Tag Archives: four stars

Book Review – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children & Soulless

I just read two of the most interesting books I’ve ever read! (Aren’t you jealous?….) One for being different and innovative, the other for being just plain fun. You are in for a treat my fellow readers…enjoy!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the debut novel by Ransom Riggs (could his name sound more made up? – but I digress). Ransom has a fun hobby – he goes to auctions, garage sales, etc.. and looks for old photographs that interest him. Maybe they have writing on them that adds something to the image, maybe it is a particularly striking image but either way he picks these photos up. What does this have to do with his book? Riggs has used photos from his other similarly minded friends and created a world. A fantasy world filled with “peculiar” children.

The story goes that young sophomore Jacob Portman has been told fantastical stories about an island where his grandfather lived as a child during WWII to escape from the Nazis. His grandfather shows him pictures of “peculiar” children and tells him about how happy he was living there. His grandfather dies in front of his eyes after what he thinks is a horrific accident with a cryptic dying utterance. Jacob decides to visit the island in Wales to deal with the trauma of his loss and possibly discover what his grandfather wanted him to seek out. When he gets to the island, he discovers the house has been abandoned and dilapidated. Jacob thinks he is going crazy but he hears children at the house and sees things move. It gets even crazier when he actually starts meeting and talking with the children of the home – who appear unchanged since the photographs were taken – in 1940!  Is Jacob going crazy or will he discover the secret of Miss Peregrine’s home?

I really enjoyed this book. One of the things that made it delightful were the accompanying photographs of the children and the home. All of the photographs are actually vintage from collections and really add to the flavor of the book. The story is fun YA fantasy with a little gothic flavor thrown in. You have the feeling when you look at the pictures that these people are sideshow freaks turned into heroes. Because of the pictures I have to strongly recommend getting the paper copy – it’s totally worth it.

My only beef with this book was some lack of character development. While Jacob is a believable teenage boy with his own sensitivities, hangups and boyish confidence, the other characters in the book were not fleshed out too much. The ending of the book seemed ripe for a sequel so I’m hoping that we will get more info in subsequent books. That being said, this is a fun YA book especially if you like fantasy. I give it four stars.

Three Appeals: Unique appearance/photos, thrilling, fantasy aspects

Red Flags : Some violence, some language – very mild

On to the next book – Soulless by Gail Carriger. Can you say OB-sessed? Because that is what I am !!!! Some of you may remember me recommending this book in my Clockwork Angel post as an adult steampunk book. It is steampunk but it is so much more – it’s a little bit comedy, a little bit mystery, mixed in with paranormal fantasy not to mention delicious Scottish romance. Ok so here is the lowdown…. Alexia Tarabotti has a problem. Some upstart vampire just tried to attack her and then had the bad manners to also die! Now Lord Maccon, the Queen Victoria’s head paranormal investigator, and also hot Scottish werewolf, has been sent to investigate the death. What makes this death seem so peculiar is that Alexia is soulless, she has the ability to nullify any paranormal powers that either vampires or werewolves possess, so she is typically avoided like the plague by both of the paranormal sects. When more strange vampire deaths happen and Alexia’s files are stolen from Lord Maccon’s office, the pair must find out what is going on in London. If they can keep from killing each other.

OMG – have I mentioned that I really loved this book! Is it the next great literary novel? No. But it is a lot of fun and you can read it in about two days (if you shun all human contact and hunker down in a chair like I did). I give this book four and a half stars. The story was fun and not predictable. The romantic elements were everything you wanted them to be – sassy and a little bit dangerous but still within the bounds of proper English society. The paranormal alternative world that Carriger has created is really different – vampires and werewolves are out in society and even accepted by the English Victorian royals. (Americans get the short end of the stick – we are the bigoted zealots across the pond hunting down our fanged and furry brethren). This book also has this great tone of humor throughout – mostly at the little civilized rules of the English society in the face of these paranormal creatures. The last thing I’m going to mention is that this is the first book in the series “The Parasol Protectorate” – I mean seriously how delightful is that??

