Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hollow City - the Second Novel of Miss Pergerine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published by Quirk Books

The sequel to Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, this again is a novel that combines a fantasy that works quite well into how children may have perceived the second World War, the lives of what were once referred to as 'freaks' in a carnival, the lives of children who have become orphaned through whatever means, and more. Ransom Riggs has taken a group of antique photos he has found throughout several years and extracted a story from the mix. Some are perfectly normal photos of the past century, some are obviously from various carnivals, all have become a story. Not the story of the photos, but a strange and compelling story gleaned via Ransom's own imagination of what they imply, and in some cases I suspect stories related through research.

The author has created a hidden world in his books. Are the photos creating the story? Or is the story the basis of the search for the photos? I think in this second book it is quite obvious that the photos inspire the story, perhaps more so than the first book. Regardless, it is out of the collection and the search that the story has been born. The photos are real. In fact, one I recognize because I once collected old postcards and in the process happened to see it. Personally, I think this is a wonderful method of creation. The imagination flows from each photo into a complete, at times war-torn, world. A complete life story has come from each personal photo, though some are pretty far-fetched, it is a fantasy after all. The monsters the 'peculiar' children are so terrified of appear to almost be an allegory of the monsters of war. Considering most of the story in their hidden time loop is in 1940, this makes sense. But it is also a love story, a group of individual children that are different becoming strong in their individualities, especially in their search for help for their injured guardian, Miss Peregrine. Regardless, this unique method has produced interesting concepts in both books and may just change the way 'different' people are viewed. Surprising twist at the end. Middle grade and up.
My review of "Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children can be found here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Messengers by Edward Hogan

Published by Candlewick Press
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

A dark and lonely book, intense and moody. Not quite what one would expect, this book does capture the attention once the real action begins. A bit of a slow start, with Frances mourning her absent brother, a boxer who is on the run. She is sent to live with her Aunt, Uncle and cousin until things settle down. The main characters are teens, young and old teens. The characters are fairly well developed considering their ages. Written for young adults, I don't think I would recommend it for younger age groups. It is a fascinating psychological study in which the two main characters unwillingly hold life and death in their hands, but a philosophical one as well.  A unique plot and concept by Edward Hogan to keep us questioning.

Fifteen-year-old Frances doesn't know or understand her "gift" but wishes she didn't have it once she learns what it is. When she meets Peter, who has lived with this for several years, he mentors her. It's rather fascinating when we get into the idea that these two have a talent in art, but their art is only visible to others it is somewhat like cubic or similar to Picasso's most abstract work. But it is why and how they do this that is the story and the nightmare. 

What would you do if you found you were a messenger of death, would you try to avoid it, change it? What if found out if you didn't deliver the message to avoid that person dying, someone in your own family would die in their place? And what would you do if you thought you had found a way out of this horrible dilemma? This is truly a psychological thriller. Where and how will it all end? Who will be next? This book stays with you long after reading it. Will Frances' discovery make a difference to the message? Or will she remain a messenger as long as she lives.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Island of Bones (Louis Kincaid) by P.J. Parrish

A plot as twisted and hidden as the tangled mangroves, suspenseful, dark, yet curiously entertaining.

This is my first visit to the world of Louis Kincaid, and what an adventure it was! With a sort of laid back beginning through to the final whirlwind, it truly kept my attention. A hurricane sweeps the Florida island where he lives and washes up what he originally believes to be a murdered baby's skull. It takes a new father only a quick glance to inform him that it is a newborn's skull and no murder. It also appears to be about 500 years old. Is this a portent of things to come? Will this innocent child connect the dots? For some reason, Kincaid has become very attached to this baby's skull and can't escape the thoughts about what could have caused it's death.

