Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Ok, so I realize I'm a little late to the game here. So many people have recommended Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty, but it was one of those things where the concept didn't sound THAT appealing. And I realize that this is going to be a controversial statement here, but I'm not all that big on books about magic. It might have something to do with my historical inability to play a decent game of Zelda. Or perhaps my intense hatred for all things Lord of the Rings. Either way, magic just isn't my bag, baby.

And yet I read this book (all 400 pages of it) in less than 24 hours. So apparently, I do like magic and just didn't realize it. Or maybe Ms. Bray is just an exceedingly talented writer and if she wrote a book about scrapbooking, I'd read it and love it. At this point, I'm leaning toward the latter explanation, if only to save myself the humiliation of ordering my very own Dungeons and Dragons game.

All kidding aside, I think what was so successful about Bray's book was that she used magic as an analogy for the power of young women. She made me believe in the goddess within all of us. And really, who doesn't want to be a goddess? This was my favorite passage in the entire book:

"She walks out toward them, an apparition in white and blue velvet, her head held high as they stare in awe at her, the goddess. I don't yet know what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I'm beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and teachers and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It's not that they want to protect us; it's that they fear us."

Wow. Just wow. I honestly felt like standing up and cheering after I read that paragraph. It's gorgeously written and there's a truth in those words that transcends time. It was true in the late 1800's when the book was set, and it's even more true now in a culture that thrives on sexualizing and objectifying young women.

3 out of 4 stars. I highly recommend this book. Please note we've had to update our rating system now that Gossip Girl is on hiatus.

Our Ever-So-Sophisticated Rating System (version 2.0):
4 Stars = While reading, I did not pause once to refresh my e-mail.
3 Stars = Great book, but kept an eye on my Blackberry. Just in case.
2 Stars = I refreshed at least once between every sentence of the book.
1 Star = I'd rather stare at my empty mailbox than read this book.

15 comments:

Weronika said...

I, on the other hand, love fantasy in this form--so contemporary and easy to read.

I agree with your rating, though. :)

Thanks for the review!

Joanna said...

I met Libba Bray just this evening actually--she's hilarious!

She didn't even seem to mind me hopping around with that darn foot in my mouth...

Yunaleska said...

How much of romance is in here? (oodles and oodles, or just a sprinkling?) Might be interested in this one.

sraasch said...

If you think AGATB was good, wait til you finish the trilogy. I sobbed. SOBBED. And I NEVER cry at books. It only gets better. I can't even express my adoration of this trilogy in words. You just have to finish it. So. Freaking. Beautiful.

Lisa and Laura said...

Weronika - I'm so glad I read this book, because I'll definitely have a more open mind when it comes to fantasy now.

Joanna - Silly girl! Get that foot out of your mouth! It wasn't the kind of layoff where I got kicked out of the office and had to take the bus home with a box of my stuff. They were eliminating my position and I could have stayed on but I would have lost almost all of my flexibility (no more working from home), so this was (hopefully) a blessing in disguise. Now remove the foot and reapply lipgloss. There, doesn't that feel better?

Yuna - Very lite on the romance. I bet you'd LOVE it.

Sara - I have the other 2 books tempting me from my TBR pile right now. Must finish book club book first and then I'm diving in. Can't wait!

ElanaJ said...

It's so interesting how much people differ. I AM a magic girl. I love all things LOTR. I bought this book, and...yeah, it took me three starts to finish it. It just didn't do it for me. It was all right, just not my "bag." LOL.

Yunaleska said...

I need to begin an 'I want to read' list. I haven't got one, and its rapidly becoing essential.

Icy Roses said...

Love the series. Love Libba Bray even more than I love the series. I am extremely jealous of Joanna. But you know, Libba Bray and Maureen Johnson etc. all live in New York and it baffles me how this huge group of YA authors are all friends. Maureen said they live in a huge YA author mansion. I believe her. ;-)

Don't worry. The book didn't sound appealing to me either. I picked it up thinking it was a historical fiction, and then got confused when random monsters and different worlds started popping up.

Kimberly Derting said...

This is one I have on my TBR pile and just haven't gotten to yet...I may have to bump it up a bit!!! And D&D, seriously? Don't you know it's all about Warcraft these days???

Danyelle said...

Libba Bray's writing is amazing. I devoured her books. What's funny is that I hate the present tense and I didn't really like any of her characters. >.< But the writing, wow!

Tess said...

Yes, love Libba Bray. You should check out some of her other books as well...there's not a dud in the bunch.

Grey Street Girl said...

First, I would like to say that I love your rating system. I can so relate to that.

The book sounds great! I'll have to pick it up. And, I love that cover art!

Shelli said...

my friends and i used to have goddess parties on wner and spring solstice - we played a game called the goddess game with wings and wine - kinda dorky but fun!

Jeannie Lin said...

I would have never guessed from the cover/title that this was a book about magic -- but then again it sounds like the overall theme is one of discovery and empowerment.

I've been jonesing for a bookstore trip. Thanks for the lead.

Yunaleska said...

Just gone and reserved it at my library :) Looking forward to reading it! (Will review on my blog)