Book Review – Tales of the Peculiar

TITLE: Tales of the Peculiar
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
ILLUSTRATOR: Andrew Davidson
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

Tales of the Peculiar is a companion book to the author’s Miss Peregrine series.  It is a collection of ten short stories, each led with a woodcut illustration.

So I’m going to start right off the bat and say that this is not meant to be part of the story that Riggs does for his trilogy.  It’s meant to be other stories from the same world.  Basically, fairy tales for peculiars.  As such, it takes place long before the trilogy and features no photographs, which we’ve come to want from Riggs.  That doesn’t make it bad at all, just takes a minute to get out of that mindset.

 

Here’s an overview of the stories.  Warning that although I tried to not spoil anything, you never know what slipped through.

The Splendid Cannibals
Travelers with money and a village of peculiars with the ability to regenerate limbs.

The Fork-Tongue Princess
A princess already promised, but her secret will make her a monster.  What’s a peculiar to do?

The First Ymbryne
She didn’t know she was a peculiar until she accidentally managed a special power – the first time loop.

The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts
A woman who had only ghosts as friends moves to a haunted house to make friends.

Cocobolo
A chinese man who searches for his lost father on the open seas and finds a family secret.  They’re peculiar.

The Pigeons of St. Paul’s
Pigeons in London need a place to roost, so they talk in the ear of the best builder and make him build a cathedral.

The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares
She used her powers to take away peoples nightmares, but was it a good idea?

The Locust
A weird boy with no friends befriends a bug and becomes one.

The Boy Who Could Hold Back the Sea
A boy with the power to hold back and control water currents shows his power and has to go into hiding.

The Tale of Cuthbert
Basically the origin story of Miss Wren’s Menagerie.  There are peculiar animals that need saving, a gentle giant willing to save them, only who will save him?

 

Okay, so I loved the story of the first loop.  The cannibals story was just silly, although one of the stronger ones in the book.  Really, you’re reading fairy tales for peculiars, so you’re going to get absurd stuff (even fairy tales for humans are absurd).  A few stories were weak, but that’s to be expected just by the nature of what everything was.

I loved the woodcuts, even though I was used to bizarre photos and expecting them – I wish they’d’ve found a way to throw in a couple (the area now, perhaps?) – but what was done totally worked for this type of a book so I’m not complaining.

In all, if you like the Peregrine books as I have (My review of book 1 is here) I think you should pick this up as well, so I’ll give it a 4/5 pages with a warning – if you weren’t into the Peregrine books, I don’t think you’ll like this one all that much.

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Book Review – Hunter

Title: Hunter

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2015

I’m on record for how much I like Mercedes Lackey (generally). Hunter is no exception to this rule, though it definitely falls into the category of brain candy. Which was fine, since I was reading it on the beach – a good beach read.

Hunter is the story of a world where the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and civilization is only now starting to recover. One of the reasons for this recovery is the Hunters, people who are gifted with magic and the ability to fight the creatures that come through from the Otherworld.

Joyeaux Charmand has been training to be a Hunter since she was very young, but now has been taken from her small, tight-knit community to the big city. The Apex is the hub of civilization, where Hunters are supposed to come and be trained, and, as Joy soon discovers, where they are also celebrities and reality stars.

Determined to make her mentors and uncle proud and to protect the Cits of this new world she’s in, Joy throws herself into the fight. But it’s not as straightforward as it seems, for she has enemies she doesn’t expect, and when an attack against her goes awry, she finds herself in a fight that she isn’t sure she can win, and where not-winning means death.

I enjoyed Hunter, though, as I said, it’s brain candy. It’s written in first-person (I know! Shock!), but I was able to push past that. I will say, despite the fact that Lackey’s best writing skill is character creation, I found Joy to relatively unflawed, and not flawed with things that really affect her or other people. She is very advanced (though she is aware she must hide how she becomes so advanced), and yet this never seems to make other people suspicious (though she should be a novice at the start, despite being trained for “six months”).

Instead of connecting strongly with Joy, I connected strongest with her trainers/mentors, and with her uncle (though he gets relatively little screen time). And though I am not necessarily anti-romance, I did not feel that the romance between Joy and Josh was necessary and did, in some ways, detract a bit from the main plot. I adored all of Joy’s Hounds, supernatural creatures that come from the Otherworld to help her fight, and I loved the bits we get about Joy’s life before coming to the City, and about the training she went through there.

