Thursday, 26 February 2009

Book Review - The Gemma Doyle Trilogy - Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

by
Libba Bray

When we meet Gemma she is living in India. It is the day of her sixteenth birthday and the day of her first vision. In it she's witnesses her mother''s murder at the hands of a fearsome and mysterious wraith like creature.

Heartbroken and alone, Gemma is shipped back to London to attend Spence Academy for young ladies. It is there she discovers that her mother was part of a mysterious group called The Order. These women were gifted with great magic and the ability to enter the realms, a magical and beautiful world. Gemma finds she shares this power and begins to explore the realms mysteries with her new friends, Felicity, Ann and Pippa. But Gemma has been followed by a young Indian man named Kartik. He warms her the realms hold only danger for her and she must close her mind to her increasingly unnerving visions.

The contrast of the strict Victorian society Gemma and her friends live in and the magical freedom of the realms is wonderful. At first it seems the realms are paradise and you can have your hearts desire there but everything comes at a cost, as Gemma and her friends learn.

There was so much I loved about these books, the depiction of Victorian society, the world building of the realms, the friendships and conflicts between the girls, Gemma's struggle to accept her power and then use it wisely. The strong theme of feminism and being yourself. Oh and the romance, I loved that so much. Libba Bray writes some incredible magical and heart wrenching scenes.

The last book did seem to meander a little but I was so caught up with the characters I didn't really mind.

The ending suited the book. Even though I would have liked things to go differently it didn't ruin the whole series for me in the way it seems to have for some people.

Some of my favourite quotes to give you a taste of the books.

"In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We’ve got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to forgive myself. Because there is a lot of grey to work with. No one can live in the light all the time."

"And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."

"But...you could have whatever you wished."
"Exactly," he says, nuzzling my neck.
"But," I say, "you could turn stones to rubies or ride in a fine gentleman's carriage."
Kartik puts his hands on either side of my face. "To each his own magic," he says and kisses me again.


This Trilogy is definitely on my favourites list, expect to see if constantly referred to like my other favourites.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Quote of the week

"Do you ever feel that way?"

"Lonely?"

I search for the words. "Restless. As if you haven't really met yourself yet. As if you'd passed yourself once in the fog and your heart leapt- "Ah! There I am! I've been missing that piece!" But it happens too fast, and then that part of you disappears into the fog again. And you spend the rest of your days looking for it."

He nods, and I think he's appeasing me. I feel stupid for having said it. It's sentimental and true, and I've revealed a part of myself I shouldn't have.

"Do you know what I think?" Kartik says at last.

"What?"

"Sometimes, I think you can glimpse it in another."

And with that, he leans forward as I do. We meet in a kiss that is not borrowed but shared.


The Sweet Far Thing by Libby Bray

Okay more like passage of the week but I just love that part. I love these books and yes I have a crush on Kartik but I mean look what he just said -sigh.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Book Review - Reading Like a Writer

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

My non-fcition book this month was about how to write. I'm trying to write a novel. It's incredibly hard. It seems like it should be so easy but it's really not.

I picked this one up because of the title. It's for people who love books - perfect!

It was useful read. She takes apart scenes and dialogues, which is interesting to see. A lot of the time I get so caught up in the plot, I miss how the author is keeping me interested, keeping the momentum going, feeding me information I need, making me see the places and connect with the characters.

The lessons of this book can really be distilled by one quote quite near the end.

"Read carnivorously . . . it involves reading for sheer pleasure but also with an eye and memory for which author happens to do which thing particularly well."

Great advice. I shall try and take it.

Tuesday Teasers

teasertuesdays3.jpgTEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!


And the magic flows through my veins like a swollen river. I am flooded by thoughts, wounds, desires, secrets.

From The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray.





I am loving this trilogy.

For more teaser go here

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Weekly Geeks - What's in a Name?

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For this week's edition of Weekly Geeks, we're going to take a closer look at character names. What are some of your favorite character names?

