Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (18/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

1After a tragedy strikes the family of 16-year-old Jacob, with his father they embark on a journey to an island off the coast of Wales. There Jacob discovers the mysterious abandoned orphanage. Slowly he learns not only about his grandfather’s past, but also the history of children who once lived there, and finally – he learns the truth about himself.

I’m not exactly sure where to start, so I’ll start with the photos. The whole novel is written around them – old, creepy photographs showing children in eerie poses/situations; photos that can easily give the creeps by themselves. And they are the best part of the book. 3I loved the idea at the beginning – you know, when you look at the photograph and make up your own story of what may or may not have happened to the people in it to make them end up like this – or, better yet, what happened after the photo was taken. I for one loved that sort of imaging when I was a kid. Therefore, the premise was great and had LOTS of potential. Here’s why it’s disappointing.

First of all, the characters. I didn’t particularly like Jacob, or rather didn’t care about him. Maybe because he is trying to get fired from his job in the most obnoxious way, which makes him seem like a rich jerk. Despite his faults, though, it’s not like I hated him – more like I had no connection to him whatsoever, which made the novel a little harder to read. The other characters? The grandfather seems very interesting – knowing so much about fighting, about survival, having been in the Second World War, and telling all these fascinating stories about peculiar children and about monsters who are chasing after them. But he’s not in the story that much. Instead we have parents that are rather invisible – the only thing I remember about the dad was that he wanted to write a book about birds, but never really got around to finishing one. And about the mom? Nothing. Then, there are the children. Unfortunately, the only interesting things about them are their abilities – introduced in a rather sloppy way. I had troubles with distinguishing them from one another, they all seemed flat and basically the same. 2Miss Peregrine’s was a little better, but still annoyed me. I mean, she wasn’t especially open or honest with Jacob, and kept him unnecessarily in the dark about many things. I guess that was supposed to add to the mystery; instead just annoyed me.

Then, there is the story. It’s actually not that bad in itself, but there are two things I have to mention. First, the story doesn’t always corresponds well with the photos. Or rather – you need to stretch a lot, to make them fit. The other thing is, although this had a great start, and sounded like a super fascinating, though not great novel, slowed down the pace remarkably soon after the beginning, and couldn’t regain the first “bang” that I felt upon reading the start.

That being said, I’m not saying it’s a completely bad book. It certainly has a good premise, and some interesting concepts. The photographs themselves – despite not being entirely fitting into the story – are a great treat. The story may seem a little childish, but if you don’t mind, you’ll enjoy it. Overall, in my opinion, it would just need a little more editing, a little more of fully-fetched characters and maybe add some depth into the story? It could definitely lead to something much better than what we have. And what we have is a little messy, sometimes boring, but generally nice little story, for times when you’re bored and don’t want to be bothered with more serious literature.

Will not read the continuation, though.

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Shatter me series (#1 Shatter Me) – Tehereh Mafi) (15-17/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

                Another Young Adult dystopia, so obviously it was on my list.

          Another one like that and I might actually start avoiding dystopian books altogether!

            Let’s get to the point. It’s not a dystopia. It’s a romance with a dystopian background. That is all I had to say, thanks for reading!

            15Okay, so we have Juliette, whose touch is lethal. Whenever she touches someone, they hurt, if the touch lasts too long, they die. That one time when a kid died because of her touch, it was an accident, but they still put her away, leaving the parents relived they finally got rid of the monster, that could not possibly be their daughter. Meanwhile, the world is falling apart, food is hard to get, and birds don’t fly anymore. The Reestablishment promised to fix things, but all they did was to gain full control of the world. When we meet Juliette for the first time, she has been locked up by Reestablishment for 264 days, which she had spent in complete solitude, not having spoken a word to another human being.

            Let me take a little different approach in reviewing this one.

  1. Oh, the style of this book! This is my most complaint here. It’s all written as Juliette’s journal, so it’s the first-person narration, which I usually love. Give it Present Tense and I become skeptical. Give it purple prose and I begin to roll my eyes. And we have all of these here. I mean, okay I’m pretty tolerant to be honest with flowery writing. Take White Oleander for example, I was absolutely in love and astonished someone could write that beautifully and at the same time make a comprehensive story. But here. No. I mean, just NO. It was full of metaphors and long descriptions, that for me just didn’t make any sense. And oh my God, the repetitions! I guess that was supposed to show how deep and sensitive and smart Juliette was, but to me it just showed she was exalted and didn’t know what she was talking about.

Note on style – the book is filled with crossed-out sentences, which bother the hell out of some people, and are totally brilliant in others’ opinions. I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t give a damn.

