Feast of Poetry & Drink of Prose


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Local Bookstore
So I've been going through a reading slump, and this book was the root of it. I've been meaning to read it ever since it came out, but it wasn't until my friend Christine begged me to read it that I finally eventually did. I know, I know, a movie is in the works and all that. I knew I'd get around to it, but there's so many other books I wanted to read and... sigh, okay. My heart wasn't in it. But why? This seems like everything I could possibly want in a book! Creepy Victorian children? Check. Weird vintage photography? Check. (I have a folder dedicated to them on my desk top, and a Pinterest board too) So why was I resistant?
Okay, I loved the idea for this - a guy has a collection of weird old pictures so he makes up stories about them? That's pretty cool. But the story... Well, let's start the review.
I'm a completionist. I have the rest of the series sitting on my bookshelf right now, so I have to finish the whole thing. Even if... I wasn't particularly feeling it. I thought the book moved far too slowly for my taste, but luckily there are two books I haven't read. This, too me, feels like a set-up. A trap. Even worse because this book ends with a cliff-hanger. Can I even tell you want this was even about? It took incredibly long for us to learn that it might be best if I don't. Screw it. So this kid from Florida, Jacob, watches helplessly as a monster kills his beloved grandfather. But no one believes him because he is a dirt-bag teen and teens suck obviously monsters aren't real and it was probably wolves or something. But Jacob is adamant and he's sent to a therapist who convinces him to research some of the stories his grandfather told him growing up, you know, to prove to himself that he hadn't seen an actual monster kill his grandfather.
Jacob's research sends him to a tiny fishing island off the coast of Wales. After a lot of bullshit (no one likes this American Dirt-Bag Teen in Wales. No One.) Jacob finds the actual children his grandfather grew up with before WWII - the Peculiar children who have unique abilities.
Jacob is alright, but Emma, the girl who once loved his grandfather and now is falling for him, a bit of a fire brand (literally), irritates me to no end. She's some embodiment of a male fantasy that in real life no man could deal with for very long.
In the end that may be the thing that urks me most about this book - the subtle pretentiousness of a hip, edgy male author and his Gary-Sue hero.

Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Library Copy
Palace of Mirrors is a sequel to a retelling of Cinderella called Just Ella, which I read at some point in either early high school or middle school. I remember loving Just Ella enough that I went through a serious "fairy tale retelling" phase for a while. That feels like another lifetime to me now, though of course I still love revisionist fairy tales.
I had a few very personal problems with this book from the get go. I remember Just Ella ending in a satisfying way, though I have very little memory of what actually happened in the book at all (it's been 13 years since I've read it at least). I feel like a sequel was completely unnecessary. Not only because the first book was fine alone, but the sequel is more enjoyable (though not crucial) if you read Just Ella first - as Ella has a cameo role that's actually somewhat important. Now the part that really chaffs me: Palace of Mirrors (2008) was published 9 years after Just Ella (1999). I was in the intended age bracket for Just Ella when it was published, and in college when Palace of Mirrors was published. That's not uncommon in the publishing world, I know, but I find it annoying. This makes me wonder who the intended audience for Palace of Mirrors would have been for. Of course there have to have been children in that almost-decade window of time who grew to love the first book - least we overlook the fact that when I read it I was on the latter end of the intended age group. But for the original fans and younger fans, I think the end result didn't leave much for us to meet in the middle over. I've found that even young reviewers were a little wise for the book - I saw some complaints that Cecilia was dumb for someone who was supposed to be so smart. The kids are wrong, of course, Cecilia is naive, not dumb - there's a difference.

Palace of Mirrors is about a young girl (named Cecilia, as I mentioned) who was raised in obscurity, but was trained to be a princess. When it becomes too dangerous keep herself hidden, she and her friend Harper (a harpist - get it?) flee to the capitol city so that Cecilia can take her rightful place as the princess. But as Cecilia well knows, that place isn't exactly vacant. And the current princess won't just give up her seat - to Cecilia's, uh, surprise. Right. You can see where the kids reading this book are ready to take to the streets and start a riot, right? But it's actually a bit more complicated than that. But I'm not going to give that away!

