Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I immediately spotted Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, as I was browsing in Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. It had a very unique cover, and when I picked it up I found that it was filled with strange, and sometimes disturbing, photographs. After I read it, I could say that the written text and the pictures combine beautifully to create this unusual story.

Jacob, a teenage boy, is the narrator. He has a very close relationship with his grandfather, who used to tell him all sorts of wild tales when he was younger. As Jacob grew up though, these tales about the levitating girl, the boy with bees living inside him, and the monsters, just didn’t seem as real as they did when he was a child. And he begins to believe that his grandfather has only been exaggerating or making up the stories. But then, after a panicked phone call from his grandfather, Jacob rushes to his home, only to find him in the woods, dying from being attacked. His last words to Jacob are something about a letter and September 3, 1940. Then Jacob looks up, and he sees a monster.

His grandfather’s words and the clues he’s left behind lead Jacob, and his father, to a small island, where his grandfather lived in a home for orphans and refugees during the war. On the island, he discovers the past about his grandfather, new and peculiar friends, and that even his grandfather’s darkest tales were true. Any person with an unusual ability is defined as “peculiar.” These abilities can be just about anything, such as abnormal strength, being invisible, making inanimate objects come alive, and being able to see the monsters. Miss Peregrine, also a peculiar, is able to manipulate time, and she has been replaying September 3, 1940 on a loop for the past few decades.

However, even with the safe haven Miss Peregrine has created for her children, there are still dangers and those that seek to destroy the peculiars. Jacob finds that he has inherited his grandfather’s ability to see the monsters and knows that he must do his part to ensure the safety and survival of his new friends, even if it means leaving his own family, and time, behind.

This book was magical, and I was so excited that it was truly original. From the cover, I’d expected it to be a bit creepy, but instead of horror, it just had some dark plot twists. The ending was left open for Jacob and his friends to continue their adventures, and a sequel is reportedly coming out sometime in the Spring of 2013. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about a sequel to this book. I feel like it stood for itself pretty well and I just don’t know how a sequel might impact that.

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The Lion and the Swastika

I won The Lion and the Swastika, by Anna Bruni Benson, in a giveaway on Goodreads. I actually received the book at the end of October, but due to NaNoWriMo, I just now got around to reading it.

This book is basically a coming of age story set during World War II, told from the view point of a young girl, Marina. It is set in Italy, primarily Venice, and includes much history that I haven’t really read about before.

In the beginning of the book, Marina is a young carefree girl. She has grown accustomed to daily sirens, but her life hasn’t seemed to be affected much. Things quickly change as the Nazis/Fascists invade and occupy Italy. Marina is forced to grow-up quickly and even does her part delivering messages and passing information for the partisans. It was during these tasks that she met Guido and fell in love. She is outraged at the injustice and is all to eager to to her part to fight for and defend her beloved country.

Part history, part romance, and part inspiration, this book was very enjoyable to read. Anna Bruni Benson, the author, does state that the story was based on her own experience. However, it is not specified if she based Marina’s character on her personal experiences, or just bits and pieces that she incorported. It would be interesting to know the answer to this question.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I wanted to know more about the characters, especially the budding romance between Marina and Guido. For the most part, it was well written, although there were a few minor typos in the printing of the book. I don’t pretend to be an expert on history, but I do like reading about it, especially through the point of view of characters like Marina.