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Archive for January, 2012

I can’t believe that this is the second book out of the last three that I have read that ends … without a resolution! According to Ransom Riggs’ website, there will be a sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home, but it is not yet written.  I am impatient and the fact that I have to wait to know the “end” of this story is frustrating!  That being said, I think it is a sign of a very good book that I am “frustrated” that I cannot immediately pick up a sequel!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (****Enjoyed it!) follows the story of Jacob, a 17-year-old rich kid who will someday work in his family’s inherited chain of drugstores in Florida.  He spent a lot of time with his grandfather while he was growing up, and for much of that time, he believed the stories that his grandfather would tell him of the home that he lived in just prior to WWII.  The home, according to Jacob’s grandfather, was a home for special children who each had special abilities – floating in air, extraordinary strength, invisibility, etc.  Jacob’s grandfather never explained what his special talent was, and Jacob always just assumed that his grandfather ended up living at Miss Peregrine’s Home because he escaped Poland just prior to the Nazi invasion.  Jacob’s grandfather also spoke of the ‘monsters’ that he ran from and also that he later hunted and killed.  By the time the story is in the present, Jacob no longer believes his grandfather’s tales and everyone thinks that his grandfather is becoming old and senile.  Then his grandfather dies, and Jacob is left to figure out how he died and whether those stories that he was told when he was younger had any truth to them.

The rest of the story takes place in Wales, when Jacob attempts to find Miss Peregrine’s home and talk to Miss Peregrine herself about his grandfather’s past.  Jacob’s adventures begin there and are fun and exciting and fairytale-like.  They are also dangerous, and include unexpected twists and turns.

I really enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, although it was a bit slow during the time that Jacob was still in Florida.  After his grandfather’s death, Jacob’s parents sent him to a psychiatrist, and a lot of the book was devoted to how he was recovering from finding his dead grandfather.  Once Jacob went to Wales though, the story definitely picked up and moved along at a speedy clip.  By the end, of course, I did not want it to end!  The description of this book is that it will delight “adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows,” and I agree that is a great description of potential readers.

HollowCity

I was so excited to see the 2nd book in this series (which I guess is referred to as Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children) finally released!! Hollow City (*****LOVED) finally catches up with the peculiar children as they try to save Miss Peregrine from the evil forces searching for the peculiar children and their keepers.  Hollow City was even more fun than Miss Peregrine’s Home because the characters who we met in the first book actually have to use their peculiar abilities to keep the troop alive.  Even Jacob has to figure out his strength and use it so that no one gets hurt.  Not only do the children meet additional extraordinary characters (and animals this time!), but they also time travel a bit.  While the main part of the book occurs in London in 1940, there are other side trips to towns and times past.

One of the most wonderful things about Hollow City and about Miss Peregrine’s Home are the inclusion of old-time photographs within the chapters of the book (similar to what is shown on the covers of the books).  These photos really make the story seem real (even though they are photos of things that most certainly can’t be real).  I can’t wait for the next installment!

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Catherine the Great by Robert Massie is easily one of the best biographies I have ever read.  The only other biography I can say this about with such assurance is Nicholas and Alexandra, also by Massie.  The book, about Catherine II who ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796, easily reads like a novel, and not a work of nonfiction. 

The description of Catherine II’s early life, from when she was a German princess named Sophie, to when she first arrived in Russia and learned Russian and converted to the Orthodox faith, to living under the reign of Empress Elizabeth, to being married to and living with a man who was essentially a child in the form of Empress Elizabeth’s nephew Peter III immediately drew me in to the addictive history of this great woman.  The story of how she came to be on the throne of Russia was like a scene out of a movie.  The precarious relationships she maintained with the rulers of Austria, Prussia, Poland and Sweden were fickle and subject to change daily.  Catherine II did not have an easy reign by any stretch of the imagination. 

