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Category Archives: Suspense

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Growing up Jake thought his Grandpa Portman was the most fascinating man in the world.  He loved to hear his grandfather’s stories about life in the Welsh orphanage where he had been sent as a boy to escape the Nazis. Grandpa Portman mesmerized Jake with tales of his childhood friends and their peculiar gifts. One could hold fire in her hand. Another could levitate.  Another was invisible.  Still another had amazing strength.  To add to the intrigue, there were photographs, strange and haunting photographs, of these children displaying their unusual gifts.

But as time passed and Jake grew older, he began to realize that these stories and even the photographs were too fantastic to be true.  In time, Jake came to see them as merely a kind of family fairytale – that is, until the night that everything changed.

When Jake’s grandfather is attacked in the woods behind his home, the police blame wild dogs. But Jake was there, and he saw the attacker. He was no dog. He was terrifying.  And he was right out of one of Grandpa Portman’s stories.

Unfortunately for Jake, no one believes him – just like no one believed Grandpa Portman.  To confront the nightmares and fears that consume Jake’s life, his parents try therapy, drugs, and distractions. Eventually Jake tries to convince them to let him travel, with his father, to Wales to see if he can find out more about Grandpa Portman and the place where his strange stories originated. Reluctantly they agree, hoping it will put to rest Jake’s belief in the truth of these tales.

However, there on the island of Cairnhom, Jake finds Miss Peregrine’s orphanage, old and decaying, but teeming with information. Digging through rubble and remains of the old house, Jake begins to uncover, artifacts, photographs, and  the dark secrets of Grandpa Portman’s strange and disturbing childhood and the orphans he shared it with.

Set in a quaint Welsh fishing village and in the fog-shrouded Welsh countryside, this novel, part mystery part horror story, takes us with Jake on his this quest.  Who were these children his Grandfather grew up with? Were their gifts real or just fantastic stories? What happened to them? And where are they now?

As intriguing as this story is, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children might not be the book for everyone.  I’ll admit that I half hoped the story would turn out to be a mystery of the ordinary variety. But no. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is definitely an extraordinary story.

However for adults and teens who enjoy the strange and the scary, this book is a nice departure from the witches, vampires, ghosts, and werewolves that we see in so many YA novels. The children, although very peculiar, are just children, some darker and creepier than others, but they are not supernatural nor other-worldly. There are monsters in this story, but they former Peculiars whose own attempts at immortality caused their mutation.

Another refreshing thing about this book was the lack of steamy romance.  There is an emerging romance between Jake and one of the teenage orphans (yep, they’re still there), but this is not necessarily central to the plot. Unlike most YA fantasy novels where the sexually-charged relationship between some misfit human and some ultra cool vampire, ghost, or witch is the storyline, in this book the romance is more of a subplot.

Like so many YA novels today, this one is the first in a series. So, it looks like fans will have to read the next novel, The Hollow City, to see if Jake’s romance is taken to the next level.  In fact, we’ll have to read on because at the end of the Miss Peregrine Jake’s adventure is really just beginning.

LANGUAGE

Yes, there are some swear words in this book and some crass expressions.

VIOLENCE

Yes.  Jake and the other orphans must battle the monsters who threaten their safely.  The last 40 pages or so  involve a pretty intense battle between the opposing sides.

SEXUAL CONTENT

There is a kissing scene that starts to get mildly heated and at one point Jake refers to himself as a “horny teenager.”   There are also references to “making out.”

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENT

Not really.  As I said, neither the peculiar children nor the monsters they fight are really other-worldly.  But the monsters are scary and some of the children are downright disturbing.

THE MOVIE

To give you some idea of the type of book  this is, Tim Burton will be directing the movie slated to come out in the Summer of 2015.  Check out this article and creepy book trailer.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS

To add to the eerie factor, this book is filled with photographs of the Peculiar Children – holding fire, levitating, swarmed by bees, etc.  The creepy thing is that all the photos in the book are actual photos found in various flea markets, antique shops, and private collections. Chilling.

Due to language and crass expressions some parents might feel this book is not suitable for tweens and younger teens. 

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Confessions of a Murder Suspect  I don’t know how to discuss this book without giving away at least some of what happens, but I don’t think I’ll call a spoiler alert.  I don’t give away the end – just a few details from the middle.

