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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Brené Brown, Karen White
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Maggie Stiefvater
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Neil Patrick Harris
Last of the Curlews
Fred Bodsworth, T.M. Shortt
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Garner on Language & Writing
Bryan A. Garner
A Great and Terrible Beauty  - Libba Bray, Josephine Bailey This book is exceptionally okay. It is like really, really, really, really okay. I think it would be more good and not so much okay if it started out less good in the beginning. As it is, I felt like it had a lot of promise it didn’t live up to. But, it didn’t exactly waste my time, either, so I can’t really say I disliked it or anything. It is just SUPER mediocre. Almost good, it’s so mediocre. Even, throughout, I would think things were going somewhere, but instead things would kind of stay the same. But, the expectation of things going somewhere kind of kept my attention.

This book is about a girl who has special powers. So, right there you’ve basically got me. I mean, there are still only about five books about girls with special powers, right? Female special powers automatically give this book has a bunch of points in its favor. But, after that there is not much to the whole story, so not a lot else going for it. But, speaking of that, let’s list the books with girls who have special powers.

The main contenders:

1. Golden Compass
2. Hunger Games
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
4. Blood Red Road

I didn’t include Buffy because, even though the eighth season is written down, the bulk of the story is on TV. And then there is Twilight, where the super power is kind of appalling. And then you have sort of middle-ground books like Shiver, Uglies, Wicked Lovely, City of Bones, Wither, Darkfever, etc., where there is a girl, and she is the protagonist, and there are fantastical things, but the girl doesn’t really have a power, you know? Like, I don’t think falling in love with a dog or seeing fairies is really a power. If anything, it’s a lame power and more similar to the Twilight power. Also, it is scientifically proven that the ol’ magic vagina, or the wikimagvag, as it’s popularly called, is not a super power. And if we’re going for positive role models, I’d kind of rather see nothing fantastical than see super-creepy-mom power or super-child-prostitute power or super-animal-sex power keep cropping up all over the place.

So, that’s my take on the current state of girls with special powers. Actually, now that I think about it, even in my main-contenders list, only Daughter of Smoke and Bone actually has a girl with extra powers that are above the people around her. Even Katniss is just a girl who grew up tough and learned how to shoot stuff in the woods. Man. What is up with girls not getting super powers, huh? That’s kind of a bummer. I know about Kitty and the Midnight Hour and Anita Blake, but I have not read them. Do they actually have special powers, or is that the wikimagvag all over again? And feel free to tell me about any girls I should know about.

In A Great and Terrible Beauty, our girl Gemma has some magical powers, so that’s pretty cool. The thing is that the rest of it isn’t so exciting. There’s kind of a mystery and this group of girls kind of almost destroys, but conveniently saves the world. And Libba Bray confronts anti-feminist messages pretty head on, but, I don’t know, sometimes the way she does that is so heavy handed that it almost seems useless to me. Like, everyone is walking around this book saying stuff like, “Well, my mother told me that ladies have to find a husband and can’t work.” It has this twenty-first-century directness that is a little tiresome to see in a nineteenth-century setting. And then the girls get together and sort of undermine that message by bonding in a magical cave (ummm, and there is actually a chance that is some kind of womb imagery, which is a little tiresome, too). But, at the same time, do they undermine the anti-feminist messages? Not really. The ending is pretty ambivalent about women’s control over our own lives, I think.

A lot of people have talked about how unlikeable the girls are in this story, and I have to agree with that. Some of it seemed deliberate, but that didn’t really make it better to me. They were all grasping for something in what seemed like a symbolic way – Felicity for power, Pippa for romance, Ann for beauty. And then Gemma, the chosen one, knew that people can only get what we desire if we go at it through seeking self-actualization. And all of this plays out in the tone of a fable and ended up as kind of another heavy-handed message that I don’t really disagree with, but that I felt myself resisting only for its heavy-handedness.

So, all of it left me with this really mediocre amount of interest. The story was okay, the action was okay, the friendships were okay, even the special power was very, very okay. I will say, though, that I listened to this on audio, and it is a beautiful audio. The reader has this exceptional pace and lovely voice. I definitely recommend the audio if you feel like picking this book up. And I wouldn’t even recommend against reading this book, I just hoped for so much more.