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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend loaned me this book, announcing that she knew I would enjoy reading it because it’s weird, strange, and wonderful. She was correct on all counts.

As a writer, lover of the macabre, and a collector of old photographs, I was intrigued by the inspiration for the book. The vintage photos that illustrate it also served as catalysts for the intriguing story spun by Ransom Riggs. (This, by the way, is the best author name. Ever.)

Sixteen year-old Jacob is reeling from a terrible shock which, “…like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.” Convincing his bird-watching father that it would make for a wonderful expedition, the pair travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales. Father may be in search of rare species, but Jacob is looking for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in an attempt to make sense of the cryptic words and images left behind by his late grandfather. Who were these children and what made them peculiar? Was his grandfather one of the peculiars? Is Jacob, himself, among their ranks?

I found this beautifully written book to be so entrancing I was unable to rest until without learning what happened next. This clearly demonstrates Riggs’ talent and expertise as a storyteller. If this debut novel is any indication of what we can expect from him in the future, sign me up as Ransom Riggs’ #1 Fan.

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Lowcountry BribeLowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: Do not attempt to read a few pages of this book with your morning coffee. You will become so engrossed that it will make you late to work!

There are more twists and turns in “Lowcountry Bribe” than there are switchbacks and hairpin turns on Rocky Mountain highways. Clark lays out a gripping mystery full of Southern charm and redneck seediness as the female protagonist, Carolina Slade, sinks deeper and deeper into a quagmire of conspiracy, shady land deals, kidnapping, murder and more…all because she tried to do the right thing. Who would have expected the life of a rural agricultural agent to be so dangerous?

The descriptive writing is colorful and peppered with updated versions of down-home sayings that give the reader a sense of the Southern dialect without being cliche-riddled. This sentence from the book sums up its pace perfectly: “I shot down Savannah Highway, driving like a bootlegger with badge heat on his bumper.”

The ending tied up the critical loose ends, but left me looking for a sequel. Smart writing! I need to know where Slade’s life will go next, if Wayne, the hunky lawman protagonist, will find his endangered sister, and if the two will join forces to unravel more mysteries.

Attention: C. Hope Clark – Could I have some more, please?

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(Note: The author provided me a gift copy of this book and requested a critical review)

Early in RSVP: Invitation to an Alchuklesh Massacre, author Jay Squires captured me with words that brought his work to life. Here’s an example:

“It would have meant traveling with the itinerant medicine man and his gorgeous teenage daughter (who, the first time I saw her, wore a bronze tan over her sleek body, a short buckskin skirt and whose jet black hair sported two braids with an actual feather, for God’s sake, tethered to each.) She smelled faintly of nutmeg and romance.”

Or this one, which made me feel like I was standing next to protagonist, Noah Winter, observing exactly what he was:

“A draft entered the open door behind him and wafted the blended fragrances of old leather, mahogany and the roses that Colleen had brought by. Ordinarily he would have breathed in the fragrance with wide nostrils; but today it served only to lift a corner of his memory.”

Noah Winter, it turns out, is a former police detective who resigned his commission after finding himself unable to come to grips with the untimely and tragic drowning of his son followed by his heartbroken wife’s suicide. Burdened by his grief and haunted by the thought that he should have prevented both deaths, he left the law enforcement profession and became an entrepreneur. In the years that followed, he accumulated property and wealth with uncanny ease. Seven years after burying his son and his wife just two weeks apart, Noah is not entirely comfortable with the notoriety and influence his new life garners.

A frantic phone call from a terrified friend awakens Noah’s sense of duty – his obligation to protect and serve – and he sets out on a quest to find and rescue the endangered teenager who has mysteriously disappeared amidst threatening phone calls and accusations that he killed a gang member whose cohorts were set on revenge. Author Squires skillfully straps his readers into the passenger seat of Winter’s expensive sports car for the twisting, turning ride as they try to piece together the puzzle right along with the wealthy former cop.

As a critical reader, I must mention that I noticed some sections that could have used a bit more editorial polish. Not that the writing was terrible; just that some important scenes seemed to fall below the standard that Squires set for himself early on. Having worked in a law enforcement environment for close to two decades, I found a few details to be inconsistent. However, I don’t believe they were significant enough to detract from most readers’ enjoyment of the book.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy mysteries and those who are interested in the clash between ancient Native American beliefs and modern American culture.

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