I wish I could express just how much I loved this book. The plot, the setting, the characters, the relationships... it's like the author sat down andI wish I could express just how much I loved this book. The plot, the setting, the characters, the relationships... it's like the author sat down and wrote this book just for me :) Exactly what I needed after several long months of average, forgettable reads. ...more
A little confused as to how Froi is apparently (view spoiler)[ so excellent at swiving, given that its only three years since the kid we met in the fiA little confused as to how Froi is apparently (view spoiler)[ so excellent at swiving, given that its only three years since the kid we met in the first book and I was under the impression that he hadn't been with anyone because of his bond to Isoboe since then... (hide spoiler)]
Anyway. So much to love about this... but it does meander quite a bit. Froi has changed a lot since we saw him last, he doesn't feel like the same person... something didn't sit right with me about the way he was written.
Not entirely sure how I feel about this. It's was brilliantly crafted, and a great story... but I don't know if I like what happened to my favourite cNot entirely sure how I feel about this. It's was brilliantly crafted, and a great story... but I don't know if I like what happened to my favourite character. ...more
At first glance, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale sounds like an overwhelmingly girly book, but both the title, and the UK covers, are a bit misleadinAt first glance, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale sounds like an overwhelmingly girly book, but both the title, and the UK covers, are a bit misleading. I’m neither a twelve-year-old girl, nor a fond reader of princesses and romantic fairy tales, but I really enjoyed this book.
Scenes of girls learning how to dance, gossiping over boys and getting excited over pretty dresses are few and far between. Instead, Princess Academy focuses on themes of friendship, loyalty, family, finding your place in the world and most of all, how education can open doors, with a little old-fashioned fairy tale feel-good on the side.
Fourteen year old Miri is desperate to work in the quarry along with everyone else in Mount Eskel, but her father refuses to allow her. Ashamed, Miri feels like an outsider in a small village where family, friends and neighbours work side by side, communicating through quarry-speech, a special way of speaking without words. When the chief delegate arrives to inform them that every girl between the ages of twelve and seventeen is to attend the princess academy so that the Prince might choose one of them to be his future Queen, Miri is suddenly introduced to a vast world beyond everything she knows, and soon finds herself caught between her love for her family and home, and her awakening hunger for more.
Princess Academy certainly has elements of a fantasy – a world that is like ours, but not, a medieval-like setting and the strange, mystical properties of the Linder stone. But unlike the majority of fantasy books where the protagonist goes on a great journey through distant lands and faces a battle between good and evil, Miri’s journey is one of self discovery.
Hale writes some positive messages for young girls without being too heavy-handed or overly cloying. I loved the emphasis on education, how learning to read and write and understanding politics, mathematics, diplomacy and so on, enriched not only the girl’s lives, but their families as well. That Miri and the others were able to appreciate this gift beyond the duties of being a wife and princess. Likewise, the evolving friendships between the group of girls forms an integral part of the story line and I enjoyed seeing Miri transform from a lonely, unsure, if slightly prejudice, girl, to a confident leader, forming close bonds with several of her classmates. I also felt the romance in the story struck a nice balance. There are some cute, little, moments between Miri and her best friend, but they don’t detract from the main story, which is Miri’s personal journey and figuring out what she wants for herself.
I did have a few niggling issues. I felt the concept of quarry-speech was interesting but poorly handled in the first half of the book. Miri’s growing understanding of how it worked was clunky and a little confusing to follow at times. I also found the verse/songs that helped Miri connect with her quarry-speech, distracting. Occasionally, Hale would overemphasis a certain message (such as using diplomacy to get what you want). As an older reader, I would have loved a richer description of the mountains and Miri’s culture, but that’s because I’ve been spoilt by the likes of Melina Marchetta and Philip Pullman. This feels about right for it’s intended age group.
