A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

After her mother’s suicide in India, sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle is sent to the Spence Academy in Victorian London. There, she feels lonely and out of place, and she tries to make sense of the visions that have been haunting her since her mother’s death. Furthermore, Gemma tries to understand why she is followed by a mysterious and attractive young man who warns her against her visions.

As an incident occurs at Spence, Gemma is immediately accepted into the circle of the school’s most powerful girls and she is glad to finally have found some friends. But when the girls begin to play with supernatural powers, they put themselves in danger. Moreover, they discover that Gemma’s mother was involved with a dubious group called the Order. As the sixteen-year-old tries to find out more about this shady and dangerous group and about the true cause of her mother’s death, she discovers some shocking and frightful things, but she also learns a lot about herself and the destiny that awaits her.

Packed with 400 pages of suspense, gothic and supernatural elements, passion and jealousy, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fascinating and intriguing novel that captivated me from the beginning. This is the first book of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and it tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is unconventional and insecure and who tries to understand who she really is and what’s happening to her. At times, she is spoiled and likes to rebel because she doesn’t like society’s rules and thus, she refuses to submit to them. She doesn’t have impeccable manners and she doesn’t always think before she speaks. Still, she is a very likeable character, especially since she is so flawed. Her friends are also great characters and they have their own problems. These problems are very typical for the Victorian age, as women at that time had to fulfil a certain role, a role that didn’t allow them any freedom and independence. And that’s why I liked this book so much, because it touched upon these themes. Although A Great and Terrible Beauty is set in the Victorian period, the novel still felt very modern to me because it deals with things that are present in today’s society – the girls have to cope with rivalry, jealousy, trust, acceptance and self-knowledge – things that teenage girls have to face every day. And I think that’s what makes this novel so attractive to young adults, because it deals with matters that they understand and can relate to, since they go through the same things.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was an engrossing read that left me longing for more and I am desperate to read the sequels, as I want to know how Gemma’s story will continue. The last sentences of this book definitely make you curious about the next two books:

“I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.”

I want to find out more about Gemma’s destiny, about the Order and about the realms and I hope the sequels will satisfy my thirst!

Note: I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Andreea

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Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

Mary Finn is a fourteen-year-old country girl who finds work as a scullery maid in Victorian London. She has always been a girl of common sense, very helpful and skilful, until Caden Tucker enters her life. Mary immediately falls for the handsome soldier and their passion for each other leads to Mary’s downfall.

Intertwined with Mary’s tale is the story of James Nelligan, who is a remarkable and clever foundling. At the age of six, the boy is taken from his foster family and brought to a foundling hospital in London. As the story unfolds, the reader will be surprised to find out that their stories are connected.

Ever since I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, I have developed a passion for the Victorian Era and I tend to read every book that is set in that period. Thus, when I first heard of Folly I knew I had to read it, since the synopsis piqued my interest. I was eager to read this book because I knew I would love it. And I am so glad that I had the chance to read this novel because it was wonderful in every way.

Folly was a gripping tale that left me longing for more, as it was full of romance, passion and jealousy.  I enjoyed every single page of this captivating book and I was desperate to find out how it would end. But as it happens with all the books I love, I was sad when I finished reading it because I wanted to learn more about Mary, James, Caden and Oliver. I could not help but feel moved by James and his tragic tale and I felt sad when I read about his days at the foundling hospital. It was touching to read about all these children who didn’t know where they came from and who their parents were. I also enjoyed reading about Mary and I sympathized with her and her awkward situation. But what I liked most about this book was the fact that Marthe Jocelyn has done such a wonderful job reviving the streets of Victorian London with her vivid descriptions, her authentic language, and her attention to detail. I just felt that this book was refreshing and different from anything that I have read lately. Folly stood out and impressed me with every single page. And the reason why this book is so striking is because Folly was inspired by Jocelyn’s family history. The author knew that her grandfather was an orphan, but she was shocked to learn the true story of his birth. Although he was raised in a foundling hospital in London, his parents had been very much alive. It was his own mother who brought him there, but Marthe Jocelyn wasn’t able to learn why her grandfather was left there by his mother. Moved by this discovery, the author was inspired to write Folly. And I am so glad that she did because it was an incredible and realistic novel that will linger in my mind for a long time! I am looking forward to reading other books by this talented author and I would recommend Folly to everyone who is interested in the Victorian Period and to those who like to read a fascinating and suspenseful tale!

