The Hollow City

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, #2)Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll continue to be generous with this series and give it 3 stars, which is still a huge drop from the first book. I didn’t dislike it, but it had none of what made the first book such a memorable experience. I suppose for one thing, the world-building has been established, so we don’t have the mystery of figuring out what is going on. And while I still find the odd photos intriguing, the story is too much contrived by the photos instead of being an accompaniment to the story. While Jacob seems a little older and wiser in this book, there is not really any character development. The whole love story angle is very flat. I’m not a fan of cliff-hanger endings. It worked in the first book, and despite being a cliffhanger there was a sense of completion. This book just feels like “filler” material to me – enough to make a movie out of, but a pretty shallow plot for a book. Ransom Riggs writes well enough, and the historical setting is good, but I hope he will give more attention to plot and characters in the 3rd installment.

Description: Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom.

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A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I guess this completes the series in a satisfactory way, since we were left with the disappearance of Sophos in a previous book. Perhaps I was getting tired of the series, but this just didn’t hold my interest very well. Yet another point of view – Sophos this time – but he is nowhere near the hero that Eugenides was in the first three books. In fact, there seems to be very little of him here at all. So unless you are dying to know what happened to Sophos, this book seems like just an afterthought to tie up the loose threads. There is none of the trickster quality that made Gen so endearing. Just a lot of political maneuvering. Sophos seems a bit plodding, and I’m not sure what Gen and the Queen of Eddis saw in him. It did pick up again toward the end when Sophos finally decides to fight for his right to rule Sounis.

Book Description: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

Tears of the Giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now this is more like it. Book #2 seemed much more tightly constructed to me. More of the plot threads were carried throughout the book to their conclusion. It is fun to see the connections between the books and the TV series. One major departure from the TV series (spoiler alert!!) is the adoption of two children from the orphan farm by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. But Mma Ramotswe takes it all in stride. There is not yet any interaction between Mma Ramotswe and her first husband, Note Makoti, so it remains to be seen if that is in a future volume or if it was added for the TV series.

Book Description: Precious Ramotswe is the eminently sensible and cunning proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. In Tears of the Giraffe she tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 per cent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.

The King of Attolia

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is fun to have a new perspective here – someone who does not know Eugenides. Of course, if you have read the first two books in the series, then you know that Eugenides is not the buffoon that he seems to be. Just as much fun as the other books in the series.

Book Description: By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making. Told from the point of view of a naive young guard awaiting execution for striking the despised new king. Inexplicably, Eugenides pardons the young squad leader on one condition: Costis must faithfully serve as his personal assistant and bodyguard. But it’s not until assassins unsheathe their glittering blades that Costis realizes how much the quirky king means to him.

Audio version: Jeff Woodman’s superb narration highlights all the compelling action and subtle humor of a spellbinding novel with enough twists to suggest that things aren’t always what they seem to be.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tried the audiobook several years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I think the narrator’s accent was hard to understand and I couldn’t follow the rambling lack of plot. Then I watched the TV series and loved it so much I bought it. Charming, funny, with some dark drama, and wonderful photography. It made me want to know more about Botswana. I am also a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series. I watched the TV show again recently with my mom, and she wanted to read the book, so I decided this was a good time to do the same. It’s still charming, but I think it lacks something of the humor and drama of the TV series. The various cases seemed more tied together in the TV series, and we had the back story of her first marriage to Note Makoti underlying the romantic tension between Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matakone. I’m continuing with the second book because the TV series did draw from more than was in the first book, and we’ll see if more of the backstory is there.

Book description: This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.