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review 2017-12-02 10:02
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
The Secret Of Platform 13 (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) - Sue Porter,Eva Ibbotson

For the last couple of days, I've been in a bit of a slump so I wanted to mix things up by reading a classic children's story. For years now, I've heard about The Secret of Platform 13 being a great children's classic so I went to my library and checked it out. This book is a great, fun read and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. However, I did have my issues with it.


Eva Ibbotson did an excellent job in writing an adventurously fun children's book. It has magic, it's fast-paced, the characters are entertaining, and it's a romp of a good time. Her writing style is easy to follow and she writes in a way that keeps the reader engaged. My issues with her writing has to do with her female characters, however. Most of them were just over the top, dramatic, whiny, and pathetic. And if they were strong, they were seen as ugly and monstrous. There were only three female characters I can think of that were decent. Those were Melisande, the nurse in the hospital, and the nun who runs the hospital. Unfortunately, all three of those characters are minor to only appear in a few pages out of the entire book. 


I was highly disappointed with our main female lead, Odge. At first, I thought she was great. She was tough and took no-nonsense from anyone. She was brave and can be kind... if she stopped to think a little. But then, towards the end, she decided to mistreat herself in order to "show" a boy, the male lead named Ben, who "forgotten" about her that he was wrong. What? Why? Mutilating yourself is no way to "get revenge" on those who have harmed you. And the thing is, she is not the first character to do that. There are three nurses who have done that to themselves throughout the entire book because they "deserve punishment" for losing the prince. They did this to themselves for nine years and no one thought to stop them! The queen is no better! All she did was wail about the palace, nearly throwing herself out the windows because of how she was mourning her son. Meanwhile, her husband tried to console her because he's a "man" and can control his feelings properly. Give me a break.


Another problem I had with this book was a bit more subtle. For instance, I don't like the fat shaming throughout the book. Ibbotson described, during multiple occasions, how fat people were "disgusting" and "lazy." This perpetuates a harmful stereotype that anyone heavy is like that because they want to be and they should be ashamed for it. This is not something you should be teaching to kids. Some people are just bigger because of their genes. Sometimes it's health related. We do not know and to assume anything else is wrong and callous.


Also, there might be a bit of racism in this book. I say might because it's not overtly obvious. I shall explain. There's this one scene where the characters are in a restaurant and their little animal friend escaped from his box. The waiter tried to "catch" the animal by spraying a fire extinguisher at it, but he ended up foaming two Arabian men in fine clothing. Now, that doesn't seem to be too bad, right? But why did he have to get the only two people of color in the room and no one else? I don't know... that scene just didn't sit right with me.


All of this makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book. I did. Like I said, it was a fast and fun read. I think if you're looking for something to escape into for a couple of hours, this might be a book for you. But I just couldn't say I like this book without explaining its flaws first. If you like classic children's fantasy, if you like portal fantasy, if you like fast and fun reads, then give this a try. Just keep in mind everything I said about the book if you tend to not like reading about those topics. There's also quite a bit of violence and talk of blood so bear that in mind as well when recommending this book. Otherwise, I hope you have fun reading this book despite its flaws.

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review 2016-10-20 20:30
Re-read of a beloved romance novel
The Secret Countess by Ibbotson, Eva (2007) Paperback - Eva Ibbotson

This was still charming and enjoyable.


It is a fairy tale like clean romance.



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review 2016-06-02 00:00
The Star of Kazan
The Star of Kazan - Eva Ibbotson,Kevin Hawkes Oh my! I loved this just as much as I did the last time I read it! Such a sweet story and just the ending you are hoping for. Also, this book has the Spanish Riding School and the Lippizaner stallions in it. What more could a girl ask for. I hope my nieces like it as much as me.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-04-25 16:17
Magic Flutes - Eva Ibbotson

Spoiler Rating: Low


Dear Lizzy,


I experienced an interesting combination of enjoyment, boredom, and fury while reading The Reluctant Heiress (also published as Magic Flutes). Let me tell you about it.


Being an heiress in 1920s Austria with nothing but a broken-down castle to your name and nary a penny in your purse could be frustrating for anyone but the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. Tessa, however, is thrilled with her situation, as it allows her to concentrate on her love of the arts--and no one in the Viennese opera company need know that their delightful and charming under-wardrobe mistress is really a princess. But when the dashing self-made millionaire Guy Farne arrives at the opera in search of suitable entertainment for his high society guests, Tessa realizes that there may be more to life--and love--than just music. And while the attraction between them is undeniable, Guy's insufferable snob of a fiancée only solidifies Tessa's determination to keep her true identity a secret. Yet, after a chance meeting with the handsome Englishman, Tessa's reserve begins to melt, and she starts to wonder if it's not too late for a fairy-tale ending.



