Saturday, March 1, 2014

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Narrator(s):  Jesse Bernstein
Series: Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, book #1
Length:  9 hrs 41 mins
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: June 13, 2011
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I've had this book on my shelf for awhile. I've flipped through it several times, just perusing the creepy, vintage photographs included, and I kept telling myself to make time for it. And now it's in development to be a movie. Also, I received a copy of the audiobook of Hollow City for review. So, it was high time I picked it up.

This book incorporates quite a few elements that are guaranteed to make me take notice. There are children with odd abilities. There is time travel. And, of course, there are villains who control monsters who eat the children with special abilities. Creepy book is creepy. But it also focuses on the relationship between father and child, and in that way, it reminded me a bit of those relationships in The Archived, in that the bond between child and grandparent was actually the strongest in the story.

The embellished prose helped to build the world as I saw it through Jacob's eyes, and it ended up being a lot less horrific than I was expecting. That's not to say that this is the kind of story you want to read at bedtime, unless you like monsters and bees and creepy levitating children peppering your dreams. But there's really an interesting story here, hidden beneath the macabre.

Since I was going to listen to the sequel on audio, and since I wouldn't have been able to fit this book in otherwise, I went the audio route with this book, too. I liked the way Jesse Bernstein interpreted the story, his inflections and accents. It was subtle yet honest, which kind of describes Jacob's character to a T. Also, if you're worried about not being able to visualize the ghoulish pictures described in the text, fear not: the audio comes with a .pdf with the illustrations from the book. At least, the audio I downloaded from Audible did. And I rather liked scrolling through the images as I listened along.

I wasn't expecting a sequel when I bought my hardcover, but with the way this book ends, there's no way the story couldn't have continued. There's a wee bit of romance, though that mostly stays on the backburner, what with everything else going on. Though I'll admit, it is possibly one of the weirdest romances I've encountered. At any rate, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is quite an interesting adventure, and I have no doubt it'll make for a very visually appealing movie.

GIF it to me straight:

Title: Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Narrator(s):  Kirby Heyborne
Series: Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, book #2
Length:  11 hrs 39 mins
Publisher: AudioGO
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Source: received for review from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience.

When I saw that book trailer below, I knew I had been missing out on something special, something eerily different, and I resolved to get to this series sooner rather than later. And then I listened to the first book, and I rather enjoyed it. When it comes to this sequel, though, I have very mixed feelings.

First, they changed the narrator. I like Kirby Heyborne. He's narrated some of my favorite audiobooks. But I think he was a bit much at times for this story. As I said in my review of the audio for Miss Peregrine's, Jesse Bernstein was subtle and it worked really well for me. But I felt Heyborne's narration was a little too subtle at times and a little over the top at others. His accents were great, but they felt a little exaggerated in comparison. Because of that, I had a hard time connecting and concentrating on this sequel. I'm not sure if that's because of the novel itself or because of the change in narrator, though.

This time around, the romance was much more prevalent, which made the ick factor more pronounced for me. It probably wouldn't bother most people, but it was just weird to me. Also, kinda sad. The time travel is also more frequent and somewhat chaotic, and I'm not sure I understood some of the rules completely later in the story due to my inability to give this story 100% of my attention. Oh, and this review copy didn't come with a .pdf of images associated with the story, though I gather there are pictures in the actual book. So, I couldn't even go look at the disturbing images in order to rekindle my interest in the story.

The story didn't pick up for me until about the last 25%, and that's when I realized that there's going to be another book. After all of the gallivanting from timeline to timeline, in search of someone who could help Miss Peregrine, the Peculiar orphans are no closer to their goal than when this book started. If I'd known this was going to be a middle book going in, I would have prepared myself for all of the running and chasing and hiding and waiting...waiting for something to happen that actually made me care.

Hollow City had its moments. It was fast-paced and there was some dropping of the jaw. I still find these characters and their stories terribly fascinating, but I'm disappointed in the lack of resolution. I'm also disappointed that the humor and snark from the first book was noticeably absent in this sequel. For better or worse, this was a very middling middle book, and I would have to see some very positive reviews of the next book for there to be any chance I'd cave to my curiosity and find out what happens to Jacob and the rest of the Peculiars.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

I grew up in Florida, went to Kenyon College in Ohio, then film school at USC in LA, where I still live. I write books and screenplays, blog daily for, and make short films.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is my first novel. I'm really excited about it -- it was challenging and rewarding and I hope people like it. If you read that and like the found photographs in it, you might be interested in a book comprised entirely of found photographs that I have coming out January 2012 from HarperCollins. It's called Talking Pictures. You can find sneak peeks by doing a search for "mental floss talking pictures" (I included a number of images in blogs there) and I made a kinda-sorta book trailer for it.

Find Ransom:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads | YouTube


  1. I do have the first one on my shelf, but honestly I haven't heard the best of things about the second. Can I read the first and feel satisfied, or will I also need to read book 2?

  2. Eh, well, I didn't get on well with Miss Peregerine's at all. Which is a dying shame because I LOVE all things creepy. I didn't actually think it was that creepy (too many episodes of Supernatural, probably, shame on me). I don't think I'll be reading Hollow City, especially if it just flies with the romance and not the actual cool (a.k.a. creepy) parts of the story.

  3. this is a series i have had on my TBR for a while and not sure if I really wanted to read it. Sounds really good. I think I may have to pick up the audio. great review.

  4. I've been meaning to read the first book for forever. I have flipped through and looked at those awesome pictures a couple of times myself. I like that the relationship that the book focuses on is familial instead of romantic. Great review! Also, first I lol'd, then I serious'd Seriously snorted.

  5. I didn't like the first book, I felt there was SO much information missing. I had to pick up the second book just to satisfy my eager self to WANT to know what happened next.


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