Miss Marple, you say?! I have been planning to do this particular book tag for a long while now, but…well, things got busy. But here I am at last, and better late than never. I just had to do it − again, I say, it’s Miss Marple!

 

The original tag was created by James Holder, on his Youtube channel, which you can find here. I’m picking up the broad “consider yourself tagged” by Rosie Cockshutt, whose Booktube channel can be found here. Also, I’m considering myself tagged from Jeremy Fee’s video, which you can find here

 

For the fun of it, I’m going to answer all of these without using other Agatha Christie novels for my answers!

 

  1. The Murder at the Vicarage: A book about, or set in, a small town or village?

I will choose Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery, because it is a really interesting case for this prompt. The story takes place during World War I and closely follows along with the major events of the war, from the perspective of the Canadian women and the people left behind. Yet the story never leaves its small town setting, never travels outside of Four Winds, P.E.I. It’s fascinating to focus on the impact upon these people who are so far away from the war itself, and yet so intimately connected to it at the same time.

 

  1. The Body in the Library: A book with a pivotal scene set in a library?

It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a good answer for this prompt, especially since I made the executive decision not to promote Harry Potter just now. Instead, I settled on Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright. This book is about Garnet Linden, a young farmer girl who gets into a series of wacky scrapes in the American Midwest, during the 1930s. In one such adventure, Garnet and her friend Citronella accidentally get locked into the library at closing time, and have to spend the night there. (Which kind of sounds like the dream, amiright??)

 

  1. The Moving Finger: A book in which the protagonist is trolled, harassed, subject to a rumo[u]r campaign, or falsely accused?

There are actually quite a few stories I could use here, but I will go with Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which you may remember seeing all over the Internet in 2020. The main characters are the son of the American President, and the grandson of the British Queen, and are thus subject to all kinds of harassment, rumour campaigns, and tabloid stories. Without going into spoilers, the final act of the book focuses heavily on rumour campaigns and tabloid harassment.

 

  1. A Murder is Announced: A book in which there is a sympathetic depiction of a Marxist, or equivalent?

I will go with the Will Darling adventures by K. J. Charles, the first book of which is Slippery Creatures. One of the main characters, Kim Secretan, is an aristocrat with strong Bolshevik leanings for which he gets into some legal trouble. Although Kim later distances himself from the political views of the actual Bolshevik leaders, he more or less keeps his belief in the importance of a more egalitarian society.

 

  1. They Do It With Mirrors: A book in which performance plays a major role?

I really have a nice array of choices from Noel Streatfeild’s books, but I will select Ballet Shoes as one book where the reader actually gets to see a lot of the performances. The three young girls are enrolled in a prestigious ballet school, and as the book progresses, each girl must decide what she wants to make of her future.

 

  1. A Pocket Full of Rye: A book based upon or inspired by a nursery rhyme, fairy tale, myth, or other work of fiction?

Wow, we really went broad with that last addition on the list! I’ll go with Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, which is a beautiful retelling of the Rumplestiltskin fairytale. It also draws upon Russian folklore about Chernybog and Balbog, as well as Jewish religious traditions.

 

  1. 4.50 From Paddington: A book in which more than two suitors pursue the main protagonist?

That’s the main takeaway we’re getting from this book?? Okay, then! I will recommend the novel Arabella, by Georgette Heyer. It has a fantastic, screwball-type premise: our intrepid heroine pretends that she has a massive fortune, just to teach an arrogant jerk a lesson…and then, of course, the lie gets out. Poor Arabella finds herself being pursued by half the fortune-hunters of Regency-era London! It is a very funny, and wild, madcap ride.

 

  1. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side: A book about a changing world?

My choice is The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. While the book takes place in a parallel universe, it closely follows the Reconquista in which Christian Spain invaded and took over Al-Andalus, aka Muslim Spain. The story focuses on the major players as they make choices and take actions that drastically alter the shape of their world.

 

I have a second recommendation for this category as well: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. We actually read this book for one of our monthly buddy reads, and you can find our review here. For the purposes of this prompt, I’ll just say that the book is set in a dystopian near-future in which the Indigenous protagonists are on the run from the Canadian government.

