To be honest, when I first started reading "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" I expected a haunting thriller, full of horror and danger. That is not what this book is. Instead, this book is fantasy/adventure combined with a very unique style of photography, which made the book better than I ever thought it would be.
Story - Jacob Portman desires an adventurous life, much like the life his grandfather describes to him in various stories. However, when Jacob realizes that he can never have an adventurous life, he just tries to be normal and fit in. He's not popular or extremely smart, and there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about him at all; but when his grandfather dies and leaves Jacob a cryptic message, Jacob is sent on a hunt to find his grandfather's past and ends up traveling all the way to Wales. Once there, Jacob discovers much more than he ever could have imagined about his grandfather and is thrown into the midst of a very peculiar situation.
Writing Style - If I had to compare Ransom Riggs to any other author, I would have to compare him to Lemony Snicket. In fact, this entire book reminded me very much of Mr. Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books. Don't get me wrong, Riggs did not steal Lemony Snicket's writing style at all, but Riggs just simply reminded me of him, which is a positive since I pretty much love anything that Snicket touches.
Something else that I feel Riggs did superbly was explain the detail of everything in the story. Even without the occasional photographs of people and things in the story, I was able to visualize the locations and details because of the fantastic descriptions.
Now, as for the photographs, they added a whole new dimension to the story. They didn't turn the novel into a picture book or something else that we normally associate with children; rather, they added a new level of immersion to the story, with the reader being almost able to see exactly what Jacob is seeing as he looks at the many photographs scattered throughout.
The book is truly addicting, but it isn't perfect; there are a few kinks that I feel needed to be worked out. The major kink being the fact that the attitude of some of the characters just doesn't seem to match the story! The abundance of cursing and crude humor just doesn't make sense with some of the characters or the plot of the story. Also, there were a few things that weren't developed as much as possible and could have been explained more and built upon.
Warnings - Language, Mild Violence, Mild Peril
Overall - In all fairness, my last complaint was very nitpicky and small, and I don't want to give anyone the impression that this is not a good book. For a first novel, it is fantastic! There are a few things to improve on, but I think Mr. Riggs is off to an amazing start! I immensely look forward to his second novel, which I assume is in the works based on the cliffhanger at this end of the story. I would say that, most likely, teens will enjoy the book more than adults, but it really does have a very interesting plot that many will love.
on June 25, 2011
The story is amazing. However, the book is peppered with hand written letters and amazing vintage photographs which are hard to see and impossible to read on the Kindle. Purchasing this book in hard copy is the only way to go.
When I first heard of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs with its intriguing title, cover, and premise, I was immediately smitten. I love odd books and this one seemed unique in every way. I'm very glad to report that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was so enthralling that it overcame jet lag from a 10-hour plane ride - I just had to read to the end!
Jacob has always been in awe of his colorful Grandpa Portman, who told him stories about his fabled childhood in a faraway island where he lived in order to hide from monsters. Jacob first believed in his grandfather's extraordinary tales of his friends, strange orphans with magical abilities, especially since his grandfather had photographs as proof of their existence. However, as he grew older, Jacob began to doubt that the stories, the orphans, or the photographs, were real...until his grandfather's cryptic last words and a letter from a mysterious Miss Peregrine spur Jacob to search for his grandfather's childhood home, which turns out to be in a small island off the coast of Wales. What he finds there is completely unexpected.
"The trees parted like a curtain and suddenly there it was, cloaked in fog, looming atop a weed-choked hill. The house. I understood at once why the boys had refused to come.
"My grandfather had described it a hundred times, but in his stories, the house was always a bright, happy place---big and rambling, yes but full of light and laughter. What stood before me now was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself, staring down from its perch with vacant hunger. Trees burst forth from broken windows and skins of scabrous vine gnawed at the walls like antibodies attacking a virus--as if nature itself had waged war against it---but the house seemed unkillable, resolutely upright despite the wrongness of its angles and the jagged teeth of sky visible through sections of collapsed roof.
"I gathered up what scrawny courage I had and waded through waist-high weeds to the porch, all broken tile and rotting wood, to peek through a cracked window. All I could make out through the smeared glass were the outlines of furniture, so I knocked on the door and stood back to wait in eerie silence, tracing the shape of Miss Peregrine's letter in my pocket. I'd taken it along in case I needed to prove who I was, but as a minute ticked by, then two, it seemed less and less likely that I would need it."
