Reading is Sexy: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

When I’m not trying to beat the WOD clock or shoveling delicious dino-chow into my paleo-pie hole, I mostly like to lose myself in a book.

My preference is, generally, a long story (300+ pages make me weep with joy); told in the first person, past tense (Although I’ll also take an omniscient, third-person narrator in past tense. ALWAYS past tense. I need my narrators to have time to reflect before telling me their stories.); set in a place or time far removed from my daily life; with some kind of mystery and, potentially, romance involved. If there are Nazis getting what’s coming to them, spies being cunning, or people of any age “finding their true selves,” I am, as they say, ALL IN. You can mostly keep your small, relfective, slice-of-life novels – I like meandering tales – with a smattering of adventure – that take me somewhere new and introduce me to people I’m not likely to meet in real life.

So… that’s what will get a book into my hands.

To be added to my list of favorites, a book has to fulfill all of the above AND supply The Moment.™

A Brief History of Moments

In Jane Eyre, The Moment is when Rochester stops Jane on the stairs and demands to know why she looks like she’s about to cry (knowing full well why she’s about to cry and also knowing full well that he’s the cause of it. Cur! Cad!). In Dick Francis novels, I find myself nodding in agreement and admiration as the stand-up guy protagonist silently gives himself advice – advice that usually means he’s going to suffer physically or emotionally, but will, ultimately, be better for it.

I distinctly remember The Moment in The Historian. I was reading it for the first time and a sentence made me gasp out loud. GASP! What a thrill of surprise and delight! Also packed full of Moments is The Book Thief. It’s pretty much my perfect book, based on the description above: a strong protagonist, Nazis, first-person AND third-person omniscient narrators, love, loss, redemption… full of Moments.

I’m having a similar experience with Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. I’m exactly halfway through it, and I’ve found myself gasping aloud, and muttering, “That did NOT just happen.” It’s delightful. Full of delight. And slippery chills. And spooky photos. And a teenage protagonist that makes me feel both young and old. And a foggy setting on an isolated island in Wales.

I’m reading it too fast because the pages practically turn themselves, but I want to slow down so it won’t be over so soon.

Moments, man.

If you’re curious about Miss Peregrine, you can read a first chapter at the Quirk books site. It won’t ruin anything, I promise. I read the first two chapters before it was released, and they convinced me I had to know the whole story. So far, the book has definitely lived up to the magical promise of those first two chapters. And here’s an L.A. Times piece about the photography that adds the extra spine tingles to the story. Finally, Ransom Riggs site is right here with news… there’s going to be a sequel (!).

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  • Patrick says:

    Ooh, adding this one to my to-read list. I’ve passed it by several times now, but no more!

    • Mel says:

      I finished it a few days ago… the second half is more action-adventure than the lyrical first half, but it was really fun all the way through. Very sweet.

  • Shannon says:

    The Historian is one of my favorites! I read it twice! Have you read Elizabeth Kostova’s 2nd book “The Swan Thieves”? Same sort of romantic solving-an-old-mystery kind of theme, but set in the impressionist art world. I’ll definitely pick up “Miss Peregrine’s…” 🙂

  • Liz says:

    Oh, The Historian! The entire time I read that book I tried to convince myself that I didn’t “like” it, as I read it at the height of my disdain for vampires. What a fool I was. On an entirely different track, have you read Underworld? One of my favorites of all time.

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t read Underworld, but thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out.

      I’ve read The Historian twice, and I’m thinking about reading it again when we go to Prague because it’s such a perfect book to read in that environment.

  • Sonya says:

    Huge book nerd, here! I’m definitely putting this one and “The Historian” – love a good gasp!

    Katherine Neville’s “The Eight” is one of my all time favorite novel. Going to try to get a copy of Nora’s book this weekend to join your book club.

  • Linsey says:

    Just read the first chapter – wow! Thanks for the great recommendation, picking this book up as soon as I am finished with my current one.

  • Lizzie F. says:

    Ooh, just read this one, as well. Loved it, and I know *exactly* what you mean about the protagonist making you feel both young and old. Such a great observation. I thought the logistics (trying to avoid spoilers here) behind everything going on could have been explained a little better, but I’m nitpicky like that. Did you know/hear that the author supposedly found all of the photographs before he wrote the book? Such a cool detail.

    • Mel says:

      I know! Just a brilliant idea… can’t wait to see what the sequel holds. I also read recently that the author Ransom Riggs is going to Iceland for a while. So envious! What an adventure!

  • Harmony says:

    Always looking for new books, so I’ll put this one on the list. Have you read Maisie Dobbs? I think you might like it.

  • Faith says:

    I read The Historian after seeing it on your blog, and I *loved* it. Really loved it.

    Not spy novels, but they are about WWII, The Winds of War and War and Rememberance by Herman Wouk might be the best books I’ve ever read. And they are definitely long, about 900-1000 pages each.

  • dana says:

    Total Book Nerd! I think I love Crossfit because it makes me feel like book nerds are secreet superheroes!

    I just finished “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Zafon,,,takes place in Spain from th ’30’s to 50’s. It was AWESOME. GORGEOUS. Perhaps you’d like. I can’t wait to try “Miss Peregrine’s..”!

    • Mel says:

      HA! I just picked up The Shadow of the Wind last weekend, and I started reading it yesterday. I’m madly in love with it. The language is so beautiful, and I love how delicate the story is so far. I also really want to read The Angel’s Game and The Midnight Palad. Zafon three-fer!

  • Tami C. says:

    The Book Thief – that whole book is a Moment. Yes.

    Have you ever noticed you find those Moments just when you need them where you least expect them? I found three of them last month in a Peter Heller book, a Henning Mankell book and in a Hakan Nesser book. Words strung together in such a way that they made my soul vibrate.

    • Mel says:

      I agree one million percent.

      I’ve also noticed that sometimes when I re-read books I loved, say, 20 years ago, they don’t resonate anymore… or maybe they mean even more. I love the idea that our perception of the words on the page change based on who we are and how we’re feeling when we read them. Magic!

      The reason Jane Eyre is my favorite book is because every time I read it, different passages stand out, different experiences in it affect me… all dependent on where I am in my life when I’m reading it. Brilliant. I wish I could hang out with Charlotte Bronte for an evening.

  • Michelle says:

    I just finished The Book Thief and loved it. Keep the recommendations coming!

    I loved The Historian, and I had very high hopes for The Swan Thieves. I kept waiting for that huge gasp-worthy Moment, but it never came. The Historian had so much adventure and spine-tingling, but The Swan Thieves is very, very quiet. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been expecting more of a thriller.

    • Mel says:

      Oh, yay! I’m glad you liked The Book Thief, too.

      I worried about that with The Swan Thieves, so instead of reading that, I just keep re-reading The Historian.

      The Shadow of the Wind (which I need to write a blog post about) was AMAZINGLY good and reminded me of the feel of The Historian, although the stories are very different. Similar elements: historical setting, romance, the threat of war, love of books. HIGHLY recommended.