Friday, February 5, 2010

Review (Audiobook) - A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

"Gemma Doyle isn't like other girls. Girls with impeccable manners, who speak when spoken to, who remember their station, who dance with grace, and whil will lie back and think of England when it's required of them.

No, sixteen-year-old Gemma is an island unto herself, sent to the Spence Academy in London after tragedy strikes her family in India. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds her reception a chilly one. She's not completely alone, though...she's been followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.

For it's at Spence that Gemma's power to attract the supernatural unfolds; there she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy, timeless group called the Order. It's there that her destiny waits...if only Gemma can believe in it." (back cover)

My first (completed) teen book of 2010 - woohoo!

Years ago something compelled me to pick up a copy of this book at Target. I brought the book home and it has been sitting, unopened, on a shelf since then. When I found the audiobook at our library I figured I'd give it a shot.

I'm going to break my own rule and write a bit first about the actual story and not just comments on the narrator:

The book was fairly predictable, but that certainly didn't make it bad. I really did like the story (I'm already on disc 3 of the sequel), but there were some things I wasn't too sure about. The book seemed to borrow a lot from many other books I'm familiar with. This may not be a bad thing - maybe Libba Bray's ability to bring parts of different books together was what made this such a great story - but it was definitely noticeable. For instance, there is magic at a boarding school with a Great Hall (Harry Potter), and short bits about faeries depicted as more of a Spiderwick creature rather than Tinkerbell. Girls playing with magic wind up seeing their hair fall out and get boils (in case you're familiar with the movie The Craft), and you can't forget the mentioning of the Rakshana being members of the Knights Templar (in common with The DaVinci Code). Most noticeable (to me) though, was the quote "the woods are not safe here; there are spies everywhere." Sounds an awful lot like Mr. Beaver (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to me...

But I digress. On to the narrator! I loved her! Josephine Bailey is so talented I can remember her name without looking it up (and that's impressive for someone with a memory like mine). I have never heard a narrator with such amazing accents for all of her different characters. I was delightfully surprised that listening to this book on CD didn't feel like I was listening to War and Peace, or some other Old English book.

This audiobook can evoke strange emotions from its listeners - actually hearing some of the magical adventures in the book made me feel like I was getting a verbal account of someone's acid trip experience. If you don't know what the expression "thinking of England" means, be prepared to learn. Those who are easily embarassed may find themselves blushing while listening to this book. I wouldn't consider myself easily embarassed, but it was kind of awkward listening to Bray's description of an innocent girl "being touched in unexplored places". For me, I think reading this would have been a little more...comfortable?

This book was easy to get into before the end of the first CD (unlike The Host). I think this is partially because of the great job Bailey did narrating. Even if England in the 1800s isn't your cup of tea, I would recommend at least giving this book a chance.

Amazon lists this as a Young Adult book. I would take into account the "witchcraft" and mildly "sexual" aspects of the book, though, and be careful to either recommend the book to older teens or give the parents a heads up. The audiobook ends with a mini interview-of-sorts (more like an autobiographical monologue) with [quirky] Libba Bray.

My Rating:


  1. I enjoyed this a lot, but my brother shares the same name as Kartik, so it was a little awkward reading the 'romantic' parts, I kept picturing my brother :D
    I really enjoy your blog, it's beautiful! I think a blog called Delightful Reviews shares the same template...hmm..
    The answer to your question is yes, Coffeehouse Angel is a young adult book :) Thanks for entering my 100 follower contest!

  2. Oh I can imagine that being quite...disturbing and unwelcome.
    I am so glad you like my blog. I hope you enjoy following. ^_^

  3. I loved reading this book and have yet to listen to an audio book. I'm always worried I won't like the voice. But since you were so positive, I'd like to give this one a try. Funny that you blushed as I'm sure I would do the same. I'll make Jake and Gregory read the sexual content parts just to see their awkward reactions - I'm easily entertained.

  4. Alyssa, Perhaps you should work at a library. We library employees are renowned for being easily entertained. ;)

  5. I never tried Gemma Doyle in audiobook format, but now I might! An amazing narrator just MAKES an audiobook. I'm listening to Lauren Myracle's Peace, Love, & Baby Ducks, and I love the narrator. Fisher Stevens does a fantastic job narrating Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job, too (though that's an adult book).

    Thanks for following the First Novels Club!

  6. I've tried reading this but haven't gotten thorugh the first two chapters. I really want to pick it up as an audio to see if I can get through it. Great review :)

  7. Awesome to see audiobook reviews! I hope you'll stop by Stacked when AudioSynced runs on March 1 and add your link to the roundup! :)

  8. Abby, does it have to be an audiobook I listen to/review in March?

    Cindy - Good luck! :)

  9. I LOVED the book -- raced through the whole trilogy in a weekend, in fact. Now that you mention the bonus interview on the audiobook, I'll have to check it out!

  10. love this book!!! it is great! to see my full and really review go to my blog !!!

  11. daydreamerN, do you have a link to your review?


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Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are the sole views of the writer (me), and do not reflect the views and/or policies of PBCLS or any other organization.