Hollow City

20170803_144639-1

Hollow City

by Ransom Riggs

August 2017

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

 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

20161226_151307-2

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

by Rick Riordan

Spring 2017

I read the entire Percy Jackson series over several months and I really liked each of the five books. I loved the characters, the style and the story. I like that the books are not graphic or extremely romantic. They are perfect for middle graders and a great reprieve for older readers. There’s a nice blend of adventure and relationships that makes each book interesting and fun to read. I’ve always loved mythology, so to see it interpreted in a new way and made appealing to a new generation is awesome. I won’t go into each book’s plot because they are all very similar. In the first book Percy Jackson finds out that he is half-human, half-god and as a result is being hunted by monsters and needs training in order to stay alive. He goes to a camp just for half-bloods like himself. There he makes friends and they work together to battle monsters. Each book starts with a dire situation, like the world being taken over my monsters, then Percy and his friends have to accomplish some goal in order to prevent that from happening. Finally, they save the day. Each book incorporates new mythology and characters. The books are engaging, fun and have the perfect amount of suspense. I loved each one and look forward to reading them to my boys!

Summing it up: These books are fun, full of adventure and ones I highly recommend!

All the best, Abbey

All the Bright Places

20170628_115613-1

All the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

June 2017

All the Bright Places is a soberingly beautiful novel. It is told from two different perspectives and I enjoyed the back and forth commentary. I quickly got wrapped up in the love story and was completely shocked by the ending. I’m still processing it. That being said, I thought it was a phenomenal book. All the Bright Places deals with teenage suicide. I think it’s such an important topic to be aware of and to talk about. Especially when depression is something that can be hidden, even from closest friends and relatives.  I keep thinking about this book and I highly recommend it.

Fitch and Violet are two teenagers who meet at the top of their school’s bell tower when they are both contemplating suicide. Fitch has been an outcast throughout high school. He has a tough home life (his father left him, his sisters and his mom to be with a new family) and has struggled with depression and wanting to kill himself for years. When he sees Violet on the bell tower, he abandons his plans and helps her down instead. Violet is mourning the untimely death of her older sister. They had a successful online magazine and ever since her sister’s death, Violet hasn’t written and has struggled with wanting to keep going. When Fitch helps her down, their school mates interpret it as Violet saving Fitch and they don’t correct them. Violet and Fitch get paired together for a school project and before long fall in love. Spoilers: Fitch and Violet fall hard for each other and for a while everything is great. Fitch helps Violet come out of her depression and find herself again. She starts writing and forms a new online magazine. Nothing is able to keep Fitch from his dark place though and ultimately he kills himself. Violet is left to carry on without him and struggle with why she wasn’t enough to keep him alive. It is harsh, sobering and difficult. But it’s also a very important topic.

Summing it up: it was hard to read this book at points, but it was very good and very well written and I highly recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Isla and the Happily Ever After

20161208_112156-1

Isla and the Happily Ever After

by Stephanie Perkins

December 2016

I finished the third and last installment of the Anna and the French Kiss series. It was wonderful. I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After. Perkins’ writing is vivid and her plot was moving and addicting. It was impossible to put this book down. As the end of a series, it was fitting and left the reader fulfilled and happy.

