October 13, 2007

A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Young Adult Fiction
Finished on 10/12/07
Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)
R.I.P. II Challenge #3

Publisher's Blurb:

Gemma Doyle isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, and who will lie back and think of England when it's required of them.

No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds a chilly reception. But she's not completely alone... she's been followed by a mysterious young man, who warns her to close her mind against the visions.

For it's at Spence that Gemma's power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy group called the Order. It's there that her destiny waits... if only she can believe in it.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of book... a vast canvas of rustling skirts and dancing shadows and things that go bump in the night. It's a vividly drawn portrait of the Victorian age, when girls were groomed for lives as rich men's wives... and the story of a girl who saw another way.

Sigh. It's happened again. Another hyped-up novel that failed to entertain. Perhaps I'm just not suited for these modern-day Gothic novels. Or, maybe it's the teenage angst that turns me off. Whatever the reason, I'm sorry to say it was quite a struggle to get into the book and I almost quit on several occasions. However, I stuck with it since I'd heard positive remarks from fellow bloggers. Heather, Jenclair and Kailana all loved the novel and wrote glowing reviews, which I encourage you to read if you're the least bit interested in this book.

It's very difficult to write a review for a book I disliked so much. In a nutshell, I didn't care for Gemma's sardonic wit and thought her voice sounded contrived throughout the entire novel. The overuse of metaphors was also irritating. I didn't care for any of the characters and thought the plot far too predictable. The following passage leapt from the page, jarring me from what little interest I had going and made me think, would someone in 1895 truly say this?

Felicity stops. "Oh, honestly, this is the worst attempt at a gothic novel I've ever read. All we're missing are creaking castle floors and a heroine in danger of losing her virtue."

I do think, however, that this might make for an entertaining movie. I found myself picturing Johnny Depp as Kartika and wouldn't mind seeing that come to be. Looks like the rights have been bought, so we may just see this come to theaters near us (or Netflix, in my case) in a few years.

If anyone would like to give this book a try, I'd be more than happy to pass it on. Leave a comment and I'll draw names next weekend.


  1. I haven't seen many reviews from people not liking this book. Luckily there are lots of other books out there so there is something for everyone!

    I've already read this so don't worry about entering me into the draw!

  2. Anonymous4:27 PM

    I always think it's interesting which books speak to us and which do not. I have this one in my book closet (did I tell you I have a book closet now?). I'll have to pick it up at some point and see if it speaks to me.

    I'm reading Louise Penny's Still Life right now and just loving every minute of it. So much so that I have her next book ready to start the minute I finish the first. I'm addicted to Canadian settings right now.

  3. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I read this book while on vacation last April and didn't even bother writing a review, since I didn't have all that much good to say about it. Glad I'm not alone!

  4. Yeah... I loved this book! But, I totally know the feeling. There are lots of books that people love that I hate, and many times where they are young adult books. I normally cannot take the teenage angst at all! This book was a rare exception, as well as its sequel. :) I am sorry you didn't like it, though! (Something I really like is that this book, I read it before it was heavily blogged about, so I went into it with regular expectations.)

  5. Just goes to show, yet again, how we don't all like the same books. I was wondering about reading this one because of those good reviews you mentioned. I guess I'd still give it a try if you don't mind adding me to the draw.

  6. Hmm, I haven't read this one but I've been trying to catch a copy on Bookmooch. I'd love a chance to inherit your copy. :) Sorry to hear that you didn't like it, but join the dissenter's club--I'm one of seven people on earth who hated The Lovely Bones. Sometimes the hype just doesn't work out.

  7. Marg - Well, I was in the minority for The Thirteenth Tale, too, so maybe it's not a failing of the writing/author, but the genre. Maybe I'm just not cut out for the gothic stuff.

    Kay - No! You have a book closet?! Why does that not surprise me? ;) I'll be anxious to hear if you like this one.

    I need to read Louise Penny's sequel to Still Life. I enjoyed the first one and if I don't get a copy of the latest, I'm bound to forget all about the characters! I sure did like the main detective.