Go to Google or a baby name site like this one or this one, and look up a favorite character's name. What does their name mean? Do you think the meaning fits the character? Why or why not?

If you'd like, look up your own name as well and share the meaning.


I haven't participated in Weekly Geeks for ages but as I am currently trawling the baby names sites, searching for great names (both for the baby and characters) I had to do this one.

From His Dark Material - Philip Pullman

Lyra - The name of the constellation in the northern sky containing the star Vega. It is said to be shaped after the lyre of Orpheus. A lyre is an instrument like a lute.

So not really but obviously Lyra's name is appropriate given that she's not the most truthful of children or rather as Iorek Byrnison says she has a silver tongue.

Will - Its source is wil helm, an Ancient Germanic name meaning "Determined protector."

Ah, so fitting for Will, bless him.

From Secret Society Girl books by Diana Peterfreund

Amy - Its source is an Old French expression meaning "Beloved one."

Well everyone likes Amy, so not bad.

Jamie - Its source is Iacobus, a Latin name meaning "One who grasps by the heel or supplanter."

Um no.


And finally from my current, addictive read, Rebel Angels by Libby Bray

Gemma
- Its source is a Latin expression meaning "Jewel."

Could work, the Jewel of the Order?

Felicity - Its source is Felicia, a Latin name meaning "Happy."

Maybe by the end but right now nope

Ann
- Its source is Channah, a Hebrew name meaning "Favored grace."

As above

Kartik - not found

Aw we'll never know.

Really though it's the image a name creates in our head that's more important than it's meaning. When we finally found out Poe's real name was James in Under the Rose. I was kind of disappointed, it didn't seem to fit him. Until he tells Amy he's name is Jamie, always has been always will be. Big sigh of relief - far more fitting and they rhyme! How can they not end up together.

Oh and if you're new here please just have a quick look at this post and see if you know these books. I just remembered about them and I'm desperate to find them again and see if they're as good as I remember!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Sunday Salon - Falling in love

It's Valentine's weekend so time to speak of love, hearts and all things pink. My favourite books have romance in them somewhere. Whether it is the main focus, a subplot or just a hint of what might happen when the story is over.

My favourite types of romantic connection are friendship growing into love or two people who can't stand each other, suddenly finding that line between love and hate really is very thin. Although I am also a sucker for that different kind of connection, like Iris and Alex in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

All my crushes from my teenage years (and from my now years) have been on book characters. I can appreciate a sweeping love story on film (Rhett and Scarlet, Jack and Rose) but I generally prefer to be reading about it. When I was younger and all my friends were swooning over Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder or Jonny Depp in Don Juan Demarco. I was completely head of heels with Mr Darcy and this guy call Roaul from a series of completely wonderful books set in the French Revolution*.

I like the build up you get in a book, I like that you get inside the heads of the characters, I like that you only get a vague idea of what the hero looks like. I like the commentary on speech and action. In books there is so much more time to develop the relationship, for the characters to have conversations and get to know each other.

So romance for me will always be far stronger between the pages than on the screen.

* Please tell me the name of these books if you remember them because I simply adored them. They centured around a girl called Caro, who was an orphan and for some reason her cousin (Anthony?) taught her how to fence. Then they got trapped at her french cousins house during the start of the French Revolution and she cut all her hair off and pretended to be a boy to get back to England. Then she became a female Scarlet Pimpernel and her nemesis, who of course fell in love with her, was called Raoul and was the illegitimate son of a French Lord and so was on the revolutionaries side. Then in book four they all went off to Arabia. They were very, very good or maybe very bad but I loved them.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

BTT - Author Blogs

btt2.jpgDo you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!


I read quite a few:

Diana Peterfreund

Ally Carter

Meg Cabot

Neil Gaiman

John Green

Maureen Johnson

E. Lockhart

Justine Larbalestier

Sarah Dessen

Romancing the blog

The Literary Maze.