 

  1. A Caribbean Mystery: A book about, or set in, the Caribbean?

Honestly, I haven’t read a ton of books set in the Caribbean, and I really wouldn’t recommend some of the ones I have read. I’m going to rectify that at some point, but meanwhile, I will go with Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood. The story is set mainly in Jamaica and on the Caribbean seas. It follows a group of morally righteous pirates who revolt from a plantation owner, commandeer a ship, and proceed to prowl and loot all over the high seas.

 

  1. At Bertram’s Hotel: A book about artifice?

The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart. On a visit to England, Mary Grey is hired by a stranger to impersonate Annabel Winslow, a woman who had mysteriously disappeared several years ago. Their plan is for Mary to manipulate Annabel’s grandfather into leaving his estate to Annabel’s cousin. But Mary also has secrets and an agenda of her own, as does every other person around her. I’m not going any further into it, because spoilers! I’ll just say that the mystery plot was full of some great twists and turns.

 

  1. Nemesis: A book featuring a quest?

Really, any of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander would qualify, but it would be best to start at the beginning. The first of the series is The Book of Three, in which the protagonist Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, is on a quest to find his oracular pig Hen Wen, before the latter is captured by the dreaded Horned King. (Have I piqued your interest? It is a tremendously fun story!)

 

  1. Sleeping Murder: A book in which the past haunts the present?

For this, the final published Marple novel, I will recommend Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley. The story follows dual timelines, one contemporary and one during the Seven-Years-War between British Canada and French Canada. It is particularly well suited for this prompt: in each of the dual timelines, the characters are deeply affected by the events of their pasts. Oh, and did I mention the ghost? There is a literal ghost too.

 

Herein lies the end of official list of questions for the book tag.

 

HOLD ON, THOUGH. How can you have a Miss Marple book tag, and not have a thirteenth question based upon The Thirteen Problems? It was right there! Well, I’ll just have to rectify that.

 

  1. The Thirteen Problems: A book in which an overlooked elderly character kicks metaphorical butt?

I’ll use this opportunity to shout out my beloved Terry Pratchett and his Witches’ series, the first book of which is Wyrd Sisters. In said first book, the evil, Macbethian king underestimates Granny Weatherwax and her headology, which is a grave error on his part! And by the way, I’m sure Miss Marple would have loved to share a cup of tea and a cozy chat with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.

Title page for Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title page for Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

 

Cover page of Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover page of Slippery Creatures, by K. J. Charles

 

Title page for Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover for Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

 

Cover for Arabella by Georgette Heyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover page for The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

 

An Indigenous Canadian boy with a streak of white paint on his cheek against a dark blue background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover page for The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover page for The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

 

Cover page for Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover page for Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

 

 

 

 

And there it is, my answers for the Miss Marple Book Tag! I can’t believe it took me so long; this was tremendously fun. I actually didn’t make any changes to the questions, for once, so I guess they were well-drafted for my subconscious’s sake.

 

Lastly, I have some recommendations for anyone who is new to the awesomeness that is Miss Marple. To be clear, these are not necessarily my favourite Marple books, though there is definitely some overlap. Rather, these are my suggestions for good entry points to the wonderful world of Marple:

 

  • The Thirteen Problems: (aka The Tuesday Club Murders) Starting at the start is always a good idea! Also, since this is a collection of short stories, it might be easier to get into.
  • Murder at the Vicarage: Since this was Miss Marple’s first full-length novel, Agatha Christie kind of reintroduces the character for the masses.
  • The Body in the Library: A classic for a reason! It’s also a more active Marple story, and one in which we finally get to see our beloved Miss Marple’s thoughts.
  • A Murder is Announced: This one is a great showcase for Miss Marple. She gets to draw comparisons to village life, have poignant conversations, get snubbed by snobby police officers, and practice her ventriloquism.

 

Since I was tagged via an open-ended “consider yourself tagged”, I will pass it along here. If you’ve read this blog post and you would like to do this book tag, then consider yourself tagged! And if you do end up reading any of the Marple books mentioned above, let us know what you thought of it in the comments!

 

Safiyya: For March’s buddy read, Hailey and I read Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley, a YA mystery/thriller about an Anishnabe girl who gets pulled into a murder/drug investigation in her community.

 

After eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine witnesses her best friend’s death, she becomes determined to root out the drug ring that has taken hold over her town. After joining forces with an undercover FBI agent, she faces a series of increasingly dangerous challenges as she hunts down source of the drugs and the people masterminding the operation. To solve this case, Daunis will have to investigate her family and closest friends, test her own abilities, and come to terms with her identity as a biracial woman in a colonial world.

