Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

A Map Of Days – Ransom Riggs

“I had just survived the most surreal summer imaginable – skipping back to bygone centuries, taming imaginable monsters, falling in love with my grandfather’s time-arrested girlfriend – but only now, in the unexceptional present, in Suburban Florida, in the house I’d grown up in, was I finding it hard to believe my eyes.”

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Blurb: “Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe. Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop. Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand.”

The Miss Peregrine series was one that I never expected to love as much as I did, and if it hadn’t been for the news of an adaption directed by Tim Burton it would have completely passed me by. The ending was one of those rare ones where I felt incredibly emotional, but also content with it. So when the news came out that the series was going to be extended by three books, I was incredibly apprehensive. In fact, I got myself so worked up that I honestly didn’t think I’d even be able to read this book.

A Map Of Days offered me one of the big things I wanted: character development. As the peculiars move from the loop world to present day Florida, they are forced into drastic changes in order to fit in. It was hilarious seeing them try Pizza for the first time and have to go shopping for regular clothes and the wit, especially from Millard won me over again. As the main crux of the plot comes into effect, the group is split with a select few joining Jacob on his mission to learn more about his grandfather and try to bring order back to the peculiar world. This worked really well because it eases the reader back into the cast of characters by focusing on a select view and padding them out in new surroundings. I found myself leaning more towards characters such as Enoch who I never really cared for in past books.

As usual, Ransom Riggs proves his talents in storytelling and world building as the reader explores new parts of the universe, accompanied by the peculiar photographs that give the series its unique element, but outside of that, this book fell really flat for me.

After the amazing arc the original trilogy had, is A Map of Days really needed? No. It isn’t. If anything, it’ll hopefully appeal to those fully invested in the series, but at just short of 500 pages, it’s a very long slog with a rushed action packed ending to try and keep the reader waiting for the next installment. I just didn’t really feel like it had that many revelations that it was marketed that it would have.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

The Fear Of A Series Reboot…

We all have our series that we love with every piece of our heart. From Percy Jackson, to Harry Potter, Twilight to A Darker Shade of Magic. Ask any reader and I’m sure they’ll be able to name at least one that they constantly revisit. Sometimes, we yearn for the possible day when we might finally get to know what happens after the final book ends, and sometimes the ending is just so perfect that we can move on to the next adventure; satisfied with the outcome.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a book that I never would have picked up if it wasn’t for the announcement of a film adaption which would also be directed by Tim Burton. I was gifted the first book and entered the experience with trepidation because my tolerance for creepy/horror is not good. Frankly, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it the way that I did. The combination of prose and unusual photographs, the depth of the characters and world building had me completely hooked until I moved onto the next installment… and then the next.

While a very emotional reader, I don’t often cry at the end of a series but Library of Souls had me sobbing for an hour as I read the last paragraph over and over. It was perfect. It had the balance between getting answers, but also not knowing what happened next. Stories, just like events in life, are ambiguous in their endings. So when it was announced that Ransom Riggs would be rebooting the series with THREE new books following the same cast of characters I… had a bit of an anxiety attack. Which is really a stupid reason to have one.

For weeks I felt anxious about what this magical new fourth book, A Map Of Days, would be about. I avoided every possible mention of it let alone any snippets. Just the thought of more books genuinely made me sick. I went through the motions of whether I would even be able to read it. I went and bought it on the day of release and it has since sat on my TBR shelf, next to my Miss Peregrine figure, mocking me.

It’s a strange feeling to be so afraid of a reboot. But it’s more the What If’s: what if it’s terrible and runs how perfect the original ending was? What if the actions of the characters don’t marry up to what I expect? What if… What if… WHAT IF.

This is a very long, rambling way of me just putting my freak out into the world and now… I think it’s finally time to dive in.

