Perhaps the best thing you can say about any 819 page book is that it didn't FEEL like 819 pages, especially given that it was already preceded by tw Perhaps the best thing you can say about any 819 page book is that it didn't FEEL like 819 pages, especially given that it was already preceded by two earlier volumes. It takes a skillful hand to make a narrative drawn out this long NOT become too much of the same old thing, but Libba Bray manages to keep you turning the pages eager to find out what happens next.
Some will not be happy with thinking of this as "historical fiction" as it doesn't revolve around a particular event in history, and as a fantasy obviously there are plenty of elements that are historically NOT realistic. An even bigger problem might be that the characters frequently carry very 21st century attitudes, particularly regarding gender roles, but if their phrasing seem incongruous, it also seems doubtful to think that young women at any time would NOT have felt the stifling nature of society and wish for more freedom and responsibility. In evoking that sense of frustration, the book does well and serves a purpose beyond entertaining.
And entertaining it is, for fans of fantasy! While I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, Bray does an excellent job of world building here, using conventions in developing the "Realms" without ever becoming completely conventional. Her characters face peril with pluck and vigor, and those perils cover the range from supernatural demons that demand the heroines to grow large, to family and societal pressures demanding they become small. Gemma Doyle, the central protaganist (though Felicity and Ann are great as well) must also, in the conclusion of this trilogy, face down her internal troubles as well, and that helps push the book beyond the average fantasy adventure. In fact, I'd argue that one strength of the book lies in its many 'minor' characters that rise above supporting roles; that you wind up rooting for many of them, and go through fascinating plot twists that keep you thinking and rethinking who is 'good' and who is 'evil'--and why. These things make for a great book.
It's a tome-and-a-half, to be sure. It may overreach, but it is such an adventurous romp, and includes enough humor and moments of desperation, that it still feels worth the time spent. I might only give it 4-1/2 stars, if that were possible, but it's not...so I'll go with my gut, and say it was, well, amazing....more
I might be generous here because I live in the area the story is set in and have had the chance to speak with the author, but regardless, I think thi I might be generous here because I live in the area the story is set in and have had the chance to speak with the author, but regardless, I think this is a fine work of MG historical fiction and a worthy follow-up to her earlier "Straight Along a Crooked Road". It's clearly cut from the same mold as "Little House on the Prairie", but I don't consider that a bad thing at all. The characters here stand up as believable on their own merits; none of them perfect, but certainly good enough that you can pull for them, and CARE what happens to them, as they struggle with the challenges of building a new community in the "Inland Empire" area of Southern California on the eve of the Civil War....more
I got this book because Marilyn Cram Donahue is the leader of my local writing group, but it didn't have to depend on my knowing the author to enjoy I got this book because Marilyn Cram Donahue is the leader of my local writing group, but it didn't have to depend on my knowing the author to enjoy it thoroughly. I can't consider it a complaint to say that it will strongly bring to mind the "Little House on the Prairie". You get a lot of realistic history with engaging characters struggling to move across the country from Vermont to California with the wagon trains of the late 1850's. Not an easy book to find, but worth seeking out, especially if you have youngsters who didn't get to grow up with the Ingalls' family on television....more
I love Libba Bray, having heard her speak at the 2012 L.A. Book Festival. It's easy to pair her books with the wild, sometimes outlandish, funny, fun I love Libba Bray, having heard her speak at the 2012 L.A. Book Festival. It's easy to pair her books with the wild, sometimes outlandish, funny, funny, funny personality of the author. Yet the books do not depend on that, so if you haven't had the chance to hear her speak, don't be afraid to dive into her work. It will still be a lot of fun--with one caveat attached. IF you are a literate purist, you might not be able to enjoy the Gemma Doyle series. Set in the late 19th century, this is historical fiction, but it is not PURE historical fiction. While well researched with plenty of interesting details, harsher critics will point out the remarkable 20th/21st century sensibilities of the protagonists. Frankly, I'd like to think that human nature hasn't changed so dramatically, and that the young women of Spence finishing school WOULD have felt and behaved like the characters in Bray's world, but I know die-hard historical fiction fans who will argue that the story doesn't fit the expected model of what's expected for the era. They're right, I know, because I generally get bored stiff with standard Historical Fiction fare. That definitely was not a problem with "Rebel Angels". It's also Gothic, and Romance, and Horror, and Fantasy...but it bends the "rules" of all THOSE genres, as well. So what you're left with is a LIBBA BRAY novel, written according to her rules, and hers alone. If you can go with that, you'll find a suspenseful, intriguing story of a trio of girls confounded by a twisting, dangerous world where they struggle to find some sense of empowerment, justice, and--if possible, please--a touch of romance along the way. Start with "A Great and Terrible Beauty"; if that works for you, this one will not disappoint....more
Don't know why, but something about this book put me off for the longest time, but I finally got around to reading it, and it is WONDERFUL. One of thoDon't know why, but something about this book put me off for the longest time, but I finally got around to reading it, and it is WONDERFUL. One of those that grows on you more than you realize, until you get to the last couple of chapters and find you're more moved than you ever expected. Great introduction to historical fiction for early readers especially. Cynics beware; it may be on the sentimental side, but Bud is such a winning character that the heart-on-the-sleeve qualities are easily accepted if you don't mind pulling for the good guys now and then and not having all their dreams dashed....more
Can easily recommend this book to most anyone, and can't wait to recommend it to a few people in particular--two signs of a great book. It slowly dra Can easily recommend this book to most anyone, and can't wait to recommend it to a few people in particular--two signs of a great book. It slowly draws you in, weaving a light mystery where the characters involved become so much more important than the mystery itself. But there were not tears in my eyes at the end of the story, I just got something in my eye, is all. Or perhaps it was allergies...I've never had them before, but maybe they're starting. But if you don't feel Abilene's heartbeat by the end of Miss Sadie's story, well, it's hard to understand what you're doing looking at Goodreads. Shouldn't you be at a stock car race? Bowling, maybe? (And I say that as one who enjoys both racing and bowling, mind you...)