  1. Characters – well, yes. There’s Juliette, who’s our little model and a poet rolled into one. She is just soooo good. She’s beautiful, of course, but not vain, God forbid. She can’t stand looking in the mirror. Then, she’s altruistic. I mean, she’s the most altruistic person there is, according to Adam, her love interest no 1. And she’s powerful, of course. And sensitive. And smart. And fair. And generally an ideal.

Then, there’s Adam. Adam is nice, and good, and kind, and sensitive and understanding, and generally so forgettable, I have nothing else to add. And he loves our Juliette unconditionally, of course.

Then there’s Warner, the only interesting character in the first part. He’s the sadistic monster of the story with a glint of humanity left in him, so that’s one of the very few interesting things in the book – is he good or bad, or fighting with his darker nature? I would personally prefer the fighting, but I’m guessing he’s just another one of the good guys.

And there’s Kenji, a comic relief, and as such, he’s okay. Nothing more to add. There are some other people, of course, but they are so unimportant I forgot all about them already.

  1. I guess there is some story in there. But sometimes it was hard to find it wrapped into all the long descriptions and feelings of falling in love, and thinking about how terrible a monster Juliette must be, and all that stuff. It was a relief whenever something was starting happening, but it always ended too quickly and we were back to kissing.
  2. Potential for further parts.

None. Okay, I am slightly intrigued to find out Warren’s true intentions, and a little intrigued about how the war with Reestablishment might develop, but it’s hard to say if I can endure this style for two more books. Time will tell. I’ll try. Wish me luck!

 

EDIT – I read the rest of the series, but it took me a lot of good will and patience. Nothing more to add, actually, except for the fact that Julliette really got on my nerves!

 

My Rating 4/10

Lisa Gardner – Hide, The Neighbor, Live to Tell (12-14/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

            I’m so glad I can do a review about three amazing books about which I have mostly good words to say!

The first book of Lisa Gardner I read was „Catch Me.” When I started I had no idea it was a part of a series. I had no idea “Det. D.D. Warren series” exists in the first place. But I liked Lisa’s books enough to randomly look for her other books. And so I encountered the three: The Neighbor, Live to Tell, and Hide – read in this order. They are all parts of Det. D. D. Warren series, which goes like this:

  1. Alone
  2. Hide
  3. The Neighbor
  4. Live to Tell
  5. Love you More
  6. The 7th Month (Novella)
  7. Catch Me
  8. Fear Nothing
  9. 3 Truths and a Lie
  10. Find Her

Now I really wish I had done this “the right way” and started from “Alone!” Anyhow, I’m hooked to these series and I’m sure I’ll read them all quite soon.

 

What ties these three books – except for being parts of D.D. Warren series – is the way of writing. There are chapters written in first-person-narrative from a point of view of a particular’s book protagonist, and then there are chapters written in third-part-narration about the investigation of a crime, written mostly from D.D. Warren’s perspective – but not only. I love and admire narrations from multiple points of view, so there’s a big plus for Lisa at the beginning. The parts narrated in first-person narration are great for creating outstanding psychological portrait. After all, there’s a good reason Lisa Gardner is the author or “psychological thrillers.” This must be my favorite kind of books, really. Or one of the very few favorites. And when they’re done correctly – as it’s done here – it’s a book-lovers’ dream come true.

There is, however, one setback. I would say that Hide, Live to Tell and Catch Me, are pretty similar as far as the main characters are concerned: they all had tragic childhood (some trauma, or simply running away from danger), and they all have issues with attachment, and moving on in their adult lives. They live lonely lives, almost separate themselves from others. Somehow, that is the protagonist that I almost always enjoy reading about, so I can forgive this similarity.

There is a good reason why I’m doing these three in one review. Not only because they are parts of a series. Mostly because I can say the same thing about all of them: the action has great pace, the story keeps you guessing, the characters are believable, complex, and well-presented; and the ending is surprising. All that a good thriller should have.

            neihbourA young, beautiful wife and mother, Sandra Jones, disappears one night. The only possible witness is a 4-year-old Clarissa. Sandra’s husband, Jason, instead of getting into despair and trying to do everything to help the police, does … everything contrary. Detective D.D. Warren suspects him from the beginning, but then there is the neighbor, the registered sex offender. As the story unravels, we learn that there is much more under the image of a “great marriage,” and we learn the secrets of all characters involved. And we still keep guessing – what happened to Sandra?

live to tellThere was a brutal crime in a working-class part of Boston – four members of a family were murdered, the father in intense therapy. Elsewhere, a nurse Danielle Burton is living a quiet life, not fully having recovered from the tragedy in which her own family had died. The investigation od D.D Warren is going throw her life into chaos, again. Then, there is Victoria, and her sick son; Victoria has sacrificed her life to him. How are those three connected? And who is responsible for the murder of that family?

hideAnnabelle has spent her whole life on the run, though she never got to know why. Now her parents are both dead, and she lives in Boston, where bodies from little girls murdered many years ago, have just been discovered. Could this old crime have anything to do with the reasons for Annabelle’s family to always have been in hiding?