 

Readers, we loved it. Daunis is such an incredibly compelling main character, and I was rooting for her throughout the book. She is strong and brave, but that doesn’t prevent her from being vulnerable and flawed. I loved the side characters, from Daunis’s badass aunt to Lily’s badass grandmother. I loved that the adult characters were not infantalized, nor pushed to the margins, as happens in many novels with the YA Publisher’s Generic Gloss (TM). I loved the deeper insights into Anishnabe history and traditions. I loved most of the twists and turns of the mystery (more on that later).

 

Angeline Boulley spent several years working on this novel, and she chose to keep the setting in 2004. Blackberry phones are all the rage, the Internet is still a nascent thing, and meth is the biggest danger facing high school kids. None of this feels dated; the story is simply set at a specific time and place, and it is all the better for that decision. Some of the plot elements wouldn’t work as well in the age of the Internet and social media, and it was refreshing to revisit a different period that still felt contemporary and relatable. Boulley also drew upon her own experiences as an Ojibwe woman, and as such, the story is a fascinating blend of the mystery and coming-of-age genres, with deep dives into Anishnabe traditional history.

 

I am increasingly not a fan of first-person POV in the present tense, which seems to be the default for all YA novels these days. (I generally find this form of storytelling to have a kind of breathless, messy pacing. and I suspect the fell hand of publishers who are still trying to reproduce the Hunger Games series.) All that being said, the first-person, present tense actually worked for me in this book, and all credit should be given to Angeline Boulley for her deft writing style and pacing. I can hardly believe this was Boulley’s first novel; she writes with such confidence and smoothness.

 

If I had one complaint or criticism about the book, it would be that the resolution of the mystery fell a bit flat for me. (Vague spoilers for the ending here; skip to the next paragraph to avoid.) We have this big, corrupt gang of criminals who are in various positions of power within the society, and they are apparently taking orders from a teenager? It seems unlikely, given the specific characters involved, and the book needed a fuller explanation as to how this situation came about. Some of the villainous characters also seemed to regress in their complexity, becoming two-dimensional and uncomplicatedly evil for evil’s sake. On the other hand, the emotional resolution of Daunis’s character arc was handled beautifully, and the final chapters of the book are pitch-perfect. If I had to choose between a satisfying ending for the mystery or the coming-of-age story, I would much prefer the latter.

 

I look forward to reading whatever Angeline Boulley’s next project happens to be, and I would definitely encourage people to check out Firekeeper’s Daughter. Since Netflix has apparently optioned the rights for an adaptation, hopefully we will see an increased awareness and interest in the book.

 

Content Warning: Please be aware, this book portrays drug addiction, sexual assault, racism, suicide, and the effects of the residential school system.

Title page for Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My whole life, I’ve been seeking validation of my identity from others. Now that it’s within my reach, I realize I don’t need it.

Angeline Boulley

 

Safiyya: For February’s buddy read, Hailey and I read Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey, an urban fantasy/mystery set in modern-day America.

 

Private investigator Ivy Gamble is called in to investigate the mysterious death of a teacher at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Although Ivy claims to hate everything to do with magic, she secretly longs to be a magician like her talented sister. She decides to take the case, live out her inner fantasy of belonging to the magical community, and reconnect with her estranged sister. In the course of her investigation, she comes across snotty teenagers, prophecies, secret relationships, and impossible magic.

 

I will get straight to the point – I did not particularly enjoy this book. It had an engaging mystery plot, side characters whom I found interesting, and fascinating world-building with regard to the magic. Nonetheless, I almost DNF’ed Magic for Liars because I was so utterly exasperated with the main character Ivy. Since everything after the prologue was written in first-person POV from Ivy’s perspective, there was really no way to escape her. As such, I mostly spent the book quietly seething at this annoying brat and her increasingly poor decision-making.

 

Just to be clear, Ivy is a fully adult woman in her mid-thirties, with a fairly good life:

 

  • She is a white, American, heteronormative, upper-middle-class woman. As far as we know, she has never experienced abuse, oppression, or discrimination or any kind.
  •  She has never been deprived of anything for her basic needs. She didn’t have any worries about food or shelter through her childhood, and her parents apparently paid for her college education.
  • Speaking of which, she has a loving family, and if she was ever in need support, or a home, or really anything, she could always go to her father or sister for help.
  • She has no physical or mental health conditions that would potentially restrict her abilities or life choices.
  • She seems to like her work as an investigator, and it seems to pay well enough that she still doesn’t have any concerns about money.

