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Miss Peregrine’s World-Weary Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a story that grew out of old photographs. When author Ransom Riggs approached Quirk Books with his collection of found photos, many of them in sepia tones and featuring odd or surreal subject matter, the publisher suggested he develop a fictional narrative to explain the pictures. The resulting quirky novel was a New York Times bestseller, which has subsequently been translated to film. The book is absorbing, but is also marred by content that doesn’t seem right for its Young Adult audience. Jacob Portman is…

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A Great Treat in the Mystery Genre: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley you will find a new classic in the mystery genre. From the opening paragraph (no small feat!), Bradley brilliantly weaves a web of murder, privilege, and PTSD around the protagonist and sleuth, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. “So,” you may ask, “is she the titular ‘sweetness’ in the story?” Absolutely not. Flavia is not your typical post-war pre-teen Briton. She has a passion for…

Compelling History: Bomb Book Review

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin In Bomb: The Race to Build —And Steal—The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin introduces young readers to the many plots and subplots involved in the creation of the world’s first nuclear bomb. Extensively researched, Bomb employs primary sources from declassified FBI files to simultaneously tell of Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, Soviet espionage, and Allied efforts to sabotage Nazi Germany’s ability to develop the bomb first. Sheinkin weaves together the stories of some of the 20th century’s most famous and notorious figures—the ingenious, courageous,…

A Lonely Trip Through the Southern Reach

My very first impression, from the first page of Annihilation, book one of The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, was not far from my last thoughts on the series. What insanity have I just stumbled into? Every reveal seems to bring along numerous other mind-bending doubts or questions about the world Vandermeer has created. The story opens with a group of nameless female explorers beginning their expedition into “Area X”, a mysterious portion of the ordinary world that has somehow, inexplicably become subject to laws all its own. Its…

MacGyver on Mars

The Martian, by Andy Weir, is an entertaining page-turner with an inherently interesting premise and a well-executed plot. Aside from entertainment, the novel’s chief value lies in its celebration of cheerful resourcefulness, and its appreciation of the worth of a single human life. Good in several important ways, the book also lacked some of the depth that its premise might have supported. In a near-future mission to Mars, an accident forces the astronaut crew of the Hermes to leave behind an apparently dead colleague, Mark Watney. As it happens, Mark…

Escaping the Enderverse

All in all, this book has an energy and passionate intensity that endears itself to a wide audience, despite the violence, vulgarity and racial slurs.

The Bad and the Ugly of YA Lit

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has a little bit of the good of contemporary young adult fiction, but way more of the bad and the flat out ugly.

Ready Player One

The pros, in my opinion, far outweigh the cons. The book affirms the value of online social interaction as a step in the right direction if you’re living in a dystopia, but that reality is still best.