Category Archives: Literature

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss-PeregrinesI originally heard about this book when Tim Burton was rumored to be directing it’s feature film adaptation. Of course that caused me to immediately click the Buy button on my Kindle and begin reading. For a book with the words ‘Home for Peculiar Children’ in the title one would expect a fantastical world inhabited with imaginative creatures. In fact, the book starts out in a very normal way inhabited by very normal people. The story centers around Jacob, an angsty teenager who wishes he could leave his simple little home town and family behind for grand adventures. As a child he was close to his grandfather, Abe, who used to tell him stories and show him pictures of peculiar children. One could lift heavy objects with ease, another was invisible, and so on. These stories used to be Jacob’s favorite things in the entire world. Until, of course, he grew up and realized that they all had to be made up lies. It is only when he witnesses his grandfather’s death by a pack of vicious, mythical creatures, that Jacob begins to wonder if the stories were true.

Of course, witnessing his grandfather’s grisly demise is extremely traumatic, so his parents send him to counseling to deal with the loss. And then things get weird. Jacob’s grandfather, Abe, gave him a clue as he lay dying. Jacob thought not much of it until he realized it had to do with the stories he was told as a child. After all, if those strange creatures that had killed his grandfather actually exist, why couldn’t these kids? He becomes so obsessed that his psychologist convinces his parents he needs to visit the orphanage on a small island off the coast of Wales where his grandfather grew up in order to restore his sanity.

Soon after Jacob visits the remains of the destroyed orphanage, he finds himself journeying through a time loop where- surprise -the kids actually do exist and Abe was one of them. The rest of the story is yours to discover. I do not want to spoil anything, just get you hungry for the rest of the meal. Time loops, humans who turn into birds, a girl who can create fire in her hands, evil creatures called wights – all of these and more await you on Jacob’s journey to discover the peculiar past of his grandfather.

Ransom Riggs, the author, creates stunningly vivid landscapes with just a few simple words. You are certain to get sucked straight into the locales in this story. As I said previously, the book starts off in a completely different direction than I would have expected, and I feel it takes a tad too long to enter the world of peculiar children, but with a sequel out now, it makes sense to prolong the journey in the first book to get more miles out of the second. The pacing feels a bit bogged down in the beginning and then just breaks away in the later parts of the book.

The characters are fleshed out very well, giving each an endearing quality or, in the case of the bad guys, much to loath. Riggs goes beyond the static descriptions – “here’s the kid who can lift heavy stuff, here’s the invisible guy, here’s the shapeshifter” – and turns them into living, vibrant characters.

I was not expecting it to end on a cliffhanger, so I was quite surprised with the final direction of the story and wonder where else this story can go for another novel. In any case, it will be delightful to enter the world of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children and see just which direction the story will go.

I highly recommend this book for the young adult in your household, and the parents, too. (You have to know what you’re kids are reading, right?) There are some more grown up themes like death, murder… angst. So keep this one away from the kiddos for a while.

Purchase: “Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and it’s sequel, “Hollow City

Book Series: The Mad Rush for the Big Payoff

Is that you, Harry Potter? Oh, it’s not? What’s that? Ah, you’re the other character from a different book series about witches and wizards. My bad. You see, there are just so many book series out there these days that it is hard to follow along sometimes. The problem isn’t with you, generic magical hero. The problem lies with the publishers and writers. You see, the publishers only want something that they can stretch their dollar with. Why sell one book when you can sell seven of them! And if you’re a writer, why take the time to create new worlds and characters when there are perfectly good ones you already created? Just plop your characters – much like you, Harry, um, I mean magical hero – into the same settings and just tweak with the stories here and there and voila! instant book series! The publishers will love it! There will be a movie deal! Why make one movie when you can make three or four, or eight! Had The Hobbit been written today it would have been made into three books, just like it is being stretched into three movies. Who’s the hobbit? Well, never mind. I told you, you’re not the problem. You’re just doing your job. Please take your hand off of your wand.

Writers should write what they believe in and not what they believe will sell. You think you have  a lot of competition, wizard? You should have seen the vampire I met for breakfast. Poor guy. Everyone in the restaurant kept making fun of him. “When you gonna sparkle?” they would ask. Hopefully this whole series bandwagon will die down once everyone slows down and sees the glutton of related content popping up everywhere. I mean, come on, we ended up with half off a Harry Potter book being about doing nothing in the woods. Some of these series just keep going for the sake of going. Dollar signs replace each key on the keyboard!

What’s that? Oh, sorry. I get a little carried away. Are you really having eyes of newt for lunch? Typical.

Recommended Reading

Looking for a good book series to read with your kids? 

Check out this delightfully imaginative and just a bit creepy series, The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West.
Highly recommended. I will be reading these all very soon and will post them up in my Fantastic Adventures Series as soon as I’m done!

The Books of Elsewhere website.

 

Updates

I have a big announcement to make today. You may have noticed the lack of blog posts in the last few weeks. For that, I apologize, but it was for good reason.