Posted in adaptations, discussion

What I Look For In Adaptations

More and more we’re starting to see adaptations dominating the new releases at cinemas. It’s starting to feel like almost every day there’s an announcement of another book – primarily Young Adult – that’s been picked up by a film company. This is a good thing on many levels because it feels like Young Adult content is starting to be taken seriously. Fancasting is a common thing in the book community and many of us openly say we would love to see our favourite story in a visual format (I personally cannot wait for the A Darker Shade of Magic TV show). A phrase that’s batted around a lot is “the book is always better than the film.” I am the absolute worst for watching an adaptation with someone and going “you know in this book…”

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I took a module titled “Film and Literature” where, you guessed it, we read a book and watched its subsequent adaptations then discussed them in classes and essays. In my exam, the highest marked question was “All good books make bad adaptations. All bad books make good adaptations. Discuss.” I remember starting at the paper in horror. How was I expected to write a minimum of three pages about how this is entirely subjective? (I tried and failed miserably I still don’t know how I passed the module at all)

I still firmly believe that this is subjective: what may be someone’s favourite adaptation may be the worst thing ever to someone else. So I put the question to various people on social media sites to see what they thought. I was surprised that a lot of the responses I got focused on the feel of it: people seemed rather happy to have the adaptation veer off from the original material as long as it was true to the story. Capturing the real essence of the world and characters was naturally the overwhelming response I received. After all, how can you enjoy it if the meaning of the tale is lost? Naturally another common response I got was about accuracy: as long as everything is exactly as it happens in the book, it’s sure to be good. But with a need to streamline stories, a lot of seemingly unimportant stuff gets cut. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series but the shortest film out of the franchise. (Come on, did you really not expect me to slip Harry Potter in somewhere?

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I am the traditional reader who will pick up the book before going to see the movie. Mainly because I like to imagine everything for myself before that is permanently tainted by someone else’s interpretation of the same story. When I watch the adaptation, I am one of those people who lives for accuracy; even the smallest change can completely take me out of the world. It’s a curse.

So to turn these thoughts I have into something a bit less hypothetical (and probably make this post much longer than it needs to be) I’m going to share two adaptations I really enjoyed and two that are better left forgotten out.
Allegiant (2016) 

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I absolutely adore the Divergent series and the final book is my favourite. I was amazed at how well done the first two films were and often find myself re-watching them. But watching Allegiant felt like being trapped on a train that had derailed over a bridge. Not one once of this adaptation reflects the source material. Nothing was really explained and it felt like the real message Veronica Roth was trying to get across had been muddled in all the changes that were made for the sake of more action scenes. I did a full spoiler review of it on my channel which you can find here if you want to hear me rant.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) 

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It’s only writing this that I noticed I have coincidentally used two examples where Shailene Woodley is the main actress but I had to talk about this film.  I’m sure everyone has heard about this book regardless of whether they’ve read it or not. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, tears rolling down my cheeks while I breathed a sigh of relief. This one of few adaptations to me that really got it right; so much so that I didn’t mind the minor changes. Everything about this is perfect, from the  soundtrack to the aesthetic, to the acting. As I said in the introduction, keeping the message is important and you really do feel it in this film.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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My tolerance for horror and anything creepy is almost non-existent which makes it odd that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. So when I heard that he had signed on to work on a story about peculiar children and there was a book… you can see where I’m going with this. I ended up loving the overall series more than I ever thought I might as it is out of my comfort zone ins some respects. The adaptation is very mixed more me as I really didn’t like some of the actors, and for the life of me can’t understand why the roles and names of Emma and Olive were swapped for the film, but it has some redeeming element to it; mainly the aesthetic. I feel like enough of the world is there and that information is presented in a way that makes it easy to follow (whereas Ransom Riggs’ prose gets difficult to follow at times) but I think it did the right thing in changing the ending as I don’t think it did well enough to work on Hollow City. 

The Book Thief (2013)

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If you watch at least one adaptation in your life, please make it this one. The book is a very dark, haunting read. (What could you expect from a book narrated by death?) With such a strong narrative voice, I felt this might be lost once it was changed for screen and in a lot of ways it is but the acting is absolutely beautiful. I think it’s impossible to watch this film and not feel with every ounce of your being for these characters and the unfortunate situation they’re having to endure. The message is clear, visually it’s gorgeous and while a very slow burn, it’s so worth it for the re-evaluating of your life you’ll definitely do after.