 

Ivy has more than most people will ever have, and yet she spends twenty-seven chapters of a twenty-seven-chapter book complaining that her life is ruined forever because she doesn’t have magical powers.

 

(Incidentally, Ivy doesn’t actually need magical powers. Most of the people around her don’t even believe in magic. She just wants to have magic powers, because her sister Tabitha got to have magic powers, and it’s not fair that Ivy can’t also be gifted, and she deserves to have magic powers too. Basically, this book felt like it was all about Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter series.)

 

Aside from Ivy’s constant obsession about not having magic powers, she pursues a relationship by constantly lying to her romantic interest, tries to reconnect with her sister by accusing the latter of de facto killing their mother, and just generally spends a lot of time complaining about how teenagers are so ungrateful for all of the things they have. Blegh.

 

Protagonists are not always likeable, and I don’t need a protagonist to be likeable in order to appreciate a book. But a protagonist should at least be compelling enough to draw the reader through the story. I think the author meant to portray Ivy as a compelling and somewhat sympathetic character, and I think the reader is meant to root for her success. Unfortunately, I was not able to do so, and that is why I would struggle to recommend this book.

 

In spite of my overall feelings about Magic for Liars, there were some positive points:

  • Sarah Gailey has a good writing style and sense of pacing
  • She sets up the murder mystery and revelation of suspects quite well. She also plays with some classical fantasy tropes in an interesting way.
  • I liked several of the side characters, including Ivy’s sister Tabitha, the school nurse Mrs. Webb, and the practical magic teacher Rahul. I rather wished the book had been told from Tabitha’s POV, in fact.

As such, I would certainly be interested in reading some of Sarah Gailey’s other novels.

 

It is also worth noting, Magic for Liars has a pretty high Goodreads score, so a lot of people were able to connect with the story and the main character. If you aren’t sure where you stand after reading this review (which is fair, the ambivalence vibes are strong), I would suggest that you try the first three or four chapters, and see how you feel about the rest from there.

 

For my part, if you want to read a fantasy/mystery story featuring a compelling female protagonist who is determined to solve a mysterious murder, I would recommend Olivia Atwater’s Longshadow.

Title page of Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time was going to be different. This time was going to be better. This time, I was going to be enough.

Sarah Gailey

Last year, we at Page and Prose decided to do The 52 Book Club’s annual reading challenge. Although we didn’t actually finish the list of prompts, we had a ton of fun in the process, and you can see how far we got right here. As such, we have resolved to do this year’s reading challenge as well!

 

We are going to follow the same rules as we did last year:

  • Hailey’s listed books will not be the same as my listed books, because where is the fun in that?
  • We are not counting any of the books we reread within this calendar year. Hailey and I reread books a lot, so it would be an unfair advantage on our part. That is right, Hailey, we are not getting rid of this rule! It would be WAYYY too easy otherwise!
  • We are also not counting books that we end up DNFing, because obviously.
  • On the other hand, we are allowed to interpret questions as creatively as we like. If we can defend how a book fits one of the prompts, it counts!
  • If either of us fails to complete the challenge, we will face an as-yet-undetermined Dire Consequence.

Continue reading “The 52 Book Club: 2022 Reading Challenge”

 

 

 🥂 Happy New Year, readers! May your books be ever plentiful! 📚

 

So, it has been a long while since last we posted on the website, because things have been absolutely nuts. But here we are, mostly alive and definitely kicking! We are also still alive and active on our Instagram page, for which the handle is @pageandprosereviews. And in more good news, Hailey and I plan to resume our monthly buddy reads, starting with Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey.

 

2021 has come and gone, and therefore, it is the end of all annual reading challenges for that year. Hailey and I, in and excess of overachieving, made the ambitious decision to complete TWO reading challenges. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish either of the list of prompts by the end of the year, but you can see just how far we made it on the Indigo Reading Challenge here, and you can find our 52 Book Club Reading Challenge here. I have to say, we did pretty well, all things considered!

 

Nonetheless, since we did not finish our reading challenges, we must now face a Dire Consequence. And we have every intention of following through with it…as soon as we come up with a Dire Consequence for ourselves.

