Tag Archives: fiction

Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss PeregrineI know. I’m a bad blogger. Lately I’ve kind of become a bit of a hermit, but all that’s changing. I’ve missed you guys!

My hermit status has been good for quite a bit of reading, so this will be the first of several new book reviews.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has been calling to me since it was first released, but I resisted mightily. Then I saw a second book had been released, and I figured I needed to see what was up with this monochromatic covered book.  I actually did not notice the girl on the cover is floating until I saw her photograph again inside the novel.

Riggs has built a wonderful world, and I enjoyed every minute I got to spend there with these peculiar children. The characters have depth, and reveal themselves slowly. The lush backdrop of Wales is vibrant, and the intriguing storyline captured and held my attention.

I began my adventures with Jacob late in the evening last week. I’d been to a baseball game with friends, and I needed to unwind a bit. Why I thought Jacob and these peculiar children would be something I could put down easily, I don’t know. I actually did the stereotypical, falling asleep with all the lights on, propped up in bed with the book next to me, and when I woke up, I immediately wanted to dive back in.

Jacob’s grandfather tells him stories of peculiar children he grew up with in a home during World War II.  These outlandish stories capture Jacob’s attention, and although he questions the validity of a boy with bees living inside of him, a girl who levitates, or an invisible boy, his grandfather says he’s telling the truth. Jacob believes him.

However, as happens all too often, Jacob grows up. His parents convince him these are just stories, and it isn’t real. After his grandfather’s death, Jacob searches to connect with the person who knew him best, with his heritage.  He need to find out what inspired these fantastical stories his grandfather insisted were true, so Jacob decides to travel to Wales where this home is located.

Most of us are looking at where we came from, the people and traditions that influenced the way we are raised, and that turns Jacob into someone we can see ourselves in. This fantastic search for these odd children becomes something we can believe in as well, because we’ve all gone looking for something in our family’s history.

In a world in which we’re meant to be more connected through this amazing technology at our fingertips, we feel more adrift. Genealogy studies have skyrocketed, and I think that many of us are looking for an anchor, for roots to hold us steady as the world spins faster and faster around us.

Ransom Riggs’s character is doing the same thing. Jacob’s world is spinning out of control. Decisions about his future are being made for him, and he just needs something to hold on to. Something solid and real and unchanging.

Can he find what he’s looking for in Wales? Does Jacob find the stability he needs in the home his grandfather spoke of so often? Is what he finds better or worse? Do you have to have a clear picture of the past in order to embrace your future? Maybe Hollow City will provide more answers.

One of my favorite things about this book is the photographs. Riggs found these wonderfully peculiar photos that are scattered throughout the novel, and they really enhance the story in a way that illustrations and descriptions can’t do. They add a realism to the story that makes you wonder and want to believe in these odd kids and their world.  It adds another layer to an already nuanced and engaging novel.

This quirky, strange and wonderful book turned out to be so much more than the easy, slightly spooky, read I expected. I immediately went out to purchase the next installment, and as much as I’d like to dive in right away, I’m letting Jacob and his world percolate a bit.  It isn’t like I’m going far, the final installment of the Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn is sitting on my coffee table now, just waiting for me to finish it.  And while it is separated from Jacob’s Wales by a few years, it’s still in Great Britain, so, geographically anyway, I haven’t moved much.  (Although, as characters go, Patrick Melrose and Jacob are nearly polar opposites in many ways.)

 

First Lines:

 I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.  Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.

 

‘Til next time,
Jessica

 


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TImeMark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the few books that I would put on a “must read” list for everyone.  Honestly, it moved me to tears, and I had to put it down in places because I got a little overwhelmed.