What happened to the inhabitants of this devastated ruin and how was Grandfather Portman involved? Jacob's investigation turns from creepy to heart-palpitatingly scary, then poignant. Where the story went truly surprised me, not only delivering on its promise of eccentric and dark but inventing a rich and magical other world of "peculiar" children and monsters that's convincingly woven with real history.
The writing is so descriptive and evocative that I now question if the vintage photographs interspersed throughout the narratives are even necessary to the enjoyment of the story. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was apparently inspired by these weird photographs the author found, each with something so off-kilter about them that they can inspire multiple fantastic stories on their own. While I loved the photographs, they were a bonus rather than essential.
on July 13, 2011
I wanted to like this book. The premise is really charming, and the boy Jacob is such a lovely character. I also loved the idea of a story based upon found photography. I read this book on my Kindle, and I want to say up front that I adore my Kindle. BUT, I'm not sure that this book works in the electronic format. I could not see any detail in the photographs, which was so disappointing. Also, without giving away anything, there is a note written at the very end by a key character, which I could not read as it was placed in the book as a photograph. So, that being said, my guess is that I missed a great deal from this book that might have helped me enjoy it more. I also would like to say that I found the 1st half of the book far more enjoyable than the 2nd half. Mr. Riggs seems to lose some focus toward the end, arbitrarily wrapping things up as though he's run out of things to say. Lastly, THE ENDING, which is the reason for my two star rating. I found the end so unsatisfying that I didn't even know I was at the end! I turned the page expecting more book! I realize that the current economics of the publishing world dictates that virtually every story is supposed to be one of a series of books. However, this book was such a blatant set up, and so incomplete on it's face, that I found myself a little angry at Mr. Riggs. I would love to read a book that is a complete story in itself, and not the potential for a movie deal or a sequel. Just saying....
on June 28, 2011
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the literary equivalent of a blind date that looks amazing walking towards you at the restaurant, but 10 minutes in you know there's nothing going on upstairs. The story holds promise but ultimately never delivers, telling a poorly-paced story full of plot-holes. Disbelief must be suspended to its breaking point, not because of the nature of the Peculiar Children, but because of every character's nonsensical behavior.
If you're interested in the book, pick it up at your local bookstore, look at each of the photos involved, savor the lux paper, and enjoy the overall great design of the book. Then put it back down, as you've gained as much enjoyment from it as you're going to.
on May 11, 2011
My daughter and I both read this book. We had differing opinions. She said: "It was really good but it just ended out of nowhere. I think there are some pages missing." I think this book is meant to be the first in a series or trilogy.
I loved the concept but the book never quite grabbed me. I was aware that I was reading 'a book' the entire time. Now maybe I'm spoiled, because I just read another book ("Rotters") that I thought was stellar. "Miss Peregrine's..." wasn't bad, it just wasn't great. I agree with another reviewer who said that teens would enjoy the book more than adults.
The story, overall is pretty good. I like nostalgia and have a healthy respect for older generations, so that worked in the book's favor. Jacob possesses the traits of an interesting main character; likable but not perfect.
What impressed me most about the book was the use of photographs. I did not feel as if there were too many, not did their presence feel 'gimicky'. Though a couple did look photoshopped, most of them look very much like genuine, old photographs. I think I spent more time asking myself 'Where'd Riggs find all these fantastic photos?' than wondering what was going to happen next in the story.
So, overall, it's good but not great. And I guess the one aspect that turns me away is what will endear this title to many other readers: it's the beginning of a series. I am not a fan of series. I like short story collections and anthologies most, standalone novels and novellas second and series a distant third. So while my daughter will likely seek out the second in this series to find out what happens next, I will wish Jacob the best in his adventures (and Riggs the best in his writing) and move on to something else.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN offers a unique premise in that it combines a story with vintage photographs to present a tale that is both whimsical and chilling. I loved the idea of this book. 16-year-old Jacob grows up listening to the tales of his grandfather's childhood in an orphanage filled with children with unusual powers and evil monsters lurking in the shadows. As Jacob grows older, he begins to doubt the veracity of his grandfather's tales believing that they grew out of his grandfather's struggles under the Nazi regime. When Jacob's grandfather is killed under mysterious circumstances, Jacob decides to investigate his grandfather's past by going to the orphanage where he grew up. Once there, Jacob discovers that the people...and monsters...might be real after all.
