by Ransom Riggs
I started Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a while ago and it was hard to get into. I felt like Riggs was trying to hard. What I mean by that is: I felt like story revolved around the pictures. It was if he picked these pictures out and then had to stretch to make them into a story. In contrast, I felt the first book was so clever and original. So I was disappointed for most of the book and ended up putting it down for months. I was determined to finish it though because even though the “stretched” feeling was annoying, it wasn’t enough to make me give up. It wasn’t until the end of book that things picked up and I really got into it. There was a great twist and the pictures finally felt more natural and less forced. As a result, I enjoyed the ending so much and it redeemed the book. Enough so that I’ll give the third book a try (I’ll let you know how that goes).
Hollow City picks up where the first book left off: the group of peculiar children are determined to find a way turn Miss Peregrine back into herself. They need to travel to London, so they make their way there, meeting various peculiars along the way (such as the menagerie and the gypsies). Spoilers: when they eventually get to London, they find the loop that will lead them to perhaps the last ymbryne. Sure enough, Miss Wren is there and able to help turn Miss Peregrine back. But there is a twist: the peregrine is not Miss Peregrin, but her brother (who is evil). He swapped with her and has been gathering information and sending it to his wights the whole time. (The evil master plan is to removed the peculiars’ second souls to create a superior race over humans.) They all get captured and brought back to present day. On their way to the train station, one of the peculiars makes a run for it and it causes a ton of confusion, allowing for Jacob and Emma to escape (though they are the only ones). Jacob gets a call from his dad and is able to have a brief conversation before he has to run away. And that is the end (hence my wanting to read the third book).
Summing it up: this book was not my favorite, but if you’ve read the first one, it’s worth reading to continue the series.
All the best, Abbey
by Cece Bell
El Deafo was recommended to me by a friend and when it turned up right in front of me at the library, I felt it was fate to read it right away. El Deafo is the first graphic novel I’ve ever read. I didn’t know what I’d think about all the pictures as part of the story, but I loved it. I really enjoyed reading a graphic novel and I also really enjoyed this particular story. Cece is a young girl (rabbit) who gets very sick at 4 years old and loses her hearing. The story is autobiographical and follows Cece’s perspective on her loss as she attends school from kindergarten to fifth grade. We watch Cece struggle to come to terms with her hearing aides, and find true friends. She nicknames herself El Deafo and pretends she’s a superhero with her sonic ear (heading aide). It’s cute and very clever! I loved that this is based on Cece’s life and feel honoured that she would share her story with others. It was sweet, uplifting and heartening. I’m so happy it was recommended to me! 😉
Summing it up: This story is sweet and endearing and I thoroughly enjoyed rooting for Cece! I highly recommend it!
All the best,
A Well-Tempered Heart
by Jan-Philipp Sendker
This book is the sequel to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, which I loved. It was a beautiful story (blogged here: twentyninewillowlane.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-art-of-hearing-heartbeats) and I was looking forward to reading A Well-Tempered Heart. It started out fine, but I couldn’t really get into it. I skimmed a bunch and then got hooked at the end. I actually loved the end . . . A. Lot. The book is divided into three parts, so it was part three that I adored.
A Well-Tempered Heart resumes ten years after the first book. Julia is a successful lawyer, but has been estranged from her mother and brother ever since she told them her father’s story. She’s also broken up with her boyfriend of five years. She doesn’t have a great personal life, but she’s not unhappy. But then, she starts hearing a voice in her head that asks relentless questions about her life and what she’s doing with it. It is slowly driving Julia insane. Spoilers: long story short, Julia finds out that the voice is a restless spirit that got lodged with hers. In order to release it, she needs to discover the spirit’s story and why she’s at unrest (this is where I checked out). Well, naturally she figures it out: it’s a mother who had to choose which of her two sons would face a likely death. Julia ends up finding the son that miraculously survived and they fall in love. She’s supposed to leave though, so he breaks things off. Julia goes to return home, only to realize that that’s the last place she wants to be. She ends up staying and the voice disappears for good. It’s a beautiful ending!
Summing it up: I didn’t love most of the book, but the ending pulled me in, so I’d recommend it!
