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review 2014-08-06 08:13
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray review
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Libba Bray
Released: 9th December, 2003

Book Summary:

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.


Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. A Great and Terrible Beauty is an impressive first book in what should prove to be a fascinating trilogy.

What I like: The characters were all very well done, and the imagery provided by the details in the book were vivid to me. Pippa is a seemingly vain girl, yet we learn underneath her beauty she doesn't want to be married off to someone she doesn't love just so she has a good social standing. Ann wants nothing more than to be beautiful and loved and to find a good husband, not become the governess of her cousins just because they got her into Spence. Felicity wants to break away from the social constructs that she's been raised in and seeks to defy her mother while yearning for her father to visit her. And Gemma is conflicted through most of the story because she just wants her mother back, and doubts her own abilities with her new found powers.


What I didn’t like: Sometimes the descriptions, while lovely, seemed rather unnecessary to me, and had I not realized the nature of the "friendship" the girls had, I would have said it was unrealistic since Felicity and her group of friends not only mocked Gemma when she arrived, but bullied Ann around as well solely because of her social standing and the fact Ann was there not because she had the money but on a scholarship provided by her cousins! Other than this, there wasn't much that was notable that I was miffed about with the book.


Overall review: A Great and Terrible Beauty is a wonderful story set in Victorian England. We get the elements of what we perceive to be true of what we know about society back in that age and Bray's lovely writing gives you pictures of what the world she has dropped Gemma into. With genuine doubts that would be normal of a girl in her standings at her age, she feels like a real person and someone who is very relatable in a sense. She endures many hardships in the first book, even doubting her own abilities. There's a lot of growth involved in her character in this book alone. I have no doubt that the next book will be just as enjoyable to read.


Recommend?: Yes indeed! It was a very lovely book and a very enjoyable read!

Goodreads: 3.8/5   Amazon: 4.2/5   Barnes&Nobles: 4.5/5   BookDepository: —/5


My Rating: 4.8/5


Rated Material:

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review 2014-02-01 07:56
Rebel Angels
Rebel Angels - Libba Bray

This is the second book in the Gemma Doyle series. I thought the first book to be OK, so I got this one from the library.


I didn't think it was very different from the first book. There still isn't really character development, but the pacing of the story is somewhat faster. There are also more places visited, so we finally get to see some more of Victorian England and the other world.

I thought the storyline in the other world was a bit weak, as the girls were really naive.


I wanted to read the rest to finish the trilogy, but I haven't found the time to do so yet. Perhaps I will do it some time...

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review 2014-01-30 03:10
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
The Sweet Far Thing - Libba Bray

It seems that this trilogy just got better and better with each book. I was thoroughly impressed with this trilogy, but particularly this book. The story got more intense. I couldn’t get enough of this book. I’m very sad it’s over.


Gemma’s debut is nearing, but her biggest responsibility is the power she holds. She has bound the magic of the realms to herself. The Order and the Rakshana want that power to control the realms. It’s time for Gemma to choose her role in all this and decide what’s right.


Oh the characters! There are just so many and I love them all. The wonderful thing is that we get to see more of them. We get to understand them and why they are the way they are. the development is amazing. By the end, Gemma barely resembles the girl we came across in the first book, or even at the beginning of this book. the path of each character, whether they come to a good or tragic end, seems to be mapped out perfectly by Bray. When I named Gemma as one of my favorite heroines in a top 10 list a few weeks ago I remember someone saying Gemma got on their nerves. I know this was just their opinion, but I have to disagree now that I’ve finished the trilogy. I truly love Gemma. I think she’s a wonderful character.


I also enjoyed all of the twisting and turning. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, my mind was turned inside out by a new plot twist. I’m glad Bray didn’t take the predictable road. Even after I thought I had been numbed by all the twisting and turning, she still managed to surprise me. It was a well-paced plot and I couldn’t stop listening for a second.


Speaking of listening, I really grew to love Josephine Bailey during my listen to these books. I might have to see what else she’s narrated. In the beginning, she sounded too old to be Gemma, but now that I’ve listened to the whole trilogy she’s become Gemma’s voice.


Though I would categorize this as fantasy, Bray does a great job of giving it a realistic edge. Things aren’t all butterflies and fairies (well, at least not good fairies) so don’t kid yourself into thinking this will be like some fluffy little paranormal romance where everyone gets their happy ending (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Meyer). Just like real life, there are hardships and they don’t always end the way we’d hope. I am always drawn closer to a story with this type of underlying message.


