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The Princess Academy is a favorite comfort read, and a delightful older middle grade younger YA fantasy, nominated for the 2006 Newbery Award Miri is a teenage girl living in a small, simple mountain village, where everyone makes a living quarrying a lovely marble rock that is found only on their mountain It s a sometimes harsh life, with everyone kind of scraping to get by, but filled with love and close friendships One day the simple life ends the priests of their country have mystically divined that the prince is to marry a girl from their village The king s ministers, appalled that their prince needs to marry a rough and unsophisticated village girl, set up an academy, a day s hike down the mountain from the village, and force all the marriageable teenage girls in the village to go live there and be intensely tutored for a year, at which point the prince will arrive in great pomp, there will be a formal dance, and he ll choose his bride Yay Most of the story follows Miri and the other village girls as they deal with a harsh, cold head mistress of the academy, and the competition between them to be the head of the class which earns you the best dress at the princess ball, plus some other perks Miri deeply wants to be at the top of the class, but she s also conflicted because of her feelings for a boy back in the village.What I love about this book is that it s about than just a competition to win the attention and heart of the prince It s also about friendship, the importance of education, and being a strong person and true to your heart There s some magic in it, though it s fairly subtle Highly recommended Read this instead of The Selection unless your main interest is in teen makeout scenes. Overall, the book was well written and appropriate for a young adolescent audience It was certainly not written for someone in my demographic I enjoyed a number of aspects of this book and also a few disappointements Specifically,1 The resolution of the primary conflict who gets to be the princess felt too much like a plot device I can t say without giving away the ending that the author threw into the story to avoid a painful conflict between the characters.2 The culture of the mountain village and the kingdom as a whole was not developed enough there was a lot of good potential here On the other hand3 What culture was discussed permeated the story Things like quarry singing , holding hands, and twirling the miri flowers to name a few were present throughout the story, lending the culture a consistancy.4 However, the absolute BEST aspect of this book is the over all theme on the value of education It was wonderful to see the education the girls received transforming their lives and the lives of their families Further, I loved how the principle characters recognized the impact and determined to continue pursuing and sharing it.Despite the two negative comments above, please don t misconstrue my review for a negative one As I said before, this book wasn t really wriiten for me Were I an adolescent girl this probably would rate 5 stars I think my daughters will thoroughly enjoy reading the book when they get older I know I will recommend it to them and I highly recommend the book for any adolescent girls you may know. AUGUST 2012 Just re read technically re listened to this one in anticipation of the sequel coming out this month Loved this book all over again MAY 2007 So the latest books I ve read I haven t exactly enjoyed I mean, I do finish them and everything, so they must have been okay, but it s not like I was ever reaching for my book multiple times a day, binging on pages I ve kind of missed that.But all that changed with Princess Academy Seriously I loved this book I should probably only admit this through the relative anonymity of the Internet Seriously Princess Academy What am I, eleven Oh well This book is written for children Nevertheless, the writing was terrific I didn t feel like I was being led by the hand through the whole story, as some children s writing might must be one of the reasons it became a Newbury Honor book I thought the pacing was perfect key pieces of information were given a little at a time It is fairy tale ish, and happy endings abound, but none of those endings even the romance ended up being sickeningly unrealistic.I loved the themes of this book education as a key to opportunity, diplomacy to work through problems, kindness to all even when they don t seem to deserve it which leads to empathy and understanding.One of my favorite books I ve read this year, hands down. Sometimes you just want to take a break from endless angst and sexual tension of currently popular both adult and YA books and read something light and inoffensive Princess Academy is an excellent choice for this purpose Although this is an obviously children s book, it is not silly or overly simplistic The fairy tale is very imaginative and teaches many valuable lessons importance of education is among many of them , but never in a preachy way I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself extending my walks and slowing my driving just to continue listening to this excellent full cast audio My only complaint was that the main narrator read a little too slowly, I really wanted her to speed it up a bit Overall, a great experience I will definitely read of Shannon Hale s books when I am in a mood for a nice fairy tale.Reading challenge 1 P. 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Every now and then I like to read a good children s book, especially if it has a smart heroine Princess Academy was perfect reading for a Sunday afternoon It tells the story of Miri, a 14 year old girl living on a mountain that mines a valuable stone One day, it s announced that the prince will choose his next princess from Miri s village, and all of the girls are sent to an academy to be educated Miri is a spunky girl she studies hard, she tries to make friends and she stands up for the rights of others What I especially liked is how the author emphasized education Miri finds a way to use her new knowledge to help her family and the village.By the end of the book, it didn t really matter who became princess, because Miri had found her purpose in life.Highly recommended for anyone who wants a delightful dose of girl power. The linder quarries on Mount Eskel make for hard labour, but the villagers who mine it wouldn t trade their life for anything The linder stone takes skill to extract in whole blocks from the mountainside, and its qualities enable them to converse without speaking.Fourteen year old Miri wants nothing so much as to join her father and older sister in the quarry But she s small, and her father has forbidden her to set foot in