            There are some books that are read for pleasure of reading – books that you taste like good wine. Sip slowly, to enjoy every moment, every words. There are also books that you devour, because you just want to know the truth and know if your guesses are correct. The Neighbor, Hide and Live to Tell are of the second kind. Real page-turners – truly hard to put down. And it did its work greatly in my case – kept me guessing till almost the end.

 

My Rating: 8/10 – for all of them.

Chelsea Haywood – 90-Day Geisha: My Time as a Tokyo Hostess (11/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

               Let’s clear one thing first. My feelings towards Japan are rather neutral; I’m not a fan, but I don’t have anything against. Just uninterested in most aspects of this country, I guess. Probably, if I was rich and had a lot of time, I’d like to travel there (not to Tokyo, though), to see “how the other half lives,” but it’s not in my top-20 countries to visit.

               If I had money and time, though, I’d like to visit every country there is. But I digress.

               The institution of Geisha has caught my interest, though, regardless of my feelings for (or lack thereof) Japan. I read one book about Geishas, a long time ago, but I remembered from it that to become a geisha, a girl needs to study hard from a very young age, and it takes years to be a fully-trained, professional Geisha. So how come the author became a Geisha just for 90 days?

               The answer is simple – she didn’t. She just had a 90-days visa and worked as a hostess in Tokyo, in bars for rich, over-worked businessmen, that prefer going to a bar and talking to stranger, than to go home to their wives. Guess that’s part of a culture. Not a part I particularly like, but still a part.

               So let me explain really quickly a difference. A Geisha is a Japanese woman with years of education in arts of floral arrangement, calligraphy, dance, singing, playing an instrument, and so on. They are entertainers, conversationalists, and they mingle/serve at the upper-class society. Geisha from what I read these few years back, reminds me of “a tea ceremony,” where they are serving tea (if I remember correctly).

               A hostess in a Japanese hostess bar, is a Western woman, usually with a sort of Barbie figure, who work in bars and cater to man’s every whip; a hostess laughs at the men’s jokes and listen to their bragging, lights their cigarettes and sings karaoke with them, if asked. She sometimes plays silly games with them, that don’t resemble any sense of culture and art a real Geisha is all about.

              geisha So, once I got this out of my system, let me summarize this book in one sentence. A model, Chelsea Haywood, decides to go to Japan to work as a hostess, only to write her memoirs later in form of a book. End of story. Because, basically, there’s no story. Every guy she meets seems the same to me. Everything she does with them seems the same. And after the beginning, it starts to seem more and more like all she’s doing it complaining. About the men she meets, about other hostesses, about how tired she is, how expensive Tokyo is, and about how unhappy she feels. Unfortunately, it’s all written in a very bad style of a 13-year-old. You might forgive it to a teenager, but not to a published author that’s supposed to be making a real-life documentary.

               I wish Chelsea would have been more diverse in her description of characters. Instead, she makes it seem like all men in Japan frequenting these bars are perverts. And I simply will not believe that. I may be stunned at the sole idea of a man who pays hundreds of dollars just to enjoy a simple, easy-going conversation with a Western girl, or for a creation of fantasy that she offers, but it’s their custom. It’s part of their tradition, and if you’re going to a foreign country to describe a part of tradition, you should be as neutral and fair as can be. Not only whining.

               Generally, this book is as reliable as its title. It’s not about Geisha, and it’s not worth reading. I heard there’s a better book about hostess industry out there (Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess by Lea Jacobson), and I am sure I’ll read it someday. I hope it won’t be such a disappointment as this one was.

My Rating: 2/10

The Time Travel Gene Trilogy – Kerstin Gier (8, 9&10/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

PrzechwytywanieTime Travel Gene Trilogy goes by three names; the other two being: The Precious Stone Trilogy, and The Ruby Red Trilogy. It consists of three books – Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green – somehow, though, I can’t look at them as separate books. For me it’s like one story, and I am seriously unable to distinguish between the three. I’m not sure whether it’s because I read them – or rather swallowed them – throughout a fairly short time (around 3 days), or because they really are not that much different.

saphire blue.PNGTake The Hunger Games, though, for example. I read them through a very similar period of time – around 3 days – and it also felt like one sitting, but I was able to, from the beginning, distinguish between the three. With The Precious Stone Trilogy, though, every following book felt like the next chapter, really.