Princess Academy is one of those books that I feel both middle grade and YA readers will enjoy, as well as any older readers looking for a light, inoffensive, modern fairy tale with some engaging characters....more
This will probably be one of the vaguer reviews I have written for Turn the Page. It would be unforgivable to spoil anything, and frankly, I doubt I cThis will probably be one of the vaguer reviews I have written for Turn the Page. It would be unforgivable to spoil anything, and frankly, I doubt I can really do the novel justice. I saved this post to go up on the 8th of March, in honor of International Women's Day, because it seemed fitting to feature a book that not only celebrates female solidarity, love and friendship but also stars two independent heroines in unconventional, dangerous roles for their time.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that you just know, before you've even turned to the first page, is going to be something very special.
Code Name Verity is that book.
I knew from one glance of the synopsis that I would love this. Set during WWII? Told in diary-like form? Two strong female leads, one a pilot, the other an undercover spy in the hands of the Gestapo? I was immediately sold and anticipated it's release for months.
There are many reasons why I love this book so much. I can often be nudged into loving a story with a mediocre plot or average writing, if I care enough about the characters. Code Name Verity, with its vivacious heroines (and they truly do deserve the title) and it's intricately crafted plot, brought to life in the hands of a skilled writer, was quite simply, a pure joy to read.
Verity, whose confession we are reading, is a collaborator. A captured undercover agent who makes a deal with the SS to divulge national secrets to the enemy in exchange for the barest of comforts. In war-time that makes her pretty much the lowest of the low. Her unusual report is disrupted by random outbursts of hatred towards her captures, hints of sarcasm, foolish taunts guaranteed to lead to punishment and periodic ramblings, such as admiring the embossed stationery she has been given to write on (or complaining about the recipe cards she is later forced to use). She reads like a young woman whose composure is slowly crumbling, defiant in a child-like way, spoilt, weak, almost petulant.
And so very, very human. I couldn't bring myself to despise Verity, no matter how many codes she handed over in exchange for her clothing. We begin Code Name Verity knowing the worst. Verity is a spy in the hands of the Gestapo. It's 1943. There's no rescue coming for her. She knows, and we know, there is only one possible outcome. It's simply a matter of time and Verity has bargained herself some. How many of us could honestly say we wouldn't do the same in her position?
It's through Verity's report that we are introduced to Maddie, as she recounts their first meeting and consequent friendship, leading up to her arrival in France. It's because of Maddie that Verity, with her fear of flying, knows more than even she realised about planes and various British airfield locations that she is able to pass on to the SS. Maddie, a radio operator in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) with a passion for flying, is the quieter, steadier, of the two. They are such unique, vivid characters, the unlikeliest of friends, and quite possibly one the best female friendships I've read.
There really aren't enough young adult novels out there that feature, strong, passionate, brave, intelligent women with skills, interests and aspirations of their own. It's frustrating that a lot of heroines, particularly, it seems, within YA, are defined by or remembered for, their love interest. Very few female protagonist stand in memory on their own. Fewer books still, show a supportive female friendship. More often than not, female characters are viewed as a rival and there's the ever popular, stereotypical 'mean girl'. My own girlfriends have formed some of the most important relationships in my life and I loved that Code Name Verity really captures that.
'Its like being in love, discovering your best friend'.
~ page 88
Wein brings to life vivid, multifaceted characters with loyalties, stories and motivations beyond the page. Characters I couldn't help but love, Verity, Maddie, Jamie. Lady Beaufort-Stuart, whose window is always left open in the hopes that so many lost children caught up in a devastating war will find their way home. Villains such as Von Lindon, the terrifying, unmovable Nazi interrogator, who enjoys reading and discussing banned literature and keeps his own daughter safely shielded from the war and his dirty job. The Nazi officer whose own family is a part of the French resistance.
Code Name Verity is an epistolary novel with an interesting mix of narratives that do take a little getting used to. Verity writes in the 1st person, switching to 3rd whenever she recounts her past, concealing her identity. I know a few readers have been slightly put off by this and by the detailed accounts of wartime aircraft scattered throughout the first half of the novel (something I very much enjoyed reading about). Like everything in this cleverly constructed novel, there is a reason for it. And I can only urge you to not let this stop anyone from picking up this book.
Moving, poignant, heartbreaking. Code Name Verity is a rare treat, a fascinating glimpse into women's lesser known roles during the war, loyalty, love and what it means to be brave.
Check out my interview with Elizabeth Wein about her new book here...more