Isla attends the same school in Paris that Anna did, only a few years behind. Isla hangs out almost exclusively with her best friend, Kurt. He has high functioning autism and they get each other perfectly. For years, Isla has had a crush on Josh: a hot, moody senior who blows off school and loves to draw. One day they finally connect and get to know each other. Soon, they acknowledge the truth: they have both liked each other for years. Isla was too scared to talk to Josh (especially since he was part of St. Clair’s gang before they graduated and left him behind) and Josh thought Isla was dating Kurt. Such begins their rapid romance. Spoilers: they soon become inseparable, even though Josh respects Isla’s relationship with Kurt and their established routines for the most part. Isla and Josh are rapidly falling in love and decide to recklessly run away to Spain for the weekend. They enjoy the uninterrupted one on one time, but it is not to last. They get caught and Josh is expelled. His father is running for senator and can’t afford the scandal, so Josh is forced to return to N.Y. to be the proper son his parents need him to be. They take away his phone and he and Isla have to sneak around to talk, and those conversations are few and far between. They write letters, but the separation is a huge strain. Finally, over a holiday Isla returns to N.Y. and is invited to a fancy gala as Josh’s date. It is a strenuous night and Isla comes to the realization that she’d only hold Josh back from his potential if they stay together, and if so, that he would realize she’s not good enough and end things down the road. That would be too painful, so Isla decides to break up with him now, in order to hurt less. Josh is crushed, but Isla is stubborn. She returns to school and realizes that she is still helplessly in love with Josh. At first she dismisses it because she feels unworthy of love, but soon she tries to reach out, only to be met with silence. She even buys a comic book and gets it signed by the author for Josh, but then hides it. It’s a horrible time for both of them. While Isla is wrapped in her own misery, Josh is heartbroken, but determined to prove his love to Isla (who is obviously horribly insecure). For years, he’s been working on a memoir comic book of his high school years. He showed the rough version to Isla when they were together and she freaked out because there were only a few pages about her and a ton of pages about his ex (including a full nude spread). Josh took her limited constructive feedback and decides to rewrite it. If he can finish, then he hopes to win back Isla and convince his dad to let him go to college for art and comics. One day, he gets a package: it’s the comic book Isla bought him (her sister sneakily sent it as if from Isla). He takes it as a sign of hope and agrees to join his friends on their trip. Cricket’s sister is competing in the Olympics, so he, Lola, Anna, St. Clair, and Josh are going to watch her, stopping in Paris to meet Isla, “Josh’s friend.” They get together for dinner and it is horribly awkward. St. Clair and Anna are the first to leave and disappear to one of their favorite spots. They are followed by everyone so they can witness St. Clair’s proposal! Anna says yes, and everyone leaves them in peace. Finally, it’s only Josh and Isla left. He gives her the new manuscript and makes her promise to read it right away and call as soon as she finishes. Isla is so disappointed. She hoped he would want to stay with her, but she agrees. Soon she is lost in his masterpiece. It has a new, solid story and focus (and she is much more present). In the end, her character is reading the new manuscript and realizes that Josh truly loves her. She calls him to find he’s been waiting outside for her the whole. Isla wipes her tears and looks out the window to see Josh. She runs outside and they embrace. It’s such a beautiful ending. Side note: she makes things right with Kurt, becoming friends again, and it works out for the best because Kurt has made more friends in the meantime and is very happy. Additionally, the theme of life after college is woven throughout the book and Isla and Josh get into schools in the same town and are able to live together during college. It’s truly a happily ever after story and I loved it!

Summing it up: I loved this book. It had humor, heart, angst, and a happy ending. I definitely recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

20161223_213407-1

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

December 2016

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was another family recommendation. This time from my sister. I didn’t hesitate at all, but quickly took it to read. Not surprisingly, I’m happy I did! I really liked this book, even though it was totally creepy. It was so interesting, and had such a steady pace, not rushing or drawing out too long. There’s no easy way to really describe it, so I’d say, just dive in and find your bearings.

Jacob is an ordinary boy in an ordinary town, who wishes for something more. He works at a store, which he hates, and has a grandfather whom he loves, but who is seeming to go crazy. He tells stories about his old friends who could do amazing things, like levitate, form fire out of thin air, and one who is invisible. He also has a collection of firearms and talks about monsters. Jacob enjoyed looking at the old photographs of his grandfather’s friends when he was young and believed in them, but now he is skeptical and worrying about his grandfather. One day, he goes to check on his grandfather, only to find him dead. The crazy thing is Jacob sees a creature with tentacles receding into the woods. His parents agree to send him to counseling after going through such a traumatic event which is causing Jacob horrible nightmares. Jacob’s therapist is a great help and eventually suggests that Jacob visit the island where his grandfather met all his old friends. Jacob’s parents reluctantly agree and he gets to go with his dad. Once on the island, Jacob quickly finds the home his grandfather stayed at, but is dismayed to find it in ruins. It’s not long after this, that he meets his grandfather’s friends, who are truly different and haven’t aged a day from their photographs. Spoilers: Jacob is soon swept into their world, where time stands still in order for them to be protected from “normal” humans, as well as from horrible tentacled creatures called HollowGhasts and human looking creatures called Wights, both of whom hunt peculiars for food (Wights doing the brunt of the work because they can blend into human society). Jacob is drawn to the peculiar’s world and enchanted with their life, feeling at home and safe with them and their headmistress, Miss Peregrine. He’s learning more about his grandfather (including the fact that he had dated, Emma, a peculiar who can form fire and who has taken a pointed interest in Jacob), and more about himself. He finds out that he is actually peculiar, like his grandfather. They both can see monsters, while everyone else cannot. Before long, this ability comes in handy as he spots both a HollowGhast and Wight on the island and therefore knows trouble it’s coming for Miss Peregrine and her peculiars. Everything comes to a head when the Wight breaks into Miss Peregrine’s world and captures her, while the HollowGhast tries to kill Jacob, Emma, and a few of their friends. He is ultimately unsuccessful (he dies), but the damage is done with Miss Peregrine. Jacob and his friends must rescue her and defeat the Wight, who has been disguising as Jacob’s therapist. After an epic battle, they kill the Wight and are able to rescue Miss Peregrine (who was forced to turn into a Peregrine – her peculiarity), but she is unable to turn back. They also learn that the HollowGhasts are working together to capture other leaders like Miss Peregrine (who alone are able to manipulate time) in order to gain more power and eventually master time itself. Jacob has to decide if he will return home to his ordinary life, or abandon it to live with the other peculiars. In the end, he decides to stay with his new friends and help defeat the monsters. He tries to explain things to his dad, who is incredulous and clueless, but knows he’ll never really understand, and then he leaves to start his new life.

