The Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs

The Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs

The Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books

Quick note – This is a review of all 3 books in the Peculiar Children series, so it’s a bit long, especially for the first book, which sets up the series. Also, it contains some spoilers, but I did try to be as vague as possible for some of, what I considered, the most critical plot points. Also, the movie trailer is out, with the theatrical release scheduled for September 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Book 1

I came upon this first book while browsing through my local Barnes and Noble. I was really intrigued by the cover, and then saw that the book was sprinkled throughout with these really weird and wacky photographs. I read the blurb on the inside cover, and even though it didn’t seem like something that I would typically read, I thought “why not”. I’m glad I took the chance. It’s an interesting and fun, fantastical story.

The book opens with –

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.”

And this is how we’re introduced to Jacob Portman, a pretty typical teenage boy from Florida.

As a young boy, Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather Abraham tell him stories of growing up in an orphanage, fighting in wars, traveling the world, and performing in circuses. He would listen attentively to stories of monsters and fantastical creatures, like a bird that smoked a pipe. It wasn’t until Jacob got a little older, and he started to doubt these stories, that Abraham showed him pictures of some of the “peculiar” children that he grew up with in the orphanage. But Jacob still wasn’t convinced, and after being made fun of in school for believing in fairy tales, Jacob stopped asking his grandfather to tell the stories all together.

A few years later, one night at work, Jacob gets a frantic phone call from his grandfather and he races to his home. But he’s too late. He finds his grandfather in the woods behind the house, covered in blood and barely alive. With his last breath, Abraham implores Jacob to go to “the island”, and to find the “bird” and the “loop”. Jacob promises, and as Abraham slips away Jacob feels a presence watching him.

This is how Jacob’s adventure begins. After finding an old letter in his grandfather’s belongings, he convinces his parents to let him travel to Wales to learn more about his grandfather’s life, and the orphanage that he grew up in. His father, who writes books about birds, decides to take Jacob to Wales in order get some new material for his book, and with the hope that Jacob will finally get these crazy ideas about his grandfather out his system.

On an island, off the coast of Wales, Jacob finds the children’s home – old and decrepit but still there. As he wanders through the old abandoned building he hears a young girl’s voice, and as he looks around a light catches his eye – up on the second floor of the crumbling building, he sees children’s faces looking down at him through the broken floor.

Freaked out, Jacob runs from the girl, fighting his way through the fog and the mud, eventually finding himself in front of a large pile of rocks with an opening that leads to a sort of tunnel. Of course Jacob enters the tunnel, and somehow finds himself back on the road to the town where he and his father are staying. But something is seriously wrong, and he eventually figures out that he’s in the right place – but in the wrong time!

Jacob’s adventure takes him back to 1940, where he meets the peculiar children, including Emma, the voice he heard in the old children’s home. Emma explains that he’s found the “loop”, which allows them to travel through time. She takes him to meet Miss Peregrine, the woman who runs the orphanage, and he learns that his grandfather was a “peculiar”. He also learns that his grandfather didn’t make up those old stories of weird birds, creatures, and monsters – they were all true – and Jacob is about to come face to face with them as events start to spiral out of control and Miss Peregrine is kidnapped!

And this is where the story twists and turns, and gets really wild and crazy as the children go after their beloved Miss Peregrine.

Hollow City – Book 2


We catch up with Jacob and the children, who have rescued Miss Peregrine, and are now being hunted by the creatures that kidnapped her. Fleeing by boat, the children are caught in a wicked storm, and after a harrowing night they finally land on a beach. Before they can even breathe a sigh of relief however, they realize that they’ve been followed. As they run for their lives into the forest they realize that they’re hopelessly lost, and have no idea where they are or how to find a safe place to hide. Finally though, luck seems to be on their side, and they happen upon a caravan of traveling gypsies, who are eventually convinced to help them.

But, as always with luck, it only lasts so long and things start to go very wrong. They’re continually running from danger, meeting strange people and animals along the way. Their adventures take them to a bombed out London, to an underground crypt in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and eventually to a loop that leads them to a building covered in thick ice that serves to protect it. It’s here that Jacob and the children realize that things are not all as they should be with Miss Peregrine.


