Review – A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libby Bray (REREAD)

 

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1)

By Libba Bray

SummaryA 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.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty when I first read it back in 2014. Over the years, I’ve gotten my hands on the other two books in the trilogy, but it took awhile to find them and I never had the energy to reread the first one again. I finally got the urge (it always happens eventually) and decided to reread it. 

Most of my thoughts are the same as my original review. It was a good read with likable characters. I felt for their conflicts because I have always found the Victorian era a bit stifling. Gemma wasn’t a realistic character because I think she was too sassy for her time period, but I kind of appreciated it at the same time. I love the author’s writing and the plot. 

I’m so happy to have the sequel!

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Original review:

I loved the author’s YA novel set in the 1920’s that dealt with the occult, The Diviners, but it seems to be taking forever for the next installment to come out. When I saw A Great and Terrible Beauty at the used bookstore, I knew I had to have it. I love the author’s writing and the unique characters she creates in her novels. 

A Great and Terrible Beauty was interesting. Gemma was placed in a boarding school after her mother’s death in India. Strange things were happening to her and she was trying to make sense of it all. The boarding school was full of answers, strangely enough. 

The Victorian era is one that is completely suffocating for women and I almost always hate reading books set in that time period. However, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. I loved how the small group of girls Gemma befriended were different in many ways and all hoped for more than life could give them. I don’t know that I could have read a book where the girls all wanted to be married off and obedient. I think the time period worked quite well for the book, as the girls longed to be more without constraints, which is what made the realms and the story of Mary Dowd even more appealing and enticing. The power and magic of the realms was intriguing to girls who were unable to be themselves in real life. 

There were a lot of twists and turns, making the novel enjoyable, mysterious, and quite unpredictable. I will definitely continue the trilogy and I recommend the first book to any fans of the supernatural, YA, and historical fiction.

Star 4

 

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Review – The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

 

The Hearts We Sold

By Emily Lloyd-Jones

SummaryWhen Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldly ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

Source: I received a hardcover in a Owlcrate box

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Review:

The Hearts We Sold was an enjoyable and fast paced YA novel inspired by classic horror and fairy tales. With a Rumpelstiltskin kind of deal, humans could trade a body part for a wish and that wish could be granted. Like the vampires in True Blood, the demons who offered the deals came out to society in a public way. For Dee, it didn’t really matter until she discovered she did have a need that was worth trading for. 

I liked the overall plot of the book with the idea of public demons and humans trading limbs for various wishes and having tabloids discuss it. People looked at missing or fake limbs with an eyebrow raised. Accident or deal? It was all kind of intriguing. For Dee, she didn’t have to trade a limb, but instead traded her heart. The deal left her heartless for 2 years in which she’d be working for the demon, or Daemon. During that time, she wouldn’t change, wouldn’t have a heartbeat, but would function as normal for the most part. She ended up with a trio of other heartless and they worked to stop voids from opening up because they could enter them. The voids were part of their job, but no one really asked any questions at first.

The book, though enjoyable, fell a bit flat for me because it was so fast paced. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to and the book felt really fast paced. The world was really interesting, as were the backstories of all of the characters. Honestly, I felt like the book could’ve been twice as long with a lot more detail. There was so much room for more world-building and character building and I felt like the groundwork was all there. Instead, it was a quick and plot driven book that ended quickly. 

Still, it was a fun book and I’d recommend it.

Star 4

 

Book Blogger Hop – Banned Books Week

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Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

 

 In regards of Banned Books Week, what are your favorite books that has been banned or challenged? 

(submitted by Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte)

 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

 

These are just a couple that I see on the lists frequently and just don’t get it. 

 

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” ― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

 

Review – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven

SummaryThe Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

It’s official. Those quirky contemporary books that everyone else seems to gobble up like candy and rave about all over social media? Not for me. And when the hype gets to me and I’m like “oh, maybe the book IS decent, even for a contemporary issue book with quirky characters” I need to remember where I stand. Because All the Bright Places is just not the book for me. I can’t really say I hated it, but I’m frustrated by it. I can’t tell if maybe it’s just a tired trope or not as well written as I’d hoped or I’m just simply too old for the YA issue books with absent adults and inherently wise teenagers. But whatever the problem is, I just have to keep reminding myself to not let the hype get to me.

