Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Goose Girl

Hello again!
  How is the summer treating you so far? It's in full swing where I am. Heat, tourists, Ice Cream, tourists, sand, sun and, did I mention, tourists? Don't get me wrong, I love them, but sometimes they get a little overwhelming, and the way. So what does a non-tourist do to avoid the traffic and keep their sanity? If you are this local, you tuck yourself away in the corner of an air conditioned library and read the day away. I had a little extra time before work yesterday, so grabbed a book from the nearest shelf and placed my self behind a rather large potted ficus and quickly got lost in another world. The book I grabbed was Gone with the Wind. A classic by Margaret Mitchell, I've seen the movie more times than I can count, but have never read the book. I was instantly drawn in! The heat waiting for me outside made the Georgia weather being described in the book seem even more real. I was trying to imagine wearing 12+ yards of material in such weather. I love a good literary escape, but boy was I glad to have flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt on!  The book was riveting.  Scarlet has already won me over, and I don't want to even get started on the charming Mr Butler!
  But now, time to tear away from that line of thinking, and move on to the next book that I am reviewing. (I'm sure I'll eventually get around to a GWTW review) 
 This book is called Goose Girl. It's by Shannon Hale, one of my top 5 favorite authors. That being said, it's a surprise that I haven't written about any of her books before. This book is considered YA historical fantasy, but has some really deep character development, and story lines, that make it an enjoyable read for "full" adults too. I first read goose girl, I think while I was in high school, and have reread it at least twice since then.
 The Story starts in a land called Kildenree, where princes Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee is born to a mother who finds her less than impressive.  Ani is raised for the first 5 years by her aunt, an unusual women who spent most of her life living in the forest, and talking to animals. She teaches her niece to talk to birds, mimicking their sounds. Ani has an ear for it, and her aunt tells her a secret. There used to be people who could speak many languages, other than just that of humans. Some had the gift of speaking animals, some with the wind, and some even with fire. But most people have forgotten this and all that remains is the language of people. Some people, like Ani's mother, have an extra helping of it and can manipulate them to their personal advantage. Her mother uses her gift to send the aunt away, a change that drastically impacts Ani for the rest of her life. 
 Ani spends the next 11 years trying to be a crown princes worry of her mother's approval, but finds that it isn't enough. After a tragic family loss, the queen tells Ani that she has lost her position as the heir to the throne and is being sent to Bayern, the neighboring country. The queen has hope that a marriage between her eldest daughter, and the crown prince of Bayern will help with the delicate peace between the two nations. The queen tells Ani that this is what is best for both her and the country, but Ani finds little comfort in her mother's assurances. While on the road, to Bayern, Ani is betrayed by a close companion and is forced to flee on foot into the forest. She is found, days later, sick, hurt, and near death, by a wood dweller and her son. They care for her until she is able to make the journey to the capitol city where she seeks audience with the king. But once there, she finds that the person she once thought was her best friend, has betrayed her again, and is posing has the princess! Ani is distraught, but not completely lost. She is given a job as the Goose girl for the palace.
 There she meets Enna, a fellow animal herder, and a royal guard named Garic. She forms meaningful relationships with them, and through her gift of story-telling, many of the other animal workers as well. During this time Ani begins to hear rumors of war with Kildenree. Sure of this being a further betrayal by her old friend, Ani decides to do what she can to protect both her blood family, and the new one that she has found in Bayern. It will take all of her bravery, and the new gifts that she has cultivated to save them all. But at the end of it, will Ani herself be saved?
 Now, you must be thinking that I've told you the whole story with such a long synopsis  but that is not true at all!  Goose Girl is full of so much detail, that I wouldn't dare to say that I've scratched the surface! Shannon Hale has a real gift for story telling. She creates beautiful worlds in all of her books (including her present day novels. I'll be review one or two of those, very soon). In the book she shows very distinct differences between the two countries. There are cultural differences, language, and even appearances in the people. This causes some problems for our heroin as she makes her way around the city. There are descriptions of market places, and castles, and people that surround you with an almost tangible world. This shows a combined gift of imagination and aesthetic appreciation in Hales own life. 
  Her characters are great too. I believe She must be a real study of people and the way they work.  Even in Hale's most fantastical stories, the weight of their characters makes it difficult to believe that they are fictional. The actions of her characters, the deeds they do, the plots they twist (like that?:) they stick with you, long after you've finished the books.