Three Appeals : paranormal romance, steampunk, mystery

Red Flags: gory, sexual situations, some language (pretty mild)

So go right now and put a hold on these books at the library … go ahead I’ll wait! ………

As always, please leave me a comment when you read these books and let me know what you think.

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Book Review – Sister

Sister by Rosamund Lupton is seemingly just a mystery novel….but really it’s a lot more than that. With elements of literary novel and family drama thrown into the mix it brings more to the table than “just” a mystery book. Beatrice is an uptight Brit living in America with her fiancee. When her mother calls to tell her that her pregnant, mercurial, artistic sister, Tess,  has not been seen or heard from for four days she isn’t that worried and she flies to London to find her. When Tess’s body is discovered with the obvious signs of suicide, Beatrice or Bee, as she is called by her sister, refuses to believe  that her sister would commit suicide. Although everyone believes that she has been unhinged by her sister’s death, Bee obsessively continues on her quest to find the truth. She quits her job, leaves her fiancee and moves to London. As Bee investigates the circumstances around her sister’s life and death, she ends up finding out strange truths about her sister as well as a shocking secret. Did she commit suicide or is something more sinister happening?

This book has been showing up on all the reading blogs with a lot of buzz surrounding it. It was a big hit in the UK and now it’s coming to America. I must say that I loved it! I give it a big four stars on the BRFMF scale. First of all, I really enjoyed the story. The mystery is engrossing and will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Second, I love the way it is written – fraught with tension and suspense. Lupton achieves this through a lot of short tense chapters (a la James Patterson but obviously better written) and also through having the letters from Bee addressed to her dead sister complete with interesting bits of their history. Third, as a younger sister I enjoyed the depiction of the sister relationship. For those of us with sisters, we know it is a fragile and interesting dynamic. You are both friends and family, rivals and teammates, mentor and student. She captures exactly both the feelings of the older and younger sister. But don’t let that deter you from reading it if you don’t have a sister…you will still love it. I absolutely recommend that you read this book!

Three Appeals: Suspenseful mystery, sister relationship, literary quality

Red Flags: Some gore and violence, explicit language, sexual situations

If you liked Sister, then try:

1) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough. (from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Christine wakens every morning next to a stranger who tells her he is Ben, her husband of twenty years. He tells her that she has suffered a horrible accident and has amnesia, leaving her unable to form any new memories. When Ben leaves for work, she is contacted by Dr. Nash, a neurologist, who directs her to a secret journal with details of her life and work. One day Christine finds the sentence “Don’t Trust Ben” in her journal and begins a journey to discover what is really the truth about her life.

3) The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

In 1913, George Sawle brings charming, handsome Cecil Valance to his family’s modest home outside London for a summer weekend. George is enthralled by his Cambridge schoolmate, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by both Cecil and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their and their families’ lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will be recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried – until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

If you read this book or any of the other books recommended it, PLEASE leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it!

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Trina B.

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Clockwork Angel – Book Review

About a year ago, my friend Sara lent me her copy of Clockwork Angel. She had recommended Cassandra Clare’s other YA series, The Mortal Instruments, which I had really enjoyed. She said that Clockwork Angel was the prequel to these novels but didn’t involve the same characters. I was both pleased and surprised by this new series. It combines both elements of the fantasy YA fare from the first series with the seemingly newly popular “steampunk” literary genre. You may ask – what the heck is this steampunk you speak of? Well, it’s sort of hard to define…basically it is a pretty new literary genre with most people attributing it to novels published in the 1980 and 1990’s. Most of these stories are based in the Victorian period, when “steam” was predominantly used as a locomotive. It then adds in elements of fantasy or maybe advanced machines or supernatural elements. (This definition taken from www.steampunk.com. Check it out for more information on steampunk). Back to Clockwork Angel. Here is the story in a nutshell :

