Tag Archives: novel

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


This book is a new favorite!

I must admit that when I first saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I didn’t think much of it. The cover looked peculiar for sure, but it didn’t immediately make me want to read it.

And then I kept seeing the book more and more (mostly as a recommendation on Amazon, but also emails from other bookstores), so I read the description…. and it still didn’t connect with me, though I was slightly more intrigued.

And then I saw a video on Amazon on the book’s page. Did you know that they make movie-like trailers for books now? You can check it out HERE.

That trailer just shows you the very edge of this amazing story, and shows the main character Jacob when he is young. The book jumps quickly from that boy in the prologue to a 15 year old Jacob, convinced that his grandfather just told him fairy tales. Jacob is thrust into a situation where he is convinced that the stories are much more than fairy tales.

The really cool thing about this book is that it is supported with vintage photography of the peculiar children from the stories. You can see one on the cover of the levitating girl. These photos are real photos gathered from vintage photography collections, and I’m sure, like Jacob, you will see them and think they are trick photography. But as the book continues, you’re begin to see them as very real.

In tone, I am am reminded a little bit of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief with a little more fantasy and whimsy, but the darkness is definitely there in the undercurrent.

The story and characters are engaging and the plot takes several twists and turns. Some of those twists I’m sure you’ll guess, but some may surprise you, and the whole book is well written. It’s one of those books that you want to stay up reading all night.

The book ends with a cliffhanger, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the continuation. In the meantime, you should pick it up and give this one a read!

Book Review: Trader – Charles de Lint

It’s a familiar premise: two people wake up one morning and they’ve switched bodies. Freaky Friday was probably the first, and most recently, the Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman move The Change Up tackled it. I don’t think anyone saw that one. It was even tackled on The Daily Show this past February when Jon Stewart switched bodies with Justin Bieber.

This scenario always seems to be played up for comedy, but Trader by Charles de Lint, is the first time I’ve seen it done where the impact on the switched is really experienced for the traumatic experience that it is. Max Trader is a successful luthier (he makes musical instruments) who wakes up unexpectedly in the body of a stranger, Johnny Devlin, a deadbeat moments away from being evicted. Devlin is thrilled at the opportunity to take over Max’s life. Homeless and angry, Max tries to take back his life from someone unwilling to give it up.

I’ve read a few other novels by Charles de Lint, and he’s a bit of a master of the urban fantasy genre, mixing elements of real world city life with the magical, incorporating Native American shamanism, urban legends and fairy tales into a gritty cityscape of Newford, a microcosm of everywhere, but probably most closely resembling somewhere like Seattle.

As Max Trader navigates this city, he receives assistance from Joe Crazy Dog, and other characters familiar in de Lint’s novels, and he eventually finds himself in the spirit world where his quest continues. It’s at this point where the book loses me a little bit, as some characters find themselves in the spirit world version of Los Angeles. It was a small scene, but that setting didn’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the book.

If you enjoy the switched bodies type of story, or even if you’re extremely tired of it (as I was before reading Trader), this book should make the idea fresh again instead of a cliche. De Lint’s characters and dialogue are great, and Newford feels as real a city as any I know. If you haven’t read it, give it a try. You don’t need to have read any other de Lint books to know what’s going on.

The first page

Some of you may know that for a while, I’ve been working on a novel. Recently, I haven’t been working on it much, but I want to. So I’m going to post the first page or two here. Please read it and let me know what you think in the comments. My writer friend Sarah teases me about it being “chick lit” which I suppose is true if any novel with a female lead can be considered chick lit. So feel free to tease me in the comments, too. 🙂 Comments are love.

Random Acts of Coffee

CHAPTER 1

            As I was getting ready for work, I knocked the fishbowl over. The water cascaded across the kitchen counter and down onto the floor, and my beta went with the flow. After I cleaned everything up and thought about it, I was surprised at my reaction, or lack thereof. My mind was on the things I had to do instead of the things I was doing, but I would have expected myself to give a little scream and rush over. Instead, I just stood there for a moment and watched it all happen. The weird thing was, you usually think of fish flopping around, unable to breathe. The beta just sat there, looking kind of bored, with his fins swept back. I just picked him up gingerly in my hands, put him back in his bowl, and filled it with a half-drunk bottle of Ethos I had in my fridge. Crisis averted.

            With plenty of time to spare before work, I left the house and headed out to the pier, and there, leaning against the rough hewn rails, looking out toward everywhere and holding the last letter from my last lover, I sipped my venti non-fat cinnamon latte and, as nonchalantly as possible, let the letter slip from my fingers. My eyes followed it as it fluttered down, but it was gone as soon as it hit the turbulence of the salty waves around the pylons of the pier. There was a feeling not unlike closure. The only accompanying thought that came to me at that moment wasn’t about him, or what happened. The only thought was to call myself “litterbug,” though I knew that, even as I silently spoke the word, the ink was bleeding and the paper was breaking down.

