Friday, 30 March 2012

A Great and Terrible Beauty

I am home sick, I have been for two days now.  Bad cold!  Yesterday I was so sick I couldn't read.  However, on Monday, when I stayed home (I've been sick for over a week with this virus), I was able to read still.  I picked up my first book for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, and I am happy to report that I read it in one big gulp.  I couldn't put it down, and since the  kids were at school, I was able to read uninterrupted.  (It was the last day I was able to read, since then I've been getting worse.  Yesterday was movie day, since I couldn't read.  Not sure about today yet).
I really enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty.  It is a delightful coming-of-age YA set in Victorian India and England, England mostly.  Gemma is 16,and lives in India.  Her mother dies and Gemma witnesses the death through a strange occurrence where she is able to 'see' the death, and what mystery shape that follows her mother...... More of these strange 'seeings' come to her when she arrives in England, and finally goes to the boarding school she is being sent to for 'finishing', as was the norm among upper society families in Victorian England. At the Spence Academy, she discovers that boarding school is not the delight she thought it would be - girls have airs, wealth and family position are prominent in the social structure of the school, and Gemma is picked on by the elite of the school.  This all sounds dire and - yes, it would be boring if it were in the hands of a less-gifted writer.  All this is background to what is the main part of the story:  Gemma's discovery that she has a magical ability that lets her move between worlds.  And the bigger discovery that the accident that befell Spence Academy  20 years ago, involving the deaths of two of the girls there plus a teacher, are linked to her magical powers. 

This is handled in such a fun way, with Gemma taking a stand and discovering what she values in herself and in others, and with the  magic she discovers taking her to a world where she has to feel her way to what is real.  There are 3 other girls in her group, Pippa, Ann, Felicity.  They all want different things, and what the magical world does to each is fun to watch.  If you were 16, would you have been any different from these girls?  I know I wouldn't have been. There is a lovely mix of school and after-hours activity, with learning to hold her own and desperately wishing she could save her father, that makes Gemma Doyle an appealing heroine, and her adventures with going to the other universes - she is the one a Secret Order have been waiting for, to try to balance all the worlds again - is well done and believable.  The friendships and girlishness and betrayals and changing loyalties among the girls is well-written and utterly believable. It made me glad I wasn't at the boarding school (having gone through high school hell already once, I never want to experience it again), even while I wished I could be part of the circle!  The best part is, this is the first part of series, and I'm really curious how it continues.  I quite like Gemma Doyle, she is an interesting heroine.  It's a well-written fantasy story, highly recommended. 4.7/5

 And on a personal issue with blogger today:
 Dear Blogger

Please explain why my blog is with you, and yet I cannot leave comments on other blogposts. This is very frustrating, since there are some wonderful posts out there - Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies has a wonderful one on how reading novels has brought her to poetry; Debi at Still With Nothing Of Importance needs lots of hugs right now as she makes the final transition to her new home.  But you will let me comment on Nymeth's 5 year post,  and Cath at Read-Warbler's fabulous post about her recent trip to Wales, and her first review for Once Upon a Time Challenge (Katherine Langrish's West of the Moon.) Please fix this.

your affection loyal blogger


jenclair said...

I read this a few years ago (maybe even for this challenge) and enjoyed the first book. The second book didn't work for me, though.

Susan said...

jenclair: thank you! I haven't heard many people writing about the second one, whereas like you and me, so many enjoyed the first one. I may try to find it at the library then. Have you read the third one? It's a trilogy now.

Kailana said...

I really enjoyed this trilogy! For me it kept getting better. :) Actually, Libba Bray is why I started reading more young adult instead of mostly ignoring it.

I hope your commenting problems get fixed soon!

Stefanie said...

Being sick is bad enough but when you can't read because of it is just no good. Hope you are on the mend and feel better soon!

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm so glad you wrote about this book. I picked it up a couple of years ago at the library and meant to read it - forgot all about it - now I'll include it in my next trip there.

