Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (and some thoughts on the trilogy as a whole)

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A photo from my Instagram account, ohthisbook.

4.5 stars out of 5

Library of Souls is the third and final book in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy. It continues the story of Jacob Portman as he explores Peculiardom and attempts to wrest the power away from those that wish to harm the ymbrynes and the peculiar children under their care.

With the books having gotten a lot of buzz recently because of the release of the film adaptation of the first book, I am assuming that most of you are familiar with the basic premise of the trilogy. If this is all sounding too crazy to you, but yet you’re still intrigued, maybe reading the synopsis of the first book on Goodreads could help.

I won’t say too much about the plot of this book since it is the final book in a trilogy, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who might be considering starting the trilogy. I will say, though, that this book was possibly my favorite book out of all three.

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The first book was great – I really enjoyed reading it (I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads). In that book, the reader is first introduced to the world of the peculiars. The idea behind the world in the first book just seemed so fresh and new to me. I have always been captivated by looking at old photos, and I loved the addition of them to this trilogy. I think it was such a clever idea to let a real piece of history have a part in telling the story. That being said, though, there were also some points that I didn’t like as much – the love story was a bit silly, but I guess I expect that from a book that could fall into the YA genre. In the end, I could overlook that.

With the trilogy as a whole, I also thought there were some issues with the aspect of time travel and “maturity”. I’m not sure that this particular aspect of the story is very believable, but then again it’s a fantasy book and when I read a fantasy book I try not to be too critical about the magical ways it comes together. As a result, I was able to put all my qualms aside and just enjoy the book for the fun read that it was.

As I said above, my experience with the first book was great. Unfortunately, I did not really like the second book, Hollow City, as much. The plot just seemed to drag on and on for me. Library of Souls, however, was a much different reading experience, I’m happy to say. This book was exciting from the first page to the last. The ending covers more time than I thought it would, and I really had a sense that the story came together nicely in the end.

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If you had a similar experience with books one and two in the trilogy and are perhaps debating about whether or not you want to put the time in to read the final book, I really recommend that you give Library of Souls a go. It’s a really fast-paced and exciting story that continues the creative ideas of the first two books, but is much better written (more action, less aimless running around) than the second book. It’s filled with characters and creatures who will either repulse you, win your heart, or leave you questioning the difference between good and evil.

Probably needless to say, but I am really very excited to go and watch the film!

Have you read the trilogy or seen the film? I’d love to know your thoughts on either!  

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Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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I was sent this book by SocialBookCo in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to purchase this book you can compare prices from a number of different sellers on the SocialBookCo website by following this link.

4 out of 5 stars

Books like Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls are the reason why I named my blog “Oh, this book”. There’s nothing more to do when you’ve finished reading except to sit for a while and think “Oh, this book”. Sometimes I want to shout it out in an exclamation of happiness, other times I quietly voice it in sorrowful lament. In the case of A Monster Calls, it was the latter for me. Although the book is technically a children’s book and is written in simple language, it has the capability to emotionally move anyone, no matter the age.

The story is about Conor O’Malley, the son of a single mother suffering from cancer. Amidst the hospital visits and family issues, Conor receives a visitor, a monster who comes knocking at his window in the form of a yew tree. The Monster shows up after midnight and promises to tell Conor three tales, but it will not tell its tales without receiving some sort of compensation. In exchange, Conor must tell a fourth tale to the monster, and the telling will not come without its challenges.

This book turned out to be far different than I thought it would be. The cover art of the edition I have as well as the illustrated edition seems to indicate that the book would be a sort of “ghost story” about scary monsters. The yew tree monster is not really that scary of a monster, though, and I think it serves as a good symbol for one of the major themes of the book. The monster comes to teach Conor that the division between right and wrong and good and evil is not always so starkly drawn. The monster itself is at times scary and destructive and at other times gentle and compassionate. The book conveys a very strong message about the complexity of human emotion, especially as it relates to loss and dealing with change.