Once we really get into the book, we get into the world of missing girls, a strange privately owned island, a possible serial killer...but I'm getting ahead of myself. For the missing persons case, an unlikely relationship builds up between the new head detective and our private investigator, Louis Kincaid. Kincaid has been approached by a woman who wants him to follow her father, Frank Woods. She suspects him of killing the girl who has gone missing. With not much to go on, why would she hire a private detective for this vague premise? While watching her father, he finds him to be a very mild-mannered librarian. Following him seems a waste of time, he rarely changes his routine. But there are many questions.

The book suddenly takes off, having grabbed my attention thoroughly while following the whys and wherefores up until now. A connection is made to another island, the action and suspense begin to take on much more momentum, adrenaline flows and so does mine as I read. An ancient Roman/Spanish family tree, Asturian descendents who often speak in Latin, owners and protectors of the island Away So Far, a misnomer based on the Spanish for Island of Bones, Isla de huesos. P.J. Parrish has done very deep research to back up this story line. The background is as much a character as any of the people. History, mystery, murder, and genetics all rolled into one strong story. Great characterizations, great twisting plot as twisted and hidden as the tangled mangroves, suspenseful, dark, yet curiously entertaining.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Root Awakening - a Flower Shop Mystery series by Kate Collins

Published by Obsidian

Bouquets can sometimes open doors

What do a man on a ladder, a child who looks at Abby strangely, a woman with a mop, and a possible murder have to do with a search by Abby and Marco for a house of their own? Throw in help from Abby's very pregnant cousin Jillian who has renewed her real estate license to find the perfect house, her seemingly everlasting false labor pains, and Abby prowling after possible criminals and what do you have? A book that is a quick, easy read that will have you scratching your head, as one possible crime becomes entangled with another possible crime to keep you on your toes. What or who caused Sergio's fall? If it was deliberate, which of his co-workers may have seen something or even might have pushed the ladder away from the roof?

Marco and Abby, now married and living in Marco's loft, are finding their quarters cramped and really want to move into their own place. Business is brisk at Bloomers, the flower shop Abby owns and operates, and Marco is kept very busy with his two businesses, his bar "Down the Hatch" and his private investigator business. Abby is almost always his assistant on top of her own job managing her store.

This series is fun and captivating. The kooky items that Abby's mother brings in to sell in the shop gives Abby grief, but they are so creatively awkward they are entertaining in their own right. The camaraderie between Abby and her assistants is comforting, and fortunately allows her time to work on what she calls her "hobby", sleuthing, her three-legged rescue dog Seedy often accompanying her.

Rosa, Sergio's wife, is absolutely sure that someone pushed her husband off the roof and has hired Marco to find the culprit. In the meantime, she begins working part-time in Bloomers when she isn't by Sergio's side waiting and hoping for him to regain consciousness. There is so much going on in this book, with some very strange twists, but the story line remains intact and quickly moves in action and excitement. Another strong plot in the Flower Shop Mysteries from Kate Collins.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Published by Bantam

 An enticing novel of beauty, fantasy and life in the Victorian era
A quite amazing semi-biographical tale of the real Alice in Wonderland, Alice Pleasance Liddell. This is a novel, therefore fiction, but I doubt there was much fiction involved. This book read as nearly to a biography as a book ever has. In fact, it had me eager to look up Alice Liddell as a curiosity. What an amazing story the author has wrought. It was so easy to fall into the rabbit hole with Alice. As she herself states on first hearing Mr. Charles Dodgson tell it, as he has told her and her sisters tales before, this is her story. I loved the way the characters in what came to be such a famous childrens book fell into place, each fitting a character from life so smoothly. This book has everything a person could want in the genre of Victorian history, a remarkable and famous children's story, romance, deceit, and above all giving life to Alice in Wonderland. This book flows beautifully with the showing the world from the eyes of a child, a young lady in love, and finally an elderly woman who finally comes to terms with her life.

