After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the children...moreReview posted at Emily's Reading Room on August 6, 2012
After completing her time at the Princess Academy and even setting up a school for the children at Mount Eskel, Miri is given the opportunity to attend school off the mountain at the Queen's Castle in Asland. Miri is delighted to be with her friend Britta again, but soon learns that there is serious unrest in the kingdom. Between being faced with the big city, new friends, and challenging new ideas, Miri's loyalties are torn.
Oh yeah, and Peder is there.
Though I trust Shannon Hale implicitly to tell a good story, I was very.... curious to see how she would continue Miri's story when I felt like Princess Academy wrapped up so well. And it went in a direction that I absolutely was not expecting. And I mean that in the best possible way.
For some reason, I read the acknowledgements first. And I immediately knew that this book was going to be something special. Hale mentions that a portion of the proceeds of the book will go to LDS Humanitarian Services to help those who can't meet their most basic needs.
And on that note, I began the book. And I was bowled over by the most expert way that Hale handles complex situations like revolution, poverty, loyalty, and love. I've often felt that the best children's writers are able to take a sensitive issue and pose it in a way that is both thoughtful and respectful. There are so many ways that this book could have become preachy or false. But, it was handled so beautifully that I really think that I loved Palace of Stone more than Princess Academy. Which I didn't think was possible.
Miri is a strong girl. She has a strong, sound mind. Though goodness knows I love a girl that kicks butt ala Katniss, I really loved that Miri is most definitely not violent. But she is equally as strong. She comes off her mountain and out of her comfort zone. And she is stretched and tested in many ways. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she does a darn good job of using her head and trying her best to help in a situation that is most definitely not black and white.
In regards to Miri and Peder. Peder comes with Miri in order to work as an apprentice to a stone carver in Asland. While Miri immerses herself in her studies, Peder works with equal fervor in his job. In fact, Peder becomes so entrenched (and exhausted!) by his work, Miri starts to wonder if he really does care for her. Which allows the sneaky addition of another character that opens Miri to questions about where she really does belong.
If you enjoyed Princess Academy, you are going to ADORE Palace of Stone. But, if you haven't read Princess Academy yet, you'll definitely want to get on that.(less)
Peace is teetering on the edge in the kingdom of Carthya. A divided court and rumors that the royal family has been murdered cause Conner, a nobleman,...morePeace is teetering on the edge in the kingdom of Carthya. A divided court and rumors that the royal family has been murdered cause Conner, a nobleman, to devise a plan to unite the kingdom. He purchases four orphans to train and compete as impersonators of the lost Prince Jaren, including a particularly fiesty one named Sage. With only a few weeks to prepare, and his life on the line, Sage has to learn to play the part and join in on the scheme.
The False Prince is the best middle-grade historical fiction that I have read this year. Period. I loved this book from start to finish, and was captivated. From the very beginning, Sage had my heart. He's such a rascal, but at the same time, he's just a puzzle waiting to be put together. In many ways he reminded me of Gen from Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series. Like Gen, Sage is a thief. They both have this attitude that they just can't be bothered to care about something, even when they clearly do not have the upper hand. And, like Gen, Sage manages to somehow always seem to have the upper hand. Even when he doesn't. Is that confusing? That's the beauty of both of these characters. I couldn't get enough!
In addition to its dynamic characters, Jennifer Nielsen has created a plot with twists and turns in all the right places. Upon first glance, the plot seems easy to pin down. But where this novel truly shines is by building upon itself with action not immediately shown the readers. This results in a climax that will have readers turning back to previous pages to find all the clues that were there the entire time. The way that the critical plot points unfolded was absolutely brilliant. Like a great writer, Nielsen plants little things earlier in the novel that turn out to mean something later in the book.
Give The False Prince to your reluctant readers, particularly boys. There isn't much romance in The False Prince, which is why I would consider it an upper middle grade or lower young adult. I'm hoping that as the trilogy continues, there will be a little something more there for the girls. But, as it is, I really think that girls will enjoy this book too. “The False Prince” contains very little violence and no heavy language.(less)
I'm afraid I'm not very objective when it comes to reviewing anything by Shannon Hale. I am definitely a fan girl. Combine that with my guilty love fo...moreI'm afraid I'm not very objective when it comes to reviewing anything by Shannon Hale. I am definitely a fan girl. Combine that with my guilty love for Austen-inspired novels, and it's a recipe for my whole-hearted admiration.
