Friday, February 21, 2014

February Series of the Month #1: The Miss Peregrine Series by Ransom Riggs

Hey, y'all! So, as I said in one of my previous posts this month, I have more than just one book of the month. I ended up finishing my original book of the month in about 5 days. So, since I finished it so quickly, I decided to read the sequel right after, and I'll be talking about both of them in this post.

Also, after finishing this series, I began another series and am almost finished with it, so I'll be talking about that series next week, which is why this one is being posted so early in the month. 

I will be talking about the books in some detail, so I'll just go ahead and warn that if you haven't read the books, I will probably spoil some things, so you should definitely go read the book and then come back and read this post.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

The main character is a 16 year old guy named Jacob. Growing up, his grandfather told him all these stories from his childhood- unbelievable stories about the island he lived on, with monsters and children with crazy powers. He has all these strange photographs of children he claims he knew- children levitating, picking up boulders, etc. When his grandfather dies under strange circumstances, Jacob uses his grandfather's dying words and a strange letter to lead him to the small Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. When he gets there, he discovers that the children from the photographs are alive and well, although the islanders claim they were killed decades earlier and he begins to unravel the mystery of his grandfather's childhood and the monsters he believed followed him his whole life. 

One of the aspects of this book that makes it unique is its use of authentic, vintage found photographs. Throughout the book, I was curious whether the photographs were real or constructed for the book. Upon reading a section at the back of the book, I discovered that not only are they vintage photographs, but Ransom Riggs actually collected the photographs and then wrote the book, using the photographs as inspiration. I really enjoyed the use of the photographs, because it allowed me to see the characters as the author saw them rather than having to construct an image of them myself. 

I'm going to touch on the things I didn't like, and then move on to what I did like. First off, although the book descriptions that I've seen describe the book well, I feel like they failed to grasp the mood of the novel, and caused me to expect something different than what I got. The book descriptions all make it seem like the orphanage, the children, and Miss Peregrine herself, are all creepy. And that's just not the case. 

Secondly, I feel like it took me quite a while to get into the world and the characters. It was a very slow start, which seems odd to say, since someone is killed in the first chapter. But it honestly is a slow start. We aren't introduced to most of the main characters until chapter 5. Until then, it's extremely slow. Chapters 5-8 are then spent introducing both the reader and Jacob to the world of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children. While this is certainly very important for both the reader and Jacob, it isn't so great for an exciting plot. Chapters 9-11 (the end) contain the only real action that we see in the book. I didn't really mind that, because I enjoyed getting to learn more about the world, but I feel like some people might get frustrated with how slow it's moving and give up on it. 

Another thing that I wasn't extremely thrilled with was that Ransom Riggs left some things unexplained for too long for seemingly no reason... and there are still some things I feel need to be explained. First off, it seemed like he waited way too far into the book to explain loops and how the children are preserved on the island. As I was reading, I felt like I was kept in the dark for quite a while, for what seemed like no real reason. Another thing that bothered me was that we were shown photographs of children we never met... and didn't really get much of an explanation as to why they weren't at Miss Peregrine's home. I'm left to assume that they were among the children who tried to leave the loop, because we aren't given any other explanation. I feel like if Ransom Riggs presents us with one of his found photos, he needs to explain its purpose or we're going to be left scratching our heads. I'm also still confused about Jacob's first encounter with the children. He didn't go through the loop entrance, and yet he ran into the children at the house. I can only assume that the children left the loop for a brief time to keep the loop going, but unless I missed something, this just wasn't explained. And when Jacob went through the loop entrance after that, he was in 1940. So clearly he was outside of the loop until then. 

The final, least important complaint is the editing. Although I tend to be a "Grammar Nazi," I tend to miss minor editing flaws when reading books, so the fact that I noticed at least 3-4 of them is problematic... and I have it in paperback. Did they really miss these mistakes in both hard cover and paperback? As I said, this is minor- a couple words with a missing letter, a couple in the wrong tense- but typically I don't notice little things like that. 

