Old review written in 2008 or something like a million years ago:
Everyone who has been or is a teenager has to admit it: one of the most trial times o...moreOld review written in 2008 or something like a million years ago:
Everyone who has been or is a teenager has to admit it: one of the most trial times of your life is in your mid- and early teens. If you think about it, these are the times when you have the most conflicts in your life--those with family, friends, neighbors, and probably the greatest, with yourself. Young adult fiction writer Shannon Hale takes a look at these same conflicts. Though the main character of the novel Princess Academy lived in an entirely fictional, made-up time and place, she faces, accomplishes, and learns the same things that we have done and do. If you haven't read this novel yet, it's about time you pick it up the next time you visit the library or bookstore. There is much to learn this wonderful tale of young adulthood.
Summary: Miri Larendaughter has been living in Danland’s quarry mountain village, Mt. Eskel, for all her fourteen years. While her widower Pa and older sister Marta head to the quarry to carve out the valuable linder, Miri tends her family goats, as she is forbidden from quarry work. She is convinced that she is of no use to the village, until, one day, it is announced that Mt. Eskel is the home of the Prince’s bride, and all young ladies, from 12 to 17, are to be taught and disciplined in an academy. Here, Miri encounters several obstacles, including the cruelty of their tutor, Olana, and the unkindness of the other academy girls. Miri learns her own gifts, and is especially recognized by Prince Stefan himself. But does Miri really want to marry the prince and become a lowlander for life, or should she stay in her mountain village where here childhood friend is?
Thoughts: I LOVE this book! Although it is a work of fantasy, all is brought to life by the fantastic lyrical writing. There is a reason why this is a Newbery Honor book, though I personally believe that this should have won the Newbery Medal.
Pros: Everything. The writing. The storyline. The characters. The little songs at the beginning of each chapter. Like I said: EVERYTHING.
Cons: Nothing much. It was such an innocent, cute book, and the only thing bad about it was that it ended! I wanted more! A sequel would be lovely.
Grading: Plot: 10/10 (very intriguing!)
Characters: 10/10 (characters are very relatable)
Writing: 10/10 (it’s Shannon Hale, so obviously it’s going to be awesome writing)
Ever since I was able to read (when I was about four years old, I believe), I always found something admirable about authors. Perhaps it was just so m...moreEver since I was able to read (when I was about four years old, I believe), I always found something admirable about authors. Perhaps it was just so magical the way they picked out words, stuck them here and there, sewed them together, and, voilà! had their stories collected in nicely-bound books. It was as if they were a sort of literary witches and wizards. But now, they also strike me as chefs; some give you a tasty but calorie-packed hamburger with deep-fried French fries that fill you up but make you want something more (your everyday fluff fiction—which I’ve read none of), others cook up a plate filled with a perfect piece of filet mignon along a delectable side dish of vegetables (beautiful classics, e.g. Pride and Prejudice), and a few serve way a Thanksgiving dinner-type meal with too much to take in but are very good otherwise, like a Thanksgiving dinner (War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities—not that I’ve actually read or finished either). If this was so—if those cheesy YA lit authors flipped burgers at McDonald’s and Jane Austen was the Julia Child of this world—then Shannon Hale would most likely be a sous-chef of the latter. Or perhaps I’ve just been watching a tad bit too much Food Network and cooking-related shows.
Summary: Everyone gets grounded by their parents for misbehaving once in awhile; sometimes a ten-year-old can’t watch his or her favorite TV show for a week, or a teen is forbidden from calling their friends every night for a month. What would you do if you had the option to stay with a friend who was to be grounded for seven years in a tower, and if you didn’t step up to stay with her, no one would? This is exactly the question that Dashti, a young mucker living in medieval Mongolian times, faces when given the chance to become the maidservant of Lady Saren, who is given this sentence for refusing to marry a man she has feared ever since she was a young girl. If Dashti said no, this story would be nonexistent; but she said yes, and thus, an adventure began. I really can’t say more than that, or I’ll give it away, but if you read the “recipe” above, that is exactly what this three hundred-odd paged book contains: an intriguing plot, marvelous lyrical writing, characters you feel like you’ve known all your life, and fantastic adventure fantasy with the right amount of romance that will keep female readers young and old swooning (here’s a secret: I totally LOVED the romance and swooned for days on end :D ).
Thoughts: I’ll be honest. I love fairy tales, especially Brothers Grimm ones. But never in my life had I heard of “Maid Maleen”, not until I heard about this novel. So after reading the synopsis of it on Wikipedia, you’d think Hale’s version of it would be exactly the same, just written and lengthened in typical Hale flair. In reality, it’s almost as if the author combined “Maid Maleen” with a trillion other classics: Mansfield Park and Persuasion (Jane Austen), Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë); in addition, there is a scene towards the end that is easily comparable in artistry and intelligence to the famous pivotal trial in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Even if you don’t know me very well, you would—and should—be aware of my secret and unbearable obsession with this book, which I recommend to even the most reluctant readers. But allow me to put it this way: if you hate plots that are absolutely stunning, if you hate fantasy with a classic feel to it, if you hate heroines who have a little naïve goody two-shoes side to them, then you won’t like this book. But really, who doesn’t want at least one of those things?