Summing it up: This book was so creepy and so good. I definitely recommend it and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series!

All the best, Abbey

If I Stay

20161221_133944-1.jpg

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

December 2016

I actually watched the movie version of If I Stay a while ago before I knew there was a book. I loved the movie, so once I found out about the book, I was eager to read it. Well, I loved it just as much as the movie (if not a little better). I don’t know why I love it so much, given the tragic premise, but I devoured the book in one night. The writing was phenomenal. The plot was gripping and heart-wrenching and made it impossible to put the book down. The icing on the cake? There’s a sequel!

Mia is high school girl with a normal, rather good life. She has a loving mom and dad, a younger brother who adores her, and a boyfriend who melds great with her family. Mia is a gifted cellist who will likely be going to Juilliard. One morning, there’s enough snow to close school (a dusting in Oregon will do that), so the whole family decides to drive up to visit old friends. On the way, they get into a horrific accident, killing Mia’s parents on impact and sending her and her brother to the hospital. The strange thing for Mia is that she watches all of this outside her body – observing the events, conversations, etc that go on around her. The rest of the book follows her observations and her struggle to decide whether or not she should stay and live. Spoilers: pulling her to leave is the fact that she is an orphan and that her brother ends up dying. Pulling her to stay is the fact that she’s surrounded by family and friends who want her to live, and the hope of a future if she stays. In the end, her boyfriend plays her a cello piece, flooding her with memories and hope and she decides to stay.

Summing it up: This book was beautiful, heartfelt, and I absolutely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

20161208_112213-1.jpg

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

December 2016

Because I liked the last book I read on North Korea, one of my library co-workers recommended this young adult non-fiction. As much as the subject matter is tragic, it is also fascinating. Even though it’s hard, getting outside of my bubble is so important to me and I think that’s why I enjoy stretching myself to read things beyond “happy fiction” (though we all know I’ll never stop reading that). I enjoyed reading from the viewpoint of a child/adolescent. It was very different: the tone of the book was light and fun, even while it was serious. I really enjoyed Every Falling Star and thought it was very well written.

Sungju Lee is a ten year old boy growing up in Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea. He has a happy, carefree life, until one day his parents announce that they are moving to the country. There, a confused Sungju learns that it’s not vacation at all and something is very wrong. Later in life he learns that his father fell out of favor with the government. They slowly run out of food and working becomes pointless, so his parents stop and use their time to scavenge for food. Finally, Sungju’s father leaves. He decides to go to China and bring food back, but he never returns. Growing desperate, Sungju’s mother leaves one night to go to his aunt’s and also never returns. Sungju is starving and feeling utterly betrayed. He turns to one of his school friends who helps him and before long they start a gang filled with other boys who have been abandoned. They work together to find food, clothing, and shelter: simply to exist. Spoilers: Sungju spends the next six years struggling for survival: learning how to fight, becoming the strongest gang with a fearsome reputation, losing friends, and growing up. He becomes the leader of an established gang filled with his friends from day one, though he (and his gang members) still yearns for family. One day Sungju runs into his grandfather. He doesn’t believe it at first, but a portrait of his family convinces him that he has in fact found his grandparents. He leaves his gang, promising to visit every week. For a little while things are settled and happy – he even has a bed again. But then he is visited by a messenger with a letter from his father saying that he is in China and has been searching for Sungju all these years and wants him to visit. After agonizing over the decision, Sungju decides to risk it and agrees to journey to China.  He crosses the river with his guide and is passed off to another man who gives him a passport and sends him on a plane with instructions to not say a word. Before long, Sungju is in South Korea and after much confusion is reunited with his dad! Sungju had a hard transition into his new life, but is now a successful, educated young man working toward helping create smooth North Korean integration into South Korea. He and his dad are still searching for his mom. It’s sobering to read of parents abandoning their children and children fighting for their existence. And even more so learning about the challenges once they’re able to leave North Korea . . .it is anything but easy. There’s hope in reading Sungju’s story though and I’m grateful he shared it with the world.

Summing it up: this was a challenging, beautiful story and I highly recommend it.

All the best, Abbey