the quarry Instead, Miri tends the goats teases her childhood friend, Peder and wishes on the little miri flowers that she was named after to be allowed to work with everyone else in the quarry.But everything changes the day the traders arrive for the last time before winter, bringing with them an official from the capital of Dunland a messenger from the King It has long been a tradition that the priests name the city from which the prince and heir to the throne must choose his bride This time, causing great shock amongst the noble families of Dunland, the priests have named Mount Eskel so overlooked it s not even considered a province of Dunland.And so, further down the mountain in an abandoned stone manor house, the Princess Academy is established Usually a formality, this time the girls aged thirteen to seventeen really must be trained taught to read and write, how to walk and talk, about history and geography, diplomacy and economics.Most of the girls don t want to become princess, and their families need them back in the village and quarry, but even so, competition sparks amongst them Who will be princess Could Miri, who does so well at her studies and was able to make the prince smile, be the one And what about Peder Yet when a threat comes to the Academy, curtseys and platitudes won t save them only wits, mountain strength and Miri s determination.This is the first Hale book I ve read, and arguably her most popular one It wasn t what I expected, but really it was better than I expected It s one of those quiet fantasy books, like General Winston s Daughter nothing showy, no loud magic tricks or evil sorcerers or that tedious battle between good and evil yawn It also didn t follow those boring fantasy clich s that so many authors seem to enjoy perpetuating a patriarchal social structure, for instance Men and women work alongside each other in the quarry, and respect each other Gender doesn t come into it I got the impression that, despite classic hierarchies and class divisions, the rest of Dunland is much the same The setting still had that typical medieval flavour, but with new angles and greater equality Since it s Fantasy, not historical fiction, this is precisely the kind of thing I want to see and don t get enough of The story is also disarmingly simple in its style the prose has that lovely, unburdened quality that s usual in YA and Children s fiction no fancy adjectives, no heavy handed descriptions, no long winded paragraphs light on its feet, detailed and yet deceptively straight forward Perfect for its target age group 9 12 but just as enjoyable for the rest of us.I loved Miri she was a sympathetic character, a resourceful, intelligent, spirited girl you could really admire She makes a great role model The other girls weren t as fleshed out as I d have liked, but their characters still came through in small ways The plot wasn t predictable, and the ending was very sweet I also loved the small role economics plays in the story, not to mention the power an education gives you Miri uses her hard won knowledge from the Academy to improve her village s ability to trade, thus improving the quality of life on the mountain as well as their bargaining power See, it s educational as well as a fun read Had a very long drive ahead of me yesterday, so took this lovely book along to reread it.It was never very surprising to this old reader I could see the plot turns coming a few chapters before they did, but the true pleasure is in the relationships of the families in the mountain village where Miri lives, and of course the relationships of the girls as they develop.This reading, I appreciated how Hale takes the time to give all the girls at least some personality, and some chance to change and grow, even if lightly sketched in I loved the evolution of Miri s assumptions often driven by anger and hurt and how she would immediately catch herself when perceiving others anger and hurt, and her attempts to communicate rather than brood for chapters over misunderstandings.I also loved how the girls decided how to deal with the prince coming to choose one of them before he came, and how everything resolved And the touches of magic were subtle and fun Such a lovely book I really liked it when the girls started pulling together and thinking past the fairytale, deciding that was in their best interest. The half exposed slabs and laboring villagers gave the place energy, a feeling that here was where all the work of the world was done Here everything was important Sometimes just looking at it made Miri s chest feel hollow I love to read middle grade books That s something I determined a long time ago And when one loves to read middle grade books, certain stories crop up over and over in your recommendations from various sources Princess Academy was one of those books So when I saw it at a good price in a pretty edition at a used bookstore, I picked it up And then proceeded not to read it for a long time because what are TBR piles for if not for sitting in the corner staring you down judgmentally But hey, I finally picked it up And was reminded why I love middle grade books so much.Miri s story felt nostalgic even though I shouldn t have any reason to be nostalgic for it It reminded me of books I loved as a kid, and I understand now why it s such a staple of middle grade for so many people Miri is a wonderful main character to follow, strong willed but smart enough to calculate her position, not afraid to stand up for her village against the traders but soft hearted enough to want to please her family and friends I just love her a lot.I also appreciated how I actually got to recognizing a lot of the names of the other girls at the Academy Situations with 20 characters in them can sometimes overwhelm me, but I actually could keep track of the ones we were introduced to without too much difficulty Which, I feel, is a compliment to Shannon Hale.Other things I loved Peder Miri and Britta s friendship Esa, just overall I love her the lasting effects of the Academy on Mount Eskel the whole vibe of the Mount Eskel village in general, tbh it felt almost Avonlea ish, and it s great the test on the hill and the overlapping answers the ENDING i m so HAPPY it worked out exactly how I wanted it to I just didn t know how I wanted it to work out for like most of the book xD I was torn but I looooved the way it worked out Miri s relationship with her Pa by the end all the heart eyes My only issue was with Olana and the way the Academy was run It just bothers me when adults mistreat kids because they can or because they think it s the best way It s not As someone who works with kids, it s not So that still bothers me about this book, but I loved the rest of it enough to still give it five stars Yeah It s great.