Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

bookTitle: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books; Book Club edition (June 7, 2011)

My thoughts:
Here is a completely different take on a very popular topic. Mr. Riggs has taken the plotline that many fantasy novels have today and turned it into something completely different…in a good way.

Jacob Portman is a normal teenager who leads a boring and uneventful life (according to him). He is fascinated and intrigued by the stories his grandfather used to tell him about his past life – about growing up in an orphanage on an island and about the peculiar children who lived there. He described children who could levitate, who could pick heavy objects and of the one who was invisible. As Jacob grew up he knew these stories were just made up.

But when his grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances, he decides to find some answers by journeying to his grandfathers orphanage somewhere close to Wales. What he finds there is completely unexpected, fascinating and overwhelming.

I loved loved loved the plot. I thought it was innovative and very mysterious. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The author created a beautiful atmosphere with the Island and the mysteries that surrounded it. I wished I was on the Island with Jacob. There is a lot more to the story than what I just told you but I wont disclose more because I want to keep it spoiler free.

Now the bad – yes, it’s not perfect. There were a lot of loopholes or if you see it from a different perspective, I didn’t understand some of the story. The ending was rushed and there is a sequel. I’m kind of bored with the whole sequel obsession in YA. Why can’t people write a book that is complete in itself? Also I found Jacob to be very decent considering the fact that he is a teenager and a boy.

I still really enjoyed reading the book and would love to read the next one. The pictures in the book helped with the story and made it more fascinating. Initially, before reading the book, just looking at the pictures, I thought this would be a horror novel – but it isn’t. I know some people get turned off by horror novels, so don’t be.

I think you would enjoy this book even if you don’t read YA.

Some of the pictures from the book

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Source: personal shelf
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (September 30, 2008)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:
What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said before? So I’ll keep it short. I was introduced to Neil Gaiman by Hugh when he mentioned Stardust a long time back. After that I kept reading about what a great author he was on other book blogs. I bought Fragile things and tried to read it. I loved the few stories that I read even though I found them a little weird. But my attention span for short stories is very limited and I left the book half read. After that I kept searching for The Graveyard Book after reading rave reviews but in library it was always checked out and those in book stores are expensive. To cut the long story short, I finally gave in and bought this book; and I LOVED it.

Neil Gaiman is everything that everyone has said and more. For me The Graveyard Book was mostly a coming of age story than a fantasy. For those who haven’t read it, it’s a story of a boy called Nobody Owens. His entire family is killed one night and he, as a toddler, wanders into the graveyard and is saved by a ghost couple Mr and Mrs Owens. Silas, who is neither dead nor alive and who lives in a crypt in the graveyard agrees to be his guardian and bring him all the necessities.

I loved the world Neil Gaiman has created in this book – all the ghosts in the graveyard, the atmosphere, the blue tattoo man and the ghouls gateways. Everything was so fascinating even if it was in a story. Most of all I loved Bod, loved seeing him grow up and eager to explore and know more about his surroundings. I also loved his adventurous and fearless spirit, although you probably think that’s not much considering he grew up in a graveyard.

There is something magical about Neil Gaiman’s writing, it’s as simple as it can get but it also has great depth. I wonder whats next for Nobody Owens, hopefully Mr. Neil Gaiman will let us know in a sequel?

I am eager to experience more of Gaiman’s writing. What should I read next?

DragonKeeper by Carole Wilkinson

Title: DragonKeeper
Author: Carole Wilkinson
Genre: Fantasy
Set in: China
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; 1 edition (April 2, 2005)
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Dragonkeeper is a story set in Ancient China in the Han Dynasty. Ping is a 5-year-old slave girl in one of the forgotten castles of the Emperor. She does all the cooking and cleaning for the Imperial Dragon caretaker who is very lazy and mean to her. When the Emperor comes to the castle with his entourage to kill the dragon, she has no choice but to flee.

Since the slave girl is all she has been all her short life, she wants to go back, but the dragon takes her on a journey to the ocean where he can gain her strength back. On the way, Ping and the dragon have many adventures and I loved every minute of it.