My overall impression of her reign, through this book, is one of great power and acquisition of Russian land, but also one of cultural enlightenment, due to her relationships with Voltaire and Diderot and her passion for acquiring the largest and best art collection in the entire world.  It is difficult for me to understand why the storeis that swirl around about Catherine II today focus on her relationships with her lovers, when in fact she had less than 20 favorites, and they were all monogamous relationships – some of which lasted for many years.  To me, the stories about her favorites, and the titles and riches she bestowed on those favorites did not draw attention away from the greatness of her rule – rather they showed that she was just like normal people in that she wanted to feel loved and craved personal attention.

I absolutely loved Catherine the Great and highly recommend it, and any book written by Robert Massie.  I am considering re-reading Nicholas and Alexandra, and I still need to finish my copy of Peter the Great.   Robert Massie is a genius on the topic of Russian history!

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Set in what I believe is meant to be the former Yugoslavia, The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel tells various stories relating to Natalia and her grandfather.  There are essentially three different worlds in which the book operates:  

  • The first is Natalia’s present day world (which I believe begins in the 1970’s and mostly takes place in what I believe is in the early 21st century).  This world includes an ongoing civil war while Natalia is growing up and while she is going to medical school.  Her current world is just after the civil war, in which she is a Doctor crossing the new borders to provide medication to orphaned children. 
  • The second world is the grandfather’s childhood (I believe it would be the 1930’s), a world that is just prior to the invasion by the Germans, and when he meets the tiger, the tiger’s wife, Darisa the bear, and the apothecary. 
  • The third world is the beginning of civil war in their country (which I believe is in the 1950’s), when Natalia’s grandfather meets the deathless man various times while he is serving as a Doctor in his country’s army.

I really enjoyed The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel.  It was an engaging storyline and I was definitely caught off-guard with the storyline of the deathless man, which I had not previously read about or expected.   Natalia’s grandfather is an extremely appealing character – in each one of his storylines – when he is growing up, when he is a young man, and when he is Natalia’s older grandfather. 

Various characters are introduced in the many stories that are told, and by the time the last character is introduced (the apothecary), I tired a bit of learning all these different stories.   The most striking stories to me, other than those of Natalia and her grandfather were: the deathless man, the tiger, the tiger’s wife, and Darisa the bear.  While the story of the tiger’s wife includes a story on her “first husband” Luka, I was not extremely engaged in Luka’s story as it was told.  Overall though, The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel was extremely well written and a very creative tale that I enjoyed very much and would definitely recommend.

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I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I missed any and all news about this book until late December 2011.  I happened upon Amazon’s best books of the month for 2011, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (*****LOVED)was on the list for September.  I am so thankful that I happened upon that list on Amazon because I might have missed the chance at reading this exceptionally creative book.

Karou is a 17-year-old girl who lives in Prague and attempts to live a normal life going to art school.  When she is not in school, however, she goes through a door that only certain people can enter and she works for Brimstone, a chimaera.  Brimstone has ram’s horns, crocodile eyes, lion legs, dragon feet and human arms and torso.  Although he sounds frightful, he and some other chimaera who work for him carefully raised Karou from the time that she was a baby.  Karou helps Brimstone by travelling around the world (Earth) and picking up or trading for teeth – all kinds of teeth – elephant, crocodile, wolf, human.  When Karou is on one of these teeth errands, someone tries to kill her, and that is when her life as she knows it changes forever.  She meets a seraphim (angel) named Akiva, who has a remarkable story to tell her about her past and the world in which Brimstone and Akiva live.

This story is so creative and imaginative, and the descriptions are so perfect, that it is like a movie in your head as you read through it and picture all the seraphim and chimaera.  I loved this book from start to finish, and the only thing I did not like was that it had to come to an end.  It ended with “To Be Continued,” and as far as I can tell, the sequel is due for release in the fall of 2012.  Although I am disappointed that I have to wait that long, I might take the opportunity to re-read Daughter of Smoke and Bone as I’m sure there are many things that I missed as I was speed reading through, unable to put it down.  I highly recommend this book!

DaysofBlood&Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight (*****LOVED) did not disappoint! Karou is with her allies somewhere in Africa in the middle of the desert, continuing the battle between seraphim and chimaera. AMAZING!!!

DreamsofGods

To be updated – Can’t wait to read the third installment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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