Library of Souls – Book 3

imageLibrary of Souls begins with the entire peculiar world on the brink of destruction, and Jacob and Emma are determined to save it. They need to get to the Library of Souls to stop something very evil from being unleashed, which would cause dire consequences to all that they love.

Speaking of love, Jacob and Emma have fallen in love during their dangerous adventure, and are starting to think about how they can continue their future together. It seems a lost cause, for one thing they’re not even sure they’ll be able to survive all the danger; and secondly, there’s the problem of being from two different times.

Jacob’s maturity begins in the second book, but it’s during this last book that we finally get to see the hero emerge. He is now closer to the Jacob that his grandfather likely envisioned when regaling him with his old stories of peculiar children, creatures and monsters. It seems that Jacob has finally grown up and he’s realized that it’s on him now to step up:

“I could feel all the disparate strands my silly and scattered life converging toward a single point, unseen behind those walls. That’s where it was: the thing I had to do—or die trying.”

Along with Jacob and Emma on this do-or-die mission is their faithful companion, Addison. Addison is actually introduced in the second book, and is a “peculiar” as well – he’s a talking dog. Intelligent and pragmatic, Addison is also tirelessly loyal and extremely brave (of course he is – he’s a boxer)! Add in a kind of weird and creepy ferryman, and you’ve got a finale worthy of this series.

Finally, my thoughts – I was very pleasantly surprised. This is storytelling at its very best when it comes to fantasy, or even fairy tales. The characters are great – funny, smart, sympathetic; and the camaraderie is what makes this series so wonderful. There is a ton of action and adventure, with just enough tension and creepiness to keep you on the edge of your seat. Throughout the entire series you find yourself rooting for Jacob, Emma and all of the peculiars, including Addison, and of course Miss Peregrine.

And of course, I’d be quite negligent in my review if I didn’t mention the photographs used in the books. They are quite fantastic, weird, creepy, and some, even unbelievable. Just looking at the covers of all three books gives you a sense of the kind of photos you’ll see inside. I highly recommend you visit Riggs’ website, where you’ll find information on his books, his own photography, and the movie trailer –

Lastly, I just want to add the blurb for his new book, “Tales of the Peculiar”, that I saw on the website:

“Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of the peculiars was written in the ‘Tales of the Peculiar’. Releasing September 3rd, 2016.

Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A fork-tongued princess. These are but a few of the stories in Tales of the Peculiar—the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the locations of time loops—first introduced in the #1 bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. You are invited to learn these secrets of peculiar history, with a collection of original stories in this deluxe volume of Tales of the Peculiar. Featuring stunning illustrations from world-renowned artist Andrew Davidson, this compelling, rich, and truly peculiar anthology is perfect for fans and those new to the series, as well.”

Sounds like I’ll be adding that one to my collection!

As always, please feel fee to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from fans of the series, and hear what you think of the movie trailer.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books

In the Acknowledgments section of the book, Victoria Schwab writes “Here we are again. The end of another book.” Indeed, the end of this one, but happily not the end of the adventure. There is more to come!

But for now, let’s talk about this one.

So here we are, about four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila is part of the crew on a pirate ship, living her dream of being on the high seas, and working closely with her Captain who is teaching her about her newfound powers. When she learns of the Essen Tasch — a magical competition being held in Red London – Lila is torn between wanting to test her abilities and the possibility of running into Kell, who she is still trying to reconcile her feelings for.

Kell is also struggling with his feelings for Lila, but even more importantly he’s feeling a tremendous amount of guilt at what transpired those four months ago. The people of Red London seem to fear him now; his own adoptive parents mistrust him and are desperately trying to keep him from leaving the Palace. His smuggling days are over. They know that if anything happens to him, it also happens to Rhy, his brother, and heir to the throne. This leaves Kell feeling trapped and stifled.

Rhy knows his brother is struggling, but he’s also feeling the effects of that fateful night that bound them forever. He’s suffering from horrific nightmares that are keeping him from sleeping, and he’s not very good at keeping this from Kell. But Rhy has an idea! He’s decided that Kell will compete in the Essen Tasch – but it’s not going to be easy, and he devises a plan to deceive the competitors, the spectators and even his parents. His only problem? Getting Kell to agree.

In the meantime, while all this is going on in Red London, another London is having an awakening. As a dark force is rising, Kell, Rhy, and all of Red London are oblivious – they’re enjoying the Essen Tasch.

