Saturday, July 20, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I won't lie, I had absolutely no intention of reading this book, thanks to the creepy little girl on the cover. My bookseller friends were all interested in reading it, but I kept taking a pass, until I saw it on an impulse desk at my library. I mean, why not pick up a book then? The lesson that I learned is the age old "Don't judge a book by its cover." I was blown away at how fascinating the story was, and the originality and work involved in creating a story out of a collection of old photographs. In my opinion, Riggs did a phenomenal job introducing characters and plot out of random unconnected pictures, and Miss Peregrine is a 5 out of 5 star series/author debut.

From the publisher:
A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

My thoughts:
I thought this was a well thought out story; evidently Riggs has imagination aplenty to come up with such a colorful backstory to so many unrelated photographs. I found myself dreading the moment when I had to put the book down to get sleep or go to work or something, eagerly anticipating the next chance I'd have to pick it back up and see what Jacob was up to. The peculiar children are much more interesting, and less creepy, than the photographs suggest, and it was easy to imagine what they would be like if I were to visit Wales and run into them at the crumbling orphanage.

One of the biggest complaints I have heard about this book is that it wasn't what people had expected from the cover/summary, and honestly I am relieved that it wasn't what I expected. I don't really like creepy or scary, as my overactive imagination tends to give me nightmares. Especially since I read so much at night rather than during the day.

As much as I hate being 'that guy', I've been trying to find more books told from a male POV. So many young adult novels are told by a female, and while I do still read and enjoy them, it'd be nice to be able to relate to the narrator just a little bit more (Hunger Games and Divergent are awesome, but I start fading out when the narrators are discussing the guys they are interested in). Jacob is a confused, lost teenager trying to make sense of what happened to his grandfather, and it was refreshing to be able to identify so well with the protagonist and to not have to cross any gender boundaries. Again, though, I'm not trying to be sexist or anything. I just would like to see more male narrators in the world of young adult novels (and for them not to be about sports and only sports).

Overall I found Miss Peregrine to be unique, inventive, and very entertaining, and I'm looking forward to the release of Hollow City, the second Ransom Riggs novel, in January. If you haven't taken a look at this New York Times bestseller yet, you should definitely get on that :)

- Justin

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen

This was one of the most hilariously inappropriate and surprising books that I've ever read. I think it was really more surprising than anything, since I wasn't expecting the sharp, crude humor that filled the pages. The title should tell it all, a story told from the point of view of a nameless male narrator in his mid to late 20's, and all the mental observations that come from having such a narrator. If this sounds like your cup of tea shot of whiskey, then keep going and read my 4 out of 5 star review of this novel. But fair warning: This will be one of my more offensive and crude reviews, as the book calls for nothing less. >:)

From the publisher:
An offensive, in-your-face, brutally honest and completely hilarious look at male inner life and sexual fantasy. In the course of this hilariously honest book, our narrator suffers through a relationship with his vapid wannabe-actress girlfriend until he finds the perfect girl. But when he moves into the new relationship, he slowly learns that all women are pretty much the same, that man's true desires will never be fulfilled, and the decision between living life alone or biting the marriage bullet must be made.

My thoughts:
I was really thrown off when the entirety of the first chapter is "Same old bullshit." and the second chapter opens with our narrator contemplating the factors that alter a man's perception: "I wonder what it is, other than age, that turns a mouth a man would want to put his cock in into a twitching hole getting yogurt shoveled into it with a baby spoon." Mostly because as soon as this happened, I couldn't help but wonder the same thing. And then I started twitching in horror, realizing at what this implied for any older women I've come across in the community. Kultgen doesn't hold anything back in this novel, and almost any topic or situation is the perfect setting for him to bring up sexual fantasies, concerns, and quandaries. Family gatherings, parties, sitting next to the hot redhead on an airplane... This is the average American mind?! Freaky. And I am, in fact, a guy.

The thought of yogurt is so tainted now...

Writing this review is tricky because one theme throughout the novel is that guys quickly and frequently turn to sex in their minds (also, that virtually all women boil down to the same being). How can I write this review as a guy, knowing that my friends and family would be reading this review and therefore wondering what's going on in an average male's mind? I got over that pretty quickly though, since most women I know have read or are interested in reading 50 Shades of Grey and other assorted smut romance novels. (I would know, I read that so-called book and here's my review of it.) In any case, while I can't deny that a lot of the observations our narrator makes in this book have crossed my mind at one point or another, I do like to think that my mind spends a little less time out of the gutter than in it..

In any case, The Average American Male is a great read, fast paced and entertaining, but with a kernel of insight to make you stop and think. Sometimes, the thinking leads to nightmares, but that's to be expected when every other sentence has some lewd comment or innuendo that you have spent years learning to ignore and repress in the real world. I had a great time with this novel, but just be aware opening the first page that this is offensive and lewd and essentially directed at college-age men. Or open minded people of any other demographic (but still over 18). I for one am very excited to start reading Kultgen's sequel, The Average American Marriage.


Oh, and this. Just so you have a visual ;)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Killer Rumors By Antonello Fiore

So, the author of this book sent me a digital version of it for an honest review, which I intend to deliver on (as I do with every book I read, whether or not the author requested a review). Killer Rumors is a gripping story that you can't help but be pulled in by, and if not for the grammatical errors and lack of proofreading it would certainly be a 5 star novel. However, I had to give this book 3 out of 5 stars because the jumps from present to past tense and vice versa, coupled with bad grammar, significantly interfered with my ability to truly enjoy this book as much as I could have. Again, the plot and the story development was phenomenal, but the execution of the book was less than stellar.

From the publisher:
Father D’Angelo and Bakeman, two devoted priests were brutally murdered while going on one of their nightly walks. Detective Frank Rinelli is called to the case- not only due to his close friendship with the priests, but with his expertise of tracking psychotic killers. Rinelli suddenly discovers these murders were based on a scandal that occurred several years ago at the same Church where the two murdered priests preached. And it doesn’t stop there. The list of people being murdered in connection with the scandal continues to grow until the killer has his ultimate vengeance- and the truth released.

My thoughts:
I was blown away at how deeply I was pulled into this story, and how quickly it happened. Not many stories have the ability to really make me wish I had a longer lunch break on which to read, but Fiore has a way with plot and character development. Frank Rinelli and his partner Nick Lorenzzo are immensely likable, filled with the wit and quips that come with the territory of being literary detectives (I highly doubt that detectives are really as sharp and witty as those that live in the pages of a book, likely due to an author's time spent developing the dialogue for his characters to deliver). I had a blast watching them try to discover who was killing off the priests and church employees, made even more entertaining by the fact that Fiore gives the killer his own voice in the novel. The reader gets to see what's going through his head, and why he has planned and executed these horrific crimes. I've read a lot of crime novels (here's looking at you, James Patterson), and this author certainly has the drive and the imagination to become a major player in this genre.

That is, of course, if there is a bit more editing done. The verb tense shifts back and forth from present to past, and it is so difficult and so disorienting to read. Add to this word salad and other assorted grammatical errors, and the incredible story loses its luster somewhat. It took away from my ability to sit and read for an extended period of time, no matter how intrigued and curious I was to see what was going to happen next. And I assure you, most of your time spent reading this will be on the edge of your seat, anxious for the next chapter and the next plot twist.

Killer Rumors is a fast pace crime thriller that I would read again and again (and probably be shocked at the ending again and again as well). Assuming, of course, that it is edited and re-released. I look forward to seeing what else the imaginative mind of Antonello Fiore can come up with in future installments of this series.

- Justin