Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

My rating: 3/5

From Amazon: "As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs--alive and well--despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see."

I really, really hoped that I would enjoy this book, but maybe my hopes were just too high.  The premise sounded good.  The writing really wasn't terrible.  But there were too many major problems with it that kept me from enjoying it.

1. The story really doesn't get rolling until about the last third of the book.  The first 2/3 are fine, but as far as what I expected from the book (the peculiar children, a mysterious orphanage, etc.), I had a while to wait.

2. Once we get into the meat of it, there are too many characters.  I had a really hard time keeping them all straight when they were all involved in the action-y bits.  The main few were easy enough; the rest, not so much, especially when some of their names begin with the same letter.

3. The photographs seemed forced.  The author used several real (though sometimes slightly altered) old photos to represent the peculiar children.  It's a neat idea, but for the most part, I felt that the writing was forced to fit the photos.  And sometimes the photos still didn't fit, such as a photo supposedly of a child being obviously of an adult, and photos that were supposed to be of the same person not looking identical.

4. Only one of the children's "peculiarities" seemed unique. I won't spoil what it is, but the others were, in my opinion, tired examples of special abilities.  A floating girl, an invisible boy, a girl who creates fire, a girl with super strength, a boy with prophetic dreams, etc.  I've seen these represented in fiction too many times to think they're cool.

That being said, part of my problem with the book probably has to do with the fact that it seems to have been written for a younger audience.  The writing is good and flows relatively well, but it doesn't get very in depth into anything, especially emotional moments.  However, there is a bit of swearing (as a typical 16-year-old probably would do), and there were a few scenes that were more violent and gory than I expected, especially for something that felt more appropriate for a young adult audience (rather than the YA/adult lit that I tend to enjoy more).

The book ends at a point in the story that definitely implies sequels.  I wasn't disappointed in the ending though, and there is a plus side for anyone who wants more of the story: implications that we may see Jacob's grandfather again... and possible battles with monster Nazis. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

My rating: 4 stars

I almost put up the summary of this book from Amazon until I realized it was ridiculous, even mentioning the main character's ability to "tangle with a cunning demon or two" when the book only has one demon. Oy.

Therefore, I give you my own summary:

Rachel Morgan, witch bounty hunter extraordinaire, no longer has a price on her head in this second book of The Hollows series.  At least, not in the same sense: This time there's a serial killer out to murder witches in horrific ways... all of whom have talents similar to what Ms. Morgan seems to be developing.  With intriguing information about her friend/roommate/coworker Ivy's vampiric relations, Rachel's family and past, and who the heck Trent Kalamack is, this book is a definite step up from the first book in the series.

The author definitely improved her game for this book after the good-but-also-disappointing beginning to the series.  The writing is more focused and solid, and for that I am most appreciative.  Like the first book, the plot and action kept me reading, but this time it didn't meander as much as the first book did.  There is a serial killer to catch, and while the previous mysteries are still open (who/what Kalamack is, what happened to Rachel's dad, etc.), they aren't in the forefront.  A lot of these mysteries still aren't solved by the end of this book, similar to the first book, but at least we're given some information and I don't feel like I was left hanging, and for that reason I'll keep reading the series. 

But of course, I have to have some complaints. ;)  [WARNING: A few possible spoilers ensue.]  The main one being Rachel as a character.  For the most part, she's an understandable, relate-able character... but then she has her moments when she's not.  For one, her constant forgiveness of her living-vampire roommate, Ivy, is perplexing.  Like in the first book, Ivy constantly comes close to killing Rachel (in a literal, non-figurative way), who then constantly makes excuses for Ivy's behavior after the fact.  I don't get it.  I understand that Rachel likes Ivy, that when she's not a psycho she's a good friend; but they could be good friends who don't live together, since the close quarters are essentially what drive Ivy to near murder.  If this weren't a worry, they would be fine.  I just don't get it. 

Then there's Rachel's sophomoric moments that make me want to smack her.  Most visibly, one of these moments occurs when Rachel is participating in the police investigation of the serial murders and wants to see a crime scene.  They tell her to wait, they need to document/photograph/do police stuff first, or else the crime scene could be considered contaminated and the guilty party could get off scott free.  So what does she do?  Sneaks in to see the crime scene while they're working on it and gets in trouble... and then yells at everyone who's angry with her and pouts about the fact that she's in trouble.  And on top of this, she never feels guilty for having possibly ruined the investigation.  Really?  I can understand the morbid curiosity, but never once realizing what she's done wrong (when it is entirely obvious to the reader) doesn't make any sense.

However, even with those complaints, I still really enjoyed the book.  I want to know what happens to every one of the characters and I want to find out more about their backgrounds, as well as about the fantastic world the author has created, and that's impressive.  One warning I will add for the queasy: this book is gorier than the last (almost surprisingly so).  But when you're dealing with a supernatural serial killer, I suppose that's to be expected.

Next up in the series: Every Which Way But Dead, Book #3.