The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Happy New Year! I’ve been horrible and haven’t updated at all. I’m currently four books behind. I’ve been snatching up quick reads and devouring them, so that in combination with my natural-bred procrastination skills has led to a staggering to-write pile.

I found this book recommended by someone I like. I looked it up on Amazon and became very intrigued, then I saw that it was available right at my own library and I went by the next day to snatch it up. I don’t know what it is about this book that made me want to put it in front of everything else on my list, but I don’t regret it.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about a little girl named Rose who, on her ninth birthday, discovers that she possesses an unusual talent: she can feel in her food the emotions of whoever made it. The first time it happens is when she tries a bite of the lemon cake her mother made her for her birthday and was flooded with sadness and hopelessness- feelings she never knew were hiding under her mother’s calm, even cheerful facade. Naturally, she can’t tell anyone about this. Who would believe her?

Rose grows to dread meals, especially food made by her own family. She hunts out pre-packaged junkfood and frozen dinners, anything made in a factory with as little human contact as possible. Meanwhile, her family environment is a bit rocky. Her father is supportive, but distant, her mother seeks help outside the family, and her brother is the biggest puzzle of all. Wonderfully smart at things like science, he has difficulty- and no real desire- to fit in.

The only person Rose can talk to is George, her brother’s best friend, who inexplicably believes and even encourages her when she tells him about her bizarre talent.

This book was fantastic. It was one where I had to stop every twenty pages just to absorb how incredible it was. At the end of every chapter I thought to myself, just one more. It was so hard to put down. It was narrated by Rose, but with the hindsight and wry humor of someone looking back at herself as a child. The language was beautiful, and I found myself wanting to highlight the most well-spoken passages. There were even a few places where you kind of had to turn it all over and go, ‘huh?’

As the book progresses, Rose ages into her early twenties. She starts looking for ways to use her ability- rather than hide from it. She starts looking for good food made by happy people.

The ‘magic’ element in this book is very, very subtle, and it led me to wondering- could this actually be happening? Think for a moment, what if there were people who had these strange ‘superpowers’ that couldn’t be explained by science or medicine, but they keep it to themselves and nobody knows about it?

All in all, a fantastic book. It draws you right in and holds you tight and there was a little period after I finished it where I didn’t know what to do with myself. Give this one a read if you have a chance.

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Published in: on January 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I first came across this book a few months ago, seeing only the cover and a short synopsis, and I instantly wanted to read it. I ordered it from my library, only to be informed a few weeks later that they couldn’t find. It was so new it wasn’t in any system anywhere. So I resigned myself to wait.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was putting through a few orders, the librarian asked me if I’d ever gotten my hands on the book. I told him I still hadn’t, and he offered to order it for me now that it was in the Minerva system. I jumped on his offer and only a week or so later, I had it in my possession. I was surprised by how hefty it was, but when I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of normal pages, the publishers had printed this book on glossy photo paper that really made the illustrations look gorgeous. The book has some graphic on almost every page- pen and ink drawings clutter the margins, and sometimes an illustration takes up an entire two-page spread. It was an almost cinematic atmospheric trick.

The main character of the book is thirteen year-old Conor, who wakes from his usual nightmare at seven minutes past midnight to find a monster at his window. As it turns out, Conor’s been expecting a monster, but not this strange, old one that seems to have grown from their yew tree. He finds it difficult to fear this thing when he’s seen so much worse. As it turns out, the monster doesn’t even seem particularly interested in eating him alive. Instead, it promises, it will return for three nights, and each night it will tell Conor a story of a time when it walked the earth before. When he’s told his three stories, he expect Conor to tell one to him- the truth.

Conor’s life is anything but easy as his mother seems to be suffering from an undefined cancer, his father lives in America with his other family, and he is bullied at school. On top of all this, every night when he goes to sleep he has the nightmare- one that involved darkness, screaming, falling, and a monster much scarier than the yew tree. Yet, it’s what happens at the end of this nightmare that the yew tree wants to hear about, and Conor is scared to death to tell him.

