Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

img_2516 Sixteen year old, Jacob is very close to his grandfather who was a polish refugee during WW2. During their time together Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, tells him stories about his childhood and the life he lived in an orphanage on an island off of England.  He even shows him very strange old pictures of the other children who lived in the orphanage with him. He told him stories of these children, their unique abilities as well as countless stories of the monsters they were hiding from.

For years, Jacob just assumed these unique pictures belonging to his grandfather were just camera tricks and the stories of “monsters” were just euphemisms for the Germans.  After Abraham dies suddenly, Jacob is on a mission to visit the island and find out just what kind of childhood his grandfather really lived. When he arrives and finds the old orphanage in ruins, he’s about to lose hope of finding any real answers…until he meets a girl that he immediately recognizes from some of his grandfather’s old pictures. He soon finds that everything he thought he knew about himself and his family might not be quite accurate.

I quite enjoyed this book! While I was expecting more of a creepy, spooky ghost story (this really isn’t that), I was pleasantly surprised with the more fantasy type twist it took. I can’t say too much more without giving away the main story line, but if you tend to shy away from scary books…this isn’t overly scary or creepy, so you should be good.

There is also the addition of very cool vintage photographs throughout book that add a unique little something.  I love old pictures and the ones included here were pretty interesting and quite fun to look at. The storyline was unique and interesting, I also enjoyed the characters in this book. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first in a three book series…Hollow City & Library of Souls are the next books that follow this one. As much as I had fun reading this story, I’m not sure I’ll jump right in to the next book, but I’m sure I will read it eventually.

My review: 4/5 Stars

My Top Reads of 2015

I’ve been thinking about how I would write this post and what will be included for a while now. At first, I thought that I would make a Top 5 list…..ha….yeah right! Then, I thought I might be able to narrow it down to a Top 10 list…..not happening either. So I decided to not set a number limit and to just list off the books that I absolutely loved reading this year. These are all books that have made it to my very special “Some Of My Favorites” shelf on my Goodreads log. While most of the books listed were given a 5 star rating by me, some of them were given a 4. I’ve mentioned before, but I’m very particular with giving out 5 star ratings for books…so while something might get 4/5 stars from me, it can still make it to my favorites list.

So….for this list, I tried my best to list them in order of how much I loved them or how much they moved me. That was also hard. In the end, I narrowed it down to 17 books that I absolutely loved this year and would definitely recommend to others. That is not to say that there aren’t more that I’ve recommended or really really liked as well…when someone asks for a book recommendation, I try to find out what they enjoy and suggest based off of that. This list is one I feel that has a good mix of genres and topics.

Let’s get to it then….

17. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail  – I really enjoyed reading this book. 4/5 stars. Yes…some things about this woman irritated me and yes, there were plenty of times I wanted to slap her for making such poor choices. But I think that was the point of her making this awesome journey. I love the way she told her story and I loved reading about her experience with it.

16. Cane River – Fantastic & tragic story. I loved the way it was split into different parts following the generations of women. It’s a historical fiction that takes place at the turn of the century in the deep south of the country. I also really enjoyed the addition of actual documents and photographs throughout.

15. Out Of The Easy – Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved Between Shades Of Gray, as it is one of my favorite books(further up on this list). I was worried this, her second book, wouldn’t hold a flame to that…but it was equally as good. It’s rather hard, if not impossible, to compare the two since the only thing they have in common is the fact that they are both historical fiction. This book, while a serious story and sad at times, isn’t nearly as heavy as BSOG. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I loved reading this story, loved all the characters and didn’t want it to end.

14. The Nightingale – This is the typical Kristin Hannah that I love. The relationship between the sisters was the highlight of the book as well as the historical aspect. If you are a fan of WWII historical fiction, try this one out.

13. Station Eleven – I really really enjoyed this book! Loved the characters and I really wanted the story to continue because I wanted to know more.
It’s a post apocalyptic story without the typical teenager angst. The apocalypse isn’t necessarily even the focus…the characters and their stories are.

12. Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Excellent book! Very difficult to read at times purely due to the haunting details of the story, but it’s definitely worth the read.
I’ve read quite a few books based on true stories of WW2 and its survivors. But this is the first book I’ve read that is about the Japanese side of the war and specifically about the Japanese POWs. Very informative…I learned quite a lot about that aspect of WW2.
My one and only tiny complaint: I find the fact that author, and thus Louie, attributes his complete cure of some pretty severe alcoholism as well as severe PTSD to a few religious meetings with Billy Graham. But…in the end, that part was rather insignificant for me so I didn’t hold it against the story.