I would like to thank the author and her publicist Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Andreea

The Queen Must Die by K.A.S. Quinn

Katie is a lonely N.Y.C. girl who doesn’t have any friends since nobody seems to be interested in her, not even her mother Mimi. Katie can’t confide in her mother as Mimi is too preoccupied with getting married – every time she meets a new man, Katie’s mother feels the need to marry him. Thus, having no one to talk to, Katie likes to spend her time reading books. However, one day, when the young girl reads a book about Queen Victoria’s daughters, a peculiar thing happens – she finds herself lying under a sofa in Buckingham Palace, at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Together with her new friends – Princess Alice, the young daughter of Queen Victoria, and James O’Reilly, the son of the royal doctor – Katie tries to find out why she has been sent back in time. However, there are other mysteries that need to be solved as well. For example, there are Katie’s strange visions and the frightening creatures that keep following her everywhere. As the young girl tries to discover the truth behind these strange happenings, she finds out something even more disturbing – dark forces have constructed a plot to assassinate the Queen. Thus, Katie and her friends must find a way to stop this unthinkable thing from happening. However, the young heroine must pay heed, as these supernatural creatures are out to get her. Will Katie be able to save the Queen and save herself? And will she be able to return to N.Y.C.?

The Queen Must Die is the first of The Chronicles of the Tempus trilogy and it’s an engaging children’s book packed with suspense, mysteries, secrets and many adventures. Filled with both fact and fiction, this novel narrates the exciting story of a young girl who feels alone and who is looking for distraction. Katie takes comfort in books; reading is her passion since she can embark on journeys and travel all over the world while sitting in her N.Y.C. bedroom. Books transport her into new worlds and she can meet new and interesting people that way. However, Katie didn’t expect that one day, she would literally be transported to another time and place. The young girl starts the most intriguing adventure of her life, but in the end, she gains more than just a thrilling experience – she learns so many things about life and furthermore, she gains new friends that appreciate and support her.

The Queen Must Die is a wonderful book about family, friendship and courage. It was a delight to read this book, as I love the Victorian Period, and thus I really enjoyed reading about Queen Victoria, the Royal Family and Buckingham Palace. I liked to read about Katie’s adventures in London and I especially liked the theme of time travel and the supernatural elements in this novel. As I mentioned before, I normally don’t read series, but I will read this one since it’s refreshing, captivating and fascinating. I am looking forward to reading the second instalment, The Queen At War, which will be published in 2011.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the Victorian Period and to everyone who likes to read books about time travel.

Note: I would like to thank Atlantic Books for sending me a copy of this great book!

Andreea

The Agency I: A Spy in the House – Contest

If you read my blog, then you’ll know that I love the Victorian Era and that I am always interested in finding new books that are set in that period. So I was very thrilled to find out about the novel The Agency I: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee, which is part of a trilogy. I really hope that I will get the chance to read it in the near future, as it sounds like a great read. Here’s a short summary of the book:

From Goodreads:

This is a colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel centred around the exploits of ‘agent’ Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary is rescued from the gallows by a woman masquerading as a prison warden. She is taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. The school, Mary learns, is a front for a private investigation agency and, at 17, she is taken on as an agent. In her new role she is catapulted into the family home of the Thorolds to investigate the shady business dealings of Mr Thorold.

Sounds engaging, right? If you are interested in this book, you have the chance to enter a contest where you can win this book and many other prizes. Just visit the author’s website here and answer the following question: What would you do if you were a spy? Good luck to everyone out there and I hope you will check out Y.S. Lee’s novel!