Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's School for Gifted Children, by Ransom Riggs

This one had some potential; it definitely started out pretty good. Confused boy...Jeff? Larry? James? Something like that...we'll call him Jeff. (I probably should remember his name, since I just finished this book not 5 minutes ago.) Anyway, Jeff has a seemingly crazy Grandpa who says he grew up with a bunch of 'peculiar' kids with a bunch of special powers. No one believes crazy Grandpa, but one day Grandpa gets killed by a scary monster. Maybe he wasn't so crazy after all!

Spoiler: he wasn't crazy. He really did live with a bunch of peculiar kids with special a big secret mansion...cared for by a time-traveling shape shifting a plot that was absolutely nothing like X-Men whatsoever.

The X-Peculiars befriend Jeff and together they must defeat the monster things that killed Jeff's Grandpa. Along the way, they will:

  • Swear a lot. PG-13 language, but a lot of it. 
  • Travel to distant lands using very flimsy excuses
  • Play on a dangerous island with the permission of Jeff's dad, who is really very cool with his son playing on a dangerous like Scottish island that they've never been to and that the locals warn is very dangerous. 
  • Try their darnedest to not re-create the nearly exact plot to all of the X Men movies
Unfortunately, they fail in their endeavor of the last bullet. It's almost exactly like most of the X Men movies. All-powerful headmistress with super powers who gets conveniently knocked out of commission at the end, forcing the heroes to face the bad guys on their own, mutant powers, feeling different, being discriminated against, having characters survive the holocaust, and so on.

The good news is, if you like the X Men movies and have a terrible memory, you will not mind this book. It's kind of a Hunger Games for teenage guys, I guess, since there is some light romance but it's all very guy perspective-y. So there's that. 

The author leaves the ending wide open for a sequel, and in fact I've already checked it out from the library. Even though this book was derivative and not technically that good, it was interspersed with some interesting creepy authentic old-timey photos throughout. The author tried to weave them into the story, and hilariously failed, but they're still cool pictures and they help the story move along. 

I recommend this book to people who would prefer to read words rather than stare at their open palms. This book was significantly better than trying to read my hands, which have no words on them whatsoever, unless I'm trying to remember someone's name or other important data, in which case, my hands say 'Tuesday, 7:30.' Again: the book would win. Marginally.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep, by SJ Watson

So this was an interesting book, made even more so by the fact that I have absolutely no idea how I came to decide to read it. I must have read about it on some blog, only I can't find it on any of the regular blogs I read. At some point I put it in my library queue and that was that.

I got the audio CD version, and found that it was the first book on CD that I've ever heard that was narrated by a woman. So that was a change of pace, and one that took a lot of getting used to as it was a British woman no less. 

The book itself is kindof a bit of Memento where the lead character has amnesia and can only remember things for a short period of time. For this woman, she retains memories until she goes to sleep at night. The next day, she's forgotten everything that's happened in the last 20 years.

There are a number of twists and turns, but almost none of them turn out to be quite as interesting as the book suggests they could be. In the end, the 'real' story is really pretty safe and straightforward. With a premise like this, it could have gone a lot further but never did. It's kind of like Inception, which is a great movie but, let's face it, no one really dreams of anything all that creative at all in it. Tom Hardy says, "Don't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling," and he's dreamed up a larger gun, but why doesn't he dream up like a rainbow-colored space rabbit that has laser beam eyeballs instead? That would have been perfectly within the acceptable world of Inception. I guess a slightly larger gun costs less? 

The prose is written extremely girly. I was 100% positive the author was a woman. It turns out it's a dude. Somehow. So I guess that's good, sort of? I definitely believed that the author had the female perspective down pat. Hope you like about 300 pages of worrying about wrinkles and stretch marks because the character is sad that she's older now!

Anyhoo, I'd say to skip this one. There's a bit of language here and there and the back story you eventually discover will just frustrate you that it's not cooler. Rent Inception instead, and watch it with 3-D glasses, even if you didn't get the 3-D version.