Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

After years of listening to his grandfather’s stories of children who can float or make fire, sixteen-year-old Jacob travels to Wales to visit the orphanage his grandfather grew up in.

Who wouldn’t be intrigued by Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Not only is the book a bestseller, but it’s full of the creepiest old pictures I’ve ever seen. I had to read it.

And I did read it, although slog through it might be a better description. The premise is intriguing, but the execution is often excruciating. Riggs’ prose is dense and lacks any character or spark. The story oftentimes feels unnatural, as if Riggs is trying to craft around the pictures he found rather than use photos that fit the story. Not until 200 pages in did I feel invested enough in the story that I actually wanted to finish the book.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this book is only the first in a series. There was no resolution, no conclusion, no payoff for all my time and hard work. I felt downright cheated, and I definitely will not be tuning in for the sequel.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World

The few months I lived in Paris were the most ideal of my life. I was completely content—surrounded by beauty, history, and life—and still consider Paris my favorite city in the world. Naturally, I gravitated to John Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris.

Walk is a combination of personal narrative and scholarly essay. Baxter relates experiences (sometimes non-walks) from his native Australia to Los Angeles to Paris and interweaves them with historical incidents, particularly from early-20th-century-literary Paris.

At times, Baxter, who lives in a post-Hemingway-post-Fitzgerald society, comes across as elitist. Some of the historical passages also read too much like a university assignment and tend to drag. Only when Baxter backs away from the history and prestige to share his own experiences does the narrative really glow with Paris’s energy.