    Stephanie - I searched your blog for a review and then remembered that you said you didn't review it. Yay! I'm glad I'm not alone with my disappointment either. ;) It's always a comfort to know that someone shares my reaction to highly acclaimed books.

    Kailana - I'm glad the book was enjoyable for you. There's a third in the series, isn't there? Maybe not published yet, though.

    Nat - Your name's in the hat! Gee, if you win, should I send it to Canada? :)

    Andi - You're neck and neck with Nat for the book. May the best reader win! :)

  8. Anonymous5:36 PM

    Sorry to hear this one didn't do it for you. I had the same experience as Kailana, I read it before all the hype, so didn't have any real expectations for it. For me, the character and her circumstances were so unusual that the sometimes incongruous actions/dialogue didn't bother me. I've got the third one on my wishlist waiting for publication!

    Good thing there's plenty of books to go around, huh? I hope the next one is better for you!

  9. Hi Leslie,

    Actually, your review made me curious. Normally, I tend to like -- or dislike -- the same books. I hadn't heard of "A Great and Terrible Beauty" before, so I checked the reviews at amazon.de. It seems that people either love or hate this book. So now I definitely want to give it a try. I wonder if I will end up disliking it like you -- or maybe it will become a favorite of mine? Oh, the thrill of discovering a new author and fantasy world... :)

    Happy reading,

  10. I haven't read this book in a while. I was very disinterested in the first book, but absolutely loved the sequel Rebel Angels. I don't know why that is. It's so odd...but I'm curious to see if having loved the second book I could go back and appreciate the first. I will be interested in reading the third when it comes out.

  11. Lesley - Hey! I've missed ya! Glad you stopped by. And I'm glad this book was a success for you. I really am in the minority, so maybe it was just a timing issue (isn't that always my excuse?!). Enjoy #3.

    Birgit - Greetings! Thanks for stopping by with a comment. I hope you do enjoy the book whenever you get to it. Did you want me to add your name to the drawing? I'll go ahead and plan to unless I hear otherwise.

    Becky - Well, now that's interesting. You didn't like the first, but loved the second, eh? Hmmm, now I wonder if I should give the second a chance. Oh, man!

  12. I love the sound of this book (and the heroine), I'll try to find it at the library! Thanks Lesley, even though you didn't care for it, it sounds just my cup of tea. :-)

  13. This sounds interesting and I too want to see if I like it or not. Please enter me in the contest if you will ship to Canada.

  14. I was unfortunately prejudiced against this book (as so often happened) by the number of times I was required to place it on a display and the fact that we received six more copies for every copy sold.

  15. Lesley - OK, I think this is the first time I've had two comments from two separate women named Lesley (both spelled the same way I spell my name!). I'm not used to this at all! ;) Anyhow, I'd be more than happy to add your name for the drawing, if you'd like. Let me know ASAP, as I plan to have hubby draw the winning name later this evening. Thanks for popping in on my blog.

    Callista - No problem with the Canadian entry. Your name's in the hat!

    Janet - Nothing like an over-eager book-buyer, is there? ;) I've actually been able to hand sell this one quite often in spite of my negative opinion. Hmmm, maybe I should try my hand at real estate instead...

  16. Thanks, Les - if I'm not too late to be added to the draw, please add me. :-)

  17. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I really loved this book. I put it aside for other books at first, but that's what I do for most books since I have so many I wish to read ^.^', but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy reading it. For me, it was a thriller. It seemed strange, though, since the Kartik dreams get so... well... not my school level, I wondered why they had it in the library. Anyways, I can't wait to read the sequel "Rebel's Angels" (or something like that) as soon as my library gets it or someone buys it for me for christmas.

  18. Misty Karen - I haven't read Rebel Angels, but I've heard it's quite good. I hope you get a copy for Christmas! Thanks for stopping by with your comment.

  19. I'm glad I'm not the only person that can't get into this book. I'm only on page 50 ans so far I have a pretty good idea whats going to happen. Nothing about the book makes me want to continue. I want every character to die because they all seem like brats.


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!