11. Bird Box – If you are in the mood for a creepy, eerie, and a make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up book…this is for you! It’s definitely intense and you really FEEL the fear of the characters. I love a good book that leaves me feeling terrified and this did not disappoint. Another plus is that the story line is very unique and like nothing else I’ve ever read.

10. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Loved, loved, loved this book! I know I’m late on the hype of this book. But I don’t like to read books or see movies that are played up too much. I like to let the hype drop off a bit and not be influenced by all the other chatter. Anyway…Lisbeth Salander might just be my favorite female character in a book yet 🙂 I can’t wait to read the rest in the series.

9. Winter Garden – I’ve read a handful of other books by Kristin Hannah (see #14 in this list) and I enjoy her writing style. This is the second of her books that made my top list. It did start a bit slower moving… But wow, does the emotion and story pick up.
By the end I was ugly crying. I think the imagery in the end of this book will haunt me and stay with me forever.

8. The Book Thief – Another beautifully written WWII historical fiction that will stay with me forever. The characters are so well written and the story line is just emotionally fantastic. I think, by now, most people have read this book…but if you haven’t….pick it up!

7. A Fine Balance – This was actually the first book I read in 2015 and it is one that was on my to-read list for a while.It’s an excellent story that is beautifully written. This story is such a sad, tragic and beautiful story of friendship. It’s a book that definitely makes you feel fortunate that we are born into a first world country.

6. Orphan Train – Another book that has a historical fiction line to it that I loved. I also loved the relationship between the two main characters despite their generational gap. I felt myself feeling so attached to each of them in different ways.

Ok….on to the pièce de résistance….my top 5 books from 2015. What makes a book an absolute favorite for me is a book that gives me ALL THE FEELS!!! It doesn’t necessarily have to be happy or good feels, but a book must make me FEEL if I’m going to give it a 5 and call it an All Time Favorite. So, here we go:

5. Still Alice – LOVED this book! I haven’t read anything quite like it before. The story line sucked me in almost immediately and I didn’t want to put it down. There were quite a few times that this book made me cry. Heart wrenching and heartwarming all at the same time, if that makes sense. So many strong feels in this one!

4. Between Shades of Gray – This is the second book by this author in my list…so it goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Ruta Sepetys. I really enjoy historical fiction, obviously… and this book might be my favorite historical fiction taking place during WWII. It takes place during Stalins invasion of Lithuania….a topic I’ve read much less about. Not a feel good story…it’s heavy, deep, and depressing at times. But it’s Oh So Good…and the feels….oh the feels!

3. Mudbound – Wow! What a fantastic story! I loved the way it was written with getting a different character’s perspective with each chapter. The characters, themselves, we’re so colorful and lifelike. It was a book that I found myself thinking about long after I finished reading it.  The story had a good pace throughout and towards the second half, I couldn’t put it down.
If you enjoy The Kitchen House or Cane River, you’ll enjoy this!

2. Me Before You – I’m not a fan of romance stories… in fact, I have barely any romance on my read or to-be-read list. But I actually picked this up to fit into the “Romance” prompt of the 2015 Reading Challenge that I completed. I found this title on a list of romance books for people who don’t like romance…lol..perfect! Anyway…this is definitely one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I could not get enough of the characters and their story. It was so much more than just a romance story.This book had me laughing and crying…lots of crying….ugly, UGLY, go-through-an entire-box-of-kleenex crying!

1. The Kite Runner -Why did I wait so long to read this??? I absolutely loved this book! It’s incredibly sad and haunting but so well written and so engrossing. I know many (if not most) people have already read this book, so my review and it’s place on this list will likely not be a surprise to others….but, I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I cannot wait to read Khaled Hosseini’s other 2 books.

So…there you have it, my friends! My favorite books of 2015. I started the year with a reading challenge to get me back into the swing of reading more often and it worked 🙂 I’ve read more books in 2015 (58 to be exact) than I ever have in any other year of my life. It also got me to pick up titles that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to read…and some of those turned out to make my favorites list! 2016 will hopefully bring even more reading, as I’m challenging myself to read at least 60 by year’s end 🙂

I’d love to hear what any of you think of the books on this list! I’d also love to hear what you have plans to read in 2016. I’d suggest to set a personal challenge to yourself to read more in the new year…whether that be a specific reading challenge, like the Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge I completed this year, or just a general challenge to read a certain number of books. But any goals, resolutions, or challenges are most successful when there is a very specific goal set. So…I challenge you….set a goal to read more in 2016! Pick a specific number of books you’d like to complete or start an already set up challenge like the 2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. If you aren’t already a Goodreads member, I highly suggest signing up! It’s a great, free website to track & review books that you’ve read as well as keeping a list of books you want to read. The website also has a “Reading Challenge” tab where you can set that specific goal for yourself to read more. So, keep me posted on what your book plans are for 2016 and HAPPY READING!!!!