Unlike the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, this book delves more into each individual character and we get a lot more insight into how they tick, while the world building takes a back seat. I really liked that aspect of this book. Although I appreciate how an author uses so much creativity to build a world unlike our own – with magic, no less – I do tend to favor books that are more character driven.

I have to admit, I was a bit frustrated that Lila and Kell had so little time together – but when they finally connected, it was crackling with the same snappy and smart dialogue that I loved so much in the first book. This is where Schwab shines. She has a way with dialogue that makes reading conversations between our favorite characters fun and easy. And it’s not just Lila and Kell. There is also the relationship between Lila and her captain, Alucard. A new character to the series, Alucard has become a kind of mentor for Lila – and I really like this addition. For all of the angst that we read between Kell and Rhy, the character of Alucard adds quite a bit of humor and mystery.

Now for me, the elephant in the room is the Essen Tasch. This contest of magical abilities is the slowest part of the book for me. I just don’t like reading about any type of competition, and I found myself skipping over paragraphs just to get it done. But to give the book credit, it’s a small part of the book, and it doesn’t drag on too long.

All in all, another hit for V. E. Schwab that I enjoyed, and I already pre-ordered “A Conjuring of Light”, the last book of the series. I’m going to miss these characters. Let’s hope that the last book wraps everything up in a nice tidy bow – and to our liking!

You can follow the author on Twitter @veschwab, where she’s pretty active, and pretty funny.

You can read my thoughts on the first book of the series, “A Darker Shade of Magic” in an earlier post.

As always, please feel free to comment below!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows
By Leigh Bardugo
Published by Henry Holt & Co.

I had been hearing a lot about Six of Crows, and since it was all good I decided to give it a shot. I was apprehensive at first because it was based on an already existing series known as The Grisha Trilogy. I was worried that I would be picking up a story in that world, but somewhere in the middle. Boy was I wrong. This book, although set in the fantasy Grisha world, is not part of the Grisha Trilogy. In fact, not only does it stand on its own from the trilogy, it looks like it’s going to be the first in a new series. And I’m very excited about that.

This book is awesome!

Now I could just stop here, and tell you to just go read it – cause I think it’s that good – but I’m not. I’m going to tell you why I think this book is so darned good.

First, let me tell you a bit about it.
It’s a CAPER story! And I just love a good caper. If you’re not sure what I mean, here is a definition from Wikipedia:

“The caper story is a subgenre of crime fiction. The typical caper story involves one or more crimes (especially thefts, swindles, or occasionally kidnappings) perpetrated by the main characters in full view of the reader.”

So what’s the “caper”? Six kids (teens around 16-17 years of age) need to break into an impenetrable prison, kidnap a prisoner, and then break out of the prison. And if all goes well, they will be very, very rich.

From the very first page this book is one big adventure with a strong cast of characters that I just fell in love with. The story is strong, the dialogue is smart and sassy, and the action is non-stop. It moves very quickly and never lags. And it’s funny! There is so much wisecracking between characters that I actually found myself chuckling out loud. Oh, and there’s magic!

Now let’s talk about the “kids”. Almost immediately you understand that this is about a group of teens, but as you learn through their own memories and back stories, they’ve been dealt some pretty bad cards. Their stories are harsh and heartbreaking – but they have not been beaten. They’ve survived in some pretty crappy surroundings.

Kaz is a thief and the leader of a gang known as the Dregs. He’s the brains behind the plan. As a young child he faced a tragic loss that forced him to grow up way too soon. He knows who caused his troubles, and he’s determined to make him pay.

Inej is known as the Wraith. Once an acrobat that walked the high wire, she’s now known for her stealth and her skill with knives. Kaz took her out of a bad situation and she owes him her unfailing loyalty. She acts as his spy.

Jesper is the wisecracking gambler that loves guns, and is a crack shot. He left his family farm for an education, but the cards called his name, and he never left the gambling houses. He can be counted on to provide the comic relief and to never miss his target.

Nina is Grisha, which means she practices magic. She’s a heartrender and can drop a man with just a twist of her hand. She’s also very beautiful and pretty sassy. She needs to right a wrong, and it’s her hope that she can make amends. Her guilt drives her to join this team.

