A Quirky Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Abridged synopsis from the official Quirk Books website:

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And 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 who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather— were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive…”

My Grandfather is an extraordinary, albeit “peculiar” man. He has always been mysterious, to say the very least.

He was adopted as a young boy, and although he has since unearthed his buried past, for years I entertained the notion that he had been a young Prince of some grand, foreign land, spirited away in a desperate final act by a usurped Royal family. I would daydream that one day all would be revealed, and I’d inherit a title (and perhaps even a horse) overnight.

His entire life seems to have run in a series of unbelievable events. As a child he was forced to smoke cigarettes for the amusement of grown-ups, and as a grown-up himself dressed up as Superman and climbed up onto the roof of his house to entertain the neighbourhood children. The stories of my Grandfather’s efforts to woo my Grandmother make The Notebook pale in comparison (sorry, Ryan, but he built her TWO homes). I blame their story for the fact that to this day I remain decidedly single.

He is a master craftsman, self-taught, of course. There are four Grandfather clocks currently chiming in his home (one for each of his four children), and every one of them was made by hand. His talent truly knows no bounds, and he even went as far as to paint portraits onto the clock faces; mermaids, seascapes and flowers decorate what would otherwise have been white space behind the whirling hands.

He is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating people I know, and his story is the reason I enjoyed this particular novel so very much.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children unfolds as Jacob, our sixteen-year-old protagonist, embarks on a journey that will retrace the steps of his Grandfather’s fantastically peculiar life. As is typical of any good hero’s journey, Jacob is still reeling with the shock of tragic personal loss and questioning his own sense of self when he is offered a so-called “reprieve” on a remote island off the coast of Wales.

It’s here that he comes face-to-face with some of the characters that once played starring roles in the tall tales his Grandfather would regale him with when he was a young boy. He encounters an extraordinary woman (with an extraordinary gift) and befriends the orphans with oddities that she has taken under her wing. By the final chapter Jacob himself has realized what the reader has known since page one; that the life he is destined to lead shall be equally as remarkable as his Grandfather’s was before him.

The movie rights have already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox, and although I’d be first in line to see this tale played out on the big screen, the pages are rife with such vivid imagery that it needs to be enjoyed in the way that it was originally intended; as a book that will encourage and inspire readers of all ages to put their imaginations to good use.

The author, Ransom Riggs, had originally only intended to create a picture book featuring the collection of mildly macabre vintage photographs he had collected at swap meets, but was advised by an editor at Quirk Books to take inspiration from the images and create a narrative instead. Fans of the book will be forever in debt to that editor, as Riggs manages to seamlessly weave a tale of romance, intrigue and adventure. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is like Big Fish meets X-Men (if whimsy were to take the place of Wolverine). It’s as hopeful as it is haunting, and gives a whole new meaning to the expression “family demons”.

What truly stuck with me, however, was the poignancy of the plot that revolved around Jacob and his beloved Grandfather.

It seems as though many popular YA books feature protagonists that are either orphans or children fleeing broken homes. As a result, there is never a real sense of where they came from- the focus is entirely upon where they are headed. Clearly this formula works, but it was a welcome change to read about the family bonds than can span (and sometimes skip) whole generations.

  • Published: June 7th, 2011
  • Publisher: Quirk Books
  • Pages: 352
  • Readership: Young Adult
  • Genres: Fantasy, mystery
  • Rating: 5 1/2 Harry Potters out of 7.
  • Buy it here! Or better yet- at your local bookshop!

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Book Review: Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

Although I love the company I now work for (the company sending me to England this summer for “work”), there are times that I miss working at The Silver Snail, the world’s biggest and best comic book store.  I don’t miss having to take customers’ sweaty bags at the front cash in mid-August in an effort to dissuade theft.  I don’t miss the regular who used to smell my hair when I had my back turned.  I certainly don’t miss being treated like The Last Unicorn by men who had evidently never seen a woman within ten feet of a comic book.  I do, however, miss the conversations.  Going to work used to mean participating in heated discussions concerning Marvel versus DC (oh, how my tune has changed since the New 52 relaunch), discussing Catwoman’s animal activism with Bruce Timm himself, or attending pre-screenings of all three Lord of the Rings films (it was a mandatory part of my job, as I was the resident Lord of the Rings expert).

Yes, women read comics too. It is known.

Make no mistake; I’m wildly passionate about my current profession.  I love what I do and I love the people I work with even more, but gone are the days that I would be paid to rant about Catwoman’s ludicrous stilettos (COME ON) or encouraged to discuss Alan Moore’s latest whimsy, and deep down I miss being surrounded by my fellow nerds.  People who are genuinely interested in the latest episode of Dr. Who or BBC’s Sherlock or whether Katniss Everdeen should have picked Gale over Peeta in the end (of course not). I am fortunate enough to work with some like-minded men and women within my new profession, but the ability to discuss The Avengers at length is no longer a job requirement.

I suppose I do feel as though my nerdy side has been somewhat suppressed ever since I entered the realm of the “real world”, and in a turn of events as unfair as Lady’s untimely demise, I left my job at The Snail a year before Game of Thrones hit the airwaves.  Yeah, I pulled a Ned Stark.

Definitely did not think that one through.

Nowadays, finding someone as invested in the series as I am is nearly as entrancing as a baby dragon.  Nerds, like the dragons of Westeros, used to be common, but they’ve become quite a rarity, and so when I stumble upon one (a nerd, not a dragon) I latch onto them like Bran onto Hodor.  If you let me, I could discuss Jaime Lannister’s glorious mane or Jon Snow’s potential parentage for hours on end, and with all that being said, I believe I enjoyed reading Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as much as I did because it felt like I was back behind the counter.  Every time I picked it up I felt like I was sitting down at a panel at The San Diego Comic Con.  Reading it was like having a conversation with a group of people as passionate as I am about Game of Thrones, people who just happened to be extremely enlightened and well-spoken.  This compilation novel includes essays covering topics ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Direwolves and religion, and features authors ranging from game designers to psychiatrists.  Even controversial topics like the sexual violence depicted in the series is covered with a great deal of tact and insight.

When Jonathan Llyr initially asked me to review an advanced copy of the novel for Hardcore Nerdity, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat daunted by the prospect.  I have come to associate the name George R.R. Martin with heavy tomes, you see, and was therefore quite relieved to discover that this book was a feather light 200 pages.  At the time I had only just finished reading A Dance with Dragons, and my feeble arms were still recovering.

You know nothing, Jon…Llyr.

Now that I’ve finished, however, I do wish it had been 900 pages long!  Every essay provides an entirely different perspective.  Every one of them is thought provoking and informative, and although they were penned by highly intelligent and accomplished individuals, not a single one comes across as patronizing or far-fetched. It’s clear that the book was the result of a medley of fans coming together, and is therefore relatable and interesting whether you’re a new or old fan of the series. At times I found myself disagreeing with a notion put forward by one essay, but strong and well-rounded opinions can only be formed when others are first considered.

With that being said, Cersei Lannister is NOT evil, Susan Vaught!  When a lioness takes down a gazelle in order to feed her young is she considered evil?  I think not!

The best thing about Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is that it can be considered a collaboration of conversation starters.  It’s a forum without trolls, a convention without body odour, and an absolute treat for the fans of the series who are now patiently awaiting not only another epic novel, but the next epic season of Game of Thrones.