Whew. That seems like a marathon of complaints. You probably think at this point that I didn't like the book, but I actually really enjoyed it. Other than it being a touch slow and leaving one or two things unexplained, I thought it was a great, unique book set in a unique world. I appreciated that the peculiar children in the book are just that- peculiar children. They're among others with peculiarities rather than people who will put them up on a pedestal because they have these abilities, so they live mostly normal lives. Although they'd been alive for 80, 90 years, they were still children, as they should be. 

Although I think the book might be a little slow for a less avid reader, I really enjoyed learning about the peculiar world- the children, the hollows, the wights, etc. I think that the fact that Ransom Riggs found the photographs and then created the story is a big plus for the book. I feel like it helped give the children unique, peculiar talents, like Hugh and his bees, Emma's heat, and Enoch's toys. I feel like if the children had been given all very general talents that every superhero has, it would have made for a more average book. Instead, the children are special- peculiar.

Hollow City

It's very rare to find a sequel that isn't significantly better or worse than the first book, but I felt that Hollow City was just about on track... maybe a touch better. 

Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine's left off. The children are on their way to the mainland to get help for Miss Peregrine. The book follows the children's journey to London, to find Miss Wren, who can make Miss Peregrine better. Throughout their journey, they hit several roadblocks, making this book very fast paced and fun.

This book felt MUCH longer than Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children for several reasons. First off, it took me a few days longer to finish, because I had an extremely large homework load during the time I was reading Hollow City. However, it's also because A LOT more happens in Hollow City. Hollow City is much more fast paced. These books are both very good for very different reasons. Miss Peregrine's is a marriage between our world and the peculiar world, is a bit mysterious (as Jacob is basically putting together the pieces of a mystery in the beginning), and is mostly there for world building. Hollow City is plot, plot, plot. Exciting, adventurous, nerve-wracking, etc. 

Book 1's main point was to introduce both the reader and Jacob to this whole world of peculiars. Because of the world building, not much happened until the last 3 chapters. I was totally OK with this, because I think the peculiar world is extremely interesting and unique. However, that made it a much slower book. The contrast between the important events in each book is absolutely incredible. 

Hollow City is also much darker than Miss Peregrine's. The darker tone present in the last 3 chapters of Miss Peregrine's carries through to this novel. It definitely adds realism to the story and shows the children's desperation. 

I also appreciated the way Ransom Riggs handled the Jacob/Emma relationship. It's definitely more realistic in this book than it was in Miss Peregrine's. Don't get me wrong- I really like their relationship- but in the very early stages of their relationship, it seemed like she fell for him simply because she was in love with his grandfather. And they were just so flirty all the time. In Hollow City, they did have their couple-y moments, but they knew that they had a task at hand and they weren't going to let their feelings get in the way of saving Miss Peregrine. And I really appreciated their argument about their relationship and feelings, because it was a topic that neither of them had really taken much time to consider. This is made more important by the fact that, by the end, Emma realizes that Jacob's true home is with the peculiars.

Last, but certainly not least, for me, the book was on the exact same level as the first book... until they got to Miss Wren. I kinda saw the twist coming. When 'Miss Peregrine' killed the pigeon, I figured something was up. There were several times I wondered if the bird was *really* Miss Peregrine. The twist, the Emma/Jacob relationship, and Jacob realizing that he can better harness his power- all of those aspects made it just a brilliant ending. I'm SO ready for the next book already!

So, there's my first series of the month for February. I'm almost finished with another series, and I will probably have the post out on Feb. 27th or 28th.

Also, in the span of the last month, I've created an account on Goodreads! The link to my page is HERE, if you'd like to check that out, follow me, etc. I'm really enjoying it, and it's helping me organize my books. If you go check it out, you'll also be able to see what books I'm planning on reading next! 

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