This first person narrative, told by Christopher John Francis Boone doesn’t only explore the narrator’s deep desire to uncover the culprit in the mysterious death of a neighbor’s dog, it explores the mind of a 15-year-old boy who knows every prime number up to 7,057, doesn’t understand human emotions but relates well to animals (especially his pet rat Toby), hates to be touched, and despises the color yellow with a passion I reserve for…really, I don’t think I detest anything with the verve Christopher despises yellow.  Christopher struggles with the world because he sees everything, and when you see everything I can imagine the world feels too big, too much, and definitely too busy.  He likes small places, dreams of being an astronaut for the quiet stillness of space, and expounds on mathematical theory that, quite frankly, I’m not sure I really understood.

One of my favorite things, that didn’t really hit me until I finished the book, was the insight the reader has of the people who are part of Christopher’s life.  Although Christopher doesn’t understand what expressions of human emotion mean, he sees them and passes them on to the reader.  Through him, we grasp what the narrator doesn’t, Christopher’s parents’ struggle with a child who can’t stand more than the most minor touches.  You get a clear sense of their heartache when they desperately want to give their son the physical comfort that so many of us take for granted,  but Christopher cannot bear.  The reader understands the strength, courage, patience and amazing love that raising a child with these challenges takes.

All of this makes it sound like this is a dour novel, but it isn’t.  The emotion, that Christopher wouldn’t understand at all, is neatly balanced with humor and brilliance.  Christopher’s honesty and other characters reactions…most of us aren’t used to unflinching, uncompromising honesty, and the reactions he gets when he just tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, are beyond humorous.  It also gives the reader a real look at how often we aren’t completely honest.  The details we leave out to prevent embarrassment, the white lies we tell to avoid an uncomfortable situation, the conversations we skip to prevent us from dealing with confrontation.  These things aren’t necessarily dishonest, but for someone like Christopher who doesn’t understand how to lie, these every day ‘courtesies’ look like lies and dishonesty.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time offers the reader insights into humanity, emotion, and the strengths and failings of people all through the eyes of someone who is unable to process most of those things.  Christopher’s journey through the mystery of Wellington’s death and the truth it reveals about his neighbors, his family and himself is poignant and beautiful.  You get to see the impact he makes on those who surround him.  His uncomfortable truths push them into growth they probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.  Christopher’s awkward questions oftentimes push people into recognizing pieces of themselves that they’ve never had to think about before.  The supporting cast in this novel finds what’s really important to them, the devastation that can arise from the most well-intentioned white lies, that just because you don’t understand the way someone else cares it doesn’t mean that they don’t, and Christopher, well, he learns the most important lesson.  The one that anyone who has ever been told they aren’t enough needs to know.  Christopher learns that he can do anything.  The novel’s final paragraph tugged on my heart, but the ending….it’s….better than good.  It is inspiring.

First Lines

It was 7 minutes after midnight.  The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house.  Its eyes were closed.  It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream.  But the dog was not running or asleep.  The dog was dead.

‘Til next time,

Jessica


This Is A Different Thing All Together

Cover of "Skeleton Crew"

Cover of Skeleton Crew

“A short story is a different thing all together – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
― Stephen KingSkeleton Crew

This is such a wonderful description of a short story.  I could not resist sharing.  Before I discovered Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman I didn’t own many short story collections.  Sometimes I would stumble upon really good ones online or I’d pour through collections from college for favorites, or maybe I’d borrow an anthology from a friend.  However, I didn’t seek out short stories the way I do novels.  Well, that is just not going to work anymore

 

Cover of "Fragile Things: Short Fictions ...

Cover via Amazon

These days time is the most valuable commodity, and I don’t know about you, but I always seem to come up a little short.  In the wake of things-that-must-be-done, novels go unread, memoirs lie abandoned, and works of art “in progress” gather dust.  I know, the fault is no one’s but my own.  The to-do list is largely voluntary, and I don’t regret doing any of it.  The opportunity for a great experience is hard to pass by, but it comes at a sacrifice of those things that relax, steady, and recharge me.  Short fiction has become a solution to fill my need to read, learn, and continue to increase my skill as a writer.  So, I’m branching out…again.

