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Monday, April 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Reviews

Greetings and salutations, Fire Enthusiasts. I’m so glad to see you, and I can actually see you, you know? Some of you aren’t morning persons, I can tell. While we're on the subject, perhaps it's time to replace those frayed robes that some of you have been wearing. And for one of you, I'd just be happy if you wore any robe!

Just kidding. I can’t really see you. Or can I? *sports devilish grin*

Thanks so much for all of the kind advice and comments over last Monday’s post. I like to be real like that because I know that all of us go through much the same feelings and questions. Hopefully, by discussing it we all felt a little better; recharged even.

In any event, I have come before you this week to tell you about two very cool books that I read since my last review. Both of these are definitely worthy of your time; one might be new to many of you, while I believe that I am way behind the curve on the other.

The first is a book entitled, An Unfamiliar Murder. It was written my one of the nicest people that I have had the good fortune to meet, and a very promising and gifted author as well. Her name is Jane Isaac.

The Synopsis:

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim... Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

I found Jane’s novel to be quite the lovely page turner. Due to circumstances beyond Anna's control, she finds herself swept up in a dangerous world of murder and treachery. In so doing, she undergoes a transformation. Much like a butterfly, emerging from its chrysalis, Anna is taken above and beyond the person that she knew herself to be. Many authors tell you a character has grown due to life-changing events, but Isaac did a wonderful job of “showing” that transformation. In the Star Wars prequels, for instance, we know that Anakin becomes Darth Vader, I just personally didn't believe it. Lucas is a genius at a great many things, but I just didn't think he did as wonderful a job with that character’s transformation from protector of the Jedi to murderer of women and children.

I didn’t mean for this to become a Lucas bashing. I admire the man a great deal. I just didn’t buy into the transformation. Here, Isaac does a splendid job.

Isaac also did a fine job of character-building with her supporting cast. An Unfamiliar Murder gives its readers several varying and multi-dimensional characters that we can readily believe and follow. You will find no cookie-cutter characters here. You'll find that the supporting cast's sole purpose is not to aid or thwart Anna, but very much have lives, hopes and dreams of their own.

I also enjoyed the pacing and the twists. One might suggest that the direction the novel took in the last quarter or so was a bit of a stretch, but I think it worked fine. I found myself hoping the family secrets went even darker and deeper than they did, but overall I found myself pleased with both the reveal and the resolution. I’m being purposely cryptic here since I don’t want to give anything away.

Author Jane Isaac is as cute as a button, has the most infectious giggle you've ever heard and, more importantly, is a serious and skilled author. I will very much look forward to whatever she's got planned next.  

The second novel that I'd like to share with you is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

The synopsis:

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 saw this novel making the rounds through several blogs last year, and I could tell that readers were very excited about it. It just took me a while to clear through my TBR pile in order to get to it. Actually, my family gave it to me in March as part of my birthday gift. I'm so glad that they did because I, too, am happy to suggest it to the few remaining holdouts in the world who have yet to take the plunge.

One of my favorite all-time books is The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. This book reminded me so much of that classic. Much like a great animated film that is pleasing to both children and adults, this book reaches the entire audience. Nearly the entire book is centered around the young Jacob and eventually the "children" he meets at Miss Peregrine's Home; however, it never once feels like you're reading a children's book.

There's little point in my telling you what most of you have already discovered, having read the novel way before me: the characters are well designed, the writing is top notch and the entire thing is gripping from beginning to end. And perhaps making it the most brilliant piece of writing ever is the fact that Riggs first had to find the strange and mysterious photographs to inspire the story, rather than have them produced by a special effects team once the book was completed. This novel is incredibly imaginative and a real breath of fresh air. 

If you haven't read the book, you really ought to do so. It was a marvelous ride, and I am very interested to see what he has planned for the survivors in book two.

We'll talk soon. 


  1. I've had the 2nd book on mt tbr list for quite some time. I'm further behind than you, Jimmy! The first one sounds excellent too. I love a good mystery, in fact used to read them exclusively for many years! Thanks for the reviews. Can't wait to check them out.

  2. I read "School for Peculiar Children" AHEAD of the curve, having received an ARC. Even missing a few of the pictures, I LOVED it and raved in my review. This was before I had a blog, though...

    speaking of, I need to go set up a giveaway - I'll see you on the flip side!

  3. Both books sound great. And I've never heard of either one. So, I'll jot these down on my own wish list, Jimmy! Thanks for reviewing them!

  4. Hey James! Thanks for the very kind words and the lovely review. So glad you enjoyed the book. Interesting review on the 2nd book too - another to add to my TBR;-)

  5. What a nice blog and perfect study of two novels. I love both these books you are recommending (Jane's is in my queue to recommend as well and I hope more and more people discover her novel). Best to you.

  6. Thanks for the great reviews! I have Jane's book on my Kindle. Looking forward to reading it!

    Not a morning person, frayed robe - you CAN see me (:O

  7. I just finished reading it. The concept of using old photos is awesome. And the writing was excellent, for sure. I was gripped through the first half, but then the last half kind of fizzled for me... not sure why, really. I still enjoyed it and am glad I read it tho!

  8. Both books sound great. The cover on the second one is wonderfully eerie.

  9. I have been wanting Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs for a long time now. It's high on my wish list. I must get it. x

  10. The design of the book cover puts in an element of surprise.


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