So sorry that you're having a sick week. It's frustrating when you can't read. I mean, all that uninterrupted time and just TV viewing is possible. Hope you feel better soon.

Also sorry you've been having trouble commenting. I've heard of a few others having issues this week as well.

Daphne said...

I hope you feel better soon!! I had a terrible virus in November and December, it just would NOT let up. I hope you're feeling better really soon.

Cath said...

I get this same virus every winter, luckily I've not been as bad with it this year, but usually it gets that my eyes are affected and I can't read either. I hate it and feel so sorry for you because it nearly kills me. It's a nasty virus and I really hope it eases off soon.

I have A Great and Terrible Beauty on reserve at the library so will be reading it for Once Upon a Time too. I start out with my own shelf of books and then end up reading other people's recs. LOL!

I didn't realise Blogger had been playing up... been cooking all afternoon and then hooked on a Charlie Parker book all evening. John Connolly's horror credentials are very much to the fore in his crime writing it seems...

Nymeth said...

I hear you on the Blogger issues :\ It's been so bad lately that I'm considering a move, which isn't really something I've done before. I hope they get their act together.

Get well soon, Susan! *hugs*

Susan said...

Kailana: Ok, I will keep your thoughts about this series in mind. I am going to see if #2 is at the library :-) So before A Great and Terrible Beauty, you hadn't read any YA? Wow. what a lovely introduction to it, isn't it? and fun.

Stefanie: I do feel better now, thanks, I've been able to read since last night (Friday evening). I'm so glad, too!

Kay: It's worth reading, and fun :-) I'm glad I brought it back to your attention.

I did get two movies watched, though I ended up dreaming vivid dreams I was still so sick. I'm back to reading now (Saturday) so feeling better, yaay!

Daphne: thanks, I am. It was a very long week, and I couldn't do much at all. I hope you are finally feeling better, too!

Cath: ugh to a virus that won't let you read because it affects your eyes! and I'm so sorry, that's awful, too. I'm feeling better since last night, so I'm back to reading again. *happy dance!*

Yes, I know, we all end up reading off each other's lists! lol I think that's part of the fun, too. I hope you enjoy a Great and Terrible Beauty. I'm out tonight (just down the street, otherwise I'd stay home!) so I'll respond to your lovely email tomorrow.

I've got the John Connolly book you are talking about, I know they are supposed to be very good, I struggle to get past the initial crime though, it's so gruesome. How are you finding it?

Nymeth: Oh, I'm sorry too if Blogger is bothering you that much! I hope they know there is a problem.

and hugs back to you, Nymeth, I do feel better today. I hope you have the best of all news soon, too. I keep my fingers crossed for you.

Cath said...

So glad you're feeling better!

I finished Dark Hollow yesterday and overall I liked it, with reservations. I'll do a quick review of it tomorrow with my March books post.

Marg said...

I loved the first book, liked the second one but really wasn't that keen.

I have a little bit of trouble with blogger comments, but I have worked out that it is often with those blogs where they have chosen to have word verification and usually pop ups as well. If I change browsers then I can get a comment through, but it is a bit of a pain.

Bybee said...

I absolutely LOVE how the cat seems to jump out of the blog header. And the books next to the cat -- Good Kitty! Smart Kitty!

Susan said...

Cath: thanks! It's good to be feeling better and reading again :-)

Marg: the second book is definitely getting mixed reviews here! lol

So far just some of the blogging sites are giving me problems, it's very odd...

Bybee: Oh he's a smart kitty! Too smart for us! Thanks, I had fun with this picture. :-)

Buried In Print said...

You must be feeling better by now; I'm late in visiting the OUaT reviews!

This is one book that I think I would have enjoyed if I'd read it when I was looking for a good romp of a read (just the kind of read you need when you're feeling poorly), but I think my expectations were a bit high.

So I just liked it well enough, whereas it sounded like a story that I would absolutely love. I'd still like to read some other books she's written, but I'm not sure that I'll read on in this series; I'm still debating and, in the meantime, there are so many other books!

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