#25. Princess Academy

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"And it will be even better this year," said Miri. "I have some secrets."

Just by admitting she had them, the secrets pushed inside her, a snowmelt stream against a fallen branch, and the desire to share swept over her. She hesitated. Would Britta believe her? Or would she laugh? Miri thought of Doter's saying, Never hesitate if you know it's right. After months of ignoring Britta just for being a lowlander, at least she deserved Miri's trust.

So Miri took Britta on a frantic stroll around the academy, telling her with huffs of frosty breath about Commerce and gold coins and quarry-speech outside the quarry. Telling someone felt good, like drinking warmed goat's milk, and she rushed out every detail before Olana could call them back.

"That's the most amazing story I ever heard." Britta smiled, looking where the sun picked out stars on the icy husk of the snow.

Author: Shannon Hale

Synopsis: Miri Larendaughter has always felt useless. Her pa refuses to let her work in the quarry that is her town's livelihood, and when her chores are finished she spends a lot of her time alone, watching her mountain world like a hawk. When a messenger from the lowland kingdom visits, she and the other young girls from her village are taken to an academy in preparation to meet the heir to the throne, who will choose one of them as his bride.

Miri feels torn between her home on Mount Eskel and the chance to see the world, between the unknown prince and her childhood friend Peder, and she longs to be useful and important to her family and friends. As she and the other girls wish on the miri flowers that are her namesake, she searches for a future for herself and her village.

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Number 25. We're halfway there!

The first time I heard of this book I picked it up in Target, flipped through it, and thought it looked interesting. A week later I went out and bought it, and haven't yet regretted it; I've read it several times. I love the unique descriptions and colloquialisms, taken as if from Miri's mind and the culture of her little fictional village. Miri herself is a spunky, likeable character, and the quarrying songs are fascinating.

Having thoroughly loved the story, I've now also taken to reading Shannon Hale's blog, and have very recently read a couple of her other books too (too recently to get them in the top 50, whether or not they belong.) The Actor and the Housewife was one of the funnier books I've ever read, though not entirely comic ... mercy, did I ever cry over it.

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