                Never mind that.

                Meet Gwyneth and Charlotte, her cousin, who is supposed to have a time travel gene, which forces her to travel in time. She’s been trained her whole life to be able to find herself in all circumstances. Somehow, though, somebody made a mistake and it’s Gwen who’s cursed – or gifted – with this gene. She’s totally unprepared, and just a “normal teenager.” By normal, I’m afraid, we have a rather silly teenager here. Yes, it’s Charlotte that has been prepared her whole life to fit into different eras – from riding horses to playing the piano. Gwen doesn’t know any of this. She also doesn’t seem to know basic history, or culture, or anything about arts, or any foreign language. She doesn’t know anything except for modern movies, especially romantic comedies. She’s also not able to remember one Latin sentence that’s an important password. She herself once says “I need a new brain.”

                Yet, she manages to make Gideon, beautiful and perfect, though albeit dull, to fall in love with her. And she manages to stop one greedy man from becoming immortal, and ultimately save the world. I guess this should make me a little angry, or just tired, or frustrated, or I’m not sure, just roll my eyes and stop reading. Cause, the idea that you can ignore what your teachers are saying to you, and just be rude and sarcastic, while at the same time pretty and kind of helpless, is what’s enough to be the crucial part in Big-Story-Involving-Saving-the-World, should make me angry. But it doesn’t.emerald green.PNG

                I guess it’s because I never took that series seriously. I treated it as a form of entertainment. A little silly, quite illogical, but entertaining as fuck. I mean, I am a sucker for time travel. If time travel existed, I’d have a big problem of where to go – future, past? If past, would that be before Christ? The XII century, the middle-ages? Since it’s impossible, at least I can read about how others see it. Be it a little silly, and mostly focused on clothes and parties – I’ll take that. And the idea of a heroine that has no idea what’s she’s doing – I’m sorry, but makes me laugh. Or at least smile/relax. Not to mention her friend, gargoyle. The funniest thing in the series.

                So, basically, the things I liked: the action, the humor, the characters, despite them being unrealistic (I mean, take Charlotte, it’s as if she’s not even human, just “evil” with no other characteristic, but being perfect at whatever she does; and Gideon, also perfect, and besides that, just … there). What I didn’t like: the characters (look above), the cheesy romance. I guess I might say these books were a guilty pleasure. Something I should dislike, but enjoyed reading nonetheless.

‘Til Death Do Us Part- Kate White (7/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

1

Baily Wiggins is a reporter dealing with “crime stories.” One day, when she’s cozy at her New York apartment she gets a call from Ashley, a fellow bridesmaid at the wedding that had taken place almost a year before. It turns out that Ashely has some disturbing news. Apparently, two other bridesmaids – out of six – died in weird accidents over the past six months. Ashely fears that they were murdered, and that she and Baily are the next ones to go. Baily starts an investigation, which will lead her to an unexpected discovery.

So, first thing I must say is that I disliked the protagonist – and her colleague, Ashley, as well – from the first 3 pages. I mean, someone calls you in the middle of a blizzard, says she has something important to tell you, but only face-to-face, and what do you do? Change your plans immediately, and go out into the blizzard to wherever they want to meet you.

Nope, not me. If I got a “I have to tell you something important right away” call, I’d say, “Then, come along to the coffee place that’s nearest to my apartment.” Not the other way round.

That’s of course a very minor thing of the book, but since it got me to dislike and roll my eyes over the main character from the get-go, I thought it was worth mentioning.

Other than that, I still remember my creative writer’s rule to say something nice about the book/piece of writing. However, I’m going to be rebellious on this one and will list things I did NOT like about this book:

– The protagonist, towards whom I never got any warmer feelings,

– Constant describing of what the characters were wearing, eating, and what kind of make-up they were wearing,

– Payton Cross – the bride at the (in)famous wedding, for which Bailey and Ashely were bridesmaids – being described practically as a “bitch” and having no other (redeeming) qualities. I mean, why would anyone be ever her friend,

– The fact that not too much was going on, and when something WAS – it was treated very randomly and quickly solved,

– The unfulfilled potential of showing how Baily was in constant fear, and how lonely she must have felt, as nobody believed her,

– The constant summary of things, instead of getting into real action,

– Failed attempt at humor, because it’s so funny that a person who works as a dietitian will eat healthy,

– Constant reminders of how ugly the bridesmaids’ dresses were,

– Her going to Florida for practically nothing – and super conveniently having an interview there, so her company (newspaper she worked for) could pay for the trip,

– Bailey’s breaking up with Jack – ooppss, SPOILERS – for no valid reason.

