Archive for the 'YA' Category

Review: Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

HOLLOW-CITY-COVERIt’s been almost three years since my review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I recall being a bit mesmerized by the book at that time – the photographs were remarkable and the idea that they were real, found photos made them ever more fascinating. Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children) picks up where Miss Peregrine’s leaves off, and I do mean right where it leaves off. That’s a big part of the problem I had with the book. We are thrown right back into the story of Jacob, Emma, Bronwyn, Olive and the other Peculiars, rowing their little boats toward the coast of Wales…and I honestly could not remember why they were there. There was no recapping of the story so far, even though the books were published 3 years apart. There were no re-introductions to the characters, no little clues when the characters referred to wights and hollowgasts and ymbrynes. There are some small photos at the beginning of the book but, to be honest, I didn’t stop and read them before jumping into the story. Luckily, the first nook was still on my Kindle, so I could go back and refresh my memory before digging into the book at hand. Not a good start, to be sure.

The story itself is much like the first book – entertaining and fairly fast-paced. The children are still on the run from wights who have invaded the “loop” where they’ve lived for decades. The loop is a bit of stopped time, well-protected from those who would harm the Peculiars. The hollowgast are the sad remnants of an experiment gone wrong, with tentacles for mouths and a hunger for Peculiar children. They are invisible to most Peculiars, which is what makes Jacob so valuable: his Peculiar skill is that he can sense and see and kill hollowgast. Wights are evolved hollowgast – they evolve by consuming the souls of Peculiar children. In Hollow City, they are after more than the children’s souls.

Jacob and his friends are traveling to London, the capital city of Peculiars, in the hopes of finding help for Miss Peregrine, who has become trapped in her bird form. They encounter a number of other Peculiars along the way, and learn much about the history of Peculiars. The children don’t have much time to save Miss Peregrine and to derail a terrible plot that would devastate Peculiars everywhere. In the midst of it all, Jacob must make some difficult choices, about leaving his friends, about being apart from his family, about falling in love and just what it is he wants to do with his life.

This was a quick read (shorter than a flight from Cleveland to Atlanta). Although I was frustrated by the lack of recapping and annoyed that I had to basically re-read the first book to continue the series, I still enjoyed the story and the characters. Although I admit that I am heartily sick of trilogies, this book was better than most second books, in that there was a lot of action and new development, which kept it from being more than just a set-up for the next installment.

As before, the highlight of the book, for me, was the photos. These are more real, found photos, showing all sorts of unusual people, and they bring so much to the story.

My copy of Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children) came from my personal library.
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A new feature from the folks at Shmoop!

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Starting Monday, I’m going to be publishing some new guest posts. The folks at Shmoop have promised to provide some interesting articles on book-related topics, in their fun and engaging style. The first article is on Romeo and Juliet, and you should see it Monday morning – be sure to check back!


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Review: Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Skeleton Creek is young adult fiction for kids who grew up online — think Harriet the Spy meets The Blair Witch Project. Two bored teenagers manufacture a mystery in their hometown, which leads to a real mystery and some dangerous consequences. When one of them is seriously injured, the other continues the investigation, videotaping her adventures and posting them online. In order to solve the mystery, readers have to both read the book and watch the videos on the book’s website. Check out the trailer…

I don’t normally read YA fiction, but I was really interested in the book’s format. The book itself is fairly short (185 pages) and printed in a font that looks like hand-printing. The book is Ryan’s journal of events and it’s supplemented with Sarah’s videos of her part of the investigation. It seemed like a perfect format for teens who get bored easily and are comfortable with online content.

Ryan and Sarah live in the remote town of Skeleton Creek, and the whole adventure begins with their question: why name a town Skeleton Creek? A little digging (and some ominous warnings from the town librarian) turns up a bit of town history: it was once named Linkford, and the change had something to do with the New York Gold and Silver Company, a defunct mining concern that once had big interests in the town. Cryptic ads in these old newspapers put the kids on the lookout for the Crossbones Society, but their real interest is The Dredge. It’s a huge old piece of mining equipment, abandoned way out in the woods. They decide to make a midnight trip to the Dredge to investigate. What could possibly go wrong?

Ryan is seriously injured, locked up at home with a broken leg; he and Sarah are warned not to contact each other (this isn’t their first brush with trouble). So Sarah investigates on her own and posts her videos on a password-protected website for Ryan to watch. The mystery involves the librarian, the death of Old Joe Bush, a secret society with a secret meeting place, mysterious alchemical symbols and a tattoo. Periodically throughout the book, the journal directs the reader to Sarah’s website, providing a password, and the video provides more clues.

The videos have all the shaky-cam appeal of a Blair Witch-style dash through the forest. The book is aimed at kids 10 and up, so I don’t think they’re too scary (although I watched them at home, by myself, about 2:00 am – adds to the ambience). I have to say that this is exactly the sort of book that would have appealed to me as a kid. I was always scaring friends with ghost stories, always loved horror movies, and this would have been perfect.

I also think this is an interesting direction for books — more online content, more extras to increase their appeal, and more ways to draw young people in and get them hooked on reading. Sarah’s website, SarahFincher.com has several easter eggs (click on anything that glows – there’s a music video, a list of favorite films, but I really don’t get the fudgesicle thing). There’s a great fansite, SkeletonCreekisreal.com with more videos, theories and discussion, which provide more ways for kids to experience the story and talk with other readers. Is this the direction that the publishing industry is heading? I don’t know, but I really enjoyed this whole book experience – reading, watching and wondering.