Libba Bray’s Divine(r) Writing [re-direct to Mind the Gap]

Happy New Year!! I hope 2015 was awesome and that 2016 will be even better!

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If you’re not too tired from partying so hard (or, if you’re like me, reading until midnight), you can click here to read my review of the first two books in Libba Bray’s The Diviners series!

Fiction Friday Round-Up – May 15th, 2015

Here are some books I finished over the past week and a bit (I’m currently unemployed, so I’ve had time to read). As always, please click the link for a full review!

  • Speaking From Among the Bones – Alan Bradley: “Part of this book felt like filler, but since spending any amount of time with Flavia is always a delight, it wasn’t a chore to read. It just wasn’t very memorable.”
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (re-read) – Libba Bray: “I was still hooked by the first few paragraphs, the writing was just as evocative as I remembered, and there were even a couple of creepy moments that sent a small shiver up my spine.”
  • The Rearranged Life (ARC) – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” *includes a giveaway!**
  • Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman: “This is both a good and a bad way to be introduced to the world of the Sandman. On the one hand, you get a story starring each Endless sibling, which gives you an idea about them […] On the other hand […], I had no idea what to expect.”
  • Nimona – Noelle Stevenson: “I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a strong, badass female villain/shapeshifter […] whose default form is a “pudgy” girl.”

And I’m also helping to host a giveaway!

Last week, I read a new adult ARC and was sorely disappointed:

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.”

Also, I got an Indigo giftcard so I bought some books I’ve been meaning to buy for a while, and it’s all terribly exciting.

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Obviously, I’ve already finished Nimona, but I’ll have reviews for the other three at some point, hopefully this month or next.

What have you read this week?

A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray

304306It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

That summary’s not identical to the jacket copy on my hardcover, but whatever. I don’t want to spoil too much of this book for you!

Libba Bray is one of my favourite authors. She’s funny and cool and I genuinely like her style (writing and otherwise). And while I knew I loved her Gemma Doyle trilogy, I actually couldn’t remember very many details, which is why I’ve been (slowly but surely) re-reading them at night.

Of course, re-reading it, some parts starting coming back to me: mostly the characters and their personalities (sidenote: I stole the name Pippa from these books when I started writing my first novel). This can be awkward because sometimes I forget how much Gemma does/doesn’t know (i.e. as of the beginning of book two, Rebel Angels, she has not figured out who Sarah Rees Brennan/Circe is. But I know, and it’s SHOCKING).

I think the characters are the best part of this series. Some people may find them annoying or silly or whatever, but they’ve always intrigued me. The four girls – Gemma, Felicity, Pippa, and Ann – are a lot a like, and yet totally different at the same time.

“Shall I tell you a story? A new and terrible one? A ghost story? Are you ready? Shall I begin? Once upon a time there were four girls. One was pretty. One was clever. One charming, and one…one was mysterious. But they were all damaged, you see. Something not right about the lot of them. Bad blood. Big dreams […] They were all dreamers, these girls.

I also remember Kartik as being totally swoon-worthy, and while he hasn’t really done anything swoony yet, I remain hopeful. I can’t have made that up, right? Otherwise I wouldn’t have been so devastated by the thing I know happens at the end of the third book, The Sweet Far Thing.

One thing I noticed, though: it starts off with a bang, but then there’s quite a lag (i.e. lots of exposition) before stuff really starts to happen. And if I was reading it for the first time, I might be bored, or at least have a hard time getting through it. But since I know for a fact that I love this series and I know that it picks up, the slow pace doesn’t bother me as much as it might have, had I been newly introduced to Libba Bray (if that makes sense).

All in all, I was still hooked by the first few paragraphs, the writing was just as evocative as I remembered, and there were even a couple of creepy moments that sent a small shiver up my spine.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters You’d Like To Check In With

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Top Ten Characters You’d Like to Check In With and is described as being characters in books/series that are over “and you so just wish you could peek in on the “life” you imagine they are leading years down the line after the story ends”.

I can’t talk about them without spoiling the last book in the series, so here’s a list in no particular order:

1) Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire (and Beatrice Snicket!)

From Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (13 books)

2) Artemis Fowl (and Butler and Holly, obviously)

From Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series (8 books)

3) Charlie Bone and friends

From Jenny Nimmo’s under-rated Children of the Red King series (8 books)

4) Aislinn, Seth, Donia, Keenan, Niall, and the other faeries

From Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series (5 – technically 6 – books)

5) The Vampirates crew

From Justin Somper’s Vampirates series (6 books)

6) Gemma, Felicity, Ann, and (maybe) Pippa

From Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy (3 books)

7) Bartimaeus the demon

From Jonathan Stroud’s Bartemaeus Sequence (4 books)

8) Lydia, Emily and Cassie (and their respective boyfriends)

From Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Year of Secret Assignments (standalone, but technically part of the Ashbury/Brookfield books)

Sidenote: I love that it’s called Finding Cassie Crazy in the UK.

Fun fact: I have an ARC of it, and it was the first time I learned that there was such as thing as advanced copies (I was 14 and my sister had got it from work).

9) Audrey/James, Victoria/Jonah

From Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait! (standalone)

10) ALL THE WITCHES AND WIZARDS FROM Harry Potter

Do I even need to tell you who wrote this series?