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In my opinion, one of the strongest points of this book is the portrayal of the characters and the family relationships. The relationship between Conor and his mother is a very special one. Ness writes a highly believable mother-son relationship which allows the reader to really empathize with both Conor and his mother as they deal with her illness and their changing family life.

The monster is also an excellent character with a great voice. I love the tales it tells – you really get the feeling that the monster is something old, something legendary. It tries to be scary or intimidating at times, but Conor, despite the fact that he is often intimidated by the bullies at school, manages snarky retorts and puts the monster in its place. I enjoyed the banter between Conor and the monster because it really showed that Conor is a multi-faceted character.

The book is terribly sad, there is no doubt about that. It is also a touching story about moving forward in the face of hardship. I would recommend this book for adult readers as well as for younger readers. If you’re wondering if this book is appropriate for a young reader in your life, you should know that it deals with heavy themes about life and death (and, of course, monsters!). I think this could be a good book for an adult to read together with a child to gauge if the topics are too heavy or if the monsters and nightmares are too scary.

A tip for anyone who is planning to read this one soon: I highly recommend paying attention to the author’s note at the beginning and the extra page at the end on The Siobhan Dowd Trust. These additions give more context to the story as a whole, and I think really give the book a moving sense of purpose.

Book Talk: Time to get creepy! R.I.P. XI (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril)

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Okay readers, who doesn’t love autumn? It’s the perfect season for cozying up with a good read, especially if that read has the “creepiness factor”. I was recently reading Laurie’s post at Relevant Obscurity about the reading challenges and read-alongs she’s participating in and she mentioned the R.I.P. event. I went on over to Stainless Steel Droppings, the host’s blog, to check it out and decided it’s right up my alley this Halloween season.

So what’s it about? Well, the theme is anything with that creepiness factor. Possibilities include the following:

  • Mysteryripeleven400
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Dark Fantasy

You can choose how much or how little you want to read/watch (TV series/movies are included) for the event. There are various levels of participation that Carl details over on his event post. There is even a community page to post the reviews of the books you’re planning to read for the event.

There’s still plenty of time to join in. The event started on September 1st but goes on through the 31st of October. So, if you’re interested, go on over and check it out. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews!

Here’s what I’m planning to read for the event so far (links are to the Goodreads descriptions of each book):

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

I’m not sure if I’ll get through all of these, but they are all books I’ve been wanting to read for a while and definitely fit the theme of R.I.P. so it seems like an excellent time to read them!

Are you going to be reading any creepy books this autumn?

 

Book Review: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

4 out of 5 stars

13872Early in 2016, I read Katherine Dunn’s novel Geek Love. This book is certainly not for everyone, but I did enjoy my (very strange) reading experience.

In Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love The Binewski family create an alter-reality inside the boundary of their traveling circus. It is a place where abnormalities are praised, even strived for, and ‘normal people’ are outsiders. Olympia Binewski narrates the novel, describing how their ideal life slowly descends into corruption. Dunn’s novel explores many different taboos through her characters, demonstrating the depths to which love and a desire to be loved in return will drive one to go. Although the characters often go to extremes and sometimes make very unethical decisions, there is a message at the heart of the novel about embracing one’s differences and exalting the ‘other’ that exists within the self.

The following quote comes from, in my opinion, one of the most striking passages in the novel in which Olympia discusses the ‘deformities’ that exist within (or without) all of us:

“My worst is all out in the open. It makes it necessary for people to tell you about themselves. They begin out of simple courtesy. Just being visible is my biggest confession, so they try to set me at ease by revealing our equality, by dragging out their own less-apparent deformities. That’s how it starts. But I am a like a stranger on the bus and they get hooked on having a listener. They go too far because I am one listener who is in no position to judge or find fault” (154).

I would recommend this novel to anyone who is intrigued by the bizarre, grotesque, or taboo. For me, this novel was certainly off my beaten-reading-path, but I enjoyed it very much and found myself thinking about it often in the weeks after I read it. The surface story is intriguing for its oddness, but, if you are looking for it, there is more to be extracted from the depths of this novel.

