Category Archives: book review

[Ink]Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Trilogy

I was initially wary of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. A large chunk of the appeal for people lay in what seemed more than a bit gimmicky. Books that depend on gimmicks (with a few brilliant exceptions) tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that my hit and miss experiences with young adult fiction and it’s no surprise I wasn’t interested in this series from the get go.

However, fellow readers whose opinions I respect seemed to love it. Describing anything as peculiar will always sway me a little bit. So I gave it a shot. There were aspects I loved, aspects I hated and aspects I was completely indifferent to. So let’s delve in to my time spent with Miss Peregrine’s charges, their friends and one American boy who starts off thinking he’s average in every possible way.

(Maybe this goes without saying, but from this point forward there be spoilers aplenty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

“I had just come to accept my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar

The first line: I love a first line that grabs you and gives you a decent idea of what’s coming. I don’t think it’s always necessary, but when I find one I get giddy. The first line of this is delicious. It’s the very first step in Jacob Portman’s journey from boring, ordinary boy from Florida to so much more.

The photos: The appeal of this book hinged on the fact it was a story told in tandem with genuine old photographs. It starts off in the first book working very well. It’s obvious that the story was crafted around the photos. They contributed to what is a somewhat spooky feel that permeates the entire first book. Unfortunately in the second and third books, they more and more felt like they were forced in. It’s obvious when some of them have been doctored to fit the story instead of the other way around. By the end, I wouldn’t say they were distracting, but they were mostly just there.

“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares at the very same time.”
Hollow City

The story itself: The first volume of this trilogy was excellent. It kind of tells like a ghost story at parts, but instead of being haunted by spirits, it’s haunted by monsters and children. Jacob is trying to discover the secrets of his recently deceased grandfather’s past and the out there stories he would tell. Thinking he will find perhaps some clues to the past, instead he finds the past is alive and well just how his grandfather left it by means of a time loop. Time loops are places created by ymbrynes that occupy the space of a day and provide safety and immortality to the peculiars inside of them.
Unfortunately, where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children created an atmosphere of mystery and the unknown, Hollow City just creates an atmosphere of drudgery. I honestly can’t even tell you how much I remember of this book except there was a lot of walking and complaining. The idea being that Miss Peregrine has been kidnapped and the children have set out to find her. In the process they find some other interesting peculiars, but for the most part they meander. Meandering is totally something they have in common with the plot. It ends with a twist that instead of being completely shocking just makes the meandering leading up to it that much more pointless and annoying.
If Library of Souls was a season of Supernatural, it would be Season 8. Season 8 was the season everyone said Supernatural was good again. In reality Season 8 on is just not as awful as seasons 6 and 7, but nowhere near as brilliant as the first five seasons. All of which is a long rambling way to say that it’s much better than Hollow City, but not even close to as good as Home for Peculiar Children. They find where everyone’s been taken. Hoorah. They spend a lot of time figuring out how to get in only to kind of blunder into every single thing they need at exactly the right time. (I have a love/hate relationship with this plot device. In a way it’s probably how things would play out in real life, but in another way I don’t read fiction about monsters and peculiar children for realism.) It’s all tied up with a nice (and completely unconvincing) happy package.

The peculiars (and animals and ymbrynes): Riggs does an excellent job of developing their pecularities to be convincing and real. He spends a little less time on the characters themselves. Everyone ends up feeling very one dimensional as the story progresses. Everyone has one defining character trait and that’s all they ever really show. It’s seriously bad enough that when one of the children die in the second novel, I didn’t even really care. She was also one of my favorites. Part of this is the offhand way it’s told to the reader and part of it is that one dimensional characters don’t tend to evoke much sympathy.

The monsters: The monsters are super well developed and go from creepy (wights) to terrifying (hollowgast). The hollowgast in particular are some of the most compelling monsters created in any fiction, let along young adult fiction. I absolutely think they were one of the best parts.

“And then those awful teeth came unlocked, its mouth reeling open to admit three wiry tongues into the air, each as think as my wrist. They unspooled across half the room’s length, ten feet or more, and then hung there, wriggling, the creature breathing raggedly through a pair of leprous holes in its face…”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The love story: There’s a love story. It’s there. It genuinely doesn’t contribute a single thing to the story. There are points where it’s so much a square peg forced into a round hole that it’s distracting. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but love stories are not necessary. Sometimes boys and girls go off and adventure together and are just friends. That’s okay. I promise.