I loved journeying through ancient China with Ping; be it visiting the Garden of secluded harmony or sailing on the yellow river. The author Carole Wilkinson weaves a fascinating and enchanting tale. Her writing can enthrall a child and an adult into ancient China and into Ping’s world. She creates characters that are both strong and vulnerable at the same time, be it the little girl or the dragon Danzi.

I cannot recommend this book enough for all the adults, kids and teens out there. I’m only too eager to read the sequel Garden of the Purple Dragon.

Awards:
Book of the year: younger readers-> The children’s book council of Australia.
Aurealis Award winner
2004 Winner: Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards
2004 shortlisted: NSW Premier’s literary Awards

Ash by Melinda Lo

Title: Ash
Author: Melinda Lo
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy
Source: Library
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts: By now most of us know this book is a retelling of the favorite childhood fairy tale -Cinderella. But this is book is similar enough to remind you of Cinderella but different enough to have a flavor of its very own.

Aisling or Ash has to live with her step-mother and 2 daughters after her parents death.  Ash has grown up in a world where people are afraid of magic and the disbelief is beginning to take hold. People no longer believe in magic and curses and fairies. But there are some who do. Ash’s mother was one of them. After her parents death, to get away from her everyday deary life,  Ash finds refuge in the jungle close to her house.

And then she meets Kaisa. Kaisa is the King’s head huntress. Gradually there forms a bond between Ash and Kaisa. What I loved most about the novel is how the author describes their attraction effortlessly. There is no talk about how Ash is attracted to a women. It seems natural which is just as it should be.

I didn’t like Ash as a character but I understood her most of the times. I was more enamored by Kaisa. She seemed like such an intriguing person. Also, loved the fairy tales in the novel. I had lots of fun reading them.

One thing I would like to admit here is that I did not feel a lot of romance between Ash and Kaisa. I was wondering if it was the writing or if the situations themselves weren’t romantic enough when suddenly I had a weird thought. I tried substituting Kaisa with a man in my head and tried to re-imagine the situations. I have to say the romance was nicely and beautifully built.

It probably happened because I am not a lesbian and I found it difficult to get into the romance, which again takes me to another point. If I as a non-lesbian can find it difficult to get into lesbian romance, it would be difficult for GLBT people to get into a man-woman romance as well. Isn’t it just unfair that we have such small number of GLBT books and even lesser awareness about them?

I was always with GLBT literature but now I feel very strongly about it. I hope we have more books like Ash.

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Title: Evermore
Author: Alyson Noel
Genre: Young Adult (Fantasy)
Source: Personal Library
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
Rating: 3 out of 5

My thoughts:
16 year old Ever has to change her school, her town and go live with her aunt when her parents and her 12 year old sister die in a car accident. After the accident, Ever starts seeing dead people and read others thought. In short, she is a psychic. I think the term psychic was used very liberally here, Ever can do so much more than a psychic can. She and talk to her dead sister. Anyway, in her new school she meets the mysterious Damein.

I have mixed feelings for this book. On one hand I cannot stop comparing the book to Twilight. I felt as if the author read Twilight and thought I could possibly write a similar book and try to eliminate the problems some people have with Twilight. One for e.g how dangerous Edward was and how many people thought Bella was foolish to fall so deeply in love so quickly. There are so many other things that are similar to Twilight but I will not mention them here since they could spoil the story.

The thing is, Alyson Noel is a good writer, she knows how to keep the reader glued to the page and keep turning the pages. But the fact that it was so similar to Twilight put me off a little bit. I loved Twilight but I don’t want to read another version of it no matter how good it is. There is something to be said about originality.

The part I liked best was her equation with her dead sister. I also liked the ending, its just enough to end the first book and leave enough scope for a second. I will definitely be reading the next book, Blue Moon, which I hope I’ll like better.

Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley

Title: Violet Wings
Author: Victoria Hanley
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (August 25, 2009)
Source: Library
Rating: 3 out of 5


My thoughts:

I love reading about fairies and the synopsis of Violet Wings sounded really good. Not to mention I love the cover too. But I have to say I was disappointed.