I found this book remarkable in it’s darkness and honesty. It’s an unusual telling of the story of a young child with an ill parent and circumstances he can’t control. The writing was both heavy and humorous, Conor both bold and frightened. It was a quick read, yet very provocative. I know I’ve posted this video before, but just watch it.

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo

So I’m a few books behind in my reviews right now. I would say laziness is the primary factor in this happening, but we could at least call it slightly admirable laziness because I didn’t want to take time to write my blog posts in favor of reading. 

A few things have happened since my last post. First and foremost, for those who don’t yet know, I turned eighteen. I’m now completely legal to do just about anything I want, except drink. Not particularly bothered. The only adult right I’ve taken advantage of so far is the right to get a tattoo. Yes, on my eighteenth birthday I, along with my mother and twin sister, went to get a tattoo. I absolutely love it. I also got a kitten, and a Kindle. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my position on eReaders somewhere on this blog before, but I don’t know how to find that post right now, so… 

My opinion on eReaders has changed since they were first released. I was, at first, very adamantly against them. I was always entirely in favor of paper. I basically still am, but I’m much more forgiving now of eReaders and people who use them. I’m willing to acknowledge their usefulness, but I still didn’t see myself owning one anytime soon. I was very, very surprised when I opened it! And honestly, Dad, considering I gave you absolutely nothing to go on this year, it was a very thoughtful gift. 

Right now my dad and I are using our Kindles to read Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 together! More on that later.

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When I was in fourth grade I picked up this book called Midnight for Charlie Bone, about a boy who discovers he can hear voices in photographs and is sent to a special school called Bloor’s Academy where he can learn alongside other children with unique talents. When I was younger I was hooked on the series instantly and quickly purchased all of the books- all of the ones that were released at that point, anyway, which in fact were only the first four. Today the series is complete, and the books total eight. About a month ago I decided that it was absolutely worth my time to reread and finish the series.

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Since they are children’s books, I thought I would just review the entire series together rather than spamming my blog with sequels. 

Charlie lives at number nine, Filbert Street, with his mother, two grandmothers- Maisie, and Grandma Bone- and his Uncle Paton. Charlie’s father died under mysterious circumstances when he was only two years old. Since his mother, Amy, and her mother, Maisie, had no money, Grandma Bone let them move in with her. It’s unexplained why her brother, Paton Yewbeam, lives with them, but he does own half the house and he tries to keep an eye on Charlie. 

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It’s a good thing he’s there, too, because Grandma Bone and her malevolent sisters, Lucretia, Eustacia, and Venetia Yewbeam are not thinking of Charlie’s best interest. They’re the ones who send him off to Bloor’s, where the forces of good and evil are in constant struggle. Not every child at Bloor’s is endowed (the term used in the book for having special talents), but the ones who aren’t are extremely skilled at music, art, or drama. There are actually only nine to thirteen endowed students at Bloor’s at any time during the book, and their endowments range from Charlie’s picture traveling, to Manfred’s hypnotism, to Tancred’s stormbringing, to Billy’s communicating with animals. There are telekinetics, illusionists, shapeshifters, drowners, arsonists- and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Every endowed child is descended from the eponymous Red King, a magician who lived nine hundred years in the past. He had ten children, and when his wife died in childbirth, he left his kingdom to grieve in the forest. When he returned, he discovered that his children had turned against each other. Five wanted to continue their father’s legacy of peace and happiness, and the other five longed for power and destruction. Their descendants carry these feelings in their blood- good or evil are things they’re born with.

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With the help of a few friends, both endowed and not, Charlie must fight the evil that lives in Bloor’s Academy and find out what happened to his father all those years ago. 