Summary: There’s some brilliant moments here. Overall I don’t regret reading it through to the end. (After all, I wouldn’t have gotten to read the bridge heads in Monty Python voices if I hadn’t. That was a glorious reading moment for me. And really, didn’t they seem like a Monty Python sketch?) In general though, what started out as being super promising and interesting turned into something that was only one step above average.

Postscript: I forgot that this series gets a major thumbs up for book design. The books are beautiful and the pages are thick. They’re solid volumes to hold in your hands. So really, really well done in that aspect.

So if you made it this far, tell me what you thought of this review or of the trilogy in the comments.

[ink: ink and bone]


Ink and Bone
(The Great Library: Book 1)

Rachel Caine

Set in a dystopian world that imagines the Library of Alexandria never burned, Ink and Bone is a book for those that love books. It begins with the striking scene of ten year old Jess Brightwell watching a man destroy the only existing hand copy of On Sphere-Making by Archimedes by eating the pages. His resulting revulsion sets the tone for a story about humanity, knowledge and power.

Jess lives in a world where the Library has absolute control over all available reading material and owning real copies of books is banned. Instead they depend on alchemy to mirror text to what are called blanks. Human nature being what it is there is a bustling black market trade in real books. The Brightwell family is a predominant figure in this market, but Jess only feels like he is constantly used by his family. In order to get a set of eyes and ears into the Library, Jess’ father sends him to study and become part of of the Library in Alexandria itself.

There he meets his diverse fellow students (postulants) and begins to learn more of the dark nature of absolute control that is the real business of the library. Their motto is “books before people” and they embody it to the very core. This has created a fanatical opposition in the form of Burners. Burners hold that human life is more important than a book or knowledge and make repeated attempts to burn Libraries to bring down the Library and it’s iron control.

This is a fully realized world of alchemy and steam where it feels like every detail matters. It’s only the first book in a series so the explanations of the actual alchemy aren’t terribly in depth, but I strongly suspect we’ll learn more about it in the sequel(s). There are “living” statues powered by gears and steam that invoke a subtle feeling of dread. There’s a war where the price of knowledge over human life is fully explored.

Ink and Bone definitely feels like a young adult novel, but it’s a very good one. The writing is periodically simplistic and there’s a somewhat forced love substory. For all of that though, it’s an immensely enjoyable read. As stated above, it’s a book lovers book, but it’s also so much more than that.

Rating: 7.5/10

[ink: world war moo by michael logan]

Published: June 2015
Genre: Zombies, infection, snarky
Sequel to: Apocalypse Cow


Full disclosure: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Apocalypse Cow. Given the premise of zombie cows and being majorly endorsed by Terry Pratchett I thought it would be sillier. At the end of the day it ended up feeling like a pretty average zombie apocalypse novel. Decent enough, but not really reinventing any type of wheel. I debated even reading the second one, but since I had already picked it up from the library, I figured I may as well.

This is one of those cases of a sequel surpassing the original. It’s all around snarkier and full of subtle humor. The addition of human zombies makes for a more entertaining and unique read.
First off, they’re not zombies in the traditional sense. If you think of 28 Days Later as an infection movie and not a zombie movie, then the same logic applies here. I’m not terribly interested in the absolute semantics of the term though, so from here out it shall be referred to as a zombie novel and anyone who wants to can argue the point to their heart’s content in the comments, their blog, wherever.
Now, that being established, I love zombie everything. If there’s one complaint to be had though, it’s that there’s not a lot of variation in your zombies beyond fast ones and slow ones. This book steps in with my favorite kind of zombie: the thinking variety. It showcases that there are always those that will fight their instincts and those that will surrender completely to it in the most over the top ways.
Another thing I love is snark. This book possesses the perfect amount of it. Just enough to lighten what is by it’s very nature a pretty heavy plot with morality quandaries left and right, but not so much that you don’t care about said quandaries.

All in all, it’s a good choice for fans of the zombie genre. It would be recommended to read Apocalypse Cow first, because it’s one of those stories that definitely needs the complete background. World War Moo is all around a better offering though.

Rating: 8/10