Tuesday intro: A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. Diane is currently on a summer break but I have decided to carry on regardless because these are some of my favourite posts. I see others are doing the same – if you are, please leave a link to your post in the comments so that I don’t miss checking out your reads.

tuesdayI’m also joining in with Teaser Tuesday, hosted by The Purple Booker, where you share two teasers from your current read. I read a lot of these posts over the course of an average Tuesday so thought it would be fun to join in here too.

So, after a very long intro, this is what I’m reading this week…

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The story so far… 

Contains spoilers

After the death of his grandfather, sixteen year old Jacob visits a remote Welsh island where his grandfather lived as a boy. There, he discovers the orphanage is just as his grandfather had left it, right down to the peculiar children who lived there. 

Peculiar children are ones with skills, abilities or physical quirks that set them outside the normal world.  They can make fire with their hands, float in the air, have bees living inside them or, in Jacob’s case, can see Hollows – creatures whose only mission in life is to find and kill peculiars (of which he has discovered he’s one). 

To avoid detection, peculiar children live in loops, days frozen in time, which they relive again and again, never aging unless  they leave the loop – in which case they die within days. The orphanage was in a loop when Jacob finds it. I say was because not long after he arrives, Hollows attack and kidnap the head of the orphanage  – Miss Peregrine.  It is one of many attacks throughout peculiar dorm and, before long, Jacob and the other children are on the run and racing against time to find Miss Peregrine and a loop that can stop them dying. 

What happens next

From goodreads

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

What do I think…

So I’ve been a big fan of this series, as my other reviews show, and that hasn’t changed with this book. It’s well written, has great vintage photos that add to the story, an interesting plot and well drawn characters. Key are Jacob and Emma, who find themselves in the heart of the dark world of the Hollows and all that threatens the peculiar way of life, leading to their forming some very unlikely alliances in order to save their friends.

Perhaps inevitably it all goes wrong and they find themselves in greater peril and travelling further into the loops that should in theory keep them safe but instead lead them into danger. forced to find the library of souls, where the most powerful shoulds in peculiar dorm are kept, Jacob has to use his wits to keep everyone he loves safe. If I honest, said wits seemed in short supply in the book but then again he is only 16 and under a fair bit of pressure to avoid everyone being killed. Still, he makes some pretty bad decisions. 

However this does make for a pretty fast-paced readers there is always something happening. The last in the trilogy, it felt like I was hurtling towards the end, towards a grand finale. And, of course, I was. And, because this is a young adult book, everything was also being tied up, all the loose ends were resolved and I got a pretty happy ending. It as one that seemed fitting and left me feeling satisfied, with the book and the series, both of which I liked a lot and would recommend.

Emma

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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

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.

Young adult and fantasy books are not ones I normally read – especially combined – but I’d heard such good things about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when it came out I had to pick it up when I saw it in the library. The cover alone is enough to catch the eye and then the description just sounds interesting, which it was.

It has many of the characteristics of other young adult books I’ve read – a disengaged teen (this time portrayed by 16 year old Jacob) discovers they are special (or in this case peculiar) which gives them inner strength to fight their demons (figuratively and literally) and change their lives (for the better) – but it didn’t feel stale or boring or standard. A difference for me was it wasn’t set in a dystopian future but rather the present and the past, which was a nice change.

The story was well constructed and well written, with strong characters in Jacob and Emma, one of the children – with all of them becoming more real thanks to the photos used throughout the book, reinforcing their descriptions. I really liked the photos and they added to my enjoyment of the book. And I did enjoy it – a lot – more than I expected. I found myself turning pages and couldn’t wait to pick it up when I had to put it down, all good signs and meaning this is a recommended read.

Emma

Source: Library
Publisher: Quirk
Publication Date: 7th June, 2011
Format: paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

The Bees by Laline Paul

Title: The Bees

Author: Laline Paul

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Source: Purchased

Rating: Liked it (3 out of 5)

This month, the theme for my book club was “judging a book by it’s cover”. The idea was to pick a book just because you liked the look of it. No deep thinking, examing the blurb on the back, or checking reviews.

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The Bees was hard to miss. The cover is bright yellow (a colour I love) and the book took up a whole shelf on the bookcase facing the door of the book shop. A closer look (at the front, not the back because I wasn’t allowed) included a quote by Margaret Atwood, my favourite author.   I was sold.  Purchase made, I got to read the back cover and was intrigued and excited to read.

 

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous. But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

I blame it on the fact that I haven’t had much sleep recently but despite the title and the description, I still didn’t quite get that Flora was a bee and this was the story of the hive.  For some reason I thought I was going to be reading about a dystopian future where society was organised along a hive-like set of rules.  I’m glad I was wrong because the actual concept is much more interesting, and different from anything I’ve read before.

The problem was that, in order to move the plot along, and show how complex, controlling and hierarchical life in the hive is, Flora had to take on any number of roles and break any number of rules to living in such a society that I just couldn’t quite believe.  Born as a Sanitation Worker, she is selected by the highest kin of Sage to work in the nursery and feed the Queen’s babies. To do this, she needs to produce flow, something bees of her birth shouldn’t be able to do. Then, she becomes a Forager because she understands the dance of another bee, again something she shouldn’t be able to do. And so it goes.

It also goes on a little too long, which was my second problem with the book. I think it could have done with being 50 pages shorter. Instead the tension that was being built up dissipated and where I should have been urging Flora on and biting my nails hoping she survives, I was wondering when it would all be over. Certain a things, such as her closing off her antenna were repeated in detail when a sentence would do.

That said, I did enjoy the book and thought it was a good debut with a great original idea. The beginning really drew me in and Flora was an interesting, strong, female character who stepped outside her traditional role, giving the book a strong feminist message I couldn’t help but cheer her on for. I also learnt a lot about bees. Every time I came across something that made me think “really?” I was on Google looking it up. My new found knowledge was an interesting “side effect” and I now quite fancy taking a bee keeping course.

I have recommended and passed on the book and, for me, it was a solid 3 out of 5.  Have you read it? What did you think?

Emma