Midnight in Austenland is similar to its predecessor in premise. Charlotte, a successful, but kind of beaten-down woman, books herself a vacation to the exclusive and rather secret Austenland. (And seriously, why doesn't this place really exist? You could make a fortune.) Though she doesn't embrace the role-playing so whole-heartedly at first, she soon discovers that there is a very fine line between reality and fantasy.
If you are a fan of the first novel, you'll really enjoy this one. However, I doubt that this companion will persuade any non-believers. Nor do I think it is meant to. The plot is fun, with a little bit of a murder mystery, gossip, and plain Jane Austen fun. (With a healthy dose of Shannon Hale humor). Oh, and a bit of heartbreak and romance. Because, next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then.
Charlotte's story begins sadly, but in a very honest way that I think many women will relate with. And though there is fun and frivolity, I was also pleased that Charlotte grew very significantly as a character throughout the book.
All in all, an excellent addition to Shannon Hale's repertoire, and highly recommended for those who enjoy her work.(less)
I think that your reaction to the summary of this book will be the best judge of whether or not you are going to like this novel. As I was first readi...moreI think that your reaction to the summary of this book will be the best judge of whether or not you are going to like this novel. As I was first reading it, phrases like "It's my story," "but Michael is anything but ordinary," and "Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers and friends if he's to survive," stuck out at me. Not in a good way. In fact the whole summary screamed, "I'm an ordinary book." And it was.
Richard Paul Evans has written many best-selling novels for adults, and this is his first foray into the world of young adult fiction. And it seems to me that he's got a lot to learn. One of the major problems with this novel is that the characters do not act their age. Case in point (from my uncorrected proof):
My birthday was the one time of the year that my mother said nothing when I filled my plate with more whipped cream than crepe.
She made herself a simple crepe with butter and powdered sugar then sat down next to me. "I'm sorry I have to work today. Are you sure you're okay with celebrating after school on Monday?"
"I don't care what day we celebrate," I said with my mouth full.
"And we'll have cake and ice cream tonight. Do you and Ostin still want to go to the new aquarium on Monday?"
"Yeah. And can we go to PizzaMax for dinner?"
"Whatever you want. It's your day." She smiled at me and her eyes got all sparkly. "I can't believe you're fifteen. Another yaer and you'll be driving. You've grown into such a fine young man. I am so proud of you."
I've never been a fifteen year-old boy, but I've observed them plenty. I think it's more likely that a 12 year-old boy would ask to go to the new aquarium with his friend and then to PizzaMax with his mother. A fifteen year-old boy would be more likely to tell his mom to shove it and go see an action movie with his friends, or not do anything at all. Birthdays just aren't a big deal to older teenage boys.
Not that I don't appreciate Michael's relationship with his mother. I think, however, that in this case, it was way too over the top.
However, there is the addition of Tourette's syndrome to Michael's character. I think that a lot of teens that struggle with this disorder will really connect to this story because of that element. Like Percy Jackson's dyslexia, it's a way to make something that can be really awkward and embarrassing for a teen into something that can be cool and explainable. And for that, I applaud Evans.
However, as a generally whole, the book was far too cliche and unremarkable for me. From Michael's overweight, nerdy friend Ostin, to the beautiful, popular, but all-inclusive cheerleader Taylor, this book is a cookie-cutter model of a adult writer goes young adult. I suspect, however, that in spite of its lack-luster performance for me, this novel will still be another New York Times bestseller for Evans(less)
Nikki has returned from the Underworld. Spending 100 years in a state of complete unfeeling and despair, she has returned to her family and friends fo...moreNikki has returned from the Underworld. Spending 100 years in a state of complete unfeeling and despair, she has returned to her family and friends for 6 months until she must return, this time forever. Nikki's time is running out, and she wants to use this time to reconnect with her boyfriend, family and friends (frankly, in that order). But, Cole, the conniving immortal that enticed her to Everneath in the first place, wants Nikki to return with him to rule the Underworld as his queen.