 

I’m in the middle of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, but I’m almost finished reading it.  I’m going to need a little help to keep me going.  Who do you think writes good short stories?  Any favorite collections?

 

‘Til next time,

 

Jessica

 

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For Those in Doubt…Including Me

I get these Daily Rumpus emails by Stephen Elliott, and Saturday he linked to this video on The Rumpus site. The Gap by Ira Glass came at a good time. Reading over the short stories I’m working on, and recent drawings left me with the it’s-all-crap feeling. All the creative types I know suffer through this, and sometimes it is just a phase…sometimes that phase makes encore performances.

  1. It doesn’t all suck. It just isn’t…polished.  You’ll either get an end product you’re satisfied with (deadlines keep me from the endless “perfecting” that happens otherwise) or you’ll get three wishes from a genie…okay, so maybe just an end result you don’t hate.
  2. Keep working.  None of us ever get where we want to be without effort.  Besides, if we got everything perfect the first try, what do we have to strive for?
  3. Imperfections are where the love lives…just keep working

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

9780062024046_p0_v1_s260x420Oh my, oh my, Veronica Roth, please write faster! Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent, was just as riveting as I hoped, and waiting until October for all that I’m sure will be waiting in Allegiant is going to be torture. This book dives deeper into the fault lines of the characters, and, although I hate seeing the characters’ angst, it is always fascinating to stand outside a situation and see so clearly what the characters cannot see for themselves, just like the real world.

This post is harder than most to write without spoilers for both this book and the last! Oh, I want to tell you what happens so badly, but I promised I wouldn’t….so I won’t. This is not an easy feat though. I just want you to know.

I will tell you this is fairly typical of a middle book in a series, a little darker and not a lot of resolution going on. However, I like the story arcs for this series. Not only the over-arching story-line, but the story lines for the individual books as well. They’re well thought out, well put together and I have a sneaking suspicion that the devil will be in the details, as they say. Insurgent left me thinking deep thoughts also. I’m not going to be sharing, because…spoilers…I’m really afraid these deep dark thoughts will give away plot points, so….moving on.

These characters don’t feel flat to me. Everyone, even major-minor and minor characters feel three dimensional. As I said, I think the devil is in the details in this series, and I’m hoping that I have paid attention to all those little things that are going to be revealing as we move further into this world Ms. Roth has built. A bit of the resolution in this book felt a tad forced, but I have a feeling that these issues will pop their ugly little heads up in the next book, and may not be as resolved as they seem to be. In fact, I kind of hope they do, it would be in keeping with real people and relationships. Seriously, how many of you have decided something is resolved only to have another argument about it five weeks, seven months, or even a year later? It isn’t pretty, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gone through that at least once…or three times. Not only that, but these characters have been through a lot already, and it doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. Have you ever just pushed down the stuff you’re just too busy to deal with right now? (Confession, yes, I have.)

9780062024060_p0_v4_s260x420Now, definitely recommending this one. (I already have to…well to everyone I know that reads…like at all.)  Have you read any good books lately? I’m feeling a craving coming on for some new fiction. Allegiant doesn’t come out until October 22, and it is only the end of June! That’s….that’s a lot of days.  Got any good recommendations?


Young-Adult at heart! This week’s review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent

by Veronica Roth

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Apparently, I’m on a young adult book kick.  Really, it just seems like a lot of really great books are coming out of the YA section lately.  First, The Fault in Our Stars and now Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Although, C. S. Lewis once said:

