Thursday, August 9, 2007

A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray

In a rush to get to ECLIPSE, I decided I simply had to finish this book tonight. Let me tell you, it is a FABULOUS book. I'm happy I finally dusted it off and cracked it open -- granted, I did once, but *heh* couldn't make it past the first page or two. Okay...confession time...

I'm a past tense snob. LOL. I bought THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE a LONG time ago -- and well, I never made it past the first page when I realized it was written in present tense. *TEE* It just sounds so weird to me -- and it's like I have to struggle to process every sentence. Plus (VBG), it reminds me of Silence of the Lambs -- you know the line, "It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again?" Yeah, that always sprang to mind when trying to read a book written in present tense.

Anywho -- I gutted my way through the first chapter or two -- and although it probably didn't feel "right" for a couple of hundred pages (if at all), I made it through. Big moment. Feel like I'm expanding my horizons. Maybe my present tense muscle just needed some exercise. (g)

Okay, on to the review.

Brief Synopsis: Gemma Doyle grew up in India, but has always longed to see England. One day, she sees a vision of her mother being attacked and then killing herself. The vision comes true. Her father is an addict, and her brother can't be bothered with her, resulting in them sending her to an elite finishing school in England. Once there, she's confronted by a young man--the brother of the man who died alongside her mother--who warns her away from giving into her visions.

At the school, she befriends an outcast and the two most popular girls in school. Together, they try to unravel the mystery of <>. It's set in the year 1895.

Eh...I guess that's okay. LOL. Maybe with enough practice, I'll get better. (g)

Okay, LOVED this book. Bray is a GREAT writer -- she really knows how to set the mood, keep the pace going, and develop great characters that come alive on the page. This book had a lot of depth to it, and tackled many issues -- sexuality, cutting, peer pressure, etc. etc. The list goes on. The tension slowly built until I was whipping through the pages in order to find out what would happen next. The ending... WOW...can't wait to read the sequel, which thankfully I have in my grubby little hands already! (picked it up today (g))

One of the great things about this book is the circle of friends surrounding Gemma. Bray really captured the essence of a teenage friendship -- the ups and downs -- the ability of girls to go from mortal enemies to bosom buddies, almost overnight...and then back again. Over and over, each cycle bonding you even closer together. Takes me back, I tell ya. (g)

The mystery was slowly revealed until the BIG moment in the end. And you're left wanting to know what happens next. In addition, she weaved historical details in without making me feel like I was being bashed over the head with them. I really respected that. (g)

To be fair, there were a few flaws. One of the things that really stood out to me was the young boy who was warning her away from the visions. His name was Kartik, and he was part of this, I guess you would call it a secret society of gypsies called the Rakshana. Supposedly, their sole purpose is to guard the secret of <>. The thing I found strange about this whole thread of the book is that they never really did anything. Sure, their mission was clear, but they never seemed to have a clue or be around to actually, yanno, protect the big secret. It was a real weak spot in the novel.

Also, to be honest, the romantic relationship in this book was a bit underdeveloped -- and I think the reader is expected to feel more than is actually warranted.

I also found some of the girls' thoughts, words, and actions a tad modern. Eh, I'm not a history nazi, but their "tone" even jerked me out of the book every now and then.

At any rate, it was a great read, and I can't wait until I get to the sequel. (ECLIPSE comes first, tho! (g))

Buy or Rent? BUY!

2 comments:

Beth said...

I'm the same--I find present tense really hard going. I made it through Barbara Rogan's SUSPICION, but I kept trying to recast the sentences in past tense. Really wearying. And (frankly), present tense just seems pretentious to me. I think it's an attempt to sound "literary." [rolling eyes]

OK, I just might be a bigger past- tense snob than you. [g]

Jen said...

Beth,

LOL -- guess I'm not alone. YES... it does sound pretentious... Heh.

This is really ironic -- I just ordered Suspicion yesterday! I thought it was about time I read one of Barbara's books. (g) Oh boy, better get in my present tense frame of mind... *thinking hoity toity* (g)

Jen