Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Throwdown Update: Every Title I Try Sounds Dirty

Hello there, fellow print junkies. Team Everyone Else and I are neck and neck (44.54 bks to 44.24 bks), so I'll be staying in to get some reading done tonight. Before I go, though, I wanted to share my thoughts on the last two books I've read.

The first was Marlene Zuk's Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language From the Insect World. As is true for most folks, insects are not one of my favorite topics. But I have discovered over the years that an author who is really gaga over the subject can make pretty much any topic interesting, at least for the duration of the book. I've read books on squid, eels, and trilobites, among other things, and I have enjoyed these books immensely.

Zuk's book has a lot going for it. There are some genuinely fascinating things that insects do that most of us aren't familiar with because we avoid any interaction with them. Zuk believes that her subject is important, but it's clear that she'd be talking about insects anyway because she loves them (not as much as Richard Fortey loves trilobites, but I'm not sure anybody loves anything as much as Richard Fortey loves trilobites). And she has a sense of humor, which makes spending time in her company enjoyable even if the topic is sometimes uncomfortable. It's not going to replace any of the above books in my heart because aquatic critters are to me what insects are to Zuk, but it was fun to spend an evening in her company and gain a greater appreciation for bees, ants, wasps and beetles.

The second was Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. There's a really cool backstory here: Riggs took genuine vintage found photographs (some got minimal postprocessing) and created a story around them. The book includes the photographs throughout.

The story itself involves Jacob, a rudderless teen from a wealthy family who only connects with his grandfather and his grandfather's wild stories about the strange people in the old photographs he has. As a child, Jacob believes wholeheartedly, but as he grows up, he begins to dismiss the tales as stories at best, outright lies at worst. A wedge is driven between them, so when his grandfather calls frantic, asking for help, Jacob dismisses it as the slipping mind of an aging man. Still, he goes to check and makes a terrible discovery.

He convinces his parents to let him visit the island where his grandfather spent his childhood in a home for children displaced by WWII (and the source of all of his odd stories). While there, he discovers that his grandfather's stories were real, the people in the photos actually existed, his grandfather left but continued to protect them, and the dangers his grandfather was protecting them from are still there and still threatening.

It's a terrific premise,and the photographs throughout really add mood to the story. It's rough in some places, and sometimes stretches too far, but it moves well and the children are fascinating. I'll certainly give the sequel a try when it comes along.


Anonymous said...

Team Everyone Else has no idea with whom they battle! If you are neck and neck, they need to stretch their collective neck out much further! Enjoy the reading, folks!!

Peggy Hailey said...

No idea indeed. Do you think they realize that I'd be reading these books whether we had a contest or not? ;-)