Just a Little Strange: Reviewing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

As the years have passed, I have found myself staying away from YA literature. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it’s easy to get lost in the endless series. I’ve been reading more standalone books lately but I still have my exceptions. I will be reviewing one of my particularly favorite exceptions. Note: there is a movie adaptation that came out in 2016 but I knew from the trailer that it had been changed too much to my liking.

Jacob Portman was just your average sixteen-year-old boy who loved listening to his grandpa’s stories. When tragedy strikes, Jacob knows he must journey to Wales in order to find the truth behind his grandfather’s life. While he searches through the former sight of the mysterious school he learned about, Jacob realizes that these peculiar children were more than just that. Soon, he uncovers the deadly reality behind his childhood stories as he delves into the world of the peculiars.

Riggs’ book is particularly unique in the way he tells his stories. He collected strange vintage photographs and wrote the story around those. They appear every few pages, providing interesting visuals that help add to the story. This fantastical and dark world of the Peculiars can suck you in within the first few pages. Riggs finds a perfect balance between childlike innocence and morbid curiosity in a way that both teens and adults can enjoy. It is fairly reminiscent of the X-Men and has just as much action. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a mysterious and gripping journey that spans the ages.

Note: This series is currently a trilogy and I am not sure if there will be a fourth or not.

From Page to Screen: A List of Some of the Better Adaptations (in my opinion)

Whenever Hollywood announces a book-to-movie adaptation, bookworms everywhere tremble with fear and excitement. With such a hit or miss genre, it’s hard to be excited when you just want the details to be in order. I decided to do something different and give you all a list of some of the better and more accurate book transformations to have premiered on the small and big screens. Some of these are more mainstream while other are not but, either way, I hope you appreciate these suggestions. Also, I will only be focusing on novels and not comics or graphic novels. (Note: These will also be in no particular order.)

Movies:

The Harry Potter movie series (2001-2011): Arguably the most successful adaptations, Rowling’s novels helped kick off the adaptation craze. With Rowling involved in the script writing, the details and continuity are in place for an enjoyable eight-part series.

The Princess Bride (1987): This cult classic movie based off of William Goldman’s novel is a hilarious, action-packed, and romantic adventure that is so unique in its own right. The memorable quotes and iconic moments help to solidify the well-achieve notoriety this movie has acquired.

The Great Gatsby (2013): Baz Luhrmann’s take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel is full of beautiful cinematography, awesome music, and verbatim scenes from the book. While there were certain parts I didn’t particularly like concerning Nick Carraway’s personal story, the movie is still enjoyable nonetheless. Leonardo DiCaprio emulates Gatsby’s charisma, charm, and dark past perfectly.

Pride and Prejudice (2005): This adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel avoids any melodrama that is typically associated with romance. The chemistry between Elizabeth and Darcy is palpable and eloquent in this particular adaptation. Paired with some gorgeous cinematography, any Austen fan is guaranteed to enjoy this movie.

The Shining (1980): Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick’s famous horror movie has still held up as being one of the most terrifying psychological thrillers. While King himself has spoken about his distaste with the adaptation, it is still a hypnotizing movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003): J.R.R Tolkien’s famous series bursts to life on screen with Peter Jackson’s direction. Though the movies are certainly lengthy, fans of fantasy still gush about this movie series. Though The Hobbit adaptation does not hold up as well, the first set of movies still holds its own to this day.

The Hunger Games trilogy (2012-2015): I actually saw the first movie in a midnight premier. Suzanne Collins’ intense YA thriller about a girl who must compete in a deadly arena-style competition provided four successful movie adaptations. While the fourth movie felt unnecessary and the movies fell under controversy for white-washing, the first and second movies are still enjoyable and provide plenty of gritty action.

Casino Royale (2006): Ian Fleming’s famous fictional spy steal the screen once again in this adaptation starring Daniel Craig. Though the James Bond films have been popular for since the 1960s, this one is unique because it is based on Fleming’s first 007 novel. This movie shows a darker take on Bond as he goes up against Le Chiffre, a man who finances terrorists, played by Mad Mikkelsen (who will show up again on this list soon.)

The Martian (2016): Andy Weir’s self-published novel packed a punch in this adaptation by famed director, Ridley Scott. When astronaut Mark Watney is mistakenly stranded on Mars, he chronicles his struggles to survive on this deadly planet. Surprisingly funny and written with real science in mind, this faithful adaptation is perfect for science geeks and bookworms alike.

Television/Netflix shows:

Game of Thrones (2011-2017): Though George RR Martin’s hit series is about to finish up its run on HBO, it has still proved to be a cultural phenomenon. Based on The Song of Fire and Ice book series, this popular show does not hold back in its shocking violence, dark story lines, and compelling characters. With plenty of action, this show about the struggle to rule Westeros is endlessly entertaining and will live on with its fan base even after it ends.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017-?): This Netflix adaptation of Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemony Snicket) dark children book series was a hit with its witty and dark tone. Neil Patrick Harris as the infamous Count Olaf is hilarious as he manages to make the character as charming as he is evil. The newcomers who play the Baudelaire siblings are mature beyond their years and their talent holds true. Anyone who grew up with this book series is sure to enjoy the Netflix series as well.