            And well, yeah, let’s list one thing I DID like – who the murdered was. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, but I still thought it was a good surprise and tied all together.

            All in all, wouldn’t recommend. It’s not completely bad, either – written quite decently, and with a nice ending. It’s probably just that it’s “women’s literature” – or, if you mean, a chick flick – with a little bit of a crime story, and I was expecting, well, a crime story.

            Should have known after The Sixes.

My Rating 4/10

Just Listen – Sarah Dessen (6/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

2

Annabel has everything in life – she’s a popular cheerleader, surrounded by popular friends. And, she works as a model. Until one day, after an incident at the party, her friends turn their backs on her, and she becomes a school’s recluse. Fortunately, she makes friends with an original loner and a music freak, Owen, who shows her the world of sounds. And teaches her that the truth is what matters and that she shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, because when she does, people will listen.

                The cover of the Polish edition promises me that the book is about “school, popularity, and rivalry.” Of course, there’s that. But I’d say that (fortunately) it’s about much more. Firstly, we have a family portrait. A family, where nobody speaks about their feelings, but hides in their rooms whenever something is wrong. A family with two older sisters, mother prone to depression and a quiet, withdrawn father. This family is what made the protagonist the way she is. Careful with hurting other people’s feelings and determined to fulfil her mother’s wishes to be nice to everyone.

                It’s dangerous to be nice all the time, as Annabel finds out. We may lose ourselves in the constant efforts to please other people. We may forget and get confused on not only what we want, but who we are as a person. Not speaking up is frustrating and white lies are sometimes worse than the truth.

                Owen teaches the protagonist that the truth is always best, even when it hurts. Because it hurts yourself more when you’re living a life that’s not what you planned. Ultimately, it may lead to depression and isolation. Finally, the book tells that it’s important to speak up, to tell what happened and not be afraid or ashamed. That people will listen and some, if not all, will understand.

                Basically, it’s some version of “The truth will set you free.”

So, the book wasn’t perfectly written or too sophisticated. Despite dealing with some important subjects (like accepting ourselves, and learning to be assertive), and important & dark topics – (rape, anorexia), it didn’t have that heavy feeling there might be associated with such topics. Instead, it was hopeful and even light in tone. I read it in approximately one day – it read really smoothly.

                The one thing I didn’t like is the protagonist. I understood her, I sympathized with her, but I wasn’t a fan. Not because she was just always nice to everyone – I can definitely relate to that! Not because she didn’t have courage to tell about what happened to her on the party, where her ex-friend’s boyfriend tried to rape her. That is definitely understandable. But because she was friends with Sophia in the first place. Sophia is the books version of the “mean girl” of high school. She’s manipulative, but exciting. Her moods change all the time, but she’s fun to be around (when she’s in a good mood). She’s self-confident and she knows what she wants and grabs it. But she also makes fun of other people, and is vindictive. I couldn’t understand why Annabel kept being friends with her for four years.

                Except for that, I have a feeling characters in that book were a little too one-dimensional, and sometimes cliché. From the reviews I read, most readers loved Owen. I can understand why. Tall, dark, handsome, reformed bad-boy. It has its appeal, even to me. But, for half the time he annoyed the hell out of me. I thought he was a “know-it-all,” and I suspect I would have disliked most of his music, too. Maybe I’m just not that smart to understand music on deeper level? Yeah, well.

                And there’s Sophie. She’s totally unbelievable. Mostly because, she doesn’t seem like a real person. She seems to possess all the bad qualities and not to possess too many of the good ones. In real life it’s always more complicated, but here Sophia’s inner life is almost completely ignored. And I just ain’t buyin’ that. Moreover, it’s sad that the author doesn’t dig deeper into Sophia’s problems with her family – they are only briefly mentioned.

                There’s one more “elephant in the room” for me. The book bears a striking resemblance to Speak by Laurie H. Anderson. Speak is a YA book that I think isSpeak! one of the best written I’ve ever read, so another book about more or less the same subject – well, the bar was high. And Just Listen didn’t get close enough.

                That said, I’m not criticizing the book completely. It reads fast, deals with important subjects, and has a relatable protagonist (except for the modelling business). For a Young Adult flick, it’s quite all right and worth reading.

My Rating 6/10