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The series is a remarkable adventure saga geared towards children- boys and girls alike- that is exciting and fun. Though it is a classic pitting of good versus evil, and the classifications of good and evil are slightly oversimplified, I consider the works to be enjoyable and thought-provoking. One of the books’ greatest strengths are certainly its cast of characters. Though some play larger roles than others, there are a lot of characters in these books and they’re all so well characterized! The major characters are well-rounded, and they’re children- so they’re not always right or good. Sometimes they do things that are frustrating or stupid, like real children. 

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Also, as I gave the books to my mom to read after me, we were continuously doubling back to Jenny Nimmo’s descriptions and marveling at her wonderful word sense. In particular, a character is introduced in book seven named Dagbert Endless, who has a power over water, was consistently described with terms most commonly attributed to oceans and streams. As each of her characters are defined in this manner, it creates an ethereal, imperceptible sort of familiarity between the readers and the children. 

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In the shadow of Harry Potter, this series is underrated- or accused of being a ripoff- but it’s really a great series for adults and children alike. Kids can get into the story, willingly following Charlie through his misadventures are Bloor’s, while adults can appreciate the deeper meaning and the writing that puts many adult novelists to shame. These books are worth every minute you spend reading them (and as I said, they go quick), and every penny you spend putting them on your, or your kid’s, bookshelf.

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Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

If you’re around the online bookworm community much, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this picture. The Night Circus has been getting a lot of hype recently, and for very good reason! So when I saw it sitting on display in my library, I snatched that baby without a second thought- without, in fact, even realizing that I had grabbed the large print copy. Oh well.

Needless to say, I read it anyway (not only because it would have been slightly embarrassing to return to the library and swap them, after how excited I was to have my hands on it), and it was so fantastically worth it. The book is about two children who are bound into a game by their instructors- a challenge of skill and magic. The kids, a boy and a girl, are raised and trained separately- one by her father, and the other by the strange man in the gray suit who found him in an orphanage- waiting for the day their mysterious game will begin. When they are young adults, the boy, Marco, is hired as an assistant to an eccentric man named Chandresh (I honestly can’t remember what Chandresh does, professionally, which probably says something about the way I read), who uses his wealth and influence to design and bring to life an unusual circus- one that only opens at night.

The first entertainer they hire is a contortionist with a wry smile and bizarre tattoos. Later, when they are looking for a skilled illusionist fit for their show, Marco meets Celia Bowen and knows he has found his competitor. He is the only one who knows that her amazing tricks aren’t tricks.

The competitors have met, and their playing ground is established- they can do whatever they want within the circus. In the book, the game is often compared to chess, quickly to be followed up with some explanation of how it’s not like chess at all. There’s no logic. As the young magicians get closer, however, their spark turns to love. Now they want out, but they quickly realize that you don’t just quit the game. Thanks to the powerful binding magic that was performed on them when they were young, the lovers have no choice- and the consequences can be deadly.

The Night Circus was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time. I was constantly putting it down, just so it wouldn’t go so quickly, and I would use that time to go and pester my family about how completely amazing this book is. The writing was fantastic and the characters were fantastic and the story was fantastic and everything was fantastic. Just what you would expect from a night circus.

And there’s a book trailer for it!

Published in: on October 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens is the book that’s been on my mind since I first read Neil Gaiman and became hooked. It’s a novel about the end of the world and two supernatural entities who don’t want it to happen. Crowley is a demon and Aziraphale is an angel, but the two get along well enough because Crowley has “a spark of goodness in him,” and Aziraphale is “just enough of a bastard to be likable.” In 1655, a (probably) mortal woman named Agnes Nutter prophesied everything that would happen between her death and the end of the world, including exactly when and how that end would come about. She wrote it all down in a book called “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” which has been passed down through her descendants for three-hundred years, each of them dedicating their existence to cracking the eccentric witch’s codes.

It’s a very difficult book to summarize.

Also, eleven years ago two babies were born. One of them was switched with the Antichrist. Now the Antichrist is supposed to set off Armageddon, only he doesn’t really want to, either. And also no one knows where he is. And he has no idea that he’s the Antichrist, because how would he know? (Fun fact: WordPress only recognizes the words ‘antichrist’ and ‘armageddon’ if you capitalize them.)

