In my review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I wrote that Ransom Riggs is clearly a talented writer, but that his talents didn't seemIn my review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I wrote that Ransom Riggs is clearly a talented writer, but that his talents didn't seem to be up to the task to explaining the system of time loops that are at the center the book. I said that I hoped that the second book in the trilogy would offer some fuller explanations. Unfortunately, I'm just as much in the dark as I was before, perhaps even more so. No better explanations of the time loops were forthcoming, and some additional twists were thrown in to make them even more confusing. Still, the characters and story were just as good, and I'm excited to see how Riggs wraps things up in the third book (and still hoping for an explanation of the time loops that I can wrap my head around)....more
When we left Hank and Julie at the end of Gap Creek (published in 2000), they were leaving Gap Creek and heading back up the mountain to begin anew. HWhen we left Hank and Julie at the end of Gap Creek (published in 2000), they were leaving Gap Creek and heading back up the mountain to begin anew. Having survived a very rough first year of marriage, they were full of hope and love and the future seemed bright. And, indeed, the future does seem to have been good to them. In this sequel, narrated by Annie, one of their daughters, some 25 years after the events in Gap Creek, Hank and Julie have created a family, are financially stable, and overall seem to have been doing well in the years since we last saw them. How did they get there? Don't ask me.
Here is what we learn about those years: after leaving Gap Creek, Hank and Julie at some point moved back there, and then left again, when Annie was about 5 years old; Hank was able to find steady work in the '20s by building summer cottages for rich people; with steady work, he gained confidence; and they have 4 children. Why did they return to Gap Creek? Why did they leave again? Dunno. I suppose the stories must not be very interesting, since the only family lore Annie seems to know are things that happened when her parents were newlyweds - in other words, stories we already know if we read Gap Creek. A sequel doesn't have to describe every detail that we've missed in the lives of the characters, but it's almost as though Morgan's imagination just totally failed him and he just doesn't know what happened to his characters in those 25 years. In which case, quite frankly, this book needed a different title, because the road from Gap Creek is not at all the story it tells.
That being said, the writing is, of course, beautiful and evocative of Appalachia in the late 1930s and into WWII. As a stand-alone book, this would have been a lovely read. As a sequel, it just doesn't hold up....more
Reading this book felt a little like watching a silent movie: some jerky, indistinct action, interspersed with text that's supposed to illuminate theReading this book felt a little like watching a silent movie: some jerky, indistinct action, interspersed with text that's supposed to illuminate the dialogue you can't hear, but doesn't necessarily help bring the story into focus.
The story begins as Eva's mother takes her to her father's house for the first time, where she meets her half-sister Iris, and is in for some nasty surprises about her father. Eva and Iris escape to Hollywood, where Iris has some initial success in becoming a starlet, before she is black-balled by the industry. Beginning to widen the cast of characters, Eva and Iris move to New York where the bulk of the action takes place. But why do people choose to go with them? Why do others join the little group in New York? Explanation of motivation is sorely lacking in the narrative. Instead, we are asked to accept, for example, that someone with a long and successful career as a make-up artist in Hollywood would just give that up to join two girls he hardly knows on a cross-country trip. Ok, yes, he felt about what happened to Iris, but I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.
I also felt like the narrative followed the wrong character. Eva just isn't very interesting. I'm not sure that I would have found Iris to be all that more compelling, as she comes across as shallow and self-involved, but at least she has agency in her own life. Eva just sort of drifts along, and seems to almost willfully not understand what's going on around her.
And yet, by the end of the book, I understood where the title came from, and what Bloom was trying to do. It was a satisfying ending, if not a satisfying beginning or middle....more
This book is a wonderful mix of the fantastic and the mundane. It's an ordinary world, but some people have "peculiarities" - invisibility, the abilitThis book is a wonderful mix of the fantastic and the mundane. It's an ordinary world, but some people have "peculiarities" - invisibility, the ability to levitate, or create and control a ball of fire, and the like.
Although the premise of ordinary-kid-finds-out-he-has-extraordinary-powers is a bit worn-out these days, Riggs manages to turn it into something new. I don't know whether it's the somewhat-disturbing photos that are sprinkled through the book that keep it grounded, or the fact that Jacob's "peculiarity" doesn't seem all that phenomenal, but whatever it is, it makes this book read more like fiction than fantasy. I'll take either, and don't mean to make a judgment-call about fiction over fantasy here. I only mean to say that Riggs has a very deft touch as a writer.
Unfortunately, his touch his not so deft when it comes to explaining the idea of a "loop". The idea is that the "peculiarity" exhibited by some people is that they can create a loop of time that continuously resets itself as long as its creator can maintain control over it. I get that, and I can even wrap my head around the seeming-inconsistency that, although the people outside the loop are completely unaware of it, what happens to people inside the loop is permanent (everyone inside the loop remembers everything, if someone dies, they stay dead, even after the loop resets, etc.). What I couldn't make square was that people from both inside and outside the loop can enter and leave at will, as long as they know where the entrance is, without there being any impact on the loop itself. There are going to be more books about the peculiar children, so perhaps this will be explained, or perhaps I just need to take it on faith, but as it stands it detracted from an otherwise very enjoyable, and subtle, story....more
Now with the elite Special Operations Executive, Maggie continues her somewhat maverick approach to acts of derring-do on behalf of His Majesty with a two-pronged mission in Berlin. Unfortunately, most of the people she encounters during her exploits there fail to come alive on the page. Add to that less-than-convincing mission details and some entirely-too-coincidental meet-ups, and this adventure just doesn't measure up. But MacNeal has already proven that she has what it takes in this genre, so I'll continue to hope for good things in future Maggie Hope adventures.