Pros: Pretty much everything and anything about it, but see below for the one thing I didn’t like.
Cons: As much as I rave about this book, I may honestly say that there was one part near the ending that turned the story into complete YA (which is a little shocking, being that this is a Hale novel) and almost adult; it was a somewhat edgy scene (I don’t know if that’s the right word), and it totally came as a surprise for me. I wasn’t fond of it, and I think it could have been done without and changed.
Recommended For: I’ve heard of a few guys who have read this book and enjoyed it, but I don’t personally know any guys who like reading, so…I guess I should say I recommend this to any girl fourteen and up, and a very mature, bookworm-ish guy fifteen or sixteen and up.
Imagine that you are a princess–you live in a luxurious palace that is filled with hundreds of servants, you can go on exciting rides on your very own...moreImagine that you are a princess–you live in a luxurious palace that is filled with hundreds of servants, you can go on exciting rides on your very own horse, who is also your closest friend, any time you want. But think again: what if, even with all the riches surrounding you, you were lonely and constantly self-conscious of your actions? And, just what would you do if your own mother commanded you to marry a prince from a faraway land, a prince you’ve never even met? Or perhaps worse: what would happen if an acquaintance you trusted turned her back on you and forced you to face the troubles of lower class, the threat of death, and the possible outbreak of war?
Summary: Yikes. Talk about harsh. Well, that’s exactly what Ani, short for Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, goes through: unable to live up to her mother’s expectations of a proper Crown Princess, Ani is sent away from her home country of Kildenree to the country of Bayern, where she is to be wedded to the prince. However, her own lady-in-waiting, Selia, leads a mutiny, forcing Ani to run away from her escorts and try to stay in Bayern–but as a humble goose girl. Although her new path is tough, Ani learns valuable lessons and gains many things; for example, she learns the gift of friendship, story-telling, and communication with animals and the wind. However, when Ani discovers that Selia plots to start war with Kildenree and Bayern in order to hide her deceit, Ani knows it is about time that she takes back her rightful title and throne. But with even all her new talents, gifts, and loyal friends, will Ani succeed in bringing justice and fairness to all?
Thoughts: I really, really, really liked this book. I can’t say I absolutely loved it (that’s what I would say about my #1 favorite book), but it is definitely one of my favorites. Shannon Hale’s writing style shines more in this book than in any of her other works, and the simple Brothers Grimm tale was beautifully retold. Would I recommend it to someone seeking a good read? Absolutely. It is like no YA novel I have read before.
Pros: As I said before, the writing is stunning, and the lyrical style perfectly fit in with the nature-speaking concept; the character development is extremely realistic one oft forgets that this is fantasy and not historical fiction; in addition, I thoroughly enjoyed the humor inserted here and there (a few times I would recall a hiliarious scene while at school or somewhere else, and would have to really fight to stifle my giggles. In that case, I can’t even imagine how funny and comical Austenland is. ).
Cons: Even though I love the writing, sometimes I wished there was a tad bit more dialogue in some parts
Recommended for: Girls fourteen and older
Grading: Plot: 10/10
Overall: 10/10 (like I said before, a favorite, but not my number one favorite)
If you know me well, I have a penchant for retold fairytales. Honestly, who doesn't? The story telling formula of girl meets boy, one (or both) of who...moreIf you know me well, I have a penchant for retold fairytales. Honestly, who doesn't? The story telling formula of girl meets boy, one (or both) of whom is royalty, and girl and boy fall in love is so universal and speaks to everyone in some way--in fact, it is so ubiquitous and so close to the heart of every human being, that, after mankind got tired of compiling such stories in the nineteenth century, it started making its own spins on them, changing and tweaking or even adding onto them during the twentieth century and lasting well into the twenty-first century. Hey, Disney made a whole franchise out of it. So it seems fairy tale retelling is here to stay.
And a good thing, too. If fairy tale retelling didn't exist, we wouldn't have a stash of soundtracks from Disney flicks (ssshhhh....). Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, and Shannon Hale wouldn't know what to write (well, okay--they're geniuses, and they've written non-fairy tale retellings before, so they'd still figure out something, but imagine a world with no Ella Enchanted or The Goose Girl! Take that and sing it, John Lennon). Drew Barrymore would have been out of work in 1997 when she could have been filming Ever After. And don't even get me started on other writerly folks like Jessica Day George and Juliet Marillier.
But thankfully, there are fairy tale retellings. And we will never tire of them. So when I heard about Emily Casey's The Fairy Tale Trap, the premise of the book definitely appealed to me. What fun! A "Beauty and the Beast" (my second favorite fairytale--the first is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" which is basically the same thing but with a polar bear and lots and lots of snow) retelling, but with a modern-day girl thrown into the story.