 

I don’t really like doing top ten lists, or “Best of the Year” lists. There are so many fantastic 2021 books that I haven’t yet read, and so I would always feel that a Best of the Year list was incomplete. Instead, here are a few 2021 books that I absolutely loved, and would whole-heartedly recommend:

 

 

  • A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine: Technically, only the latter part of this duology was published in 2021. However, since I am recommending the duology as a whole, it doesn’t really matter. This series tells a beautiful, brilliant, devastating story about colonialism, and identity, and humanity, and also giant space battles. If you prefer action and adventure in your science fiction, the duology has it in spades. If you prefer philosophy in your science fiction, there is plenty of that as well. Really, it is a win all around! (Science fiction)

 

  • Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, by Alexis Hall: Remember how the wholesome delightfulness of the Great British Bake-Off helped many people through the past two years? This book follows the titular Rosaline Palmer as she juggles competing on a GBBO-type show, raising her precocious daughter on her own, and navigating the various relationships in her life. Oh, and it is absolutely hilarious in a wryly British manner, so that’s a major plus as well. (Contemporary fiction)

 

  • The Witch’s Heart, Genevieve Gornichec: A beautiful, heart-breaking retelling of the Norse mythology around Ragnarok. The story follows a witch named Angrboda, who has suffered betrayal and cruelty at the hands of the Aesir, and wants nothing more than to be left alone now…but the world is not yet done with her. I was sorely disappointed with the sexism in Madeline Miller’s Circe (see my post here for more), and this book was a fantastic antidote to all of my frustrations. PS: Hailey, you should really read it! It is tailor-made for you, and it prominently features Loki! (Fantasy/Norse mythology)

 

  • Longshadow, by Olivia Atwater: The third in a trilogy of loosely connected fairy tales — as in, with literal fairies — set in an alternate history version of Regency England. The story follows a young apprentice magician named Abigail, who is determined to make her adoptive parents proud by solving a string of high-profile murder, with the help of her wits, her magic skills, and a mysterious young woman who keeps appearing in strange places. You can pick up any of these books as a standalone adventure, but I would really recommend reading all three in order, because some of the characters recur over the series. And if Studio Ghibli is looking for new source material, all three of Atwater’s Regency fairy tales would make AMAZING Ghibli movies! (Fairy tale/Alternate history)

Cover for A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Title page for A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady MartineTitle page for Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, by Alexis Hall

Title page for The Witch's Heart, by Genevieve GornichecTitle page for Longshadow by Olivia Atwater

 

 

In some book-related news: my own brilliant, talented, marvelous sister was chosen as one of the authors for for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021 anthology, and her short story is the very first one in the collection! I am so incredibly proud of her.

 

Readers, have you read any of the books listed above? And what were some of your favourite books from 2021?

 

 

 

Hello, dear readers!

 

September (and frankly October) has been a busy time for myself and Hailey, in our personal lives, but we still have some updates for you!

 

First off: our September buddy read was Mary Hoffman’s YA novel City of Masks, which is the first book in the Stravaganza series. This was my first Hoffman book, and I definitely want to check out further books in this series. You can see our thoughts about the book here.

 

It is almost the end of the year, but Hailey and I are making excellent progress on our two (!) reading challenges for 2021. You can follow along with our progress or the Indigo Reading Challenge here, and you can find our 52 Book Club Reading Challenge here.

 

We put up our first ever reader opinion poll, which you can find here. Feel free to vote on your favourite hero of Jane Austen’s novels! Why Austen, you say? Why not Austen, is my answer!

 

September is also back-to-school month, and coincidentally, I’ve received a few requests for book recommendations on good children’s literature. As such, I thought it would be fun to structure this month’s recommendations around children’s books that readers of all ages would enjoy:

 

 

  • The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander: The first book in a five-part series, although it can stand alone as well. Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper sets out to rescue his pig, and gets dragged dragged into a magical quest that could change the future of Prydain. (High fantasy)

 

  • The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye: A new favourite for me! A fairytale in the style of Gail Carson Levine’s The Fairy’s Mistake, or Ella Enchanted. Princess Amy is an awesome, kickass heroine, who is determined to make her own way in the world, and this book is tremendous fun. (Fairytale)

 