The main problem I have with Violet Wings starts right from the first chapter. When I think about fairies, I think magical. I visualize a world that is very different from the world we live in. It has to be non-mechanical to say the least. But the world in this book is far from that. All fairies are assigned a specific number of radia (magical units) and they are allowed to spend only a limited number in their lifetime. The place where these fairies and our girl, Zaria, lives is called Tirfeyne. Another problem is that Tirfeyne is made of huge buildings made of rubies and gems and diamonds. That itself had me loose interest.

Zaria is 14 year old fairy whose parents and brother go missing when she was is very young. A family friend is taking care of her. She wants to know what happened to them but there is no way of knowing. When she turns 14, she and her class are given their wands and their watches. The watches tell how much radia has been assigned to each fairy or genie. Zaria has one of the highest colors-violet.

After that its about her adventures as a fairy and her quest to find out what happened to her family. I had another problem with the book, it was too technical at times. There is a paragraph from the book ‘Genie Historian of Feyland’ at the start of every chapter which helps in understanding the rules of Feyland without disrupting the main story, which I think is a brilliant idea but sometimes it went over board.Take for e.g

Each color in a crystal watch contains ten degrees and represents more radia than the preceding color by a factor of ten.

That said, the story had a lot of potential, the writing was smooth flowing. Although I would not wholeheartedly recommend this book I would say it’s a descent read. And someone who does not have the same problems as I do with this book might even love it. Strictly for Young Adult lovers.

Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks

Title: Selkie Girl
Author: Laurie Brooks
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
Source: Library
Setting: Shapinsay (Orkney Islands), Scotland
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
Selkie Girl is a story set in Shapinsay Island which is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. This story is inspired by Selkie legends where a Selkie is a creature that is half human and half Seal.

Elin Jean has always felt like an outcast in her village. She has fingers which are connected by thin webs that make her the object of ridicule in the village. She spends most of her time in isolation seeking solace from the Ocean. She lives with her parents and her grandfather. But no one has ever been open to her about why she is so different from the others.

She would come to know in time, yes, but it will change her life, turn it upside down and will lead her on a journey into the unknown. She will have to find a purpose and a place to belong.

Selkie Girl is a magical book. The setting is beautiful and mythical. Laurie Brooks writing creates an imagery so vivid that you can feel and imagine the vastness of the ocean, the horror of the seals fate, the beauty of the land and Elin Jean’s struggle to belong either on land or in the sea. The author has taken the Selkie legend and turned it into something else.

I could give you one example of the beautiful writing here:

Here is a roaring power to be reckoned with, this channel where the North Sea meets the mighty Atlantic. At odds with each other, the two bodies collide, churning into waves that can rise to forty feet. As change-able as the weather that reigns over it, the channel rests, mild as a newborn lamb, until the wind shifts it into raging tides that can catch the most experienced sailor unawares. And in a storm, the waves stretch as tall as mountains, white peaks battling for domain over the waterway. Even the thought of these storms humbles the others. What the sea gives up, it must take away, they say. And the truth of those words is born of bitter experience. Each year families lose fishermen to the sea, gobbles up in the wild storms, bodies lost forever beneath the tides.

And although the writing is beautiful, it can be a bit too wordy at times.

Grandpa blows rings of smoke, one inside the next. He sends the ovals toward the ceiling, and they follow willingly until they collide with the lingering haze from the cooking fire above and their perfect circles distort and disappear.

The first half was a bit slow for me but I raced through the second half not wanting to finish the book but also wanting to know what happens. Again a Young Adult book that can easily be a crossover.

Having said the above, I believe I have reasons for loving this book more than I expect others to. I LOVE the ocean and that’s probably why I could understand the endless pages describing Elin Jean’s pull to the ocean, her reasons being different than mine though. I love books set in lush, green surroundings, if it’s an island it’s a plus, if the island is in Scotland or Ireland, even better. And finally, I love books based on legends, myths or fairy tales. All I want to say is that these are also some of the factors that have lead me to like this book. That’s all.

P.S: I kind of hate the cover.