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

I have found that to be incredibly true, haven’t you?  Of course, this is coming from the man who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, and I never get tired of reading those.  Those books are like The Hobbit, an old friend you just have to visit every now and again.  I went and grabbed a book off the shelf with nothing more than a recommendation off the internet…again. (It’s worked pretty well so far.  Confession, I’ll probably do it again.) This title, Divergent,  just kept showing up.  It was in posts on Tumblr, on Pinterest, and Twitter and it stuck in my head.    The word “divergent” is such a great word anyway, and I am such a vocabulary geek.  (Did you know there is a book called The Synonym Finder?  Oh yeah, baby, it is awesome.  It even includes slang. No, I don’t read the dictionary for fun…maybe, I’ve read The Synonym Finder.)  However the info below actually comes from Merriam-Webster.

di·ver·gent

1 a : diverging from each other <divergent paths>

b : differing from each other or from a standard <the divergent interests of capital and labor>

2: relating to or being an infinite sequence that does not have a limit or an infinite series whose partial sums do not have a limit

3: causing divergence of rays <a divergent lens>

— di·ver·gent·ly adverb

Origin of DIVERGENT

Latin divergent-, divergens, present participle of divergere

First Known Use: 1696

divergence

noun

1.  a movement in different directions away from a common point <a growing divergence of opinion about that U.S. president’s place in history>

Synonyms bifurcationdivaricationdivergencyseparation

Related Words differencedisagreementdiscrepancydisparateness,

disparitydissidencedissimilarity

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This week I flew to San Diego for a business trip and read this on the plane on the way there…let me repeat that.  I read Divergent on the plane ride from Tulsa to San Diego.  There weren’t even any measurable layovers.  Well, the plane stopped in Las Vegas, but I didn’t even get off the plane. (I did move to a better seat though.)  Not only did I finish this book in an afternoon, but I went searching for the sequel, Insurgent…right away, as in immediately.  However, it wasn’t in the bookstores in the airport. (Bummer!) Now, while I couldn’t find it in the airport, I know where to pick it up tonight, as in like two hours!  (Not that I’m counting down or anything…no really! There are some cravings that just have to be fed!)

This series is set in what used to be Chicago.  Everyone is divided into one of five factions, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Dauntless, and Amity. You choose your faction at sixteen after an aptitude test.  If you choose a faction outside of your family’s faction, you may never see them again.  Your loyalty to your faction comes before family.  This Choice is the biggest decision of your life.

My family might be able to help me make my choice, if I could talk about my aptitude test results.  But I can’t.  Tori’s warning whispers in my memory every time my resolve to keep my mouth shut falters.

Caleb and I climb the stairs and, at the top, when we divide to go to our separate bedrooms, he stops me with a hand on my shoulder.

“Beatrice,” he says, looking sternly into my eyes.  “We should think of our family.”  There is an edge to his voice.  “But.  But we must also th

ink of ourselves.”

For a moment I stare at him.  I have never seen him think of himself, never heard him insist on anything but selflessness.

I am so startled by his comment that I just say what I am supposed to say: “The tests don’t have to change our choices.”

He smiles a little. “Don’t they though?”

Once you choose your faction, the fun is just beginning. (Can you hear the sarcasm there?  When will we get a sarcasm font?  It should come in Italics, Bold, and Sarcasm.  It would make my life SO much easier! ) After you’ve chosen, you go through initiation.  Not everyone in every faction is initiated, and if you aren’t….you become factionless.  That means no home, no real source of income, and still no contact with your family.  In this world, faction equals home and community, and the emphasis is certainly that you cannot survive or at least cannot live well without a faction.
In this book I kept thinking of something that I heard the actor who plays John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the new film Star Trek: Into Darkness  say about his character.(if you haven’t seen this yet, finish reading this post and GO SEE THE MOVIE!  It is fantastic! At the very least, check out the trailer!)  I’m going to get the actual words wrong, I’m sure, and I’m sorry for it because it was very well said. Hopefully, I get his intent right, however.  Every terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter, and that concept kept circling through my mind along with a question.  When do the ends no longer justify the means?  Isn’t that just a cheery whirlwind of thought.Can you imagine having to choose your future at sixteen? Doesn’t it feel that way when we choose a college or career path? This is so much more permanent, because we all have the option to change our minds about the university we attend . . . or not… the career path we take…or don’t, our future is not set in stone.  Our future is what we make of it…it’s a liberating and terrifying concept, to realize that you’re responsible for what happens next.  Isn’t it? Not the circumstances, but the path you take…