The vintage images in this book are haunting and set the tone perfectly. The mystery is creative if a bit inscrutable. I loved Jacob's search for the truth but the explanations were fuzzy and the bad guys a bit over the top. I was a little disappointed that the book wasn't MORE whimsical. It seemed to get a bit too caught up in its structural device without working more on character development. I wish the author had developed the story a bit more. I would have given it a higher rating. Still, it has a lot of mystery, action and suspense. I am divided on whether I will continue to reading the series. However, I would still recommend this book to most young adult readers looking for something unusual and different to read. It's worth it for the photos alone.
on August 11, 2011
Note: This is a spoiler-free review.
Based on glowing reviews and interesting cover art, I was pretty excited to read this one. Well, almost immediately, it became painfully apparent that I was in for disappointment.
One of my biggest pet peeves with books is inconsistency of voice. The narrator of this story is all over the place in terms of tone and style and simply sounds ridiculous half the time. The author seemed hell-bent on using as many adjectives as humanly possible, but to little effect. Rather than building a captivating world for readers to fall in love with and explore, he wastes a ton of time describing things that either don't matter one bit or that I already know what they look like. Moreover, if the author wanted to include lengthy sections of florid prose, he shouldn't have used first-person narration. It made me disconnect from the narrator and felt disingenuous. No one talks like that, no one tells a story like that, and no one spends an entire paragraph describing the state of the floorboards. Beyond that, the author has incorporated numerous old photographs into the book (like the one on the cover), but then goes on to describe everything that's in the picture. If he was going to include the picture anyway, why on earth did he spend so much time describing it? The author got bogged down with the photographs. On the one hand, they ended up being the most interesting part of the book, but they felt inorganic and forced. The author continually seemed to be conjuring reasons to include the photographs, rather than using them to supplement the story.
What's worse, even though many of the things the narrator described were fantastical and bizarre, and the photos were odd and interesting in and of themselves, I still found myself completely bored. Indeed, until I was about 150 pages in, I could barely bring myself to continue. I kept hope alive that it would get better, and finally, after way too long, it began to pick up. As the novel progressed, the author finally seemed to relax and settle into the narrative itself, rather than the flowery narration. The voice of the narrator began to feel more genuine and the story itself finally found some footing. That said, it improved to the point that I finished it, but I wouldn't recommend this book. Even after if improved, I found that I hardly cared about any of the characters and wasn't very invested in their fates. In a weird way, the narrator himself was one of the least compelling characters in the book, and one that I felt I knew the least. With him being the narrator, I should have known him intimately by the end, but either I simply didn't connect with him or there wasn't much to connect to.
At the end of the day, this novel felt more like a high school writing assignment rather than a bestseller. I think the author has some potential, but he has a long way to go before he can craft a story that will warrant a second read.
on June 19, 2011
I have had it with books that spend 300+ pages to set up the sequel while not redeeming the first edition. While the language used here was often creative, the story moved along at the rate of arctic drift. Note to Mr. Riggs: Write twice the story using the same number of words and I will buy your next book. As it is, this book was simply a long hike for a non-existent payoff.
Miss Peregrine's is more dark fantasy then horror - it reminded me a little of some of Guillermo del Toro 's movies, such as Pan's Labyrinth. Lots of weird imagery and foreboding atmosphere. It makes for entertaining reading.
The story starts with the close relationship between a boy and his grandfather, a colorful old man fond of telling tall tales - or at least that's what they seem to be at first. Jump ahead a few years and the grandfather has died mysteriously, ravaged by some powerful animal in his back yard. The boy, now 16, looks into the old man's dying words, something about a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and what he finds gets him to thinking that there might be more to the old man's stories then he'd thought. The premise might sound familiar, but the story moves in some surprising directions.
Don't let the narrator put you off either. He comes off as an overpriveleged, self centered, whiny, suburban teenager early in the story(not really a bad kid, just annoying), but he does grow up quickly once the story picks up and he faces some adversity while investigating the island that his grandfather had told him about.
The book is heavily illustrated with photographs that feature in the story. There's a new one every few pages and they are always interesting. Sometimes absurd, funny, creepy, or all of the above. If you are a kindle owner, you might want to think about getting the paper copy of this book. I love my kindle, but I'm not sure that it could do this book justice. The book itself looks great, and is one you might want to have on your bookshelf.