Review: Dragon’s keep by Janet Lee Carey

Title: Dragon’s Keep
Author: Janet Lee Carey
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books; 1 edition (April 1, 2007)
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
I always wanted to read a fairy tale for adults. So I picked up Dragon’s keep with an eagerness you wont find me picking other books with. And I’ll tell you right away what a lovely fairy tale it is. Well, okay, it is for young adults though. I just wanted to clear that.

Dragon’s keep has everything a fairy tale should have. A princess, an island with a castle, a curse, a witch, a villain and dragons. Oh and yes, a handsome warrior too.

600 years ago Evaine, the younger sister of King Arther from England marries someone below her status and is banished from England forever. She comes to Wilde Island for refuge. According to Merlin’s prophecy, the 21st princess of the Wilde Island will restore the name of the Pendragon and end the war between humans and dragons with the wave of a hand.

But ending the war is difficult when the princess is a 14 year old girl and the dragon’s occasionally feeds on the people from the Island. The King trains many people over the years to fight the dragon. But these trained knights are no match to a huge flying dragon who spits fire.

Also Princess Rosalind has a secret. She has a dragon claw. Her overprotective mother hides Rosalind’s hands from the world by forcing her to wear golden gloves. Her mother does not want people to know that Rosalind has a claw that resembles the claws of their most dreaded enemy, the dragon. She has her mind set on getting Rosalind married to Price Henry of England and so finding a cure for the dragon claw is always the top priority.

One day a convoy from the Queen of England comes to the Wilde Island to judge Princess Rosalind as a future match for Prince Henry. oops…..I am going to spoil the story a bit here. Or maybe I won’t. Let me skip the spoiler, however minor it is.

After a certain turn of events, Princess Rosalind is abducted by the dragon and taken to his cave, the dragon’s keep. Here the princess cannot escape from the dragon’s clutches even if she could. Her entire life changes in the matter of a single moment. The time she spends with the dragon’s eventually helps her in ending the war between the dragon’s and the humans, literally with the wave of her hand.

Janet Lee Carey’s writing is beautiful and even poetic at times. The first half although interesting is a little slow, but the second half is amazing.

Dragons keep is a fairy tale with a fitting dramatic and happily ever after ending. Read this book if you like fairy tales, adventure, fantasy and a good story.

Fairy Tales

coveredmondfairybookIt’s time for fairy tales people. I have always loved them.
‘Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book-Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations’ has fairy tales from across the globe. I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. Every story is beautiful and simple. I had neither read nor heard of any of the stories before. It has 15 stories in all but I will try and summarize a few of them without spoilers.

SNEGOROTCHKA
A RUSSIAN FAIRY TALE
Marusha and Youshko are a very old couple who do not have any children and long for one. But they have resigned to their fate and accepted that they will never have a child. One fine snowy day, when they see all the neighboring children playing in the snow and making a big fat snowman, they go out and decide to have a little fun making a snowman as well. They find a secluded spot behind a tree and make a snowman just the size of a baby. Suddenly to their delight, the snowman turns into a beautiful girl. They decide to call her Snegorotchka as she was made from snow. She starts living with them as their own daughter.
A small and heartwarming story with a sad end.

THE BURIED MOON
AN ENGLISH FAIRY TALE

In my old Granny’s days, long, long–oh, so long ago, Carland was just a collection of bogs. Pools of black water lay in the hollows, and little green rivulets scurried away here and there like long lizards trying to escape from their tails, while every tuft that you trod upon would squirt up at you like anything. Oh! it was a nice place to be in on a dark night, I give you my word.

Now, I’ve heard my Granny say that a long time before her day the Moon got trapped and buried in the bog. I’ll tell you the tale as she used to tell it to me.

The people living in the area blessed the moon and held it in high regard as the moon showed them their way through the dreadful bogs at night. If not for the moon, they would never find their way out and would be lured by the sinister things at night into the bogs and to death.
On days where there is no moon, the villagers have a very difficult time. So one day, er night, the moon decides to descend down to the bogs and see for herself the problem the villagers faced. She covers herself with a dark cloak and walks into the bogs. Suddenly she starts sinking and how much ever she stuggles she is not able to get out.
The sinister forces of the bogs-the witch and her accomplices decide to finish off the moon as she is the one who does not allow them to come out on nights when she is shining brightly in the sky.
I loved this story. I couldn’t wait to see what happens next.