And there you have it. You’ll notice that I didn’t use Harry Potter and that’s for a good reason: I plan to do a whole separate post about the franchise. Stay tuned for that!

What do you look for in adaptations?
What are some of your favourite adaptations and why?

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?

 

 

Posted in review, young adult

Tales of the Peculiar – Ransom Riggs

“Please enjoy these Tales – before a crackling fire on a chilly night, ideally, a snoring grimbear at your feet – but remember, too, their sensitive nature, and if you must read them aloud (which I highly recommend) make certain your audience is peculiar.”

 

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Blurb: “Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of the peculiars was written in the tales. Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A forked tongue princess. These are but a few of the truly brilliant stories in Tales of The Peculiar – the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the location of time loops – first introduced by Ransom Riggs in his #1 bestselling series Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children series.”

I fell in love with this world Ransom Riggs has created nearly two years ago and I was heartbroken when it recently came to an end. However, as one last addition to this world, Tales of the Peculiar is born. For fans of the Miss Peregrine series, you will be familiar with this book; the one Jacob carries around with him. For newcomers, Tales of the Peculiar is a collection of fairy tales about those with “peculiar” abilities and plays an important part in the Miss Peregrine series. Although, you don’t have to read that first in order to enjoy this book. It’s basically like what Tales of Beedle The Bard is to the Harry Potter series.

One thing I’ve always struggled with Ransom’s books is that they often feel very heavy and you have to really sit down and focus on what’s happening to make sure you don’t accidently skim over important details. The advantage of this format being fairy tales is that they’re a lot shorter and lighter but they also keep the creative aspect that makes anything produced by this author so great.

Some of the stories were so creepy and uncomfortable that I found myself cringing such as “The Splendid Cannibals (A testament to the author’s amazing fascination with the weird) while others such as “The Pigeons of Saint Paul” which warmed my heart and became a firm favourite. There was a story about how the loops (a massive part of the trilogy) are made which I found fascinating.  These beautiful stories are accompanied by equally beautiful illustrations.

If you’re thinking of getting into Ransom’s Miss Peregrine series but not entirely sure if it’s for you, Tales of the Peculiar is a perfect way of testing that out.

I look forward to seeing what Ransom Riggs comes up with next!

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Posted in review, young adult

Library Of Souls – Ransom Riggs

“Emma looked at me and I looked back, and though it was too loud to hear anything over the motor and the rush of blood in our ears, I thought I could read in her face both fear and exhilaration – a look that said you, Jacob Portman, are amazing and terrifying.”

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Blurb: “The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home With Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library Of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s driving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children. 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.”

This is the third and final book in the series and, as always, there is a pressure that comes with that; a pressure to create a satisfying ending.

Emma, Jacob and Addison are on a mission to rescue their peculiar friends and the ymbrynes from the wights. Top that off with Jacob’s new ability of being able to speak and control Hollows and you have a complicated situation. Using Addison’s incredible sense of smell, it takes them on the path to an old loop stuck 100 years in the past. It’s called Devil’s Acre and they believe their friends are being held there.

What I really appreciate about this series is the glossary at the front. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is to have one of those at this point in the story (Hollow City has one too). Ransom continues with the prose / photo format that makes this series so unique and once again, they add so much to the story. They just seem to root the world in reality.

Emma reminded of Hermione from the Harry Potter series in the way that she was on Jacob’s case a lot about practicing his power etc. I liked that there was a small group to follow this time as there are so many peculiars that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. So having three characters as the primary focus made it easy to keep track of everyone and it was interesting to see how the dynamic work.

The Devil’s Acre loop was a fantastic primary location as it showed the true underbelly of the peculiar world.

The man issue I had with reading this book (and indeed with the previous two) is that it’s very hard to get into at first because Ransom has a well… peculiar writing style (ha!) that takes some adjustment and makes it hard to initially follow the action. I will admit I read 30 pages and then had to start from the beginning again because I had no idea what was taking place.

This series was the perfect length and as sad as I am that it’s over, I’m glad it hasn’t been extended beyond three books. It ended where it needed to and what a wonderful ending it was.

I will truly miss these characters.
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