            In the spring, we didn’t have enough rain in Florida, and everything was brittle and dry, even though we’re on the ocean and the water table is so close to the surface, you can pretty much tap into it with a soda straw. With the drought conditions, there came a series of fires, burning forests and houses and closing down roads. A few of them were started by an arsonist who was throwing Molotov cocktails made from rags stuffed down the necks of bottles of bourbon, filled to the brim with gasoline. But one of the fires, probably the first fire, started when a girl burned a love letter in hiding. The flame leapt from letter to leaves, and was out of control before she was able to do anything. They didn’t press charges against her, and I was happy to hear that. You shouldn’t be punished for feeling passionate.

            I didn’t have that kind of passion, so my letter was down there in the deep, slowly dissolving instead of flaming out. I didn’t even have to go out of my way to destroy it. Routine brought me to the pier every time I worked a closing shift. I love the smell of the salt blowing in from the ocean, and the way it mingles with the sweet comfort of my coffee.

            I watched a cruise ship disappear into twilight shadows as the sun set at my back, and thought about those passengers on board, where they came from and where they were bound. I’d never been on a cruise, and wasn’t sure I would enjoy it, confined to the ship in tiny cabins, on the way to exotic tourist traps. But my thoughts, already mildly melancholic turned to envy as I thought how luxurious it must be to be pampered by the staff, also trapped on board with nothing to do but serve guests twelve hours a day. I was envious of just being on vacation at all.

            A chilling autumn breeze blew across my bare arms, bringing gooseflesh and a violent shiver, breaking me free from my thoughts before they became too wistful. I took a long, warming pull of coffee through the small travel lid hole and enjoyed my own personal piece of luxury – good coffee, the beach, and the orange glow of the sunset. Magic hour, I thought, the time when everything was lit as if from within. Tipping back the paper cup, I closed my eyes, taking in the last drops of the complex flavors of bitter, sweet, and spice as it spread across my tongue, the taste of a sunset in the fall.

            I slowly opened my eyes and braced myself against the rails and took one last long inhale of salt air before turning back toward land, then tossed my empty cup at the mesh metal trashcan to my left. It bounced of the rim and fell like a brick onto the boardwalk and began to roll away. I was able to grab it with an awkward lunge before it could blow into the ocean below. As I gently set the empty cup deep in the bin, I heard one of the fishermen.

            Smiling, I made eye contact, recognizing him as one of the regulars who cast their line into the waves below. I didn’t know his name, but could recognize him from the dirty white Dixie cup-style Navy hat he always wore cocked jauntily on his head. I shrugged a what-can-I-do look at him with a crooked half-smile.

            “You do me a favor, Shaquille?” the weatherworn man asked in his weatherworn voice.

            “What’s that?” I asked, still smiling, curious.

            “You have a great night.”

            I could feel my smile blossom along with the color on my cheek, and laughed. “You do the same, sailor.”

            The man chuckled back at me, eyes sparkling and mischievous, tickled by my reaction. He tipped his hat as I walked past him before turning back to his fishing. I walked past and smiled to myself at the brief exchange.

Book Review: Off the Record – Jennifer O’Connell

My blogging has been sporadic lately, but I’m a voracious book fiend, so I’m going to add book reviews to this blog.

Off The RecordThe most recent book I read was Off the Record, by Jennifer O’Connell. I finished reading it this morning. I kept my son up late last night because it’s summer, which allowed him to sleep in this morning, and since sleeping in is pretty impossible for me, I used the gift of time to finish the book. And make banana pancakes, but that’s a different story.

I suppose Off the Record would be described as chick lit. I don’t like pigeon holing books into genres and subgenres, but I’m sure my friend Sarah would classify it as such, and tease me about reading it, because I am in the middle of a perpetually unfinished novel that she classifies as chick lit, too.

Off The Record tells the story of a plain Jane lawyer (fittingly named Jane), who learns that a famous pop song was written about her. It’s a bit of a second-coming of age novel, as Jane is reunited with the little known next door neighbor of her childhood who became the well known one hit wonder. Jane struggles the conflict between the person she thinks she should be and the person described in the song.

The character of Jane develops realistically through the story, but the rest of the characters felt a little flat for me. There were several subplots that could have added more texture to the book, and supporting characters could have had their own development instead of acting as a peanut gallery for Jane’s story. But ultimately, this is Jane’s story, and that part of it works. I also found the backdrop of Chicago to be well-formed. The book definitely knows where it is.

This book reminds me a bit of Tiffanie Debartolo’s How to Kill a Rock Star, a book with the grit of a rock star, which I would recommend well above Off the Record, which is light bubble gum pop – there’s flavor, but not much sustenance. The book is an easy read and would make a good beach book this summer.

The next book I’ll review is Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki. BzzAgent sent it to me for free, and since I just accepted a new project analyst job that will require persuasion, I’m looking forward to reading it. Guy was part of the team the originally marketed the Apple Macintosh in 1984, so I think he knows what he’s talking about.