I don’t want to sound cold or ill informed when I say that I just didn’t think All the Bright Places captured anything real. I’m sure there are people out there who would vehemently disagree. But I will say that the book didn’t have the kind of writing that sucked me in or characters who found their way into my heart and that made any actual realistic aspects of depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, etc just fall flat. I feel like books should call out to not only those who have suffered from the tough topics they talk about, but to those who haven’t, so they may feel that they walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. If I haven’t felt like it was enlightening or realistic or remotely moving, what was the point?

All the Bright Places was like Paper Towns except the main characters were suffering from an array of mental disorders. Violet was dealing with the loss of her sister and having to face life without her. Finch was bipolar, but he was also from an abusive home and neglectful parents. In this story, he was the girl from Paper Towns, leading Violet on grand adventures. If Violet was the type to try to make herself appear smaller and avoid the spotlight, Finch was the loud and proud class clown who runs around in order to stay in the spotlight. Both characters were not dealing with life in a healthy and stable way and neither of their parents seemed to pay attention to anything. 

The book felt contrived, full of issues, lacked real character depth, and left me feeling frustrated. It announced itself as a suicide book from page one and I knew I was waiting for someone to die. I knew who it would be and I’d hoped for some real emotion along the way. I’d hoped both characters would save each other in some way, even if one of them would die. But I never really connected with the story.

Star 2

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Fall TBR

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Three Books on my Fall TBR

1. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. I preordered this as soon as I heard about it. 

2. The October Country by Ray Bradbury. It’s been on my shelf for awhile, but I didn’t get to it last October and it just feels wrong to read it any other time of the year.

3. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle. I loved The Accident Season so I had to pick this one up.

 

I haven’t actually given much thought to anything else. I’ve just been choosing books at random to read as the mood strikes me. 

Review – Thinner by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

 

Thinner

By Richard Bachman

SummaryBilly Halleck sideswipes an old Gypsy woman as she is crossing the street in their quiet Connecticut town of Fairview, and everything in his pleasant, upwardly mobile life changes. He is exonerated in the local court by a friendly judge and the sheriff…but a blacker, far worse judgement has been passed on him nevertheless.

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Source: I borrowed a hardcover from my stepmom.

Review:

I absolutely love the awful B movie, Thinner, that is based off of the book. I mentioned wanting to read it while my parents were in town visiting and my stepmom happened to have her copy with her, which somehow always happens to us, so I borrowed it and finally crossed it off of my To Read list.

Thinner was just as good as the movie, which is a good thing even though I think the movie is terrifically terrible. The movie is awesome even though it’s such a cheesy movie, but the book kind of had a similar feel to it. It was a serious matter, but also kind of entertaining. 

The story involves selfish and cruel lawmen who ran Gypsies out of town, were awfully racist and classist, and pretty much let the death of one of the Gypsies go unpunished. The Gypsies got revenge, turning the rather large Bill Halleck into a shrinking husk of a man. It is such a great revenge story and I loved getting the point of view of the victim who started the story as a the villain. I enjoyed watching him start to realize that maybe he was an elitist jerk. 

The best part, aside from the horrific aspects of the book, was that it so perfectly portrays why revenge is so terrible. There are more than two sides to every story. Any victim can be the villain in another person’s story. People don’t see how awful they can be.. on both sides. And getting revenge feels good, but when does it go too far? Thinner is a cautionary tale in that regard while also being a tad creepy. 

I recommend Thinner, especially to people who are easily scared by King’s other horror novels and/or intimidated by the length of Stephen King novels. Thinner is not nearly as bone chilling and it is a very short novel.

Star 4

Book Blogger Hop – Sept 15

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Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

15th – 21st

Have you ever bought a more expensive edition of a book, when a cheaper edition was available, just because you preferred the cover of the more expensive one? 

(submitted by Maria @ A Night’s Dream of Books)

 

Not really, no.

I’m such a cheapskate. If some edition exists that looks better and it’s more expensive, I’ll go for the cheaper cover. There are covers that I prefer, but I’m not really that worried about it. I don’t own multiple editions of books on purpose and if I have a cool edition, it was probably a lucky find.

My husband will always make me buy the more expensive editions of books because that’s just how he is, but I’m usually book shopping by myself and trying to buy the most amount of books for the money because I read so much.

A lot of people have well loved favorites that they just own multiple copies of. A lot of people just collect books in various formats. But I’m not one of them. I actually own some series in paperback that I’m missing books for because I borrowed the other book in the series or I own it on kindle. I don’t really care as long as I got to read the book. 

With that being said, I don’t own a lot of junky used books, either. I don’t want my books to fall apart so I do tend to spend more at a used bookstore on the nicer copy so I don’t have crappy and broken books hanging around.