Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Great and (not too) Terrible Book

Bray, Libba (2003). A Great and Terrible Beauty. New York: Delacorte. 

This book and the author get tons of hype from Booklist and ALA. This book was fine, and some girls will get into the series, but it's not great. As far as historical fiction, the descriptions of England, India, gypsies--all a bit cliche. It's not a read alike for The Hunger Games or Divergent crowd. There was some mixing of occult and mythology. That was odd. Plus, what was the veiled lesbian stuff? And the repressed sex? Just a bit too much.

All that criticism aside, Bray is an enjoyable writer.  Anyone who suffered through the Twilight series will certainly enjoy this series more.  It is far better written and the female characters are much more nuanced and independent. For the literati, it might appeal for comparisons to The Crucible, as it does contain some similar themes--jealousy, adolescent friendship, first love, coming of age.  

The book is the first in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy.  Other titles are Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle, #2) and The Sweet and Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, #3).   You can read more about the series on the author's homepage.  Fans of the author should check out her other books as well at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: a Novel. New York: Riverhead, 2007.

For the past 3 years, this has been on my radar, as everyone in my "library" classes had been going on and on about it. I really didn't like it that much, nor do I care for Diaz' short stories that I pick up here and there. There are some inspired lines, such as, "...when he thought about the way she laughed, as though she owned the air around her, his heart thudded inside his chest, a lonely rada." Sure, what girl wouldn't fall in love with that line? But "a lonely rada" is kind of lost on me. I'm just not that citified, I guess. The only Dominicans I really ever met were at Word of Life Camp when I was a teenager, and they didn't swear or speak in the vernacular Diaz uses in his writings, at least not while they were at Bible camp. I would have to say that I did enjoy the narrative techniques, story within a story within a story, the thread that ran through the narrative, the epiphany when the narrator was revealed-that was fresh. I learned quite a bit about DR history. And this book was so much more enjoyable than How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. If I was in a school where I was able to teach either book, barring censorship, I would choose Diaz over Alvarez. He's less agenda-oriented and less self-aware, more about the craft.