So that all happened. And also it was quite funny. I didn’t spend all that much time laughing out loud, as certain friends of mine have, but there were parts that got me and the entire thing is undeniably brilliant. You know by now that I have a metaphorical literary ladyboner for Neil Gaiman, but I’ve never been able to finish a Terry Pratchett book. I don’t even really remember which ones I’ve tried to read. Wee Free Men, I think. I got about forty pages in and then I just sort of couldn’t go any further. I didn’t expect that to be a problem with this one, though, and it certainly wasn’t. Half of the time I’m reading, even if I’m not laughing or expressing it outwardly, I’m melting internally into a frenzy of fantastic writing.

The copy of the book I read (the cover of which resembles the white half of that picture there, with more acclamations) also included a short interview with the authors, and then two short essays; “Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett,” and “Terry Pratchett on Neil Gaiman.” These last goodies had me laughing harder than the book.

I just finished this a few minutes ago, and I’m stuck in this very giggly sort of mood. I’m not entirely sensible. It should also be said that this one came straight from Val’s rec list, so it’s another one I can cross off. There’s nothing quite so satisfying.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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East by Edith Pattou

East is the story of a girl named Ebba Rose who, at the age of fifteen, is visited by a white bear and asked to go with him in exchange for her sister’s health and her family’s well-being. Adventuresome and willful, she agrees and is led to a castle of stone where she is kept for months. Every night, Rose is visited by someone- only she has no idea who or what, because just before his arrival every night the lamps are extinguished and impossible to re-light. She thinks it’s the white bear, only it’s too small. Perhaps one of the troll servants around the castle? She doesn’t know, but the mystery is driving her mad.

East is a 500-page adventure novel for young adults. I’ve owned it since I first read it, in fifth grade. After seven years, I remembered basically nothing (I’m pretty sure I’ve mixed it up with The Golden Compass in the past- the books share a lot of the same elements), so I decided to reread it. Despite it’s length, the book goes quickly. Despite the fact that adventure isn’t really my thing, I enjoyed it.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints- primarily Rose, as she’s the heroine, but also by her elder brother, Neddy, who is stuck at home worrying about her and being unable to move on until she returns; there’s a little bit of her father in the beginning and the end; the Troll Queen, who’s behind it all; and even the White Bear himself, in short, clipped lines, almost like poetry. Because of all these conflicting viewpoints, a lot of backstory is revealed to the reader before it is revealed to Rose. This is dangerous because it could make the reader impatient with Rose, but Edith Pattou does it in such a way that the story runs smoothly, and the heroine comes out looking all the more clever when she does catch up.

The book is good, quick, and escapist. I enjoyed it and I’m glad to have it in my library.

In other news, I’ve recently become completely smitten with the concept of book trailers. I included one in my review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but I’ve recently found these two which I think are fantastic. Here’s one for The Book Thief:

If you haven’t read this, do. It’s amazing.

This one is for A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. A few weeks ago I asked my librarian to order this for me, but it was so new no one had it. I should inquire again.

Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

On the day Willie Upton returns to her childhood home of Templeton, New York, the monster of Glimmerglass Lake dies. Willie (short for Wilhelmina) is home at the end of an affair with her professor from Stanford, which ended abruptly when his wife confronted them. Now she’s home, to the surprise of her disappointed mother, who returned home, pregnant, at eighteen when she learned that her parents had died in a tragic car accident.

Vivienne Upton was perfectly happy living life high as a kite, loving love and burning her bras until she received a notice of her parents’ deaths and returns home- pregnant. She’s always told her daughter, Willie, that the father was just some random hippy from some random orgy or something. Now that Willie is home with problems of her own, however, Vi decides to tell her the truth- her father is not one lucky hippy, but a man from Templeton who claims to have some bloodline connection to Marmaduke Temple, the founder of Templeton five generations back, from whom Vi and Willie are immediately descended.

