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.

Review: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

url-1Summary:  This is the story of “Alice” who was kidnapped by Ray when she was ten years old.  Alice is now fifteen.  For five years she has been sexually, physically and emotionally abused and has become what she calls a “living dead girl”.  Now Ray wants Alice to help her kidnap another young girl.  Alice thinks this may be her only means of escape and agrees to help Ray.

Review:  I walked into the bookstore yesterday afternoon and one of my co-workers handed me this book saying, “Read this book- it is the most disturbing book I have ever read.”  So, of course, I sat down and immediately began reading it.  I must admit, I had some issues with the book as well.  I think that Scott’s sparse writing does an effective job at portraying someone who has completely shut down in order to survive.  I get that, I do.   I get her matter of fact way of explaining the way Ray repeatedly rapes and abuses Alice and how Alice herself has become full of anger and hate.  What I don’t get is the point of this book, other than to shock and disturb.   Fro me, there was no salvation, no redemption, no hope. I think a book targeted for young adults, which deals with such adult material, must offer one of those things.  This one doesn’t.  I think Scott presents a convincing narrator and makes the situation all too real for her readers and for that I give her kudos.  However, the realness it just a little too real for me in the end.

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.

Teen Book Group and the Wonders of Skype

I posted earlier about starting a teen book group at the book store. Well, I am happy to report the group is up and running.  We had about ten or fifteen kids show up and we chose the following four books to read over the summer:

1.  An Abundance of Katerines by John Green

2.  Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

3.  Gone by Michael Grant

4.  Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner

What is even more exciting about this whole project is that I helped my boss set up a Skype account and so far we have three of the four authors doing a skype conversation with the group on the day we meet to discuss.  How cool is that?

imagesUp first is John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines.  We meet on July 7th to discuss.  I will post after the meeting.

Teen Book Group

On Friday I asked my boss at the bookstore about starting a teen reading group for the summer and he gave me the go ahead. I am so excited to get this project up and running. I can’t wait to talk about books with kids without being the teacher in the room. Our plan is to have our first meeting on the 19th to discuss titles for the summer.  I will keep you posted on what the summer reading choices are and perhaps you may read it as well.

The other idea we talked about was having some of our younger readers write reviews for books that we could post in the store.  Right now we have lots of staff recommendations around the store, but how cool would it be for a kid to come into the store and see their own recommendation posted or have one of their friends buy a book because of their review.   I am pleased to help make this push for literacy in the community.  It can only be a good thing, right?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

images-4I have just finished reading this beautiful and charming book.  I am in love!!  If I have to give any child a gift in the near future, this will be the gift.  Here is just a few examples of the charcoal drawings within this book:

hugo-cabret-533This is the story of a young boy, Hugo, who lives within the walls of a train station in Paris.  An orphan, he was left in the custody of his uncle, the clock keeper for the train station.  However, when Hugo’s uncle disappears, Hugo continues to live at the station and tends to the clocks.  Quite the talented little thief, Hugo has been stealing from the toy booth, in hopes of fixing the miniature mechanical man his father left him before he died.  The owner of the toy booth catches Hugo stealing and discovers his notebook, a collection of drawings that Hugo has been working on in an attempt to fix the mechanical man.  The toy booth owner takes an alarming interest in this notebook and takes it from Hugo, threatening to burn it.  Who is the toy booth owner and why does he care about Hugo’s sketches of the mechanical man?  What message does the mechanical man have for Hugo?  What follows is a tale of magic, beauty and dreams told through words and beautiful charcoal drawings.

Watch this trailer for a look into this stunning world that Selznick has created:

ARC Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

images-4I just finished reading an ARC of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams and wow!  This book left me reeling a little bit.  It is the story of a 13 year old girl named Kyra who is part of a polygamist cult and has been chosen to marry her 60 year old uncle.  Forced to choose between freedom and family, Kyra has to make a decision which could have deadly consequences.

Williams writes sparingly and powerfully, giving her readers an all too real look into the dark world of polygamy, the ties that bind families together and the power struggles which break them apart.  I devoured this book in one sitting, completely horrified and moved by Kyra’s struggle.  From the opening line to the final paragraph, I was completely engrossed.  Just like in David Ebershoff’s The Nineteenth Wife, the author provides a human side to the life inside a cult and we sympathisize with the characters in ways we could never imagine.  I was moved to tears in several parts and the ending, while hopeful, is heartbreakingly sad at the same time.  I predict this book will be a huge success.reading-emoticon1reading-emoticonreading-emoticonreading-emoticon1

Sloppy Firsts

images-4Yes, I have found myself sucked into another teen/high school series.  Something about this one though makes me feel as though it is intended for an older audience.  The narrator, Jessica (Notso, as her dad refers to her) Darling has a little bit of that intelligent mouthy sassiness that makes me hesitate to recommend this book to my students, but will (and have) recommended to my adult friends who enjoy young adult lit.  This book is the first in a series of four,  of which I am already halfway through the second one titled Second Helpings.

Summary:  The book begins as the start of Jessica’s sophomore year.  Her best friend has moved away, leaving Jessica to face life high school with “The Clueless Crew”, three vacant minded Barbie doll type girls of whom Jessica only partially pretends to like.  Jessica feels as though she doesn’t belong in Pineville and nobody understands her the way Hope (the friend who moved away) did.  With keen observations and dark cynicism, Jessica watches as those around her seem to float through life in a protective bubble of oblivion.  And then there’s the new girl, Hy.  She seems like she could be friend potential with her New York City ways and non-mainstream interests, but then she suddenly starts giving Jessica the cold shoulder.  The only other one who seems to be on her level is Marcus Flutie, a known “dreg” and part of the reason Hope moved way.

Review:  Megan McCafferty has clearly tapped into the minds of teenagers.  This book was hilarious and heartfelt at the same time.  Jessica is a critical observer of all those around her, but with the help of Marcus Flutie, she begins to observe her own behavior as well, and sees how she is just as quick to judge those she is criticizing.  Its not as mushy, after-school special-y as that last statement made it sound.  Quite the contrary, the narrator has a fresh voice, which is often shocking in its honesty.  For example, when she discovers that the boy she has been crushing on for the last two years has finally come out of the closet her reaction is, “I know.  Shame on me.  How Slim Shady.  I know I should be happy for Paul Parlipiano.  He’s not lying to himself anymore.  Yet I can’t help but be pissed.  Not because I don’t have a chance with him now; God knows I never had chance with him, even when he was ‘straight.’  No.  I’m pissed because I can’t fantasize about him anymore.  I’ve created this stellar little imaginary world around him and now he’s ruined it.  It’s one thing to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist.  It’s quite another to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist and likes to take it where the sun don’t shine.  One is fantasy.  The other is just plain masochistic….. I’m starting to think I don’t know a thing about anyone.  Or anything.  My entire notion of sex and love is totally, completely and irreversibly screwed.”