All the best, Abbey
Tales from the Crib: Adventures of an Over-Sharing, Stressed-Out, Modern-Day Mom
by DeeDee Filiatreault
I had a feeling I’d like this book from the moment I read it’s title. Filiatreault has an incredible gift to describe the realities (both the good and the bad) of being a mom. As a mom of a 5 and 3 year old, I related to so much of what she had to say! I laughed out loud (a lot), I cried a little, and I completely enjoyed myself from start to finish. It’s always a relief to know you’re not alone (or going crazy) as a mom, and Filiatreault makes sure you know she’s in the same boat. The concept of this book is that it’s a compilation of Filiatreault’s Tales from the Crib column. The entries are not chronological, but they flow from subject to subject easily. This a quick, fun book to read and I loved every second. I highly recommend this book to all moms (both new and seasoned). I hope you love it as much as I did!
All the best, Abbey
by Stephanie Meyer
I really enjoyed this book. I reminded me of the Jason Borne movies. I loved the suspense and mystery throughout the book. I was completely caught up in the story and whether everyone was going to make it or not. The writing was phenomenal. My one and only complaint was that it got graphic at points. The main character is a professional torturer and things get dicey at a few points. So, I skimmed a little! Even though I didn’t like the gory parts, they were necessary for the plot, and needing to skim didn’t detract from the book . . .I still loved it. Meyer is absolutely becoming a favorite author. I read The Host first and now The Chemist and I really enjoyed both.
Alex (one of her various aliases) is a former torturer for the American Government. For a reason unknown to her, the government is trying to kill her, so she goes on the run. She gets tracked down by a former associate and asked to come in for a job. Alex is extremely skeptical, but the stakes are high (someone is about to expose the US to a horrific disease), so she decides to step in. The target is an all-American English high school teacher, Daniel. He’s made several trips to Mexico and is syphoning money into various accounts. Alex mages to capture him, setting him up in her torture lab. Mild spoilers: She’s plagued by the idea that he’s not really a bad guy, but the agency can’t be wrong. As she’s torturing him, the feeling strengthens and before long they have company: Daniel’s twin brother, Kevin. Turns out, the “job” was a trap and isn’t real – and Daniel is completely innocent and oblivious. Kevin was in the CIA and got burned when he wanted to continue digging into a job that was “closed.” The threesome become a reluctant crew when they realize they are more likely to stay alive if they stick together. However, Alex and Kevin strongly dislike each other. Daniel serves as the go-between to keep the peace and they begin a long journey to figure out why Kevin and Alex are wanted dead by their two departments. Poor, innocent Daniel gets taken for a ride but he goes willingly as he has fallen for Alex (he fell for her before she tortured him and he decides to overlook the torture). Big spoilers: The threesome travel, trying to be secretive and keep their trail quiet, to Kevin’s safe house. They stay there for only a short time before they are discovered. Kevin is away at this point, so his highly trained dogs, including his lead dog, Einstein, take Alex and Daniel to safety. They meet back up with Kevin and figure out that their directors want them dead because they know information about a political coup. Kevin gets captured and Alex and Daniel hatch an elaborate plot to free him from torture (including a kidnapping, poisoning, and amazing disguises). They manage it, but Daniel gets shot. Thankfully it’t not his heart, but it is his lungs and it’s a brush with death. The family vet steps in to save the day and Daniel is healed. The plot included disposing of the two directors, so no one is left to try and kill them. They keep hiding and build a life for themselves free from fear and discovery. By this time Kevin and Alex have become friends and Alex and Daniel are full on in love!
Summing it up: I loved this intense, creative, awesome book (even though I skimmed some of the gory parts). I definitely recommend it!