It’s a lot to take in. Willie is outraged that her mother has kept this secret from her for so long, and now determines to discover who her father is while also trying to solve her own problems and keep a friend afloat.

The book was fantastic. It completely held my interest, the writing was glorious- there are authors every once in a while who just have such a command of language that I want to bow at their feet- the characters were sympathetic, every one of them. Every other chapter was narrated by an ancestor of Willie’s as she researched and discovered their story. Meanwhile, the book is sprinkled with photos, etchings, and prints of Willie’s relatives and constantly revised family trees filling in the generations she hadn’t really understood.

Meanwhile, in the background (subtle and unobtrusive), there are scientists and tourists in Templeton trying to figure out where exactly this bizarre lakemonster came from. Affectionately named Glimmey, the monster is a creature that most Templetonians knew was there, without having any conclusive evidence. I thought it was very clever how the historical characters, every once in a while, would mention the monster. Finally, the creature has died. At the end of the book, all the threads are tied very skillfully together. The ending is hopeful.

I’m already halfway through my next book- I can hardly put it down. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

(Also, I’m adding this one to my list.)

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

Alright, I’ve been putting this one off. First, though.

On our second day in Boston, Mother and I had a cannoli and some chocolate cake for breakfast in Little Italy, and then walked to the Science Museum. After that our day was unstructured, and our plan was to return to Little Italy for dinner and then ride the T to Fanieul Hall, where we would wile away the hours until it was time to return home. When it was actually time to board the T, though, we looked at our map to find out which line to get on, and Mother and I ran into a disagreement.

You see, I felt (wisely) that we should get off at the same stop we’d been using, by the Aquarium, as from there it was less than a five minute walk to Fanieul Hall. Mother thought she saw a little orange T the looked remotely closer and therefore would mean less walking on our tired feet, and she was so opposed to walking that she pushed and pushed that we take this line, so we did.

We did not arrive remotely close to Fanieul Hall. We found ourselves in Downtown Boston (according to some signs, I think), and just sort of started to walk. I was in the middle of berating Mother for her foolishness because we were surrounded by tall, old buildings and I didn’t see any way Fanieul Hall could be in the middle of this mess, when I abruptly cut myself off with a shrill cry of, “Books!” which was an indication that I had just seen an ornate sign reading, “Books.” A few steps further down the sidewalk was a little standing sign with an arrow that pointed us down the perfect little alleyway and towards a second-hand bookstore. I photographed what I felt to be one of the prettiest things I’d seen in Boston thus far:

We went inside and stayed for an hour or so. I found, for a combined price of $10, a paperback copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with all of the original illustrations and a beautiful watercolor cover, barely used, and a copy of The Thirteenth Tale, which I’ve heard a lot about and now sits on my pile.

But let me show you my favorite thing about this bookstore:

When I have my own bookstore, there will be at least one Cat in Residence. (And at least one will be named Dewey.)

The less interesting part of our story involves getting on the T to south station and making it to our bus on time and, marvelously, running into a waiter from our favorite Chinese restaurant- proving that even in Boston, it is a small world after all.

On the bus, I finished my book.

The Man in the Picture is a ghost story I first heard about from Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. At the time I was really in the mood to be spooked, and when this one came in for me at the library I was pleasantly surprised by it’s tininess. Considering how long all books have taken me to read in these past few months, I don’t think I can be blamed for that. Proving my point, this supertiny book STILL took me almost a week to read.

The Man in the Picture is about a graduate student in English named Oliver, who is hearing the story from his old professor Theo of a haunted painting, one that hangs in Theo’s office and seems to snatch the lives of those who own it. The history of the painting is explored, though never so far back as to who originally painted it or why it has this mysterious curse.