  • Tessa is cheerful, passionate, and selfless.
  • Guy is kind, responsible, and powerful without being pretentious.
  • Guy's foster mother, Martha, is a hardworking angel.
  • Tessa and Guy's romance, with all its angst.
  • 1920s Vienna.
  • Some of the humor.
  • Some bits and pieces of the writing style.
  • One particularly powerful scene.


Here's one bit in particular I love. Very early in the story, Guy has arrived at Tessa's castle with an eye to buy it. Tessa's not there (she lives in Vienna), so her two elderly great-aunts give Guy a tour, sharing both the castle's history and their grand-niece's (whom they call Putzerl).



What's not to love in that?


The romance between Tessa and Guy is decent, if a little hasty and a little clumsy. The big turning points in their relationship, though (when he discovers she's Princess Putzerl, for example) are great scenes. I found myself skimming a lot of the boring stuff to get back to the romance parts, because I was genuinely interested in their seemingly doomed relationship.



  • Tessa is perfect in every way, and everyone loves her because of course.
  • Guy's gold-digger fiancée lacks even a single redeeming quality.
  • The writing style gets awkward.
  • An apparent pro-English, pro-Viennese, anti-everyone-else tone.
  • An apparent distaste for any woman not rail thin.
  • Pretty much everyone is a ridiculous caricature of a real person.
  • Prolonged boring bits about a failing opera.


What brings this book down to one and a half stars is how boring and infuriating it was.


Boring because Tessa's trying to help a failing opera company, and it's failing despite her help, and good god I don't care.


Infuriating because to be thin and white is the female ideal, and any woman who isn't thin is mocked by the narrator for her weight.






Notice that these women excel at losing their reason, they heave rather than catch their breath, they are comically clumsy and emotionally damaged. I can assure you that Tessa (who's repeatedly described as "waiflike," "little," and "fragile") is not described in such insulting terms when she's upset, or out of breath, of clumsy.


And those are just a few of the examples I noticed within the first 44 pages of the book. The first 44 pages! No, it doesn't get better from there.


There's also the racism.


Now, were 1920s England and Vienna racist places? Yes. Would it have been historically accurate to present these societies in any other way? No. Am I bothered that the characters make racist remarks? Not exactly; I appreciate historical accuracy even if I don't appreciate racism.


What bothers me is that the narrator participates. The narrator's descriptions of the various ethnic groups are supposed to be charming and funny (I think), but as far as I could tell, every ethnic group except the English (and the people of Vienna) is snickered at. The Romanian-women-are-crazy excerpt above is one example of (approximately) hundreds. Here's another:



It's not a violent racism, an I-hate-everything-you-are racism, but it's dismissing entire cultures as ridiculous stereotypes for the sake of humor--and I for one didn't find it particularly funny.



Obviously, I don't really recommend this book. The romance is nice enough, but the pros definitely don't outweigh the cons.






Source: heyashers.com/2015/04/25/the-reluctant-heiress
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review 2014-09-23 18:47
The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson
The Secret Countess by Ibbotson, Eva (2007) Paperback - Eva Ibbotson

Nothing is more depressing then the dreaded "Reader Slump" that not even your favorite authors can pull you out of. That was me, just floating along after reading back to back amazing books, everything just sorta fell flat for me. That is by chance I stumbled on A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson. Taking place in a period I'm not very fond of (early 1900's) I was a tad leery of taking a chance. I'm so thankful that I did. 
Ibbotson writes magic n her pages. True whimsical, nostalgic magic in each word and depreciation from the riches of palaces to the humble kitchens. There was true magic in each page and characters.

Young Countess Anna has lost alot in her young life, from her beloved father, her home, but she hasn't lost her faith in her family and love. Anna is the tree that may bend but doesn't break as she take a job working as a maid in a old home. She has her own troubles to work with but it's her gentle strength and huge amount of kindness that keeps her shining like a bright star.

It's this kindness that helps the new Earl of Westerholme, Rupert as he return from war, suddenly engaged to a hidden shrew. Rupert feels are truly conflict as he starts to discover what his fiancée is all about and not being able to be with the Anna. 

Now there is some misunderstandings, and unneeded (IMO) tension but this time it didn't bother me one bit. What did bother me was the thinking of some people at the time that turned my stomach. Was it historical accurate? Yes, sadly. But how can we not learn if not from the past and the wrongs done by and to others. History isn't there for us to become bored with in the classroom or take bits and pieces from, but to show us the bad so we can change it for good.

Ibbostson wonderful storytelling broke this reader's slump and yet brought a touch of magic that I won't soon forget.


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