Over all, though, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading Elite in September. 3/5 pages.

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway

Title: Every Heart a Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2016

Seanan McGuire was a Guest of Honor at a recent convention I was at*, so I requested a copy of Every Heart a Doorway before I left. (It arrived the *day* I left, but let’s not discuss that unless you want me to rant at you.) I had previously attempted to read Rosemary and Rue, the first of her October Daye books, but, well, it’s a me vs. First Person POV thing and I lost.

Every Heart a Doorway was different. Written in third person, it was also much thinner than I’d expected – I hadn’t realized that it was a novella. I’m a fast reader, but once I started it, I had it finished in a little over an hour (granted, some of that was because I couldn’t put it down).

Obviously, I enjoyed the book.

Every Heart a Doorway is a story about what happens to the children who have gone through and then have returned to our world. It’s centered around Nancy, who has recently returned from the Underworld and the Halls of the Dead. And it’s centered around Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the place where a former portal child has made a home for those to come after their adventures, to be in a place where they won’t be told they’re crazy or making it all up. A place where they all want, desperately, to remember their trips and to, if possible, return home.

(There is mention of a sister school, which helps those who want to forget. I hope we get a story set there as well.)

The first half of the story is the strongest, as Nancy arrives and begins, impossibly, to settle in. The second half is a murder mystery, but due to the short nature of the novella, it feels very rushed to me (as an avid mystery novel reader). I didn’t predict the murderer, but there are also very few clues to do so with.

The best things about the book are the characters, and the worlds that they came from. I love that Nancy is explicitly stated to be asexual, and that another character is trans. And while it comes up, both are minor plot points. They’re not the Defining Character Trait for these characters, and the point of the story isn’t discovering this about them.

I have hope that there will be another story (or novel, that would be exciting) set in this world. There are so many places that it could go, and so many other stories that could be told. A solid 4/5 pages.

 

*As a total aside, if you ever have the chance to go see her in a panel, GO. Hysterically funny, insightful, and a genuine pleasure to watch on a panel with other people.

Book Review – Games Wizards Play

Title: Games Wizards Play

Author:  Diane Duane

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2016

I’m a long-time fan of Diane Duane. I discovered her Young Wizards book in high school, and pretty much fell in love immediately. So, in general, I was predisposed to like Games Wizards Play.

Games Wizards Play is the tenth book in her Young Wizards series, which is really nothing at all like Harry Potter, despite the surface similarities.

I very much enjoyed it, but I would not recommend it for people who have not read the rest of the series – there is some backstory given, but in general the author assumes that you’ve read and retained the previous books.

The book starts with a bang, literally, as Kit is involved in a war-game on the moon, and then we get flung into the ocean where Nita is testing out a type of shape-shifting spell that was brought up in previous books. Once away from Nita, we go to her sister Dairine, who is working with a mentor to learn to control suns. A quick introduction of our main cast, and then we’re introduced to the main plot: the Invitational, an event that occurs every 11 years where wizards are encouraged to build a spell that will allow them to show off to the whole world.

Nita, Kit, and Dairine are all selected to be mentors to wizards in the Invitational, and they find that they have challenges that they are not used to having.

The book was a solid offering in the Young Wizards universe, but it was not outstanding. Despite the book’s length, the ending felt very rushed as all of the problems were loaded upon the characters at once, rather than being allowed to be introduced earlier, and while the romance angle was necessary, based up on events of the previous book, it got more play time than it might necessarily have needed.

The ‘how do I navigate starting a romance with my best friend?’ question period Nita goes through is very true-to-life, however, and I loved the scene with her dad about it. I also loved Dairine a lot more in this book than I have in books previous – Nita has always been my favorite – but I do feel that our usual supporting cast are part of a check-list of people that should be mentioned, and then are shunted off to the side again.