  • This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, by Gordon Korman: Can you believe that Korman was twelve when he wrote this book? After they get in trouble at school and are separated, best friends Bruno and Boots plot and scheme to be reunited. In the process, they turn their school upside down with skunks, ants, and diplomatic incidents. I would recommend the whole MacDonald Hall series — they are all very, very funny. (Contemporary/school days)

 

  • Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery: Well, I certainly hope you already know about this book! But I’ve added it to the list, in case anyone worries that this is a difficult or boring book by virtue of being a classic. Orphaned Anne Shirley is sent to live with the elderly Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island, where she immediately sets out to win hearts and conquer challenges. There are eight books in this series, as well as three short story collections, so there is plenty of material for a voracious reader! (Classic/historical)

Cover page of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Cover page for The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

Cover page of Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

 

 

By the way, I’m assuming that you’ve already heard of (for instance) the Harry Potter series; my goal above is to draw attention to some books that people maybe haven’t already read.

 

As always, our Instagram page is still going strong, and you can check out our latest posts here. Feel free to follow us there! Also, message us, send us your recommendations — we would love to hear from you.

 

Happy fall reading!

 

 

When Princess Amythest (aka Amy) is born, she receives gift upon gift from her fairy godmothers: charm, wit, grace, courage…and to her parent’s horror, her most eccentric fairy godmother grants her the gift of being ordinary! Unlike her impossibly beautiful and perfect sisters, Amy likes climbing trees, exploring forests, and getting into all manner of adventures. But when her despairing parents go one step too far in their plans to marry her off, Amy decides she needs to take matters into her own hands.

 

I mainly read this book because:

(a) It was a recommendation from Amrita, of  Amrita By the Book (you can check out her Booktube channel here and her Bookstagram here); and

(b) I’ve been gobbling up every M. M. Kaye book I can find, after I fell deeply in love with The Far Pavilions earlier this year.

 

I’ll get straight to the point: The Ordinary Princess is a highly adorable story, and it’s a great reading choice for younger girls. Amy is such a determined little heroine, and she really takes control of her own life. She gets a job! She stands up for the kitchen maids! She refuses to let her parents destroy the countryside via dragon in an effort to marry her off! I loved her character so much.

 

I don’t mind reading books for younger readers, but I also really think that the book really holds up well for adult readers as well as children. It’s not too preachy or condescending, and it doesn’t have any major “yikes” moments, considering that it was written in the mid-1900s and published in the 1980s. Plus, the author drew all the illustrations in my edition of the novel, and her artwork is just lovely to behold.

 

There is a playfulness about the language and writing style of this book, which I hadn’t really seen in M. M. Kaye’s historical and mystery books. Dare I say it, it was reminiscent of Georgette Heyer’s lively and humorous writing style. All of which is to say: I highly recommend it!

 

– Safiyya

 

PS: Disney, please go make an adaptation of this movie! Or Studio Ghibli, which would be a very different and absolutely fantastic option!

Cover page for The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

 

 

 

“Hmm!” said the Fairy Crustacea. “Wit, Charm, Courage, Health, Wisdom, Grace…Good gracious, poor child! Well, thank goodness my magic is stronger than anyone else’s.” 

– M. M. Kaye

 

Cover page for Madeline Miller's Circe

Hailey and I fully intended to do a buddy read and review for Madeline Miller’s Circe. Unfortunately, we hated it. After a long and cathartic ranting session, neither of us felt much like getting into it all over again in a written format. Well, it’s been some time since then, and I am ready to discuss this book in a calm and rational manner. Mostly.

 

Content Warning: this review discusses violence against women and sexual assault. We have to address these topics, as they are present within the book.

 

Circe is an amalgamation and retelling of the Greek myths around the mysterious witch-nymph Circe, famously prominent in Homer’s Odyssey. Miller follows Circe’s life from her early childhood to the end of her days, as she encounters heroes, fights monsters, and comes into her magical powers as a witch whom even the other gods fear.

 

I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open.

– Madeline Miller

Dear readers, she was exactly that dull.

 

 

Safiyya: This month, Hailey and I read Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza: City of Masks, a childrens’s lit/YA novel filled with fantasy adventure, parallel worlds, and political intrigue.