It never occurred to me that authors even have blogs until, (through a Book Through Thursday link) I discovered Anna Jazab's blog. I started reading her regularly, due to her being as obsessed with Nancy Mitford as I am and posting about it a lot.

Anna, who has her first book coming out next year (the blog about that is here), did a post out Four Act Structure and linked to Diana Peterfreund's blog. So I clicked over and started reading that. Then I read Diana's books, which I absolutely adored (look to the right if you're in doubt). Reading author blogs grew from there.

I read them because:

they have loads of great posts on writing
they usual have great links
they have recommend some books that are now favourites of mine
they're very funny (especially Meg Cabot and Maureen Johnson)

and

they write really, really well, surprisingly enough!

Always looking for new blogs so if you have any tips let me know.

(hope all links are correct)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Tuesday Teasers

teasertuesdays3.jpgTEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Rommel won't let anyone touch him except Grandmere, and even then he rolls his eyes around as if her were being tortured while she's petting him.
If Noah had ever met Rommel, he might have changed his mind about letting two of all of God's creatures on the ark.


From The Princess Diaries Vol. 1 by Meg Cabot

For other Tuesday Teasers go here

Monday, 9 February 2009

Book Review Need - Carrie Jones

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I got this book from a friend, who kindly sent me a big box of her read ARC. I would probably have bought it anyway. I simply love the cover and the premise - a book about evil Pixies. Also it's billed for Stephanie Meyer fans.

Now, whatever Stephen King may think, Stephanie Meyer can write a good story. The Twilight Saga racks up the suspense and the tension between Bella and Edward in an compelling, must keep reading way.

Sadly Need does not. There are some wonderfully tense moments like

The forest seemed to look with me. Each tree branch reaches out as if trying to sense what is there in the road with me. then something in the woods moves. I grab a stick form the side of the road hold it in front of me and turn to face the noise, more like a sense, a feeling of movement.

The romance is very cute and the parts where Zara is remembering her dead Step-father ate excellent.

I breathe out. have I been holding my breath? Why would I hold my breath?
Because I'm thinking of my dad.
My dad grew up here. And he'll never see this snow or this house or me again. He's locked away from it, locked away from me, from life, a prisoner. I would do anything to set him free.



But it is rushed and not quite sure which storyline is most important; the girl grieving her father, discovering love or fighting pixies. We are jumped form scene to scene, emotion to emotion like crazy.

It could have done with being twice as long, and taking the time to expand on each plot thread. Basically I would have liked more of this book.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Book Review - The Mitfords - Letters between six sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley

The Mitfords - Letters between six ister - edited by Charlotte Mosley

I am a huge fan of Nancy Mitford's novels, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate so I was delighted to get this for Christmas and even though it is immense I whizzed through it.

The Mitford Sisters, Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah, were infamous and rarely out the British papers in the 1920's and 1930's. The letters, which were edited down form 8000, chronicle their lives from 1925 to 2005, when Diana died leaving Deborah as the sole surviving sister.

The book is fascinating insight into the lives of six women who knew some of the most influential and famous people of their time. It's very funny how they make occasional reference to the Fat Friend (JFK) or Cake (The Queen mother) but these usually take second place to tales of husbands, children, dogs and in Pamela's case meals she has cooked.

Unity's letters about Hitler make uncomfortable reading, not just because of who he was and what he did but because of the level of fanatical hero worship in them, they are quite chilling.


Surprisingly Diana, wife of the leader of the faciast party in the UK, came across as the most sympathetic sister. Despite her politics she does seem a genuinely funny, caring person. Of course her daughter in law edited the letters so that might have something to do with!

At times the footnotes get tiresome, the Mitfords had a language of their own and everyone had a nickname, Oswald Mosley is called Kit by Diana and the Leader by Nancy and Oswald by no one! So in the beginning I was constantly checking who was being referred to.

