December 28, 2008

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray Date Started: December 25, 2008 Date Finished: December 28, 2008
Summary: Gemma Doyle is a girl living in India, when she gets a vision of her mother dying. She is shipped off to Spence Academy, where she encounters a group of girls and forms The Order, based on a diary of two former Spence Academy students. The girls, Felicity, Pippa, Ann, and Gemma travel to a unique world where their every dream comes true. However, everything is not what it seems and in the end, Gemma realizes that she has a terrible but beautiful secret that must never be told.
Likes: I liked just about everything in this book. I don't like reading in the present tense, but it actually took me a long time before I realized that it was in the present tense. The theme of forgiveness and taking control and responsibility for ones actions is beautifully written and skillfully told without being preachy and overbearing. The subtle nature of the relationship between Kartik and Gemma is narrated carefully. Gemma fantasizes about Kartik subconsciously and is angry when he snubs her. Her feelings for him are fueled by her backstory, her drug addicted father and pompous brother. She enjoys Kartik's attention and the ability she has to tell him off and make her own choices. She doesn't need him, but she wants him to notice her. I think the author does a wonderful job of exploring the feelings of a sixteen year old girl in a way that doesn't make her desperate, needy, or stereotypical. There is no deus ex machina in this story, everyone has to deal with the consequences of their actions and nobody gets their perfect happy ending. The characters are real, though at first they seemed a bit like cardboard cut-outs. Bray gives each girl a carefully chosen backstory and their background gives a bit more insight into who they are at the point where the novel takes place. Each girl has a yearning desire, whether it be for beauty, love, popularity and introspection. These are real desires, even if the girls circumstances are supernatural. There is still a reason for their wanting powers. The girls go to great lengths to get what they want, but they also have to take responsibilty for the actions they chose. As it is stated in the book "There are no safe choices. Only different ones." This story explores these 'unsafe' choices and does so skillfully. It's a little bit predictable at some points, but the twists are enjoyable and unexpected. The author gives you just enough information for you to come to the conclusion on your own. The author gives the reader credit for being smart and picking up on the clues and hints that she lays down. She doesn't throw things in the readers face. She allows the themes to work for her story and it gives a long lasting impression.
Dislike: I don't really like reading in present tense, but the story is so well written and carefully crafted, that I didn't really notice too much. (Though it did bother me when I was trying to write my story in past tense and had to sit for a minute to rework my brain. XD). The author has a little bit of trouble writing action scenes and tends to slow them down with description or a metaphor. I know her action scenes will improve in the next two books as the girls get in more dangerous situations.
Overall: This was a great book. There is still a lump in my throat from trying not to cry towards the end. It held my attention and I could barely tear myself away. The characters are really and the premise is fascinating. The most important thing was the theme and how that carried on into the story and came full circle at the end. I enjoyed reading this book and I am looking forward to reading the next two in the series.

December 22, 2008

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Date Started: December 22, 2008 Date Finished: December 25, 2008
Summary: The story basically picks up where the last one left off. Bella is in a depression that stems from Edward leaving at beginning of the book. She decides she wants to be reckless and she starts hanging out with Jacob Black, an old childhood friend. After being almost attacked by the old vampire Laurent, Bella realizes that Victoria is after her as well. Bella learns that Jacob is a werewolf and that he is going to protect her from Victoria.
Likes: I like this book so much more than the first one. It's all because of Jacob. Jacob is so genuine and down to earth. He's friendly and playful, unlike Edward who is just so cold and emotionless. Even though I really dislike Bella, she was a bit more bearable in this book because she was having fun with Jacob. She had a little bit of personality, even though she was leading Jacob on the whole time. Bella is more bitchy in this one, but also a little bit snarky. Sometimes it was cute, the other times it was annoying. The mix up about Bella's funeral and Harry's funeral was funny, but kind of sad, only in the sense that Meyer had Harry die for that mix up to happen.
Dislikes: Given that I already know what the other books are about, I'm a bit sad that Bella and Edward are together and Jacob has to settle for their demon spawn. Basically the good ended when Edward came back. This story suffers from the Good Secondary Characters, annoying Main Characters situation. All the side characters are pretty much fleshed out as much as Meyer can with her writing skills (they've gotten a bit better, but that's because Edward was gone for most of the book), but she still fails to flesh out the main characters. It's irritating because as a reader, you are really rooting for the underdog (underwolf?) when you should be rooting for the main characters. Except I hate the main characters. I think that Bella was more bearable with Jacob, I could read the story without getting as bored as I did with the first one. Bella's cliff diving kind of reminded me of the episode of Grey's Anatomy when Meredith died. I don't think either one of them was conciously trying to commit suicide, but they eventually just stopped fighting the current. That part annoyed me of this book. She states that she was bored and decided to jump off a cliff by herself. Smart. At any rate, the book starts to get irritation after Edward was mentioned and he's going to Italy to commit suicide. At this point, I started skimming again. Frankly, the story was half way descent up until Edward comes back and then it's like Jacob drops out of the picture.
Overall: I liked this one a hell of a lot better than the first. I actually read most of it, instead of skipping chapters like I did with Twilight. The writing isn't much better, but the adverbs are killed when Bella's with Jacob. Everything felt so natural up until Edward comes into the picture. Knowing how the saga ends over all, I'm a bit afraid to read the third one. Since I already read the fourth (skimmed mostly just to see if the rumors about the demon spawn child were true), I really don't want to read how their love develops, because I really don't care how things work out so perfectly for them. I still think I'd probably be better off reading Twilight fan fiction where Jacob finds his perfect person and Bella gets no one. Or better yet, I'll just write my own original story... all the time I waste reading these books...anyway on to the next one. I'm going to pretend that this is a trilogy since the fourth one is so horrible. It's like Meyer relapsed or something.

December 17, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer Date Started: December 17, 2008 Date Finished: December 19, 2008
Summary: Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to be with her father after her mother remarries. Bella meets Edward Cullen, a vampire who is fighting the temptation to suck her blood.
Likes: I like the premise. The idea of normal human beings falling in love with supernatural creatures is definitely one that has been explored numerous times. The prose, though overblown at times, is accessible for it's age group. When this book came out, I was around sixteen or seventeen years old. Given the point I was in my life, I might have enjoyed this book more had I read it then. Meyer's story serves as inspiration for those who wish to publish their own stories. (although J.K. was more inspiring)
Dislikes: Meyer's writing isn't horrible it just isn't a style that I enjoy reading. Adverbs are overused and the dialogue is too oddly written to be enjoyed. The characterization is pretty much none existent. Bella complains too much about the little things. Her character doesn't seem realistic and it's hard to find a reason to care for her predicament. Edward was all right to me at first, but then he started getting cocky and it was really beginning to grate on my nerves. The plot was non-existent as well. The first twelve or so chapters are just about a relationship that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The development wasn't subtle, it was more in-your-face "Edward's hot", "Edward's so cute", "Edward is beautiful." Bella's character is one of those ugly-pretty girls. She always states how "plain" or "ugly" she is because it seems that she enjoys people (mostly Edward) telling her that's she pretty. Bella's character doesn't seem to grow at all from page one to the end of the book. Meyer's back story and character development needs some work. A part of me wishes that she would have let the story sit for a while and let her writing grow before she published her story.
Overall: Great premise, horrible execution. I or anyone who reads these books would be better off writing their own supernatural romance.


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