Matthias is a former soldier who was accused of a terrible crime. He’s worried that his part in the plan will brand him as a traitor to his country, and he struggles with not only that guilt, but his thirst for revenge on the person who cost him so much.

Wylan, the poor little rich boy rebelling against his father – is very good with explosives. He could be the weak link in the team, but he’s determined to prove himself.

This is a great cast of characters, and I love how Leigh Bardugo highlights each one of them by alternating chapters specifically focused on each one. This is where you get their back stories, and how you keep up with each member of the team as they move through this wild adventure.

For anyone who likes a good old fashioned action adventure, this one will fit the bill. It reminds me of two of my favorite TV shows, Leverage and Firefly, which also had the crackling dialogue and wild capers that I love so much in this book.

Check this one out, and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more information, check out Leigh Bardugo’s website at:

Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows


Poodles 0 – Rabbit 1


Our first Poodle vs Rabbit of 2016 happened at 5:00 a.m. this morning, and I’m happy to report the rabbit won.

River chased the poor thing around the yard about 6 times, and it wasn’t until the rabbit ran behind the deck box that River was thwarted. All was well……until I heard the rattling of the chain link fence. The poor thing was caught in one of the links.

This is not the first time this has happened, so armed with a flashlight I went to assess the damage. Yep, the poor thing was about halfway through and struggling.

Next step – yell for Super Husband!  With just a few snips of his trusty heavy duty wire cutters, the rabbit was free. (I held the flashlight!).

Happy New Year!

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Note: This is an update to a review that I wrote on an old blog of mine that never went “live”. I copied and pasted it here when I first started this blog, but I felt that I never really did this book justice, so I decided to re-write my review and re-post it. So, here we go – take two…

We all know about the history of The Civil War. It’s been over 150 years since America was divided by war on its own soil, and over the decades there have been a multitude of books, documentaries, and movies that tell the story of the war, and analyze the reasons behind it.

So what makes this book different? It tells the true story of something that may not be so widely known; that there were women who, for various reasons, decided that they wanted to help the war effort, or even fight in the war themselves.

There’s not a lot known about the over 400 women who disguised themselves as men and fought side by side with male soldiers, some who even fought alongside their husbands in order not to be separated from them, but over the last few years we’ve seen more articles and books written about these women. But not every women who wanted to help the war effort was cut-out to fight as a disguised male, so hundreds more turned to spying. And they were pretty good at it. Being the “weaker sex” they were often overlooked as a threat to the other side, and using a variety of resources, including good old fashioned feminine wiles, they were able to move vast amounts of information and resources to the front lines.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy tells the stories of four women. Three who spied, and one who fought.

Although a bit slow to start, I found each story fascinating, and was pretty surprised at how effective these women were. I enjoyed the personal stories of the four women the most, and although the descriptions of the war strategies and battles took away from their stories a bit, it was an important part of the book – to pull it all together and let the reader see how crucial these women actually were. This book surprised me in a couple of ways.

First, the story of Emma Edmonds who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Union Army under the name of Frank Thompson. I think this one was my favorite. Not just because of the courage it took, but there were parts of her story that were heart breaking as well.

Then there were the three spies. These three women pulled the wool over the eyes of some pretty high ranking soldiers, and I was surprised at how some of these men didn’t see what was going on right under their noses. And even if they suspected them of spying, how they either overlooked them as inconsequential, or how they just couldn’t find the evidence to stop them. The three spies are:

Belle Boyd, who at seventeen killed a Union soldier, which gave her the bravado to spy for the Confederate army. She was a bit bratty and full of herself, but at that young age she knew what she wanted to do.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow would do anything to help the Confederacy, including using her very young daughter to help smuggle information. I liked her the least. She was so full of herself, and I think was the most ruthless of the three.

Elizabeth Van Lew was the most clever of the three. Of the three spies, I liked her story the most. She didn’t have the brashness of the other two, and was a bit of an outsider. Other than Emma Edmonds, I think she pulled off the best scheme of the bunch.

I won’t go into the details of how each of these stories played out, each one is different, but it’s a fascinating read. Also, the Epilogue was a nice way to continue their stories even after the end of the war.

If you’re interested in learning more about these liars, temptresses, soldiers and spies, there are quite a few nice articles on the Internet, which I will link to below.