Hannibal (2013-2015): Hannibal Lecter has long been a horror icon on the big screen but Bryan Fuller’s series shows Dr. Lecter before he became the killer in the glass case we know. In this short-lived series, Hannibal assists reluctant FBI investigator Will Graham as he solves the gruesome killings of the Chesapeake Ripper. This series does take some liberties from the original Thomas Harris series but it is still beautifully morbid and intense.

Sherlock (2010-?): This mini-series based off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective has also become a pop culture phenomenon. This modernized take on Sherlock Holmes is surprisingly accurate and provides clever twists on the original. With a nice balance of humor and drama, this adaptation is a wild ride and will keep you guessing to the end.

American Gods (2017-?): You can check out my review of the original Neil Gaiman novel on my blog. This series is profound as it is darkly humorous. With Gaiman as an executive produce for the show, it maintains accuracy while building on the characters as well. Any mythology buff will love to binge watch this new and unique show about the old gods and new gods.

 

 

The Hidden Side of Hollywood: Reviewing Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher

I hopped onto the Star Wars craze a bit late. It wasn’t until the seventh movie came out that I realized I had been missing out on something. While I’m still not a die hard fan or anything like that, I found a new appreciation for the iconic movies series. Within that, I discovered that Carrie Fisher was a novelist. I sadly didn’t know about this until after her death but my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to remember her for something other than movies. I decided to read Postcards From the Edge and I was pleased to find Fisher’s other talents.

Suzanne Vale is an actress who knew she would end up in rehab at some point. It all started after an incident involving Percodan and scallops. Alex is a writer who doesn’t think of himself as an addict, despite his obvious love for cocaine. Their two stories come together as they reflect on their lives before rehab, their hopes for the future, and their fears of losing everything in the fickle entertainment industry.

Though this novel is relatively short, it packs a large punch of humor, honesty, and poignancy. Fisher provides these two narratives with plenty of unfiltered commentary about Hollywood and drug addictions and everything in between. There is no doubt that Fisher took a page out of real life in order to provide the profound revelations in her writing. Even if you aren’t involved in Hollywood, it is still easy to sympathize with Suzanne and Alex as they struggle to put their lives back together. Fisher’s humor and insight knows no bounds as she explores certain taboo topics. It is easy to remember why  Fisher was so loved by many after reading this novel.

The Words Find a Way: Reviewing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington DC. One of the locations we visited was the Holocaust Museum. For those who have not been there, it is a touching and gut-wrenching experience. It was fairly quiet in there, save for television screens showing bits of documentaries. You couldn’t help but walk slowly, wanting to absorb every ounce of information there was to offer. From the room of portraits that was three stories high to the pile of shoes in the floor, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what happened between 1938 and 1945. For a new kind of story about such a devastating historical event, I will now tell you about The Book Thief. 

It all starts with the death of Liesel Meminger’s younger brother. After he is buried, she finds a book titled The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Despite the fact she cannot read, Liesel becomes fascinated with books and begins to steal from the Nazi book-burnings. Soon, Liesel is sent to a foster home where her foster father helps to teach her to read, her foster mother rules with an iron fist, and a Jewish boxer named Max hides in the basement. She befriends a boy named Rudy who dreams of being as fast as Jesse Owens. Told through the eyes of Death, who is fascinated with Liesel, her life changes forever during the Second World War.

The first thing I love about this novel is the fact it is told through the perspective of Death. The entity is honest, a touch humorous, and profound. Liesel is a great female lead, exhibiting bravery that one might not expect from such a young girl. The characters  all exhibit such strong personalities that shine against the dark backdrop. In a way, they are all outcasts who bond with each other throughout the outbreak of Nazism. Though this novel is certainly heart-breaking and dark, it also offers a message of hope and love that will bring any reader to tears. Zusak artfully crafts a unique historical fiction that deserves more attention.

Note: There is a movie adaptation, if you are interested. I personally have not seen it.

This and This and This: Reviewing The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This maybe an unpopular opinion but I preferred the Illiad to the Odyssey. Both of Homer’s epics are great but I have always enjoyed the former. I like the intertwining stories of the gods in Olympus and the mortals fighting to the death. The Trojan War is just such an interesting topic to me. Being the mythology buff I am, when I heard about Miller’s novel I was immediately intrigued. Now that I finally have a physical copy of the book, I will review The Song of Achilles. 

Told through the eyes of Patroclus, his story begins when he is exiled from his home by his father after a violent altercation. In an attempt to be a better prince and son, he hopes to learn from the famous demigod, Achilles. The two soon become closer and closer as they train to be heroes. When Helen of Sparta is kidnapped by Prince Paris, the two young men find themselves right in the center of the Trojan War. With the help of the centaur Chiron, the clever Odysseus, and other famous figures, Patroclus and Achilles must withstand the test of the five-year war and learn who they truly are, unaware of what the Fates have planned for them.

I truly enjoyed this new look at the Trojan War. It’s interesting to have such a different perspective at Homer’s classic epic. In particular, this novel focuses on Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship as lovers. (Note: Homosexual relationships were very common in ancient Greece for various reasons. More than likely, they were in a relationship based on historical records. Also, they were not cousins like they were in the Brad Pitt movie.) Miller combines the intimacy of their relationship with the intensity if the war in the background in a beautiful way. It’s heart-breaking, thrilling, and gripping. With a better look at the other famous characters, Miller takes a classic epic and puts it into a new perspective for the modern reader. This novel is perfect for mythology buffs or romance fans with Miller’s beautiful writing.