Everneath, as you guess from the description, is a Persephone/Hades retelling. Or is it an Orpheus and Eurydice retelling? Well, it's actually a pleasant mixture of both that makes the entire book very much it's own mythology. I have to admit; however, that though I liked a lot of the intersecting of myths, I was confused at times how the whole thing fit together. I was able to piece it together after rereading a few passages, and I think most of it cleared up for me by the end.
Then there is the Nikki/Jack/Cole love triangle. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I didn't see evidence of a love triangle. From the moment that Nikki returns from Everneath, she isn't interested in a relationship with Cole. In fact, she is willing to endure endless agony in the Tunnels to avoid spending another moment with Cole. So, in my mind, Cole was never a viable option for Nikki. In fact, their "relationship" reminds me a lot of the Evie/Reth stuff. Cole filled a role for Nikki that after her 100 years in the underworld, she realized that she didn't need. Like Evie, Nikki was suffering (though from different circumstances), and Cole seemed like the easy way out at the time. So, let's just say that I'm so glad that this book wasn't set BEFORE Nikki went to the Underworld, because I think that we wouldn't have gotten along nearly as well.
As far as Nikki and Jack went, I really liked the slow burn of their relationship. Then again, those tend to be my favorite. Nikki only has 6 months left, but she doesn't want to ruin those 6 months that she does have left by rushing into something. And I have to respect that. The only relationship that I took an issue with was the one that Nikki had with her father. I'm not sure how/why he moved on from Nikki's mysterious absence so quickly. I'm not sure if he bought the drug addict story or if he was just so disconnected because of his campaign that he really only cared about himself.
Put Everneath in the list of paranormal books that I am comfortable recommending. It safely passes my checklist of things that are missing from other paranormal romances. High school students that actually study. Check. A normal, decent best friend. Check. A likeable love interest. Check. For those who are concerned about content issues, I'd feel comfortable recommending this book to teens 12 or older.(less)
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I started it back in July. I had just finished re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fi...moreI've had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I started it back in July. I had just finished re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in preparation for Mockingjay. About a quarter of the way through the book I stopped reading. I realized that I was reading it with a violent-out-to-get-you-government filter. And Matched just wasn't doing it for me. So, I put it away for awhile to get in the mood. (I think also some of the hype was getting to me, and there was no way it was going to live up to it).
So, during the Christmas/New Years break that I had from work, I picked it up again. And I absolutely loved it.
It was different than The Hunger Games series in that it isn't nearly as brutal or bloody. As with most dystopian novels, Cassia's Society is all about control. However, The Society has created an illusion that through their control everyone is living at their highest potential. There is never a need for fear or sadness because everything is so strictly monitored. Their world is not cluttered with information because their books, movies, and songs are carefully selected. Citizen's food is given in specific portions and with nutritional value to optimize the health of every person. And, of course, matches are selected based on the compatibility of each party for maximized happiness.
Is Cassia's Society so different from our own? In our efforts to create a healthy society have we overstepped our bounds? I'm thinking of recent lawsuits against McDonalds for causing obesity. Or the laws passed in recent years to ban trans fats from restaurants in California and New York. While I obviously feel that eating healthy is important, at what point do we take away individual freedom and responsibility because "we know better"?
One of my favorite parts of the book comes when Cassia realizes that the world in which she lives no longer values creation. Quoting from my uncorrected proof copy:
"Standing there looking at my work, however, I realize that all my family has ever done is sort. Never create. My father sorts old artifacts like my grandfather did; my great-grandmother sorted poems. My farmlander grandparents plant seeds and tend crops, but everything they grow has been assigned by the Officials. Just like the things my mother grows at the Aboretum."
Now, I've never been one for poetry. I don't know that I have the type of mind that can truly appreciate it. However, I do love music, and books, and the ability that I have to speak my mind however I wish.
Without belaboring the point, this book gave me quite a bit to think about. I know many people will like the book for the romance. Frankly, both boys are a great fit for Cassia in different ways, so the love triangle really isn't about pitting one against the other (a la Twilight). Cassia's parents are pretty flat, as are her friends. We don't really get much into the heads of other characters besides Cassia and Xander. I am not entirely sure if that was intentional to show that over time people have really become devoid of original thought.
Therefore, count me among the many that will be eagerly awaiting Crossed when it comes out in November.(less)