Sidenote: Yeah, there’s all the extra content on Pottermore, so maybe I’d get my fix if I actually logged in once in a while, but I’m sure most HP fans will agree: sometimes I just want random details about their day-to-day lives. In book form. So that I can read it forever.

BONUS:

Rachel Watts and James Mycroft

From Ellie Marney’s Every series

Technically the last book has not been released in North America, but I’ve read it and it was wonderful, and I just want 5346984 more stories about Rachel and James. Wattscroft forever!

10 Books That Have Never Left You

There’s a “thing” (a Facebook note or something) that’s been going around asking a variation of the question: what ten books have stayed with you (in some way) after reading them?

I found out about this from a Writer’s Digest post, and decided to try it myself. The point is that you’re not supposed to think too hard, but I over-think everything, so this took me longer than it should have.

Sidenote: these aren’t in order and they’re not necessarily my favourite books (not all of them, anyway). They’re just books that stand out for me.

Also: SPOILERS ABOUND. You’ve been warned.

1) Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

I’ve read this book so many times, my 16 year old copy is falling apart and there’s tape on one page from when I accidentally ripped it (and cried), but it’s one of my absolute favourites. Don’t talk to me about the movie, though.

Favourite chapter: Hard to choose, but I’d have to say the letters between Ella and Char. No matter how many times I read it, I still feel all warm and fuzzy the first time Char tells her he loves her.

2) Audrey, Wait! – Robin Benway

The characters are so real, I want to be friends with them. Plus so many music references – as Audrey said, “You’re finally speaking my language!”

Favourite quote: “If you really want to know something about me, you should know this: I like my music loud. I mean loud. I’m not talking the kind of loud where your parents knock on your bedroom door and ask you to turn it down. Please. That’s amateur hour. When I say loud, I mean you-can’t-even-hear-your-parents-knocking-and-the-neighbors-are-putting-a-FOR-SALE-sign-on-their-house-and-moving-to-another-block-because-they-can’t-handle-the-constant-noise-anymore loud. You have to turn it up so that your chest shakes and the drums get in between your ribs like a heartbeat and the bass goes up your spine and fizzles your brain and all you can do is dance or spin in a circle or just scream along because you know that however this music makes you feel, it’s exactly right.”

3) Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

Do I even need to say anything?

Best back story: Prisoner of Azkaban (it was my favourite for the longest time) – the Marauders were amazing; and

Best series ending: Deathly Hallows – I love how she tied everything together.

4) Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

Probably my earliest experience with death in a book. I remember being devastated when Charlotte died (I was about 7. This was also the one and only time I was sad about a spider’s death). My oldest sister (Vanessa) read it to me around the same time we read Anne of Green Gables together and it was an emotional year (Matthew’s death traumatized me for life).

Tearjerking moment: when three of Charlotte’s children decide to stay with Wilbur…even though the idea of a sack of spider eggs freaks me out.

5) Coraline – Neil Gaiman

Ask me again in a couple of years, and I’ll likely have replaced Coraline with Neverwhere (heck, half this list will probably be Gaiman-ized by then). A lot of Coraline’s story stayed with me in the 10+ years between my first and second reading of it: the dismembered hand, the button eyes…Scary but oh so good.

Creepiest scene in a children’s book: the three ghost children behind the mirror, especially when they explain that the Other Mother has their souls.

6) The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

We read it in grade seven and it was my favourite book we were ever required to read. Plus Hinton was only in her teens when she wrote it, which makes it even more impressive. My dad read it relatively recently and I kept flipping through it whenever he put it down. The ending made (makes) me cry.

Memorable quote: “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

7) Wicked Lovely series – Melissa Marr

Easily one of the best YA fairy series I’ve read (sounds specific but you’d be surprised at how many YA fairy series there actually are). Extremely well written and fascinating. Also had one of the best series’ ending.

Best bromance despite being from separate courts: Seth, the Summer Queen’s beloved/the High Queen’s adopted son, and Niall, the Dark King – especially in my favourite book, Fragile Eternity (#3). They’ve always been my favourite characters, and I loved that they both had bigger roles in the second half of the series.

8) Gemma Doyle trilogy – Libba Bray

Admittedly, I don’t remember many of the details from this trilogy, but Libba Bray is one of my favourite authors and I’ve always loved her writing style. On my “to re-read” list.

Memorable scene: That time when Kartik turned into a tree and fans had a collective heart attack. I was distraught, at the time, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Plus The Sweet Far Thing was the first book to set me on the “endings don’t always have to be happy” route, which has definitely influenced me as a reader and a writer.

9) Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones

It took two readings before I fully figured out what happened. She took a basic idea (boy who doesn’t know he has powers) and exploded it into something completely new. You think you know what’s going on but then there’s the bombshell at the end and you’re all “WHAAAAAT the heck just happened?” Extremely well done.

Best set of siblings: Torquil and Hathaway. And Awful gets a shout out because, despite what her nickname suggests, she was hilarious.

10) Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

A bookworm who has trouble separating fiction from reality – I relate to Catherine Morland on so many levels. (Sidenote: the “retelling” by Val McDermid is only good if you like stupidly stereotypical teen protagonists).

Best (Austen) hero (in my opinion): Henry Tilney. Mr. Darcy’s great and all, but you have to give Mr. Tilney props: he knows full well how naive and silly Catherine can be and yet still puts up with her. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.