WHITE CAROLINE AND BLACK CAROLINE
A FLEMISH FAIRY TALE
This is a beautiful lyrical story.

Come, come, Caroline,
White, white, child o’ mine!
I hate you, HATE you,
And, at any rate, you
Are no child o’ mine!

Come, come, Caroline,
Black, black, child o’ mine!
I bore you, adore you,
Will give whatever more you
Want, O child o’ mine!

A woman has 2 daughters, both names Caroline. One was called white Caroline, because she was very white and very pretty and everyone loved her. But she was not the woman’s own daughter. The other one, was called the black Caroline because she was very ugly and everybody ran away from her. This enraged the woman very much and she devised various plans to kill white Caroline. But every time Black Caroline warned her and she was safe. Black Caroline falls sick and White Caroline runs away from the house.
This is another very cute story.

THE SEVEN CONQUERORS OF THE QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI
A BELGIAN FAIRY TALE

Once upon a time there was a boy who was ambitious. One day he said to his mother: ‘Give me a muffin and patch my trousers, for I am going to set out to win the Queen of the Mississippi.’

The boy sets out to find the queen. He sees a man beneath a huge cross. The man draws his bow and arrow and hits the eye of a fly perched on the cross. The boy is so impressed that he asks the man to come along with. The man asks for something in return. The boy says you can have anything you want once I marry the queen. Similarly he asks 6 other men to accompany him to the queen’s castle.
A story with all the elements of a fairy tale, a man who can eat the whole earth, another one who can swallow an entire river and so on.

There are 14-15 stories in all. There is Italian, French, Russian, Serbian, Japanese and even a Chinese fairy tale. I love fairy tales and I think however old you grow you will never stop loving them. The language is simple yet beautiful. This book gives you a feeling of sitting in front of a fire and your grandmother telling you long lost tales. Tales that are as simple and as illogical as they can be. Tales of Serpents and crayfishes that can speak and of Princes who turned into doves. Fun and typical 🙂

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I cannot pick one story out of the lot because I loved them all. This would be a great read on a cold wintry night snuggled in a warm blanket or on a gloomy rainy day or just any other time. It would be a great gift for children and adults alike.

I have used one of the images from Edmund Dulac’s site. There are other beautiful illustrations there. Do have a look.

Immortals: the crossing by Joy Nash

Finally. Here is the review of Immortals: The crossing. I finished this book more than a week ago. I won this book through Vivi Anna’s site and Joy Nash sent me autographed copy. 

This is my first book from the Immortal series. I was a little apprehensive about reading it as I wasn’t sure I would be able to enjoy the book not having read the previous ones. But I did enjoy it. There were places where I felt it would have been better if I had read the previous books, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I could follow the story line and understand what was implied well enough.

 Okay here is the story in short. Mac is a Semi God. I was not really sure what that meant, but it implied that he was immortal. He is a charismatic musician with hordes of girls stalking him. He is also the protector of the fairies in the magic world. When one of the fairy villages is attacked and an infant’s life is in danger, he is called to intervene. He discovers that the village is attacked by an American Witch who has powers of her own. She is out to rescue something that is very dear to her. Of course she doesn’t tell Mac about it. Mac tries to stop Artemis (the witch) from destroying or attacking anyone else by placing her under a house arrest. But she escapes and he follows her, literally, through hell.

In the end, they win. Obviously.

What I liked about the book was the pace. There wasn’t a single dull moment in the book. The main characters Mac and Artemis were well crafted. I especially liked Artemis. She was not weak and did not need anyone’s protection. She was capable of finding her own way. Although Mac helped her, he was not exactly her knight in shining armor. She was determined and strong.

The description of hells’ levels was comic and chilling at the same time. I had one question though. Considering Mac’s mother was god (I think), why is she said to be devoid of any emotions? Did not make much sense to me but may be it has something to do with the previous books in the series. No complaints though.

People who love romantic and paranormal books, this one is a treat. I am looking forward to reading Joy Nash’s next.