Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: December 9, 2003
Rating: 2.5/5

Cover Impressions: 
There appears to be a bit of a corset obsession going on with this series.  There is nothing wrong with this cover, but there isn't anything exciting about it either.  It seems like another pretty girl in a pretty dress cover, though I understand it may have been released closer to the beginning of that trend.

The Gist:

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. (Goodreads)


Throughout my time as a blogger, I have encountered this series over and over again.  It tends to get lumped in with the type of romantic frou frou books that I don't particularly enjoy.
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However, it was chosen as the first book for a new book club that I have joined, so here we are.

There wasn't anything that I loathed about this book, but then there wasn't anything that I really loved either.  It lives in the eternal land of "Meh"  So much so that it has taken me a week or two to actually sit down and write this review.
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I found the characters very difficult to relate to.  I didn't actually LIKE any of them.  They seemed like bland characters who were flat and boring.  The only time that they were actually interesting, was because they were being petulant and childish.  Even the main character, despite having lost her mother in a horrific manner, seemed shallow.  I really disliked how Gemma started out disliking Felicity and Pippa for being mean and spiteful bullies but quickly joined in with them and started proclaiming that the two ousted girls were the actually the "mean girls".        
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I really started to lose interest in this book when I got to the "you are a special snowflake that is more special than all the rest" part of the book.  Despite a big secret being revealed, there was no real explanation of why Gemma was supposed to be the savior of the order nor why this did not have any impact on her life whatsoever until her mother died.  The magic itself was interesting, but without answer to explain the rules, I stopped caring.  In fact, by the end, I cared so little that instead of being tempted to read the other books to find out who Circe was, I found the answer online and was not the least bit surprised to find it was exactly who I suspected.  This was a running theme as all of the supposed plot twists were things that I had figured out long before the characters.  This led to long periods of boredom while I waited for the other characters to catch up.
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Eventually, I finished for the sake of finishing, though I didn't really enjoy it at all.  I will not be checking out the next two in this series.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Girls
Sex: Kissing, Sexual Dream
Violence: Murder of a child, Brutal killing of an animal,
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Slut, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking


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