Weekend Reads: Margaret Atwood with a Slice of Pie

Hi readers! Here’s a quick update on what I have lined up for my weekend reading.

img_5019I just finished Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and felt a bit overwhelmed by trying to decide what to read next since I recently acquired so many secondhand books. I know, this is definitely a luxury problem. On Wednesday night I piled up a stack of potential reads on my nightstand and read the first couple of pages of each to decide what my next read would be.

In the end, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood withstood the trial. Margaret Atwood has been a favorite writer of mine ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale. Alias Grace will be my fourth book by her. I also picked up The Robber Bride (you can see it in the stack there above the Marlon James) and am looking forward to getting to that one. There’s just something about Atwood’s writing that really resonates with me. Each work seems like a beautiful puzzle, and I love trying to figure out how it fits together as I read.


 

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I update my current reads on my Instagram account, ohthisbook!

6477877As you know if you’ve read my previous “weekend reads” posts, I also like to keep a book going on my kindle. I’ve chosen The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley to keep me occupied digitally. It seems like it will be a light, fun read. I’m about 15% in now and Flavia is such a fun character. I like her quirky personality and her zest for learning. I’m not really into the depths of the mystery yet, but I have a sense that things will get rolling soon. It’s not a very long book, and I think it will involve a lot less brain power than Alias Grace so it seemed like a good option.

Middlemarch is still on my back burner. I’m not really actively reading that one at the moment. I think I just didn’t take it up again when my physical copy finally came. Life’s been pretty demanding lately – lots of job interviews, article writing, and researching going on, and it’s nice to have a little escape from all of that by reading a fantasy book (like The Lies of Locke Lamora that I’ve been reading the last couple of weeks). I felt that trying to stay with the classic in the last weeks just felt like more work to me. Hoping things will settle down soon and then I can either attempt to dive back into Middlemarch or put it aside and start a classic that is a bit smaller. Since I started it on my kindle, I didn’t actually realize how big it was! I’ve got Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles sitting on my shelf as well which is a bit smaller and has really been beckoning me lately.

What are you all reading at the moment?

Have you read any of the books in my nightstand photo above? Any thoughts?

Happy weekend reading!

 

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

4 out of 5 stars

 The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch doesn’t really lack much praise on the social platforms in the digital reading community. There are tons of bloggers, Bookstagrammers, Goodreads users, and BookTubers who rave about this one. After my own personal reading experience, I’m able to say that I feel that praise is rightly deserved.

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A photo from my instagram, ohthisbook.

“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.” 

 

 

“Time’s a river, Locke, and we’ve always drifted farther down it than we think.” 

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first in Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. It is nothing short of an extraordinary swashbuckling adventure set in the island city of Camorr. Locke, the main character who lends his name to the first book in the series, was orphaned as a child and has had a hard time just trying to survive his early years. Things change for him when he comes under Chains’ care and becomes part of the brotherhood known as the Gentlemen Bastards.

The first book in the series introduces the reader to Camorr, Locke, and the Gentlemen Bastards and details their schemes to steal from the rich in true Robin Hood fashion (giving to the poor is less important, but the Gentlemen Bastards do have some good in their hearts). The Gentlemen Bastards run into some significant complications in their latest scheme and as a consequence, the lives of Locke and his ‘brothers’ are put into danger. Locke, master of deception and mummery, must try to wriggle his way out of some very precarious situations.

It took me a little while to get into the book, but once I was drawn into it I didn’t want to put it down. I will say that from the beginning you really get a sense of Locke’s personality, which, for me, is one of the best elements of the book. Locke as a boy is a precocious thief who grows to be a master of deception and manipulation. He is not your average thief. He is not only stealthy physically, but he can mold himself to fit any type of role by adjusting his appearance, adopting an accent, or even speaking another language. He thinks on the spot and his quick wits get him out of very tight situations. In some instances, I think this type of character can be seen as a sort of ‘deus ex machina’, but with Locke it is believable. He isn’t infallible, but he does learn from his mistakes which makes it interesting and fun to follow his adventures since the reader never really knows if his current scheme will work or not.