The heroine, Ivy Thorn, is a military brat just trying to settle into the home she and her mother have just moved into while waiting for her father to return home. But moving is the least of Ivy's problems--when she's thrown into the tale of "Beauty and the Beast" against her will by a completely creepy and almost dictatorial pixie, things can only turn out to be more complicated. A mysterious spell, the enchanted prince (enchanted meaning, of course, in beast form), and the eponymous pretty gal continue to haunt Ivy as she makes her way through the tale, seemingly for the pure enjoyment of the pixie who just loves to throw monkey wrenches into the story to make the situation all the more twisted for Ivy.
The Fairy Tale Trap could be easily described as a mixture of Enchanted (but set backwards, with a twenty-first century girl thrown into a fairytale) and Spirited Away, with its strong female lead who must use her strengths if she wants to return home. (Both are fabulous movies, by the way, if you've never seen either.) I'm usually very critical when authors of fiction write novels about characters thrown into odd situations, as quite often, writers fall into the "that-character-would-never-think-or-act-like-that" or "things-would-never-work-out-that-way" follies of literature. However, Ms. Casey did a wonderful job portraying not only Ivy's emotions, but also how a young girl not too keen on fairy tales would react to being practically kidnapped and tossed into the plot of one. Ivy is a character readers will root for, as she's strong, smart, and, dare I say it, snarky (we love snark!). Ms. Casey is at the moment writing the follow-up to this novel, and I'm eager to find out what will become of dear Ivy! (As a side note: hooray for a person-of-color starring in a fantasy novel, much less a fairy tale retelling! As a POC myself, I find it pretty rare to find them in YA--so kudos to Ms. Casey for making Ivy one!)
For the past fifteen years (going on sixteen, in May 2009) of my life, I have been a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. So of course, when Oscar season rolled a...moreFor the past fifteen years (going on sixteen, in May 2009) of my life, I have been a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. So of course, when Oscar season rolled around back in 2006 and I heard that a new Miyazaki movie was nominated, I was dying to watch it. Without having seen it, I bought it almost immediately from Amazon. I don’t mean to segue into a whole topic about Amazon and its awesomeness, but thanks to that site, I’ve made some amazing discoveries. One of them was the book that Miyazaki made an adaptation of. The book sounded amazing, so obviously I stuck it in the cart along with the movie. Sadly, after the first two or three chapters, I abandoned the little gem until I decided to pick it up again when my pal from Wise Review left me a copy on my doorstep as a Christmas present (nota bene: Wisdom of Youth is a friend of mine whom I met when I was in the eighth grade). And then, reader, I began the most fascinating, the most intriguing, the most hilarious, and the most magical journey around Ingary in Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
Summary:“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.” For Sophie Hatter, it is just her luck to be born the oldest child out of three daughters of a hat shop-owner. So with this common belief in mind, she is certain that between her and her sisters Lettie and Martha, she will have the most miserable fate. As if that didn’t hurt Sophie’s self-esteem enough, Sophie’s father dies, leaving Sophie to become an apprentice of the hat shop. While she stays home trimming hat after hat, her sisters go off to seek their fortunes in pastry shops and apprenticeships with witches. Sophie’s destiny seems to be sealed to be terrible after her father dies and she is forced to become an apprentice of the hat shop and do mind-numbing hat trimming while her sisters go off to seek their fortunes. As if Sophie’s destiny isn’t sealed to be miserable enough, the infamous Witch of the Waste, for reasons unknown to Sophie, turns her into an old woman. Having aged more than seventy years, Sophie heads off to better her life and stumbles upon the treacherous Wizard Howl’s moving castle, where she strikes a bargain to rid her curse with a fire demon named Calcifer, befriends Howl’s fifteen-year-old apprentice Michael, and stands up to the notorious wizard himself! So many questions pop up that you want answered, and these keep you on the edge of your seat turning page after page, just dying to find out what happens next.
Thoughts: First of all, if you are a Miyazaki fan and are thinking about reading this book, keep this in mind: someone wrote a Book-a-minute version of the story, Miyazaki read it, and changed it in his own way. Alright, so maybe that’s not what really happened, but it sure feels like it; the only thing that is the same between the book and the movie are Sophie’s and Howl’s names (and even “Howell” was not mentioned in the movie), and Sophie’s curse. That’s about it, just keep the movie and book separate. As for my thoughts on the book itself? Read below.
Pros: Everything about it! The characters were amazingly real, including their many flaws; the plot is breath-taking; and the integration with John Donne’s “Song”? Definitely a work of a genius! It takes the poem to new heights and new meanings.
Cons: Sometimes the writing seemed too elementary for me, but perhaps it was because I had just finished Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl right before starting this one. Also, I feel like the book wrapped up a bit too fast—so fast, in fact, that the romance (hint hint) didn’t realistically develop (and yes, I know it is in the fantasy genre, but social and behavioral situations can still be realistic!).