Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children :: Peculiar…in a Good Way

Ever since Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children first hit stores, I’ve been dying to read it. The book is based around a collection of creepy old photos, many of which depict children with preternatural abilities. I read a lot of reviews on this book prior to reading it, and they weren’t all positive. I’m a little confused about this because I thought the story was fantastic. The old photos were a nice touch, but  the story itself was solid and written well for a teen audience. I wouldn’t call the book scary. Creepy, perhaps, but more adventurous than anything.

The story follows Jacob, who’s been listening to his grandfather’s far-fetched stories for years – tales of his so-called “friends” who are a little more than human. He even has the photos to prove it. But Jacob and his parents have always assumed his stories were just that – stories – until he became more certain of their authenticity in his old age. Jacob’s parents chalked it down to senility and dementia.

One day, his grandfather calls Jacob, insisting that the monsters are coming for him. When Jacob shows up at his house and discovers his shredded corpse, he gains a new perspective on everything his grandfather told him. Maybe he was telling the truth all along.

While recovering from his grandfather’s death with rest and therapy, Jacob discovers an old letter written to his grandfather from Miss Peregrine. Jacob decides to follow the clues whispered to him during the last moments of his grandfather’s life. He and his dad travel halfway across the world to a remote island where Miss Peregrine and her children are rumoured to live.

Jacob investigates the island, only to come across an old, decrepit house, half of it bombed to bits, the other half fallen to ruin. While searching the rotting house, Jacob encounters the very kids from his grandfather’s photos – kids who haven’t grown a day in all these years. One girl unwittingly leads him into the loop – a day trapped in time like Groundhog Day. It’s an early September day in 1940, the day before the house would be bombed and the children killed. All of the miraculous kids, along with Miss Peregrine, are destined to repeat the same day for the rest of their lives.

Jacob connects with these kids better than anyone else in his life. He’s torn between the decision to stay with his new friends or go back to his normal friendless life. But when a mysterious stranger arrives on the island, threatening the lives of all the children and their caretaker, Jacob realizes that a normal life is no longer an option.


iBoy – Not Your Average Superhero

I realize that I haven’t posted a blog since the summer. It’s mostly because I haven’t read a book worth blogging about until last week, which was iBoy by Kevin Brooks. It’s about a teenage boy who suffers a head injury when an iPhone is thrown from a high-rise apartment building. Small pieces of the iPhone are lodged into sensitive parts of his brain tissue making it impossible for the doctors to remove all of it. These pieces somehow fuse with his brain, giving his mind the capabilities of an iPhone, along with a few superpowers. When I first read the synopsis of this book, I though Oh, great, more publicity for iPhones and all the other technology that’s taking over the world. But I gave it a chance anyway and was pleasantly surprised. Kevin Brooks is a great writer. (Click here for a full review)

I’ve noticed a pattern with the books I tend to enjoy; some are dystopian, others are modern day, none are vampires – but almost all of them are targeted at boys. I am not a boy. My boyfriend will attest to that. But for some reason, very few books with female protagonists excite me. I find the girls spend too much time in their heads, dreaming about a tall, dark and handsome vampire/werewolf/ghost/angel/immortal/demon/pixie/fairy/god, which is totally not my type anyway. So I tend to prefer male protagonists, who spend more time getting into and out of life-threatening situations. Any writer who can keep me at the edge of my seat, completely clueless as to how a character will get out of a deadly predicament is a good one in my books.

Heavenly Writing Meets the Life From Hell in Escape From Furnace: Lockdown

I’ve noticed a pattern in my literature preferences lately. Each book that I read and love exceeds the one before in brutality and violence. And I just can’t get enough! First I read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, which is a post-apocalypic and dystopian series for teens that is so clever and creepy and unique, I never could have come up with his ideas in a million years. Then I read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness, a teen dystopian series about human life on a different planet. The corruption in this series, namely caused by the Mayor and his supporters, is just the most fascinating and frustrating thing you can imagine. And I love it.

Now, I’m reading the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith. I read the first book, Lockdown, and I’m about halfway through the second, Solitary. This series isn’t so much a dystopian as it is a horror/thriller. But it has some of the most creepy creatures, brutal practices, and gruesome settings that I’ve ever seen in teen lit. My 18 year old cousin was never much of a reader. Nothing was ever fast-paced or well-written enough to capture his attention. But this series did. He called me up one night after finishing the first book hoping (with desperation in his voice) that I had the second. I didn’t at the time. But after hearing his eagerness, I knew this was something I would like. So I went out and bought both books, and I honestly can’t get enough.

Furnace Peneteniary is a prison for troubled youth, built in the depths of the Earth. It was created after the Summer of Slaughter, when teens went on a murderous rampage. After that horrible season, people were quick to get rid of the troubled youth, even if they were innocent.

Alex, the protagonist, fell into the wrong group of friends and began stealing from kids at school and breaking into houses. But one night, he and his friend Toby discovered that they weren’t alone in the house they were robbing. A handful of Blacksuits, massive men with bulgding muscles, along with a small man wearing a gas mask, showed up and framed Alex for murder. Despite his denial during his trail, Alex was sent to Furnace with no possibility of parole. His life might as well have been over.

They say “beneath Heaven is Hell and beneath Hell is Furnance” and I have no doubt that that’s true. Furnace makes regular prison look like a day at the spa. I don’t want to get into any of the gory, ruthless details, but I will say this. What goes on down there is horrifyingly brilliant: horrifying for the prisioners, brilliant for the readers! So if you like horror novels, or even if you like the first two series’ I mentioned above, you will love this series. Love, love, love.