And, as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae – The Illuminae Files_01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf for Young Readers

There is so much to praise about this book, that I don’t know where to begin. From the design of the cover and the unique design of the pages, to the way the story is told – this book is spectacular.

When you read a lot of books, no matter how many of them you liked, you find that there are always a very special few that you will always count as a favorite. Even as plots and characters from some very good books fade from memory, those special few stay with you forever. Earlier this year I felt that way about Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and now Illuminae will be added to that very special list.

Another thing this book did was get me out of my reading slump. In the past few weeks I’ve picked up a number of books, some that I was even very excited about, but for one reason or another they just didn’t feel right, and I wound up putting them down after only a couple of chapters.

Not this book! I started this one and did not want to put it down. After reading a few chapters last week on my lunch breaks at work, I picked it up Saturday morning and didn’t put it down until I finished it that same day. Slump is over 🙂

OK, so let’s dig in. This book is told in a format known as epistolary, which means that the authors used journals, transcripts of video surveillance, instant messaging, etc. to tell this story. It also takes place quite a way into the future, and in space. But let’s not throw this into the “science fiction” genre; or even the YA genre just because our two main characters happen to be teenagers. This book is so much more than that, and I’d hate to see it dismissed by someone because they don’t read sci-fi or young adult.

The book opens in the year 2576, with a memorandum from the Illuminae Group, explaining that they are sharing a “file” which contains documentation describing the destruction of the Kerenza colony the previous year, and the aftermath that followed. You get the sense that this group is trying to set the record straight.

The next set of documents are transcripts from interviews held with Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, two teenagers who were in school when the attack began. Interspersed with the account of the attack, both teenagers also tell of their recent break-up, and how it saved their lives that day.

And then the action begins – and never really lets up throughout this entire book. Even as the survivors flee the colony they are not out of danger. They’ve been crammed on the only three remaining ships: the freighter Copernicus; the science ship Hypatia; and the military battlecarrier Alexander, who heard the distress call and came to their rescue. These three ships are carrying more people than what they were built for, and there may not be enough water or food supplies to sustain them until they reach safety. To top it all off, the Lincoln, the last remaining ship that helped lead the attack on the colony is still after them, and the Alexander has been heavily damaged and can no longer use its jump capabilities. It’s going to take six months or more to reach the nearest station, if the Lincoln doesn’t get to them first.

On board their ships, Kady and Ezra try to adjust and deal with the stress and trauma of the attack. They were separated during the evacuation, with Ezra winding up on the Alexander, and being conscripted into the military as a rookie fighter pilot; Kady is on the Hypatia, doing everything she can to stay under the radar, even to the point of purposely not passing her aptitude tests so that she won’t be conscripted, and basically being a moody, arrogant teenager to any authority figure. But over time, Kady and Ezra connect via messages and realize that their break-up was a mistake, and now all they want is to reach the station safely and be together.

But then something horrible happens on one of the ships, and Kady knows that there’s a cover-up. As she hacks her way into classified and private communications she finds a co-conspirator – another hacker who will help her find the truth. What they are doing is considered treason during war time, and they could be shot, but Kady will stop at nothing to get to the truth, even if it means putting Ezra in danger.

What a wild ride! This book has it all: snarky dialogue, a biological outbreak, reluctant heroes, villains, an artificial intelligence computer with a mind of its own, danger, heartbreak, and a fast paced race to the end. I know I’m being a bit vague about most of the plot, but that’s on purpose because I don’t want to spoil or ruin one page of it. I loved every bit of this book!

I’m sure you can tell that I would highly recommend this book, and from what I’ve been reading, it’s flying off the shelves. Oh, and apparently this is book one of a trilogy. Can’t wait!

I also think I know someone who would particularly like this book – I’m looking at you, Patty!

Lastly, I think these two authors are fabulous, you can follow them on twitter at:


And for more information, visit:

As always, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Emma by Jane Austen – Read-Along in December

Emma by Jane Austen – Read-Along in December

There is an Emma read-along in December hosted by Bellezza at

I’m joining, and if you’re interested in joining click on the Emma Read-Along button over to the right.

Emma is one of those classics that I’ve been meaning to read for so long, and it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile. No excuses now. I’m excited to be reading this book on its 200th anniversary, and will be joining in the fun!

Update 10/31 – Ordered the 200 year anniversary edition, so I changed the featured photo.