The new supporting characters – Penn, Nita and Kit’s mentee; Mehrnaz, Dairine’s mentee; and Nelaid, Dairine’s mentor/Roshaun’s father – are very distinct characters. Not necessarily likeable (at least not all the time) but no character should always be likeable.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, and will reread it (though, perhaps, not as much as I’ve reread the first few books). 3/5 stars

Book Review – Same Difference

TITLE: Same Difference
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Derek Kirk Kim
FORMAT: Hardcover Graphic Novel
PUBLISHED: 2011

I came across this one at the library and I decided that since it was “Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards” that I should at least give it a chance.  After all, the fact that there are more words in that sentence than in the title and author/illustrator of the book should mean something, right?

*cough*

So Same Difference starts with a group of friends but pretty much follows Simon and Nancy, who are dating.  Apparently Nancy’s been getting letters intended for some other girl…and responding to them.  Simon stupidly points out that they’re from the same town, and that leads the two of them on a quest to find the guy and come clean.

The story was…interesting.  There are some weird points – Simon ran into someone who had asked him out and there’s this thing about wishing he had dated her, or Nancy sort of flirting with the letter writing guy.  And there are some funny points – after they go to his house and don’t find him, they go to the store for ice cream…then hear his name paged and go sprinting across the store to look at him.

Visually, it’s well done.  The artwork is black and white, but done well.  The lettering is perfect.  (Hey, I’ve had some where the lettering was so bad I could barely read it.)  The story, though… Left me feeling settled but it didn’t wow me.

Like, I don’t feel like my time was wasted, but the story just was.  Apparently I’m missing what it was that wowed the judges for three different awards.

But, I don’t think it’s bad.  After careful consideration, and extra help from the visuals (it’s a graphic novel after all), I’ll give it a four.  Go ahead and read it, but I doubt it’ll be your favorite book.

Book Review – Daughter of Deep Silence

TITLE: Daughter of Deep Silence
AUTHOR: Carrie Ryan
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2015

I’ve got to start this review out by saying that I love, love, love Forest of Hands and Teeth that Carrie wrote several years ago, so when I saw this in the library, I snatched it, despite the overly full armload of books I was already carrying.

With Forest, I was transported to a world with amazing details, and a story that I hungered to finish, and as somebody who absolutely hates first person – especially first person present – 90% of the time, I loved that the story carried me through so well that I didn’t care that that was how the book was written.  I figured that Carrie’s writing style would continue on to another book.

 

Daughter of Deep Silence starts off on a cruise ship.  Except something has gone very terribly wrong.  Armed men have come aboard the ship and outright murdered everyone on board.  Well, almost everyone.  The senator and his son of course make it out perfectly fine.  And Frances Average-And-Boring Mace and her newly acquired rich BFF Libby O’Martin, who dies just an hour before a boat finally rescues them.

Senator Wells and his of course perfectly amazing (*swoon*) son Grey have lied about what happened; they say a huge wave took out the boat.  Frances wants to speak up, but then she’s offered the deal of a lifetime from Libby’s father – she looks enough like Libby that she could pass as her, so why not?  After all, her parents were killed on the boat, she’s got no other family.  Why not be a child of affluence instead of an orphan lost in the system?

Fast forward four years, and Frances-turned-Libby is now out of high school and ready for revenge.

*sigh*

I hate the characters’ names.  Grey reminds me of 50 shades, Frances Mace is clunky and hard to say (I’ll wait), which also makes it clunky to read, and Libby O’Martin sounds cheap… like Patty O’Furniture or something.  Seriously, there wasn’t a name in the book I really liked at all, and when the very name of a character is grating, it makes it hard to read the book…

And back to the whole first person present thing.  I came of age right about with the YA movement.  I was there when YA was crap, I was there when it picked up steam, and now that I’m a, um, bit older *cough* I’m still reading the stuff.  When the genre started, the authors were perfectly capable of books that didn’t feel like trashy romance with the sex (barely) removed, and they were perfectly capable of past tense and third person.  I don’t know when we got to the part where those things were totally not allowed, but I really really miss those books.

I get that I’m a little older than it’s target audience, but oh dear gods.  The MC spent the better part of the start of the book gushing over wonderful amazing Gray.  Page after effing page of what pretty much boiled down to how much in love she was and how she couldn’t help but feel him touching her and if only they could be a couple and…  ARGH.