Tessa Gray has just sailed across the ocean at the behest of her brother, Nathaniel, to join him in his new life in London. Upon arriving in this strange new city, she is met by two even stranger women who are known as the Dark Sisters. They come bearing a letter from Nathaniel and promptly whish Tessa off to their house. It is only there that she realizes that she is now a prisoner of the Dark Sisters, who force her to train and use a strange magical ability she wasn’t even aware she had. They tell her that she must do as they say in order to save her brother, whom they have kidnapped. When two mysterious young men come to rescue Tessa from the house, she leaves with them and becomes entangled in their world. They are Shadowhunters – a race of half-human half-angel beings who keep the Earth safe from demons. She enlists the Shadowhunters to help her find her brother. Meanwhile she can’t seem to get one of the Shadowhunters, Will Herondale, out of her mind. As she become more familiar with her ability and unravels the mystery behind her brother’s disappearance, things definitely are not what they appear to be…

First, I want to say that I know many people will be turned off by the YA aspect of this novel. I just have to say if you don’t read YA you are missing out on some of the most creative books out there. Second, I really enjoyed this book! It’s been a while since I read The Mortal Instruments series so I can’t be sure without a re-read but I liked this book even better than that series. (Shocking I know!) I give this book 4 stars out of 5 on the BRFMF scale. If you haven’t tried Cassandra Clare before then I really suggest this book. You certainly don’t need to have read the Mortal Instruments series in order to read this story. It will still make sense to you. I enjoyed both the story and the romance between Tessa and Will. I also really enjoyed the steampunk elements to this tale which has inspired me to read some more books in this genre. (Stay tuned for some reviews on that subject;)

Three appeals: Fantastical elements, Steampunk, rich Victorian background

What to read next : I’ve compiled a lengthy list but there was just so much out there! First, if you like this book then you should certainly read Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with the book, City of Bones – Clary Fray has just seen three tattooed teenagers kill another one and then the body disappear. When she realizes nobody else can see them, she seeks them out and the teenagers introduce themselves as Shadowhunters, a race of beings charged with protecting the earth from demons. When her mother is kidnapped, she turns to them for help.

If  you enjoy the YA Angel romance angle of these books then try:

1) Fallen by Lauren Kate

When Luce is sent to a boarding school, she meets Daniel. Although he wants nothing to do with her she is inexplicably drawn to him. She will soon learn his secret and the secret behind the mysterious shadows that haunt her.

2) Angel Burn by LA Weatherly

In Weatherly’s world, angels aren’t guardians, God’s messengers or benevolent beings. They are interdimensional beings who feed on the energy of humans. The humans who have an ecstatic experience, will eventually develop serious illnesses and die (i.e. the Angel Burn). Alex is an Angel Killer who is sent to assassinate Willow, who is only half-Angel. When he learns that she might be able to destroy the Angel’s homeworld, he rescues her instead. You can probably guess what happens next but it’s still fun to read it….

3) Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora Grey, high school sophomore,  can’t seem to stop thinking about Patch, the new transfer student.  He is both handsome and creepy, especially when she starts hearing his voice in her head and thinks he might be stalking her. And what is the deal with the v-shaped scar on his back that looks almost exactly like somebody ripped some wings off him. Could he be….?

If you enjoyed the steampunk YA aspect try:

1) Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts. (taken from the database Novelist)

2) The Haunting of Alaizabel Gray by Chris Wooding

As Thaniel, a wych-hunter, and Cathaline, his friend and mentor, try to rid the alleys of London’s Old Quarter of the terrible creatures that infest them, their lives become entwined with that of a woman who may be either mad or possessed. (taken from Novelist)

If you would like to try adult steampunk fiction try:

1) Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter

It all began when the Brown Leather Man, a mysterious being with a secret older than humankind, asked proper Victorian London gentleman George Dower to repair a weird device. How coud George have know that this was but one of the many infernal devices his genius father had build, and that he himself would soon be pursued by former clients of his father? For George had always been the unsuspecting key to his father’s incredible plans, a key that others would like to possess – from the automaton who wore George’s own face to the mad Lord Bendray, bent on using George to destroy the entire Earth. A romp through Victorian England by an author said to have “the brain-burned intensity of his mentor, Philip K. Dick.” This is considered a classic of steampunk fiction.(taken from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Inventor Leviticus Blue creates a machine that accidentally decimates Seattle’s banking district and uncovers a vein of Blight Gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead. Sixteen years later Briar, Blue’s widow, lives in the poor neighborhood outside the wall that’s been built around the uninhabitable city. Life is tough with a ruined reputation, but she and her teenage son Ezekiel are surviving–until Zeke impetuously decides that he must reclaim his father’s name from the clutches of history. (taken from Novelist)

