Sunday Series Review: The Gemma Doyle series

This week Kim reviews the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray. She liked it and recommends this series to anyone who enjoys Fantasy and Historical Fiction.  This is also YA, and teens will be teens and sometimes we know what Kim thinks of teens  in these books by now!  😉

Author: Libba Bray

Books in the Series:
A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s rating of the series: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A Great and Terrible Beauty: It’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?

Rebel Angels: Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy—spending time with her friends in the city, attending balls in fancy gowns with plunging necklines, and dallying with the handsome Lord Denby. Yet amid these distractions, her visions intensify—visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened that only the realms can explain. The lure is strong, and soon Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world that Gemma takes them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship. But all is not well in the realms—or out. Kartik is back, desperately insisting to Gemma that she must bind the magic, lest colossal disaster befall her. Gemma is willing to comply, for this would bring her face-to-face with her late mother’s greatest friend, now Gemma’s foe—Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task. . . .

The Sweet Far Thing: It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds. The Order—the mysterious group her mother was once part of—is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.

Kim’s Review:

I read the whole series! And the third book is like 800 pages! I did enjoy these books. The story was unique, and I like some of the characters. The sad thing about this series is that I hate all the main characters. Gemma is like grass in the wind. No matter what her gut or her brain tells her, even when she knows that something is wrong, even when she knows the right way is the complete other direction, she lets everyone else dictate what she does. Her friends can easily manipulate her. The people that she should respect and listen to are ignored completely and often scorned, but whenever her friends start whining, she lets them have and do whatever they want.

Felicity and Pippa are nothing but spoiled brats who see Gemma as someone to use and manipulate and that never changes. Ann is nothing but a whining doormat. Whoever decided to gift these girls with magic and the fate of the realms needs to have his/her/its head examined. Thankfully there are other characters that I like much better, who saved the story for me. Kartik is my favorite! He stays steady and consistent throughout the whole series. Although his loyalties do shift, he never waivers. Mother Elena and Brigid are sweet women who genuinely care about the people around them. Even Circe is a consistent character that I ended up respecting by the end! The story itself is very intriguing.

Unfortunately, it went far too long because just when Gemma figures out what needs to be done, the other girls convince her to wait and do something completely unnecessary for another 30 pages. I think there is a lot that could be shaved down. I do like the subplot of true feminism. That girls shouldn’t be viewed as pretty breeding stock, but as people who are capable of thinking and providing for themselves. There is real sexism in these books and Bray does a great job of using the characters to fight against it. Overall, this is an interesting series that I would recommend to anyone who likes Fantasy and to some who like Historical Fiction.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

First Line Friday #44

I’m going “old school” with this week’s First Line Friday! I can’t remember for sure, but I think I read this when I was in school. I have actually shared more than the first line as the second flows well with the first.

My father’s name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is Charles Dickens’ thirteenth novel and his penultimate completed novel; a bildungsroman which depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip. It is Dickens’s second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.

It is set among marshes in Kent, and in London, in the early to mid-1800s, and contains some of Dickens’ most memorable scenes, including the opening, in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is full of extreme imagery -poverty; prison ships and chains, and fights to the death-and has a colorful cast of characters who have entered popular culture. Dickens’s themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is popular both with readers and literary critics, and has been translated into many languages, and adapted numerous times into various media.

Upon its release, the novel received near universal acclaim. Thomas Carlyle spoke disparagingly of “all that Pip’s nonsense”. Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel, as “All of one piece and consistently truthful.” During the serial publication, Dickens was pleased with public response to GREAT EXPECTATIONS and its sales; when the plot first formed in his mind, he called it “a very fine, new and grotesque idea.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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The Radium Girls


Radium Girls:The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author: Kate Moore
Published: May 2, 2017
399 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: October 11-26, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description from Amazon:

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Jessica’s Review:

I had never heard of the story of the Radium Girls until I found out about the book. Then I HAD to read it!  This is a very sad story, and it is hard to believe this actually happened to so many girls.  Reading Kate Moore’s words about how she found out about this story and the fact that she is British stands out to me.  She felt it was a story she needed to tell and she delivered!

**As this happened in the past and anything can be researched I don’t feel like any of what I am going to say in this review is a spoiler.

We get to know each of the girls featured and their lives. We also get to know the extreme pain and anguish they went through from suffering from the radium poisoning. Moore graphically depicts the way the girls suffer.  As I was reading, I wanted to tell them to stop the ‘lip, dip, paint’ that they were instructed to do!  They continued as they were told the radium was safe. They were even excited to see the radium on themselves as they left work and ‘glowed in the dark’. They even went dancing while the radium was on them.  Yes, the girls were naïve, but it was not their fault: They were young (some barely teenagers), impressionable and excited to get the highly sought after job of becoming a “Radium Girl”.

The villains are the companies and they are despicable as they knew radium was dangerous and they kept this fact a secret from the girls.  They did not care about the girls, it was just about making a dollar. The Radium Girls is a very hard book to read. It was not just the girls who were affected, but their families as well with the high medical bills.

The girls’ story continues as some go to court and fight a hard fought battle.  Their battle ended with changes to laws and more safeguards in the workplace for employees.

Kate Moore worked tirelessly to bring us this narrative non-fiction journey. Everything in the book is real, but written in this way you don’t ever want to put The Radium Girls down! It is well researched and she traveled all over the US learning about these girls and their lives.

Ms. Moore, you have made the Radium Girls proud by sharing their personal story with us.

There is a site dedicated to the novel and the Radium Girls. Do check it out, it’s the least we can do.

Special thanks to NetGalley for granting me a copy. The Radium Girls is recommended.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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