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published: April 28, 2011

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Goodreads Description:

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

 

My Thoughts:

Great read!
Imagine going to sleep each night knowing you won’t remember a thing in the morning. How do you trust that people are who they say they are? What’s real, what’s not?

This story has me hooked immediately and I found myself totally invested in finding out what was the truth. The first half of the book can move a little slow and feel a tad repetitive, but it’s solely because the main character suffers from severe amnesia and her days DO repeat themselves each day. The second half moved much faster for me and had me dying to find out what was real and what wasn’t.

The plot was very cool…different than anything else I’ve read. The characters were written in a way that I felt they were all suspect. I trusted none of them at any point fully…which is exactly how the main character felt, constantly.

The only reason I have this 4 stars instead of 5 was because there were a few small plot holes or inconsistencies that I noticed. But other than those little things…excellent read!

This is another book that apparently has a movie adaptation…one that I have never heard of. So, I’m sure I’ll sit down and watch it eventually (even though the reviews aren’t great on that)…if I could just decide not to read instead 😉

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Published: May 7, 2013

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Goodreads Description:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very cool story. I have a soft spot for YA dystopian novels and this one did not disappoint…so if you are a fan of The Hunger Games or The Divergent Series, I think this will be right up your alley.

I loved the alien aspect of this story, which is one thing that made it quite different from other YA dystopian novels. While I’m not usually a huge fan of science fiction, I didn’t feel like this book got too “out there” with that aspect to lose me in the story.

The characters were all fantastic as well…Cassie was your typical strong, female heroine in these types of stories, but she was written well here.

I got through this book quickly, but it’s taken me a few days to get this review written. I’m hoping now that the holidays are over, that I can get back to my normal pace of reading and reviewing 🙂 While I did really enjoy this book and actually look forward to seeing the movie adaptation that comes out next month, I haven’t quite decided if I’m wanting to read the rest of the series. When I finished both The Hunger Games and Divergent, I couldn’t wait to get into the second book of each series. For some reason, I didn’t have that feeling after this book. Maybe it was because I feel like the first book had a clean and complete ending…or maybe I just have too many other books I want to read 😉

Either way….if you are a fan of YA Dystopian fiction, I have a feeling you will enjoy this read.

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green

Genre: Young Adult

Published: September 22, 2009

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Good Reads Description:

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew…

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It’s mostly a coming of age story with a small mystery built in. The characters are all in high school and there is a lot of dialog that seems very age appropriate to 17-18 year olds…but surprisingly, I didn’t find it irritating like I usually do. Usually, I consider myself now too old to appreciate books that are told in the perspective of teenagers and find myself not sympathizing with the characters. This story didn’t leave me feeling that way at all. I actually found most of the dialog between the characters endearing and pretty funny.

I really enjoyed the deeper meaning behind the story…that what we usually see on the surface of a person may not be who that person really is behind closed doors. The idea that some people will play a role that they feel others need them to be, hold true for all age groups…which is why I think this story can be so relatable for the young adult reader as well as the *ahem* not so young adult reader 🙂

Other reviews have noted the similarities in some of John Green’s characters. Yes…I can see how Quention & Margo are very similar to Miles & Alaska in Looking For Alaska. The similarities didn’t bother me at all. I feel that, while the relationships between the male & female characters are similar, the individual characters themselves are different enough for me. I recently finished (and enjoyed) Looking For Alaska and at no point did I feel like I was rereading the same story while I was reading this.

Overall…this is a quick, easy to read coming of age story that I feel like any age group would enjoy and appreciate.

Review: Abandon by Blake Crouch

Abandon by Blake Crouch

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published: July 7, 2009

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Good Reads Description:

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman, and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins – and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town, so they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic and a paranormal photographer, as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

My Thoughts:

I’ll start off by saying that the publisher’s synopsis is sort of inaccurate or at least a tad bit deceiving. When I read the original summary, I assumed this would be a ghost story of sorts or at least deal with the supernatural at some point. It doesn’t. At all. Which was totally fine with me, but if you are specifically looking for that type of story and think this will fit the bill due to the synopsis, you’ll be disappointed.

The reason I picked up this book was because of the author. I read Blake  Crouch’s series, Wayward Pines, and absolutely loved that and figured I’d give this one a go. I will say that it was a bit of a slow start for me. The first half of the book was good, just a tad slow and I found myself only mildly interested. Then, about half way through…the story just catapulted into awesomeness for me. At that point, I didn’t want to put it down.