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I know, I know.  These are deep thoughts this week!  On bit of a lighter note, they are turning Divergent into a movie.  As I was checking out Veronica Roth’s website, I found stills from the movie.  There’s information about casting info on there too, not to mention BOOKS!  There is a third book too, Allegiant, that will be released October 22, 2013. (Why is October so far away?  To pre-order or not to pre-order, that is the question of the day.  Because I totally need to add something else to my reading list, right?)

First Lines:

“There is one mirror in my house.  It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Next up…trip to Washington DC, and, trust me, I’ll have a couple of good books to keep me company on the plane.

Til next time,

Jessica


Have Mercy!

Frost Burned

frostburned

Ahhhh! This post is so late, truthfully I totally forgot what day today was…is…wait, what’s today?  If I had to pay out a dollar for every time I had to ask someone that question today, I would have bought someone’s lunch today…maybe more than one, if they were cheap.  Well, better late than never…. enjoy!

Oh, Mercedes Thompson, you are my favorite little Walker. (If the word “Walker” didn’t give it away for you before, this is a paranormal book.) This latest installment in Mercy’s story by Patricia Briggs is pure awesomesauce, as are all the others. (Complete list below, in order.) If you are new to this series, start at the beginning. It isn’t completely necessary, but you’ll get to see how everything unfolds and be surprised by all the fun twists. (as opposed to not surprised, which isn’t fun at all!) Mercy is tough and (is there a word somewhere that combines sarcastic and sassy? There should be, but I don’t know what it is.) I also recommend reading this series in conjunction with Briggs Alpha & Omega Series. The plots aren’t exactly intertwined, but they do bounce off each other frequently, (Complete this of these books below also. Also in order, because otherwise it is annoying.)

For those of you who are already entrenched in the Tri-Cities with Mercy and the rest, you will not be disappointed. Lo and behold, there is trouble…lots of trouble. One of the things I love about this series is that Mercy has a very strong moral compass, and she doesn’t compromise her morals.  Her “family” always comes first, and she will do whatever’s best and anything necessary to protect them…whether they agree or not. As someone who runs a bit fast and loose with the definition of “family” myself, I definitely appreciate Mercy’s adoption of characters into that group of individuals she considers to be “hers”. Now does her compass always point due North, well, I suppose that all depends on how you define “North”. Mercy’s actions may not always be what society would consider lawful, but they always what she would consider to be right. Besides, society’s got a lot to learn when it comes to Mercy’s world. Hell, Mercedes has a lot to learn about her world! I think that’s part of the appeal. We get to learn with her.

Mercedes Thompson is a strong character…a strong woman, and that’s doesn’t mean physically the strongest or even supernaturally the strongest.  While Mercy may not be the strongest, the smartest, the biggest or even the least likely to die, she’s always there fighting for the ones she cares about (sometimes even people she doesn’t care about just those that can’t fight for themselves….no matter how much she may dislike them). It doesn’t matter what the cost to herself may be.  Mercy will make sure she’s doing what she believes is right.

First Line:

“You should have brought the van,” said my stepdaughter.”

Now my dear readers, I must wait until the next book is released for a little more Mercedes Thompson.  Patience is not something that I do well…oh, Ms. Briggs, can you write faster please?  We need more Mercy!

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

Mercy Thompson Series                                                                                    

Moon Called

Blood Bound

Iron Kissed

Bone Crossed

Silver Borne

River Marked

Frost Burned

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frostburned

Alpha and Omega Series 

On The Prowl(anthology)

 Cry Wolf(after Moon Called)

Hunting Ground(after Iron Kissed)

Fair Game(after River Marked)

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