To be honest, I felt the book lacked substance and it didn’t scare me at all. Of course, I read it in 10-page snatches right up until the final 40 pages, which I finished on the bus, so I never really sank my teeth into it. Mom read it shortly after I finished it, in one sitting, and she found it a bit creepy. Still, unsatisfying, with a predictable ending.

I’m already about 100 pages into my next book, which I think I’ll be able to praise a bit more. The plot is interesting, there’s substance up the wazoo, and the writing is rare and splendid. That will come in a week or so, at this rate. (I work a lot.)

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Yes, I am a book-devouring machine these days. This is in every way related to the fact that I need another job.

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a good few months, but it happened that I actually did read it at this particular time because it’s one that actually lives at the Winthrop library. As opposed to my having to order it.

Coraline is about a girl, small for her age, who’s just moved with her parents to an old apartment building. There are a couple of old ex-actresses downstairs, and a crazy man with (he says) a band of performing mice. There’s an ancient well that could go down further than a half mile. And there’s a bizarre old door in the drawing room wall, with a heavy old key, that opens only to brick.

That is, until one night when something wakes Coraline from her sleep. When she goes to investigate, she finds the door open. On the other side is a house identical to hers, only other. The ruler of this domain is… Coraline’s other mother.

The other mother wants Coraline to stay with them, she and Coraline’s other father, in this world where, she promises, things will always be better. The food will be wonderful at every meal. She will never be ignored. The games will never end.

As Coraline explores her new world, though, she finds that it ends in a mist somewhere in the woods behind the house. The other mother never bothered to create that far out. In short time, Coraline finds herself longing for her real parents. There’s something sinister about the other mother, the other Misses Spink and Forcible. The only thing that’s not other is the cat, who’s quite vocal, and informs Coraline that cats know several ways in and out of places like this. And furthermore, that cats are too good for names. So, he’s just the cat.

When Coraline returns to her real home, though, her parents have gone missing.

Another one by Neil Gaiman, I was less impressed this time around, but I think there’s good reason for that- this is, quite obviously, a book for children. The story is not as complex as the previous Gaiman books I’ve read, but it did have something happening on every page, an interesting array of characters, and a truly scary villain. It’s clever and never boring. It was also very quick, so I’m glad to say I enjoyed it!

If you’ve seen the movie, it’s fun to draw parallels between the two. The movie was actually a very good representation of the story, though it switched some events around and manipulated a bit, as is expected- but there were several places, all throughout, where Selick (the director of the movie) took extreme care to match the feel of the book. In a lot of places, he used the exact dialogue written by Gaiman. There were details in surrounding and action that Selick animated perfectly- such as, for example, the moment towards the end:

The other mother simply smiled, and the tap-tap-tapping of her fingernail against her eye was as steady and relentless as the drip of water droplets from the faucet into the sink. And then, Coraline realized, it was simply the noise of the water, and she was alone in the room.

It felt, to me, like Selick really respected that Gaiman is the master of the story. This is the kind of integrity you don’t see often enough in movie adaptations!

This is basically an adventure story, with a particularly long expositionary period. Even during the exciting, scary bits, though, Gaiman never relinquishes this glimmery, magical tone from his prose. He paints a picture in a way that many authors can’t. He can spend a paragraph describing a painting of fruit, and you’ll wonder what that fruit is up to. It feels like every word he uses has a purpose, and that purpose is most often to manipulate your feelings and make you uneasy, and comfortable, or irritated.

Even in this book for kids, the writing was wonderful. It’s the kind of book I would share with my youngest sister- I think she could enjoy it. I don’t think it’s over the head of the average nine year-old, but it’s also a fun read for your older bookworm.

I have to point out this “praise” that was printed on the back cover, courtesy of Lemony Snicket:

This book tells a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death. Unless you want to find yourself hiding under your bed, with your thumb in your mouth, trembling with fear and making terrible noises, I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a praise that told you not to read a book.

In case you’re interested, here’s the trailer for the movie (which I thought was quite good).

