Tag Archives: bookish things

[ink]m train by patti smith

I am drawn to stories about grief. As the years go by and I learn to live with mine, I find it comforting to wrap myself in the grief of others, fictional or otherwise. It’s a way to lessen the isolation that grief strands us in.

How is it that we never completely comprehend our love for someone until they’re gone?

With M Train, Patti Smith explores the themes of love, loss and grief in her life. Mainly the loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith at the age of 45. It’s a book presented as a series of dreams, memories, travels and the hazy area in between them all. Smith is a consummate poet and her memoirs always read as an extension of that, ephemeral and enigmatic.

It’s not so easy writing about nothing.

Like Just Kids before it, M Train’s text is juxtaposed with personal photographs of Smith’s. These are more powerful for the fact they are frequently not of people, but of inanimate objects that belong to artists and writers that inspire her. They create a subtle set dressing that tells us more about Smith than her words alone could.

Nothing can be truly replicated. Not a love, not a jewel, not a single line.

This is one of those books that should not be talked about too much in hard and concrete terms. It strips it of some of it’s magic. It’s often heart wrenching, but more often hopeful. I’m sure I will wrap myself in it’s words more than once. Perhaps it will not be all at once. Perhaps I will choose a chapter here and passage there, but there is too much beauty here to not be revisited.

[Ink]Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Trilogy

I was initially wary of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. A large chunk of the appeal for people lay in what seemed more than a bit gimmicky. Books that depend on gimmicks (with a few brilliant exceptions) tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that my hit and miss experiences with young adult fiction and it’s no surprise I wasn’t interested in this series from the get go.

However, fellow readers whose opinions I respect seemed to love it. Describing anything as peculiar will always sway me a little bit. So I gave it a shot. There were aspects I loved, aspects I hated and aspects I was completely indifferent to. So let’s delve in to my time spent with Miss Peregrine’s charges, their friends and one American boy who starts off thinking he’s average in every possible way.

(Maybe this goes without saying, but from this point forward there be spoilers aplenty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

“I had just come to accept my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar

The first line: I love a first line that grabs you and gives you a decent idea of what’s coming. I don’t think it’s always necessary, but when I find one I get giddy. The first line of this is delicious. It’s the very first step in Jacob Portman’s journey from boring, ordinary boy from Florida to so much more.

The photos: The appeal of this book hinged on the fact it was a story told in tandem with genuine old photographs. It starts off in the first book working very well. It’s obvious that the story was crafted around the photos. They contributed to what is a somewhat spooky feel that permeates the entire first book. Unfortunately in the second and third books, they more and more felt like they were forced in. It’s obvious when some of them have been doctored to fit the story instead of the other way around. By the end, I wouldn’t say they were distracting, but they were mostly just there.

“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares at the very same time.”
Hollow City

The story itself: The first volume of this trilogy was excellent. It kind of tells like a ghost story at parts, but instead of being haunted by spirits, it’s haunted by monsters and children. Jacob is trying to discover the secrets of his recently deceased grandfather’s past and the out there stories he would tell. Thinking he will find perhaps some clues to the past, instead he finds the past is alive and well just how his grandfather left it by means of a time loop. Time loops are places created by ymbrynes that occupy the space of a day and provide safety and immortality to the peculiars inside of them.
Unfortunately, where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children created an atmosphere of mystery and the unknown, Hollow City just creates an atmosphere of drudgery. I honestly can’t even tell you how much I remember of this book except there was a lot of walking and complaining. The idea being that Miss Peregrine has been kidnapped and the children have set out to find her. In the process they find some other interesting peculiars, but for the most part they meander. Meandering is totally something they have in common with the plot. It ends with a twist that instead of being completely shocking just makes the meandering leading up to it that much more pointless and annoying.
If Library of Souls was a season of Supernatural, it would be Season 8. Season 8 was the season everyone said Supernatural was good again. In reality Season 8 on is just not as awful as seasons 6 and 7, but nowhere near as brilliant as the first five seasons. All of which is a long rambling way to say that it’s much better than Hollow City, but not even close to as good as Home for Peculiar Children. They find where everyone’s been taken. Hoorah. They spend a lot of time figuring out how to get in only to kind of blunder into every single thing they need at exactly the right time. (I have a love/hate relationship with this plot device. In a way it’s probably how things would play out in real life, but in another way I don’t read fiction about monsters and peculiar children for realism.) It’s all tied up with a nice (and completely unconvincing) happy package.

The peculiars (and animals and ymbrynes): Riggs does an excellent job of developing their pecularities to be convincing and real. He spends a little less time on the characters themselves. Everyone ends up feeling very one dimensional as the story progresses. Everyone has one defining character trait and that’s all they ever really show. It’s seriously bad enough that when one of the children die in the second novel, I didn’t even really care. She was also one of my favorites. Part of this is the offhand way it’s told to the reader and part of it is that one dimensional characters don’t tend to evoke much sympathy.

The monsters: The monsters are super well developed and go from creepy (wights) to terrifying (hollowgast). The hollowgast in particular are some of the most compelling monsters created in any fiction, let along young adult fiction. I absolutely think they were one of the best parts.

“And then those awful teeth came unlocked, its mouth reeling open to admit three wiry tongues into the air, each as think as my wrist. They unspooled across half the room’s length, ten feet or more, and then hung there, wriggling, the creature breathing raggedly through a pair of leprous holes in its face…”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The love story: There’s a love story. It’s there. It genuinely doesn’t contribute a single thing to the story. There are points where it’s so much a square peg forced into a round hole that it’s distracting. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but love stories are not necessary. Sometimes boys and girls go off and adventure together and are just friends. That’s okay. I promise.

Summary: There’s some brilliant moments here. Overall I don’t regret reading it through to the end. (After all, I wouldn’t have gotten to read the bridge heads in Monty Python voices if I hadn’t. That was a glorious reading moment for me. And really, didn’t they seem like a Monty Python sketch?) In general though, what started out as being super promising and interesting turned into something that was only one step above average.

Postscript: I forgot that this series gets a major thumbs up for book design. The books are beautiful and the pages are thick. They’re solid volumes to hold in your hands. So really, really well done in that aspect.

So if you made it this far, tell me what you thought of this review or of the trilogy in the comments.