 

The city-state of Bellezza lives peacefully under the reign of the Duchess Silvia, and her magician-advisor Rodolfo intends to keep it that way. But when a young boy named Lucien travels through space and time from the 21st century England into Bellezza, he inadvertently sets off a series of events that count change the future of Bellezza. Meanwhile, Lucien discovers a strange notebook, and to his amazement, it carries him to a whole different parallel world, where Italy is Talia, Venice is Bellezza, gold tarnishes and silver is prized, and magic is in the air. He befriends a Talian girl named Ariana, falls under the mentorship of Rodolfo, and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

 

I really enjoyed City of Masks, and I’m curious to see where the rest of the Stravaganza series goes. I loved following all the parallels between the two worlds — de Medici becomes di Chimici, etc. — and I loved all of the elaborate political intrigues. Fantasy and historical fiction are individually book-catnip for me. As such, the combined genres in this book were tremendously fun.

 

Mary Hoffman’s world-building, writing style, and characters were all incredibly compelling. In particular, I was impressed with the complexity and agency of the adult characters. Many authors of children’s literature or YA novels have a tendency to focus entirely on their young protagonists, relegating adults to two-dimensional stereotypes or inactive background décor. By contrast, Silvia and Rodolfo are fascinating, active, and awesome characters, propelling much of the plot with their endless machinations. I also really liked Lucien as a protagonist. He was warm-hearted and curious, quick-witted and compassionate. It’s very easy for the audience-proxy character to become a very boring means of exposition, but Lucien remains compelling throughout the novel.

 

Pretty much the only major issue I had with this book is the character of Ariana. When she is first introduced, I absolutely loved her. She was ambitious! She was clever! She was a rule-breaker! She saved Lucien’s life before she even knew his name! Unfortunately, the character peters out to a two-dimensional damsel in distress from then on. I kept waiting for Ariana to take charge and demonstrate her agency again, only for her to burst into tears and wait around for a rescue, or forgive Lucien for some trifling annoyance without even telling him about her concerns. It was an annoying and jarring note in a book filled with fascinating women — the duchess Silvia, the lace-making grandmother, Lucien’s mother, the decoy girl Giuliana. When even the midwife who appears for a single scene is more interesting than one of the book’s lead characters, that’s a problem. On the other hand, Duchess Silvia more than makes up for it. She is deliciously devious, brilliant, witty, charismatic, and altogether wonderful.

 

I would encourage anyone to read this book, regardless of age. Although the book is aimed toward a 9-12 or YA market — and to be clear, I enjoy reading 9-12 or YA books as well — it is a fun adventure that any reader could enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some time ago, a traveller came from your world to mine. It was hundreds of years ago in your time, though not in mine. He was the first to discover the secret, the first member of the brotherhood I belong to. He was the first Stravagante.

Mary Hoffman

 

 

 

Happy autumn, dear readers!

 

I’m going to level with you: we do not have a ton of August updates on the Page and Prose website. As it happened, I had a personal family tragedy last month, which is also why my wrap-up post is a bit late. Nonetheless, we still have a few updates to pass along!

 

First off, if you aren’t already following us on Instagram, you are missing out! Hailey has been curating some beautiful book photography for the P&P Instagram page, which you can find here. Throughout August, we also posted some short reviews, and kept building out the community with fun discussion questions. Drop by, have a chat, send us a message!

 

For the same aforementioned personal family reasons, we do not have a monthly buddy read for August. We’ll be posting our next buddy read, namely City of Masks by Mary Hoffman, in September. Meanwhile, check out our full review for our previous buddy read, namely Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, which can be found here !

 

Hailey and I continue to update our reading challenges, and we’re doing rather well if I do say so myself! You can check out the updated list for the 2021 Indigo Reading Challenge here, and our updated list for the 52 Book Club Reading Challenge is here.

 

🍁🍂☕📚🍂🍁

 

 

In some book-related news: Kit Rocha’s second novel in the Mercenary Librarians series was released on August 31, and I am very, very excited to read it. I have struggled with dystopian fiction since the world was hit by a plague, but I find post-apocalyptic literature strangely reassuring.

 

Second book news: the trailer for Amazon’s Wheel of Time series was released recently — and it looks rather good! I read the first three or four books of the series, and I don’t think I’ll finish the series (I’m sorry, but Rand is SUCH an idiot). Having said that, I’m going to give the TV show a shot.

 

As I said at the top of this post, it is officially autumn and the weather is reflecting it! I am in the mood for pumpkin spice drinks, candlelight, and autumnal books. Do you have any recommendations for Hailey or me, readers?

 

May you enjoy all your bookish endeavours!