If you're interested in the sisters or just like uncovering lives through letters this is a fabulous book.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Book Review - The Inkheart Trilogy - Cornelia Funke

I did enjoy these three books but I didn't love them the way other people seem too. I also kept thinking "it would be so much better if this happened", which I rarely do with books I tend to accept the story and world the author has created.

To sort out my mixed reaction I wrote this review slightly differently, listing things I liked and things I wasn't so keen on.

Things I liked

1) The premise. I mean what avid reader couldn't love the idea of disappearing into a favourite book or having beloved characters pop out of them.

2) Dustfinger. He was far and away the most interesting character and the only one I felt achieved any kind of growth during the trilogy.

3) Mo and Meggie's relationship - I loved the Father/daughter bond. It was nice to see a happy family relationship where they loved and liked each other.

4) Elinor. I did like her a lot and can't wait to see Dame Helen potraying her in the film.

5) The Inkworld. All the magical things that live there and fabulous creatures, it was very inventive and the whole world was beautifully built.

Things I didn't like

1) No main character. I thought Meggie was the main character but by book three we were jumping around like crazy between different people and I really would have preferred one clear story to follow.

2) Orphens. In childrens books I do prefer it if the main character is orphened or somehow removed from their parents. I felt there was too much adult led action and would have preferred Meggie to be more active.

3) Meggie's love life. It all happened off stage! other characters kept telling us about it but we never really saw any interaction between them. I just felt they were in love because they were the only characters the right age. While I liked how it ended I'd still have liked to see more actual conversation.

4) The dead coming back to life. I've always hated this as a plot device. I hated it in Heroes, In Buffy, in the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. Death should mean death even in a book, otherwise there's no fear. It's why I totally loved J K Rowling for letting Dumbledore be really dead.


So I didn't hate them but I didn't love them. What did you think? Let me know if you've reviewed them (or comment here) because I'd love to hear other people's thoughts

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Book Review - Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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Gracelings are gifted and special and easily identifiable by their mismatched eyes. Katsa has one blue eye and one green and a particularly fearsome grace, the grace of killing; which her Uncle, King Randa of Middluns makes use of by using her as his assassin and torturer.

But Katsa despises her Grace and the role her Uncle has cast her in and looks for some way to redress the balance of what she does in his service. In doing so she meets Po, a Lienid Prince graced with fighting skills and her life changes completely.

I loved this book and couldn't put it down. It's fast paced and exciting and Katsa is a great heroine, her growth in the novel and her journey towards self acceptance and control over her temper and grace are brilliantly handled. As for Po, what can I say, he's the perfect hero despite having his own demons to battle. I liked the fact that Gracelings can't hide their abilities because of their eyes, unlike many books about people with special powers or abilities, they have to deal with people prejudices as well as the extra burdan thier gifts may bring.

The torch caught the gold of one eye and the silve of the other. They were like the eyes of a cat, or a night creature of some kind . . .They looked at each for a moment. The flush began to rise into her neck again, and with it, a surging irritation. She'd grown far too used to peole avoiding her eyes.

I also loved how Cashore stayed true to her characters right to the end. The book ended perfectly and I'm hoping there is room for a sequel.

Read this book you won't be disappointed! And I totally agree with School Library Journal when they awarded it Most Likely to melt your fingers while reading because it is so hot in their Valentine day round up.

And I know I've already said it but that cover is just beautiful and perfect.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Sunday Salon -January Reading Round Up

The year has started well with six books read, although only one reviewed! I feel some one line book reviews coming on tomorrow.

These were the books that kept me entertained and delighted in January

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My favourites were Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (the one book I managed to review) and Graceling by Kristin Cashore (which I have mentioned but not reviewed yet).

I liked everything a read this month and even managed to keep to my aim of one non-fiction book (The Mitford Sisters). I did try for a classic, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James but I am struggling on that one, hopefully I will finish in February.

How was your reading in January and new favourites discovered?

Aims for February - six more books (including James) and eleven book reviews!

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