I didn't actually think the book it's self was terrible. I kind of liked it as an original work, and there is a third book that ties more closely to this one than this tied to Just Ella - so I may be reading that one at some point soon. Unfortunately, I think it was a bit too young for me. If you know someone young enough to devour the entire series without having to wait so long to do it, I recommend it.


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Library Copy
Right out the gate, I loved this book. I'm a little surprised at myself - I didn't expect to like it this much. Without beating around the bush, I'm going to throw down these words to describe it: gratuitous, shojo, shirtless tough-guys. I hope it never reaches Twilight or Hunger Games level of fame, because that opens it up for as much ridicule. (Women just can't have nice things, now can we?) Not that it matters: hate on, haters. I really loved it - I don't want to think too deeply as to why, it was just pure fun and thrill.

I still tend to shy away from a lot of YA novels, even if I enjoy them more than the usual fiction because I don't like to put a lot of faith in books with amazing covers. Okay, we've all done it. We'll see a stunning cover that really strikes our fancy, buy it immediately, and when we're halfway through with reading it... ugh. Plot holes, cliches, grating & whiny dialog. We learn that the publishers totally just Febrezed the book by giving it a nice cover to disguise how crappy the content is. Once bitten, twice shy I say. So now I wait until I see that it's worth the effort. I know. That's, like, the opposite of what a book reviewer's job is. But hear me out - this time I just went after the pretty book, caution to the wind, so that I could let you know wither or not it's worth your time.
Gentle readers, it is very much worth your time. Okay, it was sexy and edgy. I didn't expect to really like that. But golly gee, did I ever! I guess my tastes are changing.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Early on, this seems obvious, but somewhere in there it becomes entirely it's own thing. Feyre is a poor daughter of a once wealthy merchant. She shoulders the burden of caring for the family, and they don't do much to show their appreciation for it. One very bitter winter's day, while hunting in the forest for food before her family starves to death, she kills a wolf without realizing that it was a fairy in disguise. As punishment, she is taken from her family to live with a High Fae named Tamlin.
There's a bit of a slow start, but honest to Gosh, this isn't a simple re-telling of Beauty in the Beast (my favorite fairy tell and one that I can have told to me in as many variations as possible) because by the end it developed into it's own thing and I didn't even recognize it anymore. That alone is reason to recommend it. The end doesn't even resemble it's beginning and that is a rare sign of a great book.
I was totally into it almost the whole time. I think Maas has the go ahead from the publishers for 2 more books (which seems excessive, but hey - that's good news for her!) The 2nd book drops next May, and honestly? The wait will kill me.

Some Comics I made while reading this book


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Audio book

I don't know why it's taken me this long to figure out that the best way to stop whining about how much time I feel I waste driving to and from work every week and not reading (which is what I'd rather do with that free time if I had it) is to listen to audio books.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was on my TBR list for a few years, but never quiet committed the time to read it. I mean, I love Zelda a little more than her more famous husband and always have. I can't explain why, as I always felt that what I knew about her seemed unreliable.
So I suppose this is why I'm still on the fence about this novel - because it is a novel. There's nothing much wrong with that - in order to write a novel based off of someone who did exist in history, you do have to do some research first. And this novel did set out to show a new perspective of a person who many of us have made up our minds about before ever reading this book. Maybe that's something I struggle with - you may not. You may be happy to just read a nice story about a beautiful, dramatic couple. In which case, you will not be disappointed. It's no secret that Francis and Zelda got a long like cats and dogs for most of their marriage. Personally, I found that aspect to be a bummer. Francis and Zelda were so spirited, it almost became a battle over who can out-maneuver the other. All marriages are a struggle over power - there is no sugar coating that fact, deny it all you want. But sometimes those struggles aren't as depressing as the Fitzgerald's.

I am in no way an expert historian on the Fitzgerald marriage, so I can't say for sure how accurate this novel was. But I am glad I "read it."
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