Book review: Library of Souls

3/5 stars

This is the third and final instalment in Ransom Riggs’ tales of Peculiardom. The story in the first book was based around old, mysterious photographs that the writer had collected, which also feature throughout the series. This way of telling a story worked very well in the first book, less so in the second and third – I’ll get back to that.

When I look at my review for book two in this series I could honestly have written almost the same thing for book 3.

When I picked up the first book it was full of magic and marvel and it was something completely new. The pictures were fascinating and added a lot to the story, the world and the characters were intriguing.

It sort of.. fizzled out a bit. I mean, Ransom Riggs remains a good writer, and the world he has built is still really intriguing, and it all hangs together. But.. there was just too much drudgery and chasing and fighting in the third book (and to a lesser degree in the second). I want to read more about peculiar people, their world and their abilities. Sure, it’s described along the way, but it’s by no means a main focus anymore. Plus many of the characters we’ve gotten to know in the first two books are not present for much of the third instalment. I don’t mind new characters being introduced, but it seems a little like they’re being introduced “for the sake of it”, or because there were pictures that roughly fit their description. Notable exceptions being Sharon, Bentham and Mother Dust (and of course grimbears!)

Like in the second book I didn’t feel as if the pictures added much to the story. Sometimes it feels as if unnecessary┬á bits are added in in order to use a certain photo, and other times I feel as if the description preceding the photo just doesn’t match it very well – which pulls me out of the story as it forces me to think “that’s not how I imagined it”.

I LOVE the panloopticon – such a fun and clever idea. I also found the idea of the library of souls very interesting, but in the end I don’t think that storyline really reaches its full potential. It’s a bunch more fighting and escaping again.

I’m close to giving it four stars because I liked how it ended, but there’s just too much slogging through stuff that wasn’t terribly interesting before I got to that point.

Book review: Beatless

Preamble:

Confession time: I have literally dozens of books on my Kindle that I downloaded on a whim because they seemed kind of interesting and were really cheap or in some cases even free. I’m honestly a little overwhelmed with the sheer volume of books available for Kindle. It’s a good thing, but it also makes it hard to parse all the information and find something that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

I often find with these free or cheap Kindle books that they end up being disappointing in one way or another. Mostly they seem to be badly edited, sometimes the writing is poor, and sometimes it’s just plain not a very good story. I keep buying them though, for the rare gem I find amongst them once in a while. Few things delight me more than discovering a great book I would normally not have come across.

Anyway, I’ve told myself that I’m not allowed to buy any more books until I’ve read at least a few of the ones I downloaded over the last year or so. Beatless was one of those.

***

4/5 stars

This is a story about a teenage girl who is afraid to live her life, and then begins to. Nothing remarkable in that, perhaps, but it’s a well written story with plenty of warmth and humour. The story of being young and insecure, of being afraid to stand out and afraid to not stand out, feeling like an outsider, feeling like nobody cares, is probably recognisable to most.

I loved seeing Mallory develop and gain confidence and friends – take charge of her life. Both she and Tucker are properly fleshed out characters that I started to care about.

It’s easy to read and easy to get into – I was so absorbed that I almost missed my train stop.

I like the way music is woven throughout the story, and is something that helps Mallory both literally and figuratively find her voice. I feel like the writer has some music knowledge or at least a passion for music.

But, there were some bits that didn’t quite work for me…

I would have loved some more background story. Why were her parents shitty? Had they always been like that? Why was she so afraid and why did she not have any real friends (I mean I had my share – and then some – of teenage angst, but I still had friends)?

The secondary characters seem to only be there for filler. I remember that Berkley is a girl because it sounds like a boy’s name to me, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about her. This was also the case for Mal’s parents – I mean I understand that part of the theme is being left behind by absent parents, but they could still have been given some identity, maybe by her thoughts or memories.

The secondary character problem is even the case to some extent for aunt Sam. When she came on the scene she was full of love, warmth and humour – encouraging Mal to go out and do stuff – she was basically the adult presence that Mal so sorely needed. Someone who saw her and cared about her. But quite quickly she melted into the background and became just an element in the plot. Again from the perspective of the story I understand why she lost her vibrancy etc., but it’s still unsatisfying as you don’t get a proper feel for the character.

The letters… Just didn’t work IMO. They were awkwardly placed at the end of each chapter, I guess as a way to still show some of Sam’s charater, but it honestly didn’t really. They seemed rushed, and filled with “generic life wisdom” from someone who is older and philosophises about these darn youngsters with their internets and their instagrams.

All that being said, I still really enjoyed this book and the writing. It feels like a very real portrait of being a teenager – where you’re angsty and self-absorbed but underneath all that actually a good person.

On a side-note: I find it really impressive that the author apparently has a full-time job, is a mother and still manages to write a damn book! I work part time, have no kids and can barely get it together enough to write a review of a book.. ­čśë