Two additional notes: First, this book shouldn't really be called a mystery, since there is no mystery to be solved. Second, MacNeal shouldn't feel the need to rip off scenes from tv shows, although I'm sure it was entirely an unconscious thing on her part. She chose one of my favorite scenes from an excellent show (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but I was still very disappointed. Her writing is strong enough without resorting to copying, even from the greats....more
In my review of Winston Churchill's Secretary, the first of the Maggie Hope books, I said that the series showed promise as MacNeal settled into her tIn my review of Winston Churchill's Secretary, the first of the Maggie Hope books, I said that the series showed promise as MacNeal settled into her talents as a writer. With this second installment, MacNeal is certainly starting to live up to that promise. Although some of the language is still a bit clunky (and there are far too many mentions of birds), the story itself flows much more smoothly than it did in the first book and MacNeal takes fewer shortcuts to get her characters in and out of situations.
Newly installed with MI-5, Maggie Hope is placed at Windsor Castle at Christmas in 1940. Posing as Princess Elizabeth's math tutor, she is really there to ferret out a possible plot against the future queen's life. Descriptions of life at Windsor Castle during this period are well-done, and glimpses of historical personages are clearly well-researched. Once again, MacNeal does an excellent job bringing to life a fascinating aspect of Britain during WWII, while at the same time allowing Maggie to grow as a character and as a spy. I look forward to reading more!...more
This book got off to a very promising start for me. Nayman's initial narrator (Oscar) said something that gave me an instant feeling of connection. BuThis book got off to a very promising start for me. Nayman's initial narrator (Oscar) said something that gave me an instant feeling of connection. But, after only a few pages with this narrator, and just as things are starting to get interesting, we are abruptly thrust into a new time and place, and given a narrator (Christine) with whom I not only felt no connection, but couldn't even bring myself to be really interested in at all. I was so turned off by this section of the book, that I had a hard time feeling any investment in the the next section, even though I felt at least some connection with this third narrator (Marilyn). Both Christine and Marilyn hint at some dark secret from Oscar's past that they think they know, though both do it in such a jumpy, pseudo-tantalizing fashion that by the time we hear Oscar's voice again I was more relieved that all the games were coming to an end than actually interested in what the secret was.
It's a shame that the story felt so herky-jerky, because I think that if Nayman had kept Oscar's voice as the sole narrator throughout the book her story would have had the emotional impact she was going for. Instead, by throwing in so many extraneous plot points and red herrings (Christine's opium addiction and Marilyn's conflicting feelings about her wartime photography, among others) she's declawed what could have been a powerful story....more
This book should have been a fun read. It deals with some of the most interesting aspects of WWII-era London including cryptography and Churchill's ofThis book should have been a fun read. It deals with some of the most interesting aspects of WWII-era London including cryptography and Churchill's offices at 10 Downing St. and adds the little-discussed element of IRA activity in London during this time. Unfortunately, the book's numerous flaws overshadow the positive aspects. MacNeal takes several shortcuts to get characters were she needs them and to move the narrative along.
However, as the first book in a projected series about Maggie Hope, it shows promise. As MacNeal settles into her narrative talents (which are certainly evident, despite this book's shortcomings), she will figure out to avoid the pitfalls of narrative convenience and lovers of strong female detectives in historical fiction will have another series to become engrossed in....more
In order for a narrative conceit to work, it can't get in the way of the story. In this book, de Rosnay employs two conceits, one of which, alternatinIn order for a narrative conceit to work, it can't get in the way of the story. In this book, de Rosnay employs two conceits, one of which, alternating chapters between 1942 and present day, works fairly well. Unfortunately, I felt like I was continuously tripping over the other conceit, that of referring to the main character of the historical chapters as "the girl". It seems completely unnecessary to refer to her that way, since the reader can easily guess her name, and it's eventual revelation is completely anticlimactic. Ditto for the revelation of the name of "the child" later in the book.
The story itself is engaging, if somewhat predictable. Certainly, de Rosnay is to be given credit for bringing to light a part of the Holocaust - the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup in Paris - that gets little attention. She's not exactly subtle about it, but her point is well-taken....more
The entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was missing something, like it was the sequel to a book I hadn't read. Relationships were writtThe entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was missing something, like it was the sequel to a book I hadn't read. Relationships were written as though there was a lot of tension between characters, but nothing was developed enough (either in the backstory or the present story) for me to really care about where the tension came from, or whether it got resolved. Most of the characters seemed to just drift through the story, occasionally colliding with each other in encounters that were evidently supposed to be very weighty, but really just seemed like random plot devices. I think Kluge was aiming for high drama, but only managed to give us melodrama....more
When an author chooses to write a novel in the first person, they make a choice about the voice of the novel as a whole. The interior dialogue of a naWhen an author chooses to write a novel in the first person, they make a choice about the voice of the novel as a whole. The interior dialogue of a narrator must match their exterior dialogue. If the two don't match up, it detracts from the credibility of the character and the overall readability of the novel. The disparity between inner and outer voice is especially striking when the character speaks in dialect, as is the case here. The narrative switches among 4 characters, two native Englishpeople, and two who have moved from Jamaica to England. One of the Jamaicans speaks in a strong dialect, while the other is quite proud of her "King's English" even though she often finds that English shopkeepers don't understand a word she says. And yet the interior voice of both of these characters is largely the same as each other, and the same as the other two narrators. I found this disparity distracted a lot from the story....more