When I delayed Eliza, the Witch to next Halloween, I posted that I hoped to have a family friendly story out this Halloween. I am glad to say that I have fulfilled that hope, and I will be releasing a picture book this Halloween titled Jeremy, the Jack-O’-Lantern. The writing has been done, and illustrating is starting soon. I hope to have it available by mid-October. More details coming soon!
It is my plan to release a new book every Halloween that you know you can share with the entire family.

Also coming next week, look for more Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment, and a spectacular post about the oldest palm trees in Los Angeles!

Book Updates!

Book Updates!

Dead Skin Dave, the Pirate is still in the works. Just ironing out artwork and distribution.

Coming this October: The Haunted House of John Price as an eBook on Amazon.com. (This is the Halloween story I posted on my blog last year with a few revisions and added twists). Note: This story is Adults Only!

Also (hopefully) coming this October: Eliza the Witch. A Halloween adventure for the entire family! It all depends on if I finish it in time.

Getting behind the dialogue

Whilst watching a film, you have to do more than just sit back, watch the screen and listen to the dialogue; you really have to ask yourself ‘What does this mean and what is he trying to say?’ As promised, let us take a look at Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. Some of the key lines of the film/play are between Aaranow and Moss:

MOSS
No. What do you mean? Have I
talked to him about this?

Pause.

AARONOW
Yes. I mean are you actually
talking about this, or are we just…

MOSS
No, we’re just…

AARONOW
We’re just “talking” about it.

MOSS
We’re just speaking about it.
(pause)
As an idea.

AARONOW
As an idea.

MOSS
Yes.

AARONOW
We’re not actually talking about it.

You see the importance here? Are they talking about committing a crime or are they committing crime? Is there a difference between speaking about something and talking about something? These guys do nothing but talk for a living. They are salesman. They sell property. In their minds, speaking about something is a different activity than actually talking about something. Talking about something implies an action will be taken. Speaking about something is just a way to pass the time.
If you have seen this film you will notice that there is a lot of stuttering going on. Characters change sentences mid-stream, and hesitate to find the words they are looking for. Why do they stutter? These are salesman. Shouldn’t they be well versed in speaking? Well, the fact of the matter is that because they are salesmen, they are unable to communicate anything. They have been lying for a living and are so sued to lying that when they are confronted with having to tell the truth to get what they want they have no idea what to say. Take this exchange for example:

AARONOW
Then, you know, they wouldn’t be so
ups…

ROMA
Yeah. That’s swell. Yes. You’re
right.
(pause)
How are you?

AARONOW
I’m fine. You mean the board? You
mean the board…?

ROMA
I don’t…yes. Okay, the board.

AARONOW
I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m fucked on the
board. You. You see how…I…
(pause)
I can’t…my mind must be in other
places. ‘Cause I can’t do any…

ROMA
What? You can’t do any what?

Pause.

AARONOW
I can’t close ’em.

These guys have no idea how to honestly communicate. They just throw out words and cannot make sense of anything.
My final point: To get behind the dialogue you have to look past the words and search for the meaning. Levine is desperate for fresh leads and confronts Williams about it. Levene is so used to conning people and talking them into a sale that he has stopped listening to other people. Take this conversation:

LEVENE
…and I’m going to get bounced and
you’re…

WILLIAMSON
…let me…are you listening to
me…?

LEVENE
Yes.

WILLIAMSON
Let me tell you something, Shelly.
I do what I’m hired to do.
I’m…wait a second. I’m hired to
watch the leads. I’m given…hold
on, I’m given a policy. My job is
to do that. What I’m told. That’s
it. You, wait a second, anybody
falls below a certain mark I’m not
permitted to give them the premium
leads.

LEVENE
Then how do they come up above that
mark? With dreck…? That’s
nonsense. Explain this to me.
‘Cause it’s a waste, and it’s a
stupid waste. I want to tell you
something…

WILLIAMSON
You know what those leads cost?

LEVENE
The premium leads. Yes. I know
what they cost. John. Because I,
I generated the dollar revenue
sufficient to buy them. Nineteen
senny-nine, you know what I made?
Senny-nine? Ninety-six thousand
dollars. John? For Murray… For
Mitch…look at the sheets…

Levene is so desperate to sell that he offers Williamson a 10% cut on his leads if he’ll just put him up on the board. Williamson tells him he can’t do it, but Levene is not listening. He is essentially trying to “sell” Williamson into putting him on the boards. It is ironic that Levene promises Williamson that he will sell the leads when he can’t even sell Williamson here and now. These guys have been selling for so long that all they know is how to lie their way through situations.
The next time you see a film pay close attention to the script. Most good scripts will have more than just expository dialogue. If you ever find yourself “bored” with a movie, you’re either watching a Michael Bay movie or you’re not paying enough attention!
I believe in the power of dialogue in this piece of literature so strongly that I will lend you my own copy to watch. Honestly, it is that important in terms of dialogue.