All in all, a great fantasy book! My only complaint is that I would have liked the alchemical aspect to be more of a focus of the plot. I found that idea really interesting, but I felt like more could be done with it. Perhaps it’s a bigger focus in the next books in the series? As for those, I would like to check them out eventually. It took me a while to get through this book so I’m not sure if I’m up for committing to the rest of the books in this series at the moment (I believe there are seven), but if I happen to find them in a secondhand shop in the future I will certainly pick them up.

I will put a little word of caution here: the book as a whole is very violent. Although the banter is playful and the world is fantastical, if you’re concerned about prevalent violence, you might want to be aware that there are some very graphic passages. Oh, and tons and tons of cursing, but you’d expect that in a fantasy series called The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, right?

Book Review: American Pastoral by Philip Roth

2.5 stars out of 5

(Just a brief disclaimer, my review is rather negative. If you enjoyed reading this book I am glad you had a better experience with it than I did. Also, if you are wanting to read it, don’t let my view sway your opinion! As I say below, there are some really beautifully written passages.)

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This is a photo from my Instagram feed. If you’re interested in bookish photos check it out at ohthisbook.

While I felt this book had some really beautifully written passages, I also had a lot of issues with it. It was hard for me to get through it after about the halfway point. First, I’ll give a brief synopsis and then explain my issues with it.

American Pastoral is a novel that mostly centers around the Levov family. The novel opens, however, with the narrator, Skip Zuckerman, reminiscing about the infamous hometown hero, Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov. Zuckerman is a writer and when the novel opens he is about to attend his 45th class reunion. Shortly before this time, though, he receives a letter from Swede asking him to meet up with him in the hopes that Zuckerman might write a tribute to honor his recently deceased father. This is the basis for what follows in the rest of the novel.

When Zuckerman attends his class reunion he talks with Jerry Levov, Swede’s younger brother, who reveals to him a number of facts about Swede and about his daughter, Merry Levov, that lead the story down a very different route. Without giving too much away, Merry Levov was a political activist and allegedly perpetrated an act of violence in the name of her ideological and political beliefs. The story follows the time leading up to this point and the aftermath.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, I had a lot of issues with the book. First of all, I didn’t really like the device of the embedded narrative as it was used here. Zuckerman starts to imagine the trajectory of Swede Levov’s life after Merry becomes involved in radical political movements. The transition from the present day in which Zuckerman is narrating his life experiences to his imagining of Swede’s life seemed clunky to me. I couldn’t help but continue to be aware that the author within the story was creating a story for me as the reader and as a result the whole “imagined story” seemed really unbelievable to me. This was further exacerbated by the fact that a lot of the occurrences within the “imagined story” seemed really implausible.

On a related note, Roth seems to paint Swede as an alpha male. He is the embodiment of the masculine ideal and has achieved the American dream, or at least appears to have achieved it from an outsider’s point of view. I took issue with this because although we are led to believe that Swede is a good man, there are a number of passages where he comes across as very misogynistic and degrading towards women. Swede is portrayed as irresistible to the women in his life, including those that are far too young (or inappropriate for other reasons) to be sexually involved with him.

My final complaint about this novel is that after the first section called “Paradise Remembered” it was just very boring for me. The first section had some really beautiful passages. I enjoyed the writing immensely in the first section, but from the second section on (there are three sections) I felt like the narrative was highly repetitive and too little action occurred. There are a lot of flashbacks throughout the novel, usually given to the reader via Swede Levov, which repeat instances that have already been covered in the narrative.

If I had to summarize my thoughts on this novel after reading, I would just say I’m glad it’s done. Now on to something more interesting. It’s a bit disappointing since I was looking forward to this novel and had high hopes that I would like it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me.