My only question is that this book won the Newberry Award. I don't have any doubt at all that it is award worthy, but the Newberry is supposed to be for young readers, and I'm not sure how many of them would fully appreciate this book, though it has much for them to enjoy. I sometimes think, however, that too many books get relegated to the ranks of "Children's Books" just because the protaganist is young. Her story, however, will speak most loudly, to those of us who HAVE BEEN young, and who wish, sometimes, that we could find a train station, wait by the tracks, and have THAT come back to us.
A good story, very easy to read. Has a feel similar to Jean Craighead George's "My Side of the Mountain" in the survival tale of a young boy who findsA good story, very easy to read. Has a feel similar to Jean Craighead George's "My Side of the Mountain" in the survival tale of a young boy who finds himself stranded on a deserted island with a Japanese man leftover from World War II. Deals with the struggles of the pair to build a relationship, and a test of loyalty when they eventually part ways. Realistic in parts while less credible in others, overall it's a kind of coming-of-age tale I can see I would have let myself indulge in as a young boy myself; the whole Robinson Crusoe, surviving by my wits, but with a trusty man Friday to help when needed (and give me someone to play soccer with). Very good for early readers....more
I liked "Catherine" quite a bit, with only one qualifier: the trouble with books that set out to portray what life was really like for a regular pers I liked "Catherine" quite a bit, with only one qualifier: the trouble with books that set out to portray what life was really like for a regular person in any given situation is that they sometimes drag a bit through what life was really like for a regular person in that given situation, and you can find yourself longing, at least a bit, for something extraordinary in the situation, or in the character's response to whatever their situation is. That being said, this is still an enjoyable tale of life in medieval Britain, told from the perspective of a girl in her fourteenth year. While no Katniss or Bella, she is appealling nonetheless in her spunky rebellion against the cloying tedium that marks her life. It's hard to imagine not coming away with a fondness for her, an appreciation for many of the people around her, and certainly, a better understanding of what life was like in this part of the world seven or eight hundred years ago. A fine piece of historical fiction in an era that usually isn't found in books without fantastical elements muddying the picture....more
Always afraid with a series like this that the end will be a disappointment, but Jeff Stone wrapped things up nicely. Overall a pretty satisfactory exAlways afraid with a series like this that the end will be a disappointment, but Jeff Stone wrapped things up nicely. Overall a pretty satisfactory experience from beginning to end; yes, there are a few moments in some of the books that make you wish things would wrap up, already, but then they get interesting again with a nice twist or new character--thank goodness for ShaoShu, the little mouse!
Series especially recommended for early, perhaps reluctant YA readers with a taste for martial arts...kids who missed the chance to enjoy growing up with David Carradine's "Kung Fu", where you loved the Eastern philosophy that advocated living a peaceful life except when violence was absolutely demanded--and knew that every week at some point it would be absolutely demanded....more
This one gets a little confusing, partially just due to the convergence of characters with similar names, and the fact that many of the characters nowThis one gets a little confusing, partially just due to the convergence of characters with similar names, and the fact that many of the characters now have TWO names. Some good action at times and also some humor (Inevitable whenever Malao, the Monkey-brother is around) make it still worth reading, and some twists at the end make you hold out hope that the next book will be better again--up to the level of the first two books, which I did like a little more. Hopefully the series is not running out of gas, because there are still several books to go....more