I recommend this series to ages 13+ due to sexual references and violence.

Source: www.owltellyouaboutit.com/posts/the-sweet-far-thing
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text 2013-10-13 11:40
30 Day Book Challenge: Day 13
Stardust - Neil Gaiman
The Two Princesses of Bamarre - Gail Carson Levine
Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce
An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray


30 Day Book Challenge Header


Day 13: Your Favorite Writer


I like a lot of writers. But for the sake of being short-winded, I will only list five writers I will read without hesitation. 


Neil Gaiman - The first book I read by Gaiman was Stardust. He is a fantastic writer and I love his storytelling. 


Gail Carson Levine - It started way back with Ella Enchanted and continued with Two Princesses of Bamarre, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, etc. I love retold fairytales, I love to see the magic reworked to make something whimsical and entertaining. Levine fulfills my hopes and wishes with every book. 


Jackson Pearce - Once again, retold fairytales. (Loved the original covers) But she has a few non-fairytale books I would like to read as well. (Purity) 


John Green - I like his nerdy, cute guys and manic pixie dream girls. Plus there is meaning in a lot of his novels. 


Libba Bray - I liked the hilarity of Beauty Queens and the setting of A Great and Terrible Beauty. And The Diviners....I love ghost stories and I love historical fiction. Best of both worlds. 



30 Day Book Challenge


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review 2013-08-30 00:00
Rebel Angels - Libba Bray Format: Audio (Electronic from Library)
Narrated By: Josephine Bailey
Original Publication Year: 2006
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Series: Gemma Doyle Trilogy # 2
Awards: None

Rebel Angels continues the story of Gemma Doyle and her quest to free herself and her friends from the bonds of authority and society’s strictures. Most of the action in this second volume of the series takes place over the Christmas holiday while Gemma, Felicity and Ann are in London. Gemma’s (and really all the girl’s) family problems are more front and center and complicate Gemma’s decision making. The book centers on a quest – to find “the temple” – and the book is filled with vague riddles meant to be clues that VERY slowly lead Gemma to her destination.

As I feared, this book was not nearly as good as book one. I still enjoyed it for the most part but there was a lot more eye-rolling. The main problem is that the narrative is much more forced. Without the need to set up the characters, relationships and the setting, which I think made the first book work so well, the book must be much more plot driven and it is done quite lazily. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is almost 150 pages longer then book one when it could have been easily shorter. By forced narrative I mean that the author has mutated their character(s) in an unnatural way to make the plot work. Frequently this means making them dumb and when it is not the first time I’ve met the character it is especially glaring. There are a lot of “mysteries” which I figured out about 200 pages before Gemma and Gemma, inexplicably, begins to rely much more heavily on her “friends” very faulty judgment and ignores the only non-biased advice she gets, i.e. “Trust No One”. The Order’s approach to Gemma doesn’t make a lot of sense and the Rakshana have turned from what might have been an interesting murky organization into straight up mustache-twirling villains who like to kill young girls. There was also a lack of continuity with book one. Why did Gemma’s mother instruct that Gemma be sent to Spence Academy if something happened to her when that seems to be the place at which her enemies could mostly easily find her and influence her? One of the characters from book one turns out to not be what they seemed and by doing so makes much of their actions in book one nonsensical. It all seemed very sloppy to me.

The biggest problem however is that the characters begin to morph into flat and unlikeable girls. As I mentioned much of Gemma’s likeability is sacrificed to make the story work. Gemma’s “friends” are no longer believable as her friends. While Gemma may have gained some wisdom from the happenings in Book 1, her friends have not and if anything seem even more intent on their own agendas and in using Gemma to get what they want. They do this blatantly and also blame Gemma for everything that goes wrong even though they share very much if not more in the blame. Despite this Gemma seems totally reliant on them, will not enter the realms without them and abandons her own good judgment and instincts to bend to their poor judgment. This ends up helping to significantly undermine Gemma as a character. Anne and Felicity are no longer complex and interesting – they are just horrible. I hope book three sees Gemma starting to rely on herself more and Anne and Felicity finally growing up but I don’t hold out much hope. It also looks like the lack of plotting discipline will continue as book three is a whopping 250 pages longer than book two.

With all that griping why would I continue to book 3? Because book one was so good, that I need to see it through to the end. And I am probably much harsher on this book then it deserves, mostly, because I came to expect something based on book one that is not carried through in this sequel.

Final Verdict: Disappointing but still a moderately engaging read.
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