The Peculiars – A book review

17 Apr

Several weeks ago I received in the mail an uncorrected proof of a soon-to-be-released book , The Peculiars, written by a friend of mine, Maureen Doyle McQuerry. How fun it was to hold her book in my hands! I heard her read the first chapter or so of the book aloud when I met her two years ago, and I had waited all this time to learn what happens. I was not disappointed!

And so I present to you here my official first-ever book review! I was honored when Maureen asked me to write the review. I was also afraid! I wanted to do a good job, to do justice to the book, to be honest and readable and relevant. I read the book twice, taking notes the second time, and then I sat down at my favorite coffee shop and set to work. It wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be! However, it was hard in that there is so much that could be said, so much I had to leave out…not becuase there was a strict rule of word count (that I was aware of) but because I, as a reader, know that short is best when it comes to reviews. When I’m reading a review I am not going to plow though paragraph after paragraph…short and sweet, please!

But, that being said, I didn’t want to tell the plot or give away secrets…it’s a fine balance.

So I wrote about Lena, the heroine, who, I discovered, I could truly relate to. I’ve been in her too-trusting shoes, though, to be sure, her shoes would never have fit me…

The Peculiars is available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites, as well as in discerning book stores! It is written for a YA (Young Adult) audience, though as you’ll see in my review I’d recommend it for almost any age. It is published by Amulet books, an imprint of Abrams.  It is currently available in  both hardback and Kindle versions ($10.95 and $9.99, respectively).

P.S. – I have always loved the word, “peculiar” – I like words that you have to work at to pronounce correctly! 

The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Lena Mattacascar has lived her whole life being scrutinized by her mother and grandmother, watched constantly for signs of wild thoughts, goblinish behaviors, and anything that might prove her heritage which for so many years has been kept hidden or explained away.

Lena’s father, a suspected goblin, who abandoned his family when Lena was small, has come back into her life via a letter he left for her 18th birthday. Lena is determined to discover just exactly who her father is and, ultimately, who she herself is.

So she sets out alone on a quest into a world of steam trains, dirigibles, and gas-powered lights, a world where science trumps superstition and criminals and “peculiars” are sent to Scree, a wild land where they are forced to work in the mines for a government that considers them soulless and expendable.

Yet this is the place Lena knows she must go to find her father. Along the way she meets friends and foes, people who love her and people who suspect her overly-long fingers and feet as signs of her peculiarity, her valuelessness.

Lena, while unwavering in her purpose, is far less sure of her own self. For the first time in her life she is out on her own, an obedient girl going against her mother’s wishes, full of fears and desires and self-doubt. Through deceit, discovery, flying machines, and adventure, Lena discovers not only who she is, but also that what we think we see may not be what is truly there; that who we think we are may be completely wrong…or completely right.

Well-researched and carefully written, McQuerry has written a relatable book that I can recommend equally to my 10 year old daughter and my 75 year old mother, as well as to anyone who is intrigued by fanciful machines, adventure, and even budding romance. I look forward to the sequel that is surely on its way.

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17 Responses to “The Peculiars – A book review”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 17, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    It is a bit nerve-wracking the first time you write a review. Now that you’ve done it, the next one should be easier. And, BTW, you did well, revealing just enough.

    Question: Would this book interest my 18-year-old son? He’s an avid reader who enjoys adventure and fantasy and specifically science fiction. Just wondering if Maureen’s book would appeal to a boy as much as to a girl.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 17, 2012 at 7:15 am #

      That’s a great question which I should have considered more! I guess I didn’t think that my 12 year old son would enjoy it as much as my daughter, but an 18 year old boy would be more apt to, I would think – more discerning…I didn’t mention this aspect, either, but it is considered “steampunk” – which I had to look up! It means making machines from weird parts…kinda…so if he enjoys that aspect, he’d like it. it definitely is focused on the girl…but it has a great guy character, too! there are 7 (including mine) reviews of it on Amazon – maybe he could read those and that would helpd, too? Have I been any help in answering your question at all?!?!!

  2. hotlyspiced April 17, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Great review Gretchen and what an honour to be asked! I would have been intimidated too – the pressure of wanting to give someone’s hours of labour a very decent and honest appraisal. It sounds like the kind of book I would love to take away with me on a holiday because once I start reading it, I’m sure it would be hard to put down xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 17, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      Thanks, it was a great experience for sure. I think it would be a good book to have on vacation because it’s non-stressful and enjoyable!

  3. Jenny April 17, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I remember her reading that first bit of her book, and I agree I would like to see what happens. I believe she is to be a speaker at KindlingsFest 2012 this July.

    Nicely done Gretchen. The first review is done and out of the way. Looking forward to more by you!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 17, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      OH, fun, I didn’t know she’s speaking! I looked at the registration stuff but didn’t see her on there – that was a month ago or so, though. Might have to check on that all again! How fun would that be?

  4. Valerie Fletcher Adolph April 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Great job, Gretchen! You gave us a taste of the book and made us want more.

  5. prairiewisdom April 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    What a great friend!

  6. whatimeant2say April 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    This sounds exactly like the type of book Dimples would devour! In the figurative sense, of course. We will keep it away from the entirely too literal Wonderbutt.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Ok, totally LOLed at that! Yes, I bet she will like it – and what’s even better is it’s clean, well-written, and good!!

  7. Heddi April 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Beautifully written – well done! I’ve written a few reviews myself and it’s hard work to keep them as tight as this one. The only thing missing for me would be about her writing style, although it looks like she’s nailed ‘flow and suspense’: is this straight-up narrative? painfully beautiful language? What makes it different? I guess I’m just curious!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you, Heddi! And thanks for your comments. Yes, I wanted to be succinct…perhaps I worried about that too much? It’s interesting you ask about her writing style, because one of the other reviews on Amazon is mostly about that very thing – the reviewer talks quite a lot about McQuerry’s word choice and style. Maureen uses a good vocabulary and does not waste words with repetition and cliches. She has a good balance of excitement and information. I think that the thing I liked best about it was that she wrote a good, clean story; she told it well, and she opened up a new world we’d never seen before but yet that we could relate to. The main character is so believable that I got slightly irritated with her at first – until I realized that she behaved exactly the way I would have when I was younger and naive! In other words, she makes mistakes…but I think she’s a better character for them.

      I hope this helps fill in some gaps!!

      • Heddi April 24, 2012 at 4:27 am #

        Wow, sounds like she really knows what she’s doing as a writer. I too love a ‘good, clean’ story. Story before anything else! Thank you for that insight, hope your friend’s book does well.

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