I will say that sometimes his writing style can feel somewhat different. Sometimes I think he writes certain parts of the story with an almost ambiguous feel. Like…he doesn’t usually come out and say that someone was shot, stabbed, etc…he just sort of infers it and then in the next sentence, he’ll tell you that the person died. So, if you aren’t careful it’s easy to miss the inference and become slightly confused if you read too fast through it. Because of this…there were a few paragraphs that I had to reread. But that didn’t make me enjoy the story any less.

Where this book shines is in plot rather than character development. The plot was was fun, mysterious and engaging with quite a few twists and turns. Overall, it was a very enjoyable read for me and solidifies why I am a fan of Black Crouch’s work.

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult Fiction

Published: February 2013

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Goodreads Book Description:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book, plain and simple. I knew I really enjoyed Ruta Sepetys’ writing style after reading Between Shades of Gray earlier this year (it’s one of my top books), so I had high hopes for this one, it being her second book….and I was not disappointed! The story line is just great and totally unique, especially for a historical fiction…which sometimes can feel like the same few topics are covered over and over.

While her other book, Between Shades of Gray, is a heavy read and can be quite depressing, this book does have a lighter feel. But, that doesn’t mean it’s without great characters and a solid storyline. There are definitely serious topics and situations, so it’s not a “fluff” type read at all…it just doesn’t have that same depressing feel throughout. Which is nice for a few reasons… 1) I’m not always in the mood for a very heavy, depressing read and 2) It’s nice to see that the author can write a great story without needing the heavy aspect.

The characters are all fantastic. They are all very different and totally colorful. Sepetys sure does write a young, strong, female lead character well in both books. Loved Josie, Willie, Cokie, Jesse, Patrick…all of them!

Out of the Easy was the type of book that kept me interested throughout the entire story and left me feeling sad that it was over. I am definitely going to be putting my pre-order in for Sepetys’ third book, Salt to the Sea that comes out in February 2, 2016!

Also…one little mention about the “Young Adult” genre: I actually had no clue that this book was listed as a Young Adult read until I noticed that it was nominated for the GoodReads Book Of The Year award under the Young Adult Fiction option. At no point in the book did I think the author was pandering to teenagers or the young adult audience by changing up the storyline to suit the preferences of a younger audience. But…it is definitely a safe read for a more mature young adult reader. Even though the main theme and setting of the book is prostitution and a brothel house, there is no explicit sex talk or sexual specifics discussed.

Review: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published: February,  2015

Hardcover, 312 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Goodreads Book Description:

A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. This is a modern re-imagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train from the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart.

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

My Thoughts:

Yes!!! I love stories like this!!! I’ll start of by saying that if you are a fan of the book, Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train, this one is for you! This story caught me off guard because, for some weird reason, I wasn’t expecting much. But I was sucked in fast!

By chapter 3, page 34 I knew it was going to be good when I read: “Why was the taking of a life considered so terrible? In no time at all there would be all new people on this planet, and everyone who was on the planet now would have died, some terribly, and some like the flick of a switch. The real reason murder was considered so transgressive was because of the people that were left behind.”…..yes!!! To me, that passage reads just like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock story. The main character, Lily, makes Amy Dunne from Gone Girl seem like the girl next door.

The twists and turns of the storyline were fantastic…some I saw coming, others I didn’t at all. And the ending….perfection! This is a definite recommendation for me if you are on the hunt for an entertaining mystery/thriller.

Review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: September 3, 2013

Hardcover, 368 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads book description:

Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

My Thoughts:

I initially decided to read this after a handful of people recommended it to me based on my love of historical fiction. I did enjoy reading this book, even though I would not put it in the category of one of my favorite books…but I’ll get into that in a bit.

Before reading this book, I had never heard of the Eugenics Sterilization Program of South Carolina. So, it was very interesting to read & learn a little bit about it though this novel. That part of the book was shocking and disturbing, to say the least. I will say that I don’t feel like the author used the atrocity of the program to over sensationalize the book (which she could have easily done).

The story and plot were both good for me. There wasn’t any point in this book in which I was bored or uninterested, so that is a plus. I do feel like the ending had a little bit of a “too perfect” wrap up, if that makes any sense.

My main complaint (and why I didn’t give this book 4 stars), was the characters. I didn’t actually like any of them, except Ivy.  Not even Jane, who is supposed to be the most likable, I assume. They all felt very flat and one dimensional to me.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read that I could easily recommend to others. While the subject matter had the possibility of being dark and heavy, this book didn’t go that route….so it’s always nice to have a “lighter” feeling read to recommend to others.