Persevering Through Industry Changes :: A Writer’s Struggle to Continue

UPDATE. Okay, so I didn’t actually give up on my first book. I just started an even more extensive tweaking session. It’s funny how, when I’m writing my novel, I get all these ideas for other books. But as soon as I put mine down and begin something new, I miss the old and familiar story. I miss the characters. I miss the plans I had for their futures. That being said, I returned to my original book. I’m still writing that second book when I get ideas for it. But nothing beats my original. All it took for me to see that was to put down the teen books and start reading in the YA (9-12) genre again.

It’s funny how another published book can either shoot down your confidence or boost it up. My editor assigned me three books to review (for the website I write for). Two were supposedly “teen” and one was “YA”. After reading the first (and I’m not going to name any names, because I like and respect this author), I realized that the target audience was way off. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of books in these age groups, so I know a thing or two about target audiences. Well, this “teen” book was definitely not old enough for a teen audience. Also, (and I promise you I am not a cocky person AT ALL) that book had nothing on mine. It was so basic and yet hard to follow, the explanations for the goings on in that world were virtually non-existent and it was extremely challenging to visualize. It only took 50 pages for me to realize that my book has so much more depth and thought put into it.

Next I read, Michael Scott’s The Warlock, and I didn’t like it. Granted, this book is for teens. And also granted, I did jump into this series at book fire. However, when The Alchemyst (book 1) first came out years ago, I read it and was extremely disappointed. I guess I judged the book by its dazzlingly magical cover. Which I do. A lot. But since reading that book, I’ve had a ton of kids come into my used book store looking for Michael Scott’s series. And they all love his books. It shows me that there is an audience for pretty much any writing style. Anyhow, back on track: I read The Warlock and there were so many characters that I had a very hard time following the plot. Which, again, gave me another ounce of confidence in my own writing.

Then I read The Fourth Circle of Heck: Fibble by Dale E. Basye. I’m not saying the book was bad. It just wasn’t my taste. I found there were waaay to many h-e-double-hockey-sticks puns, and I found they interrupted the fluidity of the story. Again, I admit that I haven’t read the first three books in the series, so that hinders my understanding of scenery, personalities and continued plotlines. But I will say that over the years that I’ve been reviewing young adult books, I’ve read a ton of sequels without having read the first books in the series’. And there are very few that don’t stand on their own. Often, I don’t notice that the book is sequel until I finish reading it. 

So after reading these three books, I regained my confidence and my motivation to continue working on my novel. But thank you to those of you who are encouraging me to persevere. I wasn’t giving up because of the rejections. I’m not worried about those. I was giving up because of industry trends. But now I’m thinking, if you can’t join a trend, change it.

Teen Science Fiction Trend: Out With The Vampires, In With The Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Sci-fi

Thanks to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, teens (and adults who read teen books as a guilty pleasure–like myself) had to spend years drowning in the vampire phenomenon. And just when the stories started becoming far too repetitive, authors expanded to other paranormal creatures like werewolves, ghosts, faeries and so on.

Finally–finally–teen fiction is moving away from this overdone trend, and letting the kids of the vampire generation experience a genre of possibility–post-apocalyptic science fiction. So far there seems to be a common thread among those published already; the future will have a more structured and strict government, technology won’t be completely eradicated, and many people–namely the poor–will live a more primitive lifestyle.

The birth of this sci-fi trend began in 2008, but didn’t really show promise until 2010. Here are some of the best teen science fiction series so far:

I’m sure there are many more to come in this genre. In the mean time, if you’ve ready read this list of books, why not return to the classics like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner: My New Favorite Book

Every once in a while a book comes along that really changes your outlook on literature. At least it does for me. It’s rare, but it happens. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner did that for me. It opened me up to a genre that I never knew I loved–postapocalyptic science fiction for teens. I finished reading his first book in the series, The Maze Runner, feeling eager for more. He leaves you with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering “what’s next?!”

So I immediately logged onto Amazon and ordered book 2. I have spent the entire month of March reading it, not because it was bad, or ridiculously long. The exact opposite, in fact. It was brilliant. Ten times better than The Maze Runner, and twenty times better than most teen books on the market.

In The Maze Runner, Thomas, along with a group of teenage boys and one girl are trapped in a place called the Glade which sits right next to a giant maze. Even though their memories are wiped and they have no idea why they’re stuck in there, they realize that they have to find a way out. But it’s not easy with these deadly, unearthly creatures called Grievers roaming through the maze at night. By the end of the book, they find a way out (but I won’t give away the “how”). But when they reach the outside world, it’s nothing like they expected. There’s been an apocalypse, and most of the survivors have been infected by a disease called the Flare, which essentially makes you crazy, wither and die.

In The Scorch Trials, the boys realize that their problems are far from over. In fact, in the Glade they lived a life of luxury compared to what’s to come. After being nearly starved to death, they learn about their next adventure (and by adventure, I mean a horrifying, deadly, depressing and questionable journey through a desert and the remains of a city, inhabited by crazy people who are infected by the Flare). And the worst part? They are infected, too. If they don’t make it to the “safe haven” in the alloted time, they won’t receive the cure.

Thomas knows that this is just another test by the organization called WICKED. He knows that they are studying him and his friends to see how they respond to the “variables.” And he knows that he was somehow a part of WICKED before his memories were wiped. How does he know all of this? Because his memories are starting to come back in his dreams.

The increase in intensity from the first book to the second is astronomical. I went days without reading it just because I was afraid I would read through the night and finish it. But yesterday I did finish it (sad face). And again I’m left wondering, “what’s next?!” I can’t wait until October for book 3. I just can’t.

James Dashner, you’re my new hero. (Please send me an advanced copy of your book to review. Pretty please?)