Tandy Angel is a teenage girl living a life of wealth and privilege – and cruelty.  Her parents have very high standards for their children.  Though they do reward them lavishly for their successes, they also punish them harshly.  Her parents are demanding, extravagant, controlling, strange, and now dead.  They have been murdered in their bedroom in the family’s exclusive Manhattan townhouse while Tandy and two of her brothers are asleep in their rooms.

The police immediately suspect Tandy and/or her brothers.  The fact that Tandy has been trained by their family therapist to suppress her emotions does not help her case.  She comes across to the police as cold and unfeeling (A fact that would have made her parents proud.)  And to a degree she is.  In fact, Tandy is so good at suppressing that she can’t even be sure she herself is not the killer.  After all, she does have “blanks” in her life –  periods of time she can’t remember…there’s something about a boy, her parents, and an outburst of anger that landed her in a hospital, but it’s all like a faint dream.

To exacerbate  Tandy’s problems, she decides to stop taking her “vitamins.” A portion of the Angel fortune comes from her father’s pharmaceutical company.  For her entire life this company has not only provided her family with an astronomical income, but also with a daily dose of individually customized “vitamins” for each of the Angel children: Tandy with the off-the charts IQ; Harry, her sensitive and artistic twin; her older brother Matt, the NFL superstar with a hot temper; her younger bother Hugo with an equally hot temper, and her sister Catherine, who died a few years before under mysterious circumstances.  Now Tandy is beginning to question a lot of things – including her daily dose of pills.  When she stops taking them, she begins to find it more difficult to suppress her emotions.  She begins to feel more like a typical 16 year old girls.

Still, Tandy presses on, determined to solve the murder of her parents.  Now, earlier I mentioned a spoiler alert.   The truth is, I think this book should come with a spoiler alert, and it should read like this:

This book is not really a murder mystery per se. The primary purpose of this book is to set up a new series of books based on the adventures of  – you guessed it – a teenage detective who got her feet wet solving her parents’ murder. 

Sadly, no such information was given in the book’s inside cover.  I had to read the entire thing to realize this.  Now it isnt’ just that most of the characters, including Tandy Angel, were unlikable and un-relatable. It isn’t just that Patterson used the annoying technique of having the main character address the reader, as in Dear Reader I am not like most girls…   It isn’t even that the ending was a big ol’ let  down (not to mention totally unrealistic).  What I really bothered me about this book, and about so so many of the books I’ve read lately, is that the entire thing was just a big fat prequel.  Patterson leaves nearly every detail, except for how the Angel parents die, unfinished.  Bottom line, the purpose of  this book is to introduce us to Tandy Angel so that we will buy the next book in the Tandy Angel series.  Patterson leaves several loose ends. Will Tandy and her brothers be left destitute?  Will her brother Matt be convicted of killing his girlfriend?  Will she ever be reunited with the mystery boy from her foggy past?  And what was in those pills?

Just like John Grisham did with Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, Patterson cheats us.  I read this book expecting a story with a beginning, and middle, and an end, and I really just got a beginning, and a middle.  I guess that’s how you sell more books.

LANGUAGE

There are a few four letter words in this book, but they weren’t the really bad ones and they aren’t excessive.

VIOLENCE

Not much.  Tandy’s parents are poisoned, so that’s not really violent.  They just keel over.

SEXUAL CONTENT

We find out that both her parents were having affairs.  Matt’s girlfriend reveals an affair with his father, while Tandy discovers the secret lesbian affair her mother has been having with her live-in assistant. None of these affairs are described in any graphic detail.

SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS

None.  No one even wonders where these awful people are now that they’re dead.

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS

  • Did you like Tandy? Why or why not?  Did you like her more or less as the novel progressed?  Is it important to like the main character?
  • Did you suspect Tandy might be the killer?
  • In what ways were Maude and Malcolm (Tandy’s parents) good parents?  Were they good parents at all?
  • Think about how many popular books are a part of a series. Why do you think so many author’s these days leave us hanging?   Would you like to read a book that begins and ends a story on one volume, or do you like waiting for the next book to come out?
  • Will you want to read the next book in the Tandy Angel series?