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm  Comments (3)  
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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

When I heard about this book, I wanted to read it immediately. Which meant getting to the library as soon as possible, of course (any excuse, right?).

This novel, which bridges something between fantasy and sci-fi, is about a teenager named Jacob who, as he grew up, was always being told these magnificent stories by his grandfather, about his life in a children’s home in Wales during World War II. The way Abe tells it, however, this wasn’t a home for any ordinary children- all of the kids who lived here were peculiar. They had eerie gifts and fascinating powers- one girl would float away if nothing anchored her to the ground; a boy had bees living inside of him, and when he opened his mouth a few would fly out; there was an invisible boy; a girl who could make things grow, like wild, and one with a mouth on the back of her head; and even more. To back up his exotic claims, Abe had a handful of creepy vintage photos of the children.

As Jacob grew up, he began to doubt his grandfather’s stories. But by the time he was sixteen, Abe was very nearly senile, and his stories were horrifyingly real to him. Particularly the part about the monsters who were after the kids, from whom he had been fleeing his entire life. Suddenly, Abe is killed under very mysterious, traumatizing circumstances, and Jacob is the one to find him. As he breathes his last breaths, he urges his grandson to visit the home where he grew up, and there he would find answers. Before Jacob leaves the scene, though, he sees something in the trees he can’t believe- the very monster his crazy grandpa has been describing since he was a boy.

People may think he’s crazy- he may think he’s a little crazy himself- but Jacob does as his grandfather asks. Accompanied by his father, he travels to Cairnholm, Wales, a tiny little nothing village. On the far side of the island, where the residents never venture, are the overgrown ruins of the children’s home. The house is nightmarish, but Jacob is determined.

Accompanying the story are a collection of photographs- every time a photograph was described in the book, it would be presented so that you could see exactly what they were talking about. That’s one of the details that really drew me to the book. The faces in the photos are unsmiling, absurd, and they will swim before your eyes as you try to fall asleep. Roughly the first third of this book left me feeling more uneasy than any Stephen King novel ever has.

Once the really creepy beginning is resolved, the book becomes an adventure fantasy tale. These aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I’ve found that when they’re executed well (The Hunger Games, Brighid’s Quest, etc.) they can be some of the most enjoyable books to read. This is, at least a bit, why I was able to finish it in a day. I’m not one who can sit down with a book and finish it in one sitting, but this one had me latched on well into the night.

A few days ago, my sisters and I went to Barnes & Noble, and my twin was after a book that would hook her, that she would be able to finish. She’s been in a rut for about a month now and hasn’t been able to finish a single book, so I suggested this one. She was hooked and she bought it, and when I spoke to her yesterday she said that yes, she had already finished it, had stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading it, and had begun and completed Stephen King’s Carrie in the meantime. She’s probably a faster reader than I am, but I think it’s safe to say that she’s out of her rut.

(This next paragraph could possibly be considered a spoiler, maybe.)
Now, I have to say that the inside-cover summary of this book is misleading. This is likely why the story wasn’t exactly what I had expected it to be. The dustjacket makes it sound like there’s something sinister about the children themselves. The truth is that the children are just children- albeit peculiar children with very strange abilities, just children. Good children. Children who are on Jacob’s side (except, possibly, for Enoch, but for now he’s good). There are dark creatures lurking in the shadows, going after the children. Once the children become characters, rather than these creepy, powerful, eerie faces from the photographs, the book becomes a lot less creepy.

(No more spoilers, yay!)

So it wasn’t quite as thrilling as I had hoped. Nevertheless, it was a good read and intensely interesting, and I would recommend it to anyone who can handle a little spook.

As I was searching on the internet a moment ago, I happened upon this magnificent thing. It’s a trailer for the book; did you know books had trailers? I didn’t, but this one is fantastic. I think this would make a wonderful movie, in the future. In fact, the book was only released earlier this month, so a movie is rather distant. But just think of the possibilities.