Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Peculiars in a Peculiar February

Usually by this time in the school year, we are facing make-up days added because we have used too many calamity days for snow.  This year, we have had 0.  None.  Nada.  Zip.  Usually, in February I have had loads of time to read and I feel utterly immersed in books because I have had loads of snow days.  This year, I am moving slowly through books because I have to go to work.  Every day.  Even my weekends are devoted to my beloved teenaged sons' wrestling tournaments.  It has been, indeed, a peculiar February.

I did manage to read The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry pretty quickly.  I take my iPad to those wrestling tournaments and read.  I was excited by the description of this book on NetGalley because it was Steampunk.  I loves some Steampunk.  I was hoping for a 4, maybe even a 5 star book, but this one was just a three.  Below is the NetGalley review.

Maureen Doyle McQuerry's Steampunk, alternate history is the story of Lena Mattacascar, a girl who fits into the peculiar category.  Since birth, Lena has had elongated hands and feet.  Marked as "goblinism" by the doctor, Lena's deformity causes many problems, most in her own home.  As she struggles to hide her deformity, she must endure the cruel remarks of her grandmother.  Not only does the woman blame Lena's absent father, she also seems to find Lena at fault for  her odd appearance.  Finally, on Lena's 18th birthday, she receives an unexpected birthday:  a letter from the father she barely remembers and a deed to a mine in the Scree, a wild territory inhabited by Peculiars.  Lena boards a train and heads West, were her fates abides.  She arrives in Knob Knoster, the settlement on the boarder of scree, full of experts on the untamed land and the strange and feared inhabitants.  She meets both friend and foe in the Western town.  Jimson, a boy her age that she meets on the train, invites her to visit him at his new place of employment where he is to serve as a librarian.  When Lena takes him up on his offer, she finds herself at the home of Mr. Beasley, a man with knowledge of Scree and its inhabitants.  He is also an inventor, and was once a doctor.  Accepting his offer of employment in hope he will lead her through Scree, Lena discovers that Mr. Beasley has secrets.  Lena is determined to learn more about the man, and what he may know about her father.  With Jimson and Beasley along for the aerocopter ride, Lena sets off for the Scree and the truth about who she is and what she is.  Adventure awaits any who read this tale, and readers who enjoy Steampunk will find Beasley's inventions amusing.  The alternate history is not clearly defined in the book however.  It can be inferred that Scree is part of the "Wild West" but no real reference is made that directly implies that Lena lives and travels in a United States with a different past than one readily known.    A romance between Lena and Jimson blossom, but its development seems to lack spark and it ends up cute rather than sexy.  In addition, the ending may leave readers wondering as story lines seem largely unresolved or unexplained.  It would seem that a second book my be needed to truly give readers a trip into the untamed territory of Scree and to give them a better idea of what or who a Peculiar really is.  Despite these issues, McQuerry's book will engage readers and keep them up reading "just one more chapter."  It is suitable for readers in grades 7-12 and should be an optional purchase for school libraries.

I am now reading Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.  I have read the Eyre Affair, but none of the other books by this author.  I am enjoying it so far.  The biggest problem is that I have to work all day and I am really tired at night.  Last night, I fell asleep with the book on my chest.  I was jerked out of sleep by the son crashing into  my bedroom.  Dang work.  Dang winter with no snow.