3) Soulless by Gail Carriger

When Alexia, a soulless spinster with the ability to negate supernatural powers, accidentally kills a vampire, her life goes from bad to worse when Lord Maccon, a gorgeous werewolf, is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. A comic steampunk novel. (taken from Novelist)

4) The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Unexpectedly promoted to detective when his predecessor goes missing and a supervisor is killed, agency clerk Charles Unwin struggles with inexperience and nerves during a case in which he encounters bizarre clues and is framed for murder. (taken from Novelist)

5) The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G. W. Dahlquist

A spy, a killer, and an impostor – this book features three extraordinary heroes. Miss Temple didn’t come to the city for an adventure – she came to find a husband. But when her fiance, Roger Bascombe threw her over for no apparent reason, Miss Temple decided to find out why. Yet, following Roger to a masked ball (one with a most sinister purpose) will take Miss Temple very far from the respectable world she has always known …Cardinal Chang, so thoroughly disreputable that he has been hired to kill a man, is disconcerted to find his masked target has already been assassinated. No longer able to trust those who hired him (if ever he did), he sets out to find who has beaten him to his quarry – and why …Dr Svenson did not ask to be a chaperone to his Prince, but he is loyal all the same, even when the young prince’s debauched appetites put him in the clutches of a cabal of very nasty characters and involve him in a diabolical ‘process’ that has singular effects on the human mind. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

Whew (picture me wiping brow) that was a lot of suggestions. I hope this starts you in the right direction. Please let me know if you have read one of these books and how you like it. I want to know if my suggestions are good!

Thanks Friends and enjoy!

Sources :

Novelist database – accessible through the Online Database section on www.imcpl.org

Fantastic Fiction – http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/

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Outlander – Book Review

Somewhere between fantasy and romance fiction lies this epic novel called Outlander, the first in a seven part series….recommended to me by good friend Julie. This is the story of Claire Randall, who travels to Scotland with her husband Frank for a second honeymoon in 1945. They haven’t had much of a chance to be together in their eight-year marriage because of the war and hope that this trip will rekindle the flame. While out for a walk one day, Claire touches one of the stones in the stone circle (i.e. something like Stonehenge) which in a flash transports her back in time to 1743 Highlands Scotland. There she meets Jamie, a Highlander, who has been injured and uses her skills as a nurse, obtained in the war. As Claire starts to settle into her new life, she finds herself becoming more and more attached to the stubborn, prideful yet kind Jamie. When forced to marry him to save her life, sparks fly….and chaos ensues. Will she find a way back to her time? Will she even want to go back?

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars on the BRFMF scale (meaning I really liked it). This is a fun bit of entertainment perfect for summer reading. The historical detail and richness of the background make for interesting reading. The relationship between Claire and Jamie is both contentious and sweet. You get to know both of their characters really well and I found most of the time I understood their motivations. Usually in romance novels, I find that the heroine is completely unbelievable and doesn’t make any kind of mistakes. She’s just beautiful and stubborn and likes to get into fights with the hero. Claire is beautiful and she is prideful, but she  does make mistakes, and she’s not always sure of herself.

Really, I gave this book an extra star just for being in Scotland which everyone knows is the sexiest country 😉

Three Appeals: Time Travel, Romance, Historical Background

What to Read Next : If you like the time travel romance aspect of this book I would try Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson in which a man sees a picture of a woman and obsessively tries to go back in time to meet her. Another title to try is My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares which showcases a romance that continues on through time in the form of reincarnation. If you think that Scotland is another word for sexy, then you might try Highland Rogue by Tess Mallory in which an archaeologist is transported back to the Highlands to meet her Scottish hero. Finally, for a more comic turn at traveling through time check out The History of Lucy’s Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters by Deborah Wright. Lucy has become fed up with modern men and uses a time travel machine to go back and meet the great lovers of history with suprising and sometimes disappointing results.


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