If she were even 16, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.  But the chick was fourteen.  FOUR TEEN.  Fourteen put me in Junior High, and I can assure you that I wasn’t worried that guys were effing amazing and if I could just make out with them, let alone falling in love with some guy that I had met a day ago and already kissed.  So, sometime around page 80, I realized that I just wanted this bitch to take a cold shower and shut up already.

Oh, and also, we’re dealing with her going back to Libby’s home and ending up with the guy that Libby’s father basically raised as a son and who was in love with Libby.  You know, because if from the time you’re five until you’re twenty, you’re raised like this kid is your sister, you’re totally going to be head over heels for her, right?  We’re talking Libby’s Dad adopted him.  Forgive me while I’m grossed out.

But I had anticipated this book for so long that I was going to read the damn thing at least for a little while longer.  The story line was on an upswing and I hoped that it would improve.

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let’s keep reading.

Somewhere about page 300, the story finally got exciting for me.  Stuff was happening, and we were mostly over the crap about Frances being in love with Grey and totally over the crap about Libby being in love with Shepherd.

The ending got a little over-the-top.  Obviously Carrie Ryan wasn’t going for the less is more thing.

Fortunately, it was a fast read, so I’m only out about four hours of my life.  But still.

 

I think the story about what happened *before* this book started would have been way more interesting than this thing.  I’m sorry I picked it up, and I’m sorry that an author I loved has now been downgraded to “Well, she wrote that one thing, but…”  like Ursula K. LeGuin or several others.  And yeah, I know that I won’t love everything that every author ever does, but it just makes me sad when I come across something that I can’t even *like*.

Bottom line.  A lot of the things that annoyed me about this book were things that might not annoy other readers.  If you like first person and/or present tense, then you’re not going to be nearly as annoyed with this book as I am.  If you don’t care that we have young teenagers stupid in love with each other, then you won’t have nearly the problems with this that I did.

I waited a couple days after reading to rate this.  Before the last 100 pages, I’d’ve given this book a two, but the ending was mostly satisfying and left me with a better taste in my mouth than the start of the book, so I’ll give it a three out of five pages and happily return it to the library.

Book Review – Uglies: Cutters by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson

Title: Uglies: Cutters

Author: Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson

Illustrator: Steven Cummings

Format: Paperback

Published: 2012

 

As I have stated many times before my favorite author is Scott Westerfeld, so it should not be a surprise that I would be drawn in by a graphic novel that is at least partially by him and part of the world of Uglies and Pretties that he created.  I know I wasn’t through the roof for Shay’s story the first graphic novel but again I had to read this all the same.

 

The general story of the Uglies universe is a world that is set in the distant future where people are controlled and kept at peace by being equally beautiful and not having a want in the world.  Of course the secret to keeping everyone peaceful and in control is much more than a surgery that makes people pretty but I won’t go into details so as not to ruin the story for your but the world is interesting all the same and one I immensely enjoyed when I first read it.  The main story focuses on Tally Youngblood as she is the main heroin.  She had a close friend Shay who is major contributing factor in pushing Tally to do what she does in much of the series.  This graphic novel takes on the story of Shay and her perspective on things.

 

This is the second graphic novel that focuses on Shay the first one was Shay before she became a petty and before she met Tally and how she saw things in the story of Tally that we read in Uglies.  This graphic novel picks up and tells the story of Shay and her take on things during the time that we follow Tally in Pretties.

 

In the past I did read and review the first of Shay’s story and wasn’t wowed by it but all the same I still found myself picking up the second book and honestly I wasn’t wowed by it either.  It was interesting to see how Shay saw things, but the story was weird all the same.  Instead of just telling Shay’s story there was commentary from the main villain Dr. Cable periodically in the story and there was a fantasy story that kind of worked as an allegory for the main story.  It kind of broke things up a lot and I wasn’t fond of it.  I didn’t feel that the fantasy story fit in well though I very much got what point it was trying to make.

 

Unless Shay was your absolute favorite character in the books, I would not recommend this book.  It gave me a bit of insight but otherwise the story was flat to me and I wasn’t fond of it.  Over all I’ll give this story a 2 out of 5 pages simply because it wasn’t the most atrocious thing I’ve read but honestly I found it a bit dull.

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