Taken that this book, the story as perceived by Alice, took place in the Victorian era, we must take some of it as plausible, particularly the apparent demise of the relationship, because this has never been resolved in fact, only that something did happen. Something of great import in the days of Queen Victoria's reign. Alice seems not to remember what happened that long ago day, even into her eighties. It may seem odd in this day and age that after asking Charles Dodgson, who later as we know took the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll, to write down the story he had just told the three sisters, and claiming it was about her, she didn't read it for many decades, not even to her own children.

The book is so thorough, so much a sincere biography and so much a work of fiction but most certainly based on biographical material. Melanie Benjamin has done considerable research on the subject and has turned it into a work worthy of it's subject. It takes us into the life of Alice and the life of Alice in Wonderland equally. They are one and yet they are not. A very convincing historic novel.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sting of the Drone by Richard A. Clarke

Published by Thomas Dunne Books (2014)

Fast paced, all-too-real fight against terrorism. Very relevant.
This book threw me into the thick of the drama at the very beginning. A high velocity thriller with all the technology anyone could hope for, especially if they don't like someone! This is the world of Drones. I had no idea there were so many sizes, types, outfitted, unarmed drones nor how connected they were to space. If we thought our skies were getting crowded, just imagine this mostly-invisible and sometimes disguised fleet flying around from almost all countries, zipping around all our regular aircraft. Talk about an eye-opener!

These usually silent assassins are directed by an elite group of select pilots who actually "fly" the drones from thousands of miles away. This is their story. The action is not completely non-stop, often it is a wait, assess, check and double-check for innocent non-targets--possibility of "collateral damage" in range--to determine whether action will be taken. What I like, action aside, is the stories presented throughout the book, the personal backgrounds, the lives they lead outside of work. The personalities and back-stories possibly based on real people and events although the book is fictional.

But wait! The book takes a turn-around and it becomes even closer to non-fiction as the terrorists learn from their losses and change their tactics. Now we see the world tipping on it's axis as collateral damage piles up, many victims children. This book is adrenaline full-steam and keeps on escalating. Richard A. Clarke knows what he's writing about. A well-written book of our times. Adventure, terror, a high-tech thriller at it's best.

Colt O'Brien Has a Family by George Matthew Cole

Final book in series

This is the 3rd and final book of the Young Colt O'Brien series. Colt has run into a few problems in the first two books: He has taken on more than he can chew occasionally because of his overconfidence in own brilliance and his abilities of computer repair and recovery. He is an IT whiz but hasn't always paid attention to rules. He also discovered some psychic abilities that he must learn to control. If that weren't enough, in Book 2 he and his girl-friend Amy got married, and now at the beginning of this final book of the series the story begins with Amy in labor about to have their first child. Colt is now twenty years old and meets with even more challenges in his life and career. Having a wife and son to support changes his life in ways he could never have imagined.

This series could be looked at as a learning tool, or a study in how difficult and full of pitfalls that life can be as a young adult. Psychic interference aside, what Colt, Bobby and Amy go through as they progress through various challenges and pitfalls is common to many young people. I think the series can demonstrate how young people no matter how hard they may try, may not be able to avoid what life is going to throw at them. It also shows how more experienced and older mentors can be a tremendous boon toward keeping grounded. Without the assistance of Colt's mentors, he would definitely be in trouble with life. Especially with his psychic awareness, much as it has been helpful as a warning of something to come.

Once again, with Colt's abilities in the IT field, he and his IT friend get into deep trouble when they are manipulated in the world of corporate espionage. However, with the mentoring Colt has had, both in learning about job interviews and work politics, and the lessons to help ground his psychic abilities and dealing with loss, he has become an adult. It was quite a struggle, but very consistent with how much young people go through in order to get to that place. George Matthew Cole has neatly tied up the series in a completely satisfying manner, true to the series throughout. If you haven't read the first two Colt O'Brien series I recommend you do, as this book is clearly an extension to the others, and brings everything into focus. That said, the book can stand alone in the midst of trial, tribulation and growing pains.