book (mainly because we had extra copies laying around and wanted to put them to some use), but whatever the reason, I think we made a good choice.

Summary: The Namesake is the story of the Ganguli family.  The parents were an arranged marriage, as most Bengali marriages are, who move from Calcutta to America to start a family.  There the parents, Ashima and Ashoke, proceed to have two children, Gogol and Sonia.  Gogol is named after his father’s favorite author Nikoli Gogol, a name which he comes to resent in his adolescent years.  The Namesake folows the Ganguli family from the birth of Gogol all the way through his thirties.  It is about the blending of cultures, of keeping traditions, of acclamating to life in America, of both honoring and forgetting the past, of love, of pain and loss, and most of all of the ties that bind us to our families.

Review: The story is told in third-person narrative, so I felt like a voyeur looking through the living room window and into the house of the Gangulis.  Told through a series of snapshots, often skipping years at a time, we are observers, outsiders, looking into the life of the Ganguli family, who themselves often feel like outsiders in America and in India when they return to visit their families.  At times I felt very distant from the characters and removed from their lives, but overall I enjoyed this novel.  I think I connected more to Ashima’s (the mother) character than to Gogol’s, so when the narrative focus shifted in the second half, I felt a disconnect.  Still, it passed the time on a long car journey and I think it was a good choice for our book group.