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

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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.

Review: Gone by Michael Grant

images-1Okay, first things first.  I HATE the cover of this book.  In fact, I had put off reading this book for so long because I was embarrassed to be seen reading a book with such a teen romance-y looking cover.  But you know what they say…. about judgments and books and their covers.

We chose this book for our second book group book.  The really big and exciting news?  I got my boss at the bookstore set up with a skype account and we were able to skype the author (Michael Grant) for our meeting.  We had some minor technical difficulties (sound, but no video) but it was still amazing.  See what he had to say at the bottom of this review.

Summary: In an instant everyone over the age of fifteen disappears. Just like that, with no explanation, leaving only children ages 14 and under.  To make things even more interesting (because a society completely run by kids is not interesting enough apparently), some of the kids start developing special powers like telekinesis or shooting rays of burning light out of their hands.  Oh yes, and did I mention the mutant animals?  Talking coyotes, flying snakes and such.  Now add to the mix a power struggle between the kids at the private school academy and the kids from the public school and you have the makings of Michael Grant’s first book in his Gone series.

Review: Well, when I first read this book I had serious mixed feelings.  I liked the power struggle between the kids.  I liked seeing how they began to function as a society.  I could even deal with the special powers.  But the mutant animals?  The shining green darkness in the cave?  Not so much.  It was a little bit overload for me.

But then our book group talked with the author and suddenly I am itching to read the next one, Hunger.  Michael Grant is FUNNY.  He discussed where he got inspiration for the book- watching Lost and watching The Sopranos.  Okay, I watch those.  I see the connection.  He even said that when he first started writing the novel he realized that he was using a lot of different genres and that most adults would resist the combination of them (as I just previously stated), but that this book was written for teenagers and teenager were much more accepting and open to those kind of possibilites.  And you know what?  He was completely right.  The kids in the book group LOVED this book.  They were all drawing connections between themselves and the different characters.  They were speculating what causes all the adults to disappear and where they were now.  They were discussing a book because they liked it.  Sigh.  What every teacher wants to happen.  I now feel safe about recommending this book to kids, I know firsthand that they will devour all 5oo and something pages of it and will want to read more.

So, I guess it is true.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

images Summary:  Colin Singleton only dates Katherines.  Nineteen of them to be exact.  When he is dumped by Katherine the XIX, he and his friend Hassan decide to take off on a road trip.  Did I mention that Colin is also a former child prodigy?  A borderline genius and an annagramming master, Colin Singleton must find logic and reasoning in everything he does.  So when he is dumped by the nineteenth Katherine, Colin decides there must be a way to predict the nature of a relationship and when exactly said dumping is going to occur and by who.

As Colin and Hassan embark on their road trip they make their first stop in Gutshot, Tennessee.  Here they meet Lindsey, their Gutshot tour guide.  Before they know what is happening, Hassan and Colin decide to stay in Gutshot for a while and work for Lindsey’s mother, interviewing factory workers.  In Gutshot, Colin works on his theorem for proving the predictability of a relationship, but discovers that not all things make sense in the world.  Especially falling for a Lindsey from Gutshot.

Review: Well, this was the first book that the teen book group from DDG chose.  I have to say, I really enjoyed Katherines.  The narrator, Colin Singleton, is somewhat neurotic and annoying, but the supporting characters balance him out and add a great deal of humor to the story.  Hassan is a riot.  When Colin starts spouting off facts about something that nobody really cares about, Hassan will cut him off with a “Not interesting.”  Lindsey is a sharp observer and has keen insight into Colin’s character and his nuances.  The story is fun and entertaining and definitely worth reading.  It makes a great teen summer read.

For our book club, we were joined by Sara Shumway, the editor of An Abundance of Katherines.  She had a lot of interesting ideas to share with the group.  Shumway talked about the storytelling arc (of beginnning, middle and end) that Lindsey teaches to Colin and how the author followed this same arc in telling Colin’s story to his readers.

All in all, this was a nice way to start off our book group and I am looking forward to our next read:  Michael Grant’s Gone.