  I think that her books also have good flow. This might seem like a strange thing to comment on, but I find that her timelines are well done. In this story Ani doesn't just come up with solutions to all her problems right away. She is forced to take her time, and think at a realistic speed. The bonds that she makes with her friends, are not instantaneous, merely held together by one life changing event, but gradually, and carefully built by time and shared living conditions. 
Over all I give this book a five. I think it has an outstanding writing quality that shines through. I highly recommend it. 
Well, that's all for today! I hope you've enjoyed this latest review. Let me know how I'm doing on this, and please submit any book titles that you think need to be read/reviewed! Always on the look out for some future reading! 
Till next time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Little Lady Agency

Hello Dear friends! So it's clearly been a while since my last post, but I've been hard at work, reading! I know, I can't fool you, reading is far from work for this girl! I hope that all this reading will result in a few more posts, fairly close together! Today I'm going to tell you about The Little Lady Agency, by Hester Browne, a non-scuzzy romantic comedy. This is the first book of Browne's that I have read, tho I do have my eye on a few of her other books for later. The Little Lady Agency is set in modern-day London (always a great back drop!), and centers on Melissa Romney-Jones, middle daughter of a no good Member of Parliament.
  Melissa is an organized, intelligent, hard working women with three major problems: 1.She can't find a permanent job that she enjoys, which is bad because problem 2. is that she owes her father a large sum of money! 3. Is that she can't find the confidence she needs to be in a healthy relationship. At the start of the book Melissa is pining away forr an ex named Orlando. Orlando is the one who has gotten her into the financial crunch with her father. Melissa is sweet as the day is long, and a bit naive. But she loves doing anything and everything for her family and friends. Temping is Melissa's current employment, and at the outset of the book, her job comes to an early end. But she rallies and while out with her flatmate Nelson and best friend Gabi, she runs into an old Charm School friend who is there on a date with someone much older than either of them. As they catch up, her old chum, Bobsey, convinces Melissa to go for an interview at the agency that she is working with. This turns out to be an unfortunate and confusing job interview. Melissa quickly realizes that this is not the career path for her, but it does get her thinking. What if she used her organization skills, and her love of helping others to make money?  She could take sloppy guys and making them over into handsome, or at least socially acceptable men.  But how is she going to have the confidence to get herself out there? Create an alternate ego, of course! With the help of a blonde wig and a slightly more sophisticated wardrobe, Honey Blennerhesket comes to life! Now Melissa is ready to take on the world...even the rich, handsome American man in her life!
  So, now that you have a pretty good idea of the direction of the story, let me give you some of my thoughts about it! I found this book at a Goodwill while I was perusing one day. It was about a year ago, and yes, I did pick it for it's cover, thus pre-judging it as we are always told not to! I had it for quite a while before I started it, and to be honest, it took me about 4 months before I got all the way through it. I know, that sounds like it could be ominous for this review. But actually, I enjoyed the book. Hester Browne has that English wit that I enjoy so much. There were many times when I found myself audibly laughing at Melissa/Honey's antics. Browne makes very good use of her humor to create characters that you find believable and charming. Whether it is the likable flatmate, Nelson, or Melissa's dreadful father, MP Martin Romney-Jones, You will find yourself investing in these characters. The book has depth and development, but is far from being a heavy read (ie: there are some real, personal problems to deal with, but nothing too dark and sinister). Her writing has intelligence and consistency that I think is vital to a good story. There were things that were a bit contrived, and predictable, but it's a fluffy rom-com, that's why we turn to them! Now for the negative. For some reason, I found it very easy to walk away from this book. I have been trying very hard to put my finger on the reason, but still haven't come up with a decent reason. I will say there were times when I didn't quite know where Browne was headed with parts of the story. And not in a "ooo, this is suspenseful, so I have to keep the pages turning," kind of way. More of a "Uhhhhmmm, I don't get it. How will this impact the characters?" kind of way. So, while that was a bit of a distraction to me, (the girl who is always in search of the perfect book!) I don't think that it harmed the overall charm of the book. Like I said, Browne has a few more books out there that I am looking forward to reading.
 I would give the Little Lady Agency a 3 and a half. It's a fun read, worth it, but go into it knowing it's not perfect.
 Well, that's all for today. As I said, I'm going to try to get a couple more reviews up of books that I've been reading. It's tough job...but I Think I'm up for it! Till next time!