All the best, Abbey
Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase
by Louise Walters
I liked Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase. It was enjoyable to read and kept me engaged until the end. I really liked Walters’ writing style and the plot was very interesting. I found myself anxious to find out what was going to happen. That being said, there were some sad parts and I was pretty shocked by the ending, which left me at a loss. Overall, the book left me feeling, “meh.” I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
The story is told from two different perspectives and times. The first is from Roberta, a thirty-something book store clerk, and the second is from her grandmother, Dorothy when she was a young woman in the 1940s. The story oscillates between the two women and slowly closes the gap between them and unfurls some curious family history. I loved the back and fourth (as I usually do)! Roberta finds an old letter of her grandmother’s – presumably from a lover who was calling Dorothy out on not being honorable. Roberta is torn about wether to share it with her grandmother, who is very old and has alzheimer’s. She has her own personal issues to deal with, such as working at a book store where she’s been at forever and having an affair with a married man. Ultimately, her grandmother wraps up a few loose ends before she passes. Dorothy spontaneously married when she was very young and essentially ran away form home, cutting off ties to her family. She is never able to get pregnant, other than one stillborn baby. Finally her husband abandons her and serves in the army during WWII, never looking back. Dorothy is confused, but relieved. She lives for years on her own, housing land girls and doing laundry. Spoilers: one day, a Polish helicopter crashes into her field and she runs to intercept it to die, but instead she suffers a few injuries and gets mistaken for trying to help the soldier. She is a local hero. The soldier recovers and he and Dorothy become friends and then lovers. One of the land girls that is staying with Dorothy gets pregnant and doesn’t realize it until she is giving birth. She has no interest in keeping the baby, so she asks Dorothy to keep him. Dorothy agrees and after a little while, leaves without saying goodbye. The other girl finds out and is furious, but lets her go. Dorothy mends her relationship with her mother and lives with her. This is when the letter from the beginning comes in. Dorothy’s lover tells Dorothy that he can’t be with her anymore because she took the baby. (Side note: this super confused me because I thought what Dorthy did was great. I mean, she probably should have said goodbye, but it was the perfect solution . . . what was so dishonorable about that?!) Anyway, it’s heartbreaking for Dorothy, but she’s waited her whole life for a child and she does her best to raise him well (which she does: her son is Roberta’s father). A few years after Dorothy’s lover writes the letter, he goes searching for her because he realizes that he was wrong. He’s too late though: Dorothy and her mother have moved and he never finds her! Roberta gets most of this from her grandmother before the end. It’s heartbreaking. Roberta’s ending is sweeter: she and her boss have been dancing around the obvious for years and finally get their love out in the open and start dating.
Summing it up: There were both sweet and sad parts in this book and it left me slightly disappointed. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t dislike it. I’d recommend it, with the caveat that it wasn’t anything spectacular.
All the best, Abbey
by Johanna Spyri
I remember reading Heidi as a girl and really liking it, though I couldn’t remember quite how it ended and what exactly happened (yes, a common theme for me, which is why I started this blog). My book club was reading it, so I was very excited to reread it. True to my memory, I loved this book all over again. It is a very simple story with morals and heartwarming events. Heidi goes through ups and downs and you ride them right along with her. There are strong religious themes throughout the book, which is nice to read. Sometimes it was a little much for me, so I skimmed a bit, but it doesn’t take away from the book by any means. It is refreshing to read a novel that is sweet and uplifting. Another theme that I absolutely loved was the power and importance of learning, specifically for reading. I am an advocate for education and the power of reading, so I loved this theme. The Grandmother in the story says to Heidi, “You see that picture with the shepherd and the animals – well, as soon as you are able to read you shall have that book for your own, and then you will know all about the sheep and the goats, and what the shepherd did, and the wonderful things that happened to him, just as if some one were telling you the whole tale.” She encourages Heidi to learn and is instrumental in helping Heidi become educated.
Heidi is an orphan girl who is staying with her aunt. However, her aunt gets a job and must leave Heidi with her reclusive Grandfather on the top of a mountain. Heidi is a cheerful, loving little girl and immediately adapts to her Grandfather’s simple, quiet life and falls in love with him, his cottage, and his goats. Heidi’s aunt feels horribly guilty, so unbeknownst to Heidi or her Grandfather, she agrees to place Heidi in the home of a wealthy man and his daughter, Clara. Clara is a cripple and needs companionship. When Heidi first moves in with them she is heartbroken (having just been torn from her Grandfather), but she does her best to be good and soon becomes friends with Clara. During this time, Heidi meets Clara’s Grandmother, who encourages Heidi to learn and read and trust in God when she is sad. Spoilers: Heidi’s depression deepens and she becomes weaker and weaker. After a scary episode of sleepwalking, the family doctor is called and he diagnoses homesickness, recommending that Heidi return to her Grandfather as soon as possible. Clara is heartbroken, but her father realizes the harm that has come to Heidi and personally takes her home. So Heidi returns home and is beyond happy. After a little while it’s arranged for Clara to journey up and stay with Heidi. She is weak, so it is quite the endeavor to bring her up in her wheelchair, but they do it. Peter, the shepherd boy for the Grandfather’s goats and good friend of Heidi’s, is very jealous of Heidi and Clara’s relationship so he maliciously wreaks Clara’s wheelchair. It all gets discovered when his conscience can no longer bear it. Happily it all works out because Heidi is forgiving and Clara (thanks to the fresh mountain air) recovers her strength and learns to walk again. It is a very happy ending, which was a little schmaltzy for me, even though I like happy endings.
Summing it up: this is a sweet, beautiful story that I definitely recommend!
All the best, Abbey