The Goose Girl

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The Goose Girl

by Shannon Hale

July 2015

Today is a bit of a Throwback Thursday! I’m in the middle of my next book, but not reading as fast as I thought, so I decided to write about a few of my summer books. This summer, I picked up The Goose Girl again. I had read it as a teenager, remembered loving it, but couldn’t remember anything about it (a common theme and one of my main reasons to start this blog!). Well, some tastes don’t change–I loved this book. Shannon Hale is an incredible author. I really enjoyed her writing style and her plot. As soon as I finished, I found out that she had three other books in the series “The Books of Bayern,” and promptly devoured the other three all in a row. I’ll give a little synopsis of the four books (there will be a few spoilers) and then what I thought . . .spoiler: they were all amazing and all impossible to put down!

The Goose Girl 

Hale wrote her take on the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale for this book. A young princess, named Ani, is betrayed by her lady-in-waiting and becomes a goose girl before she can become a queen. Along the way, she makes many friends, struggles against her enemies, and learns she has the gift of animal-speaking (but only a little) and nature-speaking (with the wind). There are many plot twists, especially as the book goes along, and they took me completely by surprise! SPOILER: Ani’s friend, Geric, is really the prince and cleverly helps reveal the main enemy, Ani’s former lady-in-waiting, Selia. Ani and Geric get married and allow the forest born to become part of the King’s Own, uniting the kingdom of Bayern.

Enna Burning

One of the friends Ani makes while she is a goose girl is Enna, a girl who cares for the palace’s chickens. She leaves the palace after Ani becomes queen to care for her ill mother, who dies, leaving Enna and her brother alone. Her brother starts acting mysteriously with fire and Enna learns that he has nature-speaking (with fire). Later, Enna discovers that she has the same gift. Meanwhile, the neighboring land of Tira is plotting to invade Bayern and Enna must use her gift to save the kingdom. SPOILER: Enna gets captured and wooed by a people-speaking captain of Tira’s army, who tries to learn her gift so he can defeat Bayern. Finn, another friend of Ani’s, becomes a strong, determined young man, who cares for Enna and helps keep her safe. Enna and Ani learn that their gifts come with a dangerous side and find out that they can teach each other their gifts to balance each other out. This saves Enna from death and allows Ani to welcome a baby boy into the world. They form a bond and use their gifts together to help Bayern.

River Secrets 

In River Secrets Razo is the main character. Razo is yet another friend of Ani’s from the first book. He proves himself with Finn in the second book and becomes one of the King’s Own. He travels to Tira to help keep the shaky peace that was instated in the second book. He befriends both servants and the king while trying to solve the mysterious appearance of burned bodies being found around Tira. Is it really Bayern burning or someone framing the kingdom? Along the way, Razo meets a young woman, named Dasha, who has the water-speaking gift, and in the end solves the mystery and helps save Bayern.

Forest Born 

Rin is Razo’s brother, born and raised in the forest and at home there until one day she does something awful and no longer feels at home with her family or the forest. She journeys with Razo to the palace where she becomes a lady-in-waiting to Ani and helps care for Ani and Geric’s son, Tusken. At this point, Kel (another neighboring country) is threatening war, and the Fire Sisters; Ani, Enna, and Dasha, are determined to keep peace. Rin journeys with Finn, Razo, and Tusken to Kel where she learns that her “curse” is actually a gift, and is able to grow in self-confidence and come to terms with her gift. SPOILER: Rin has people-speaking and learns about this when she and the Fire Sisters find out that Selia is leading the coup in Kel. She learns to use her gift to help, instead of control, other people. She also has the nature-speaking gift with trees, which gives her balance in her speaking. She helps defeat Selia and renew peace between Kel and Bayern. Finn and Enna finally get married and Razo and Dasha are soon to follow!

         

Final thoughts:

Obviously, I LOVED these books. Hale has the ability to transport you to the heart of her story and keep you there until the last page. As a result, it is near impossible to put her books down. I really appreciated her creative genius in the magic of her books. I love the dynamics of the “speaking” languages; how they can overpower or be kept in control, and how they can be used for good or for evil. There are many parallels to real life in her story, like with the gifts, but also with the individuals. In each book, the characters grown in self-confidence, kindness, strength, and resolve. I think this makes the books believable, even though they are fantasy books. I can’t say enough good things about “The Books of Bayern!”

Summing it up: I loved all four books and I would definitely recommend them all!!

All the best, Abbey

Astonish Me

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Astonish Me: a novel

by Maggie Shipstead

September 2015

This was another recommendation from “the Skimm.” I seriously love that news email! Astonish Me is about ballet, or rather a group of characters whose lives intertwine because of ballet. I have always been fascinated by ballet. I took it as a 5 year old (why did I stop?!?!), went to “The Nutcracker” for many years, read and reread Ballet Shoes (and watched the movie), and then just loved it from a distance-watching the odd documentary or reading a book about it. So, quite naturally, when I heard of this novel about ballet, I was curious and wasted no time on requesting it from my library.  Unfortunately, I didn’t love it. I was disappointed in how relationships turned out (yes, I get totally swept into the story and invested . . . reading is emotional, what can say?), and I found her tense difficult to get into at first. That being said, I had a hard time putting the book down-sweet irony! I really got invested in the characters and once I got reading, I got into her style of writing. Overall, I feel rather ambivalent about the book. I wouldn’t read it again, but I find myself wanting to read her first book Seating Arrangements. (I’ll definitely let you know what I think after I read it!) What did you all think about Astonish Me?? Do you ever feel “:meh” about a book?

Summing it up: I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I’d recommend it if you enjoy ballet and have gotten through your reading list. 😉

All the best, Abbey

The Search for Delicious

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The Search for Delicious

by Natalie Babbitt

September 2015

“Natalie Babbitt . . . Babbitt . . .oh, Tuck Everlasting! I’m definitely going to check this one out!” That was my thought process in the library when I stumbled across The Search for Delicious.” Side note: I think I have a weakness for books with “delicious” in the title . . .this is the second book in two months with that word in the title and I’ve devoured them both!! I have a very fond place in my heart for books by Natalie Babbitt. I loved Tuck Everlasting and I also loved The Search for Delicious. It was such a short, sweet, lovely story. I got swept away and read it in a day! Her characters’ names are witty and the story mysterious enough to keep you captive through to the end. My personal opinion is that a truly “good” children’s book is one that adults can enjoy as well as kids. I have two sons and I’m pretty choosy with what books I actually buy for them. This book is making it on the list for when they get older! I can’t wait to read it to them or watch them read it for the first time.

One paragraph in this book has gotten me thinking (Babbitt’s books in particular have that effect on me). This quote is from a Dwarf that the main character, Gaylen, comes across during his journey.

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Why is it that we are so prone to wasting time, when there truly is so little of it? I think about that with my little ones and how precious the time that they’re little is. I try to enjoy each and every moment, because then it is gone. And it’s already gone so fast. I really appreciate and enjoy that Babbitt has little jewels like this in her stories . . .nice reminders about what’s important, even in a lighthearted little book! I hope you get a chance to read this one for yourselves or to your little one(s).

Summing it up: I loved this delightful little book and I absolutely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Railway Children

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The Railway Children

by  E. Nesbit

September 2015

I have a confession. I love reading children’s books! As a result, there will be a fair amount of posts on them, as well as young adult fiction. 😉 In truth, I love reading a wide range of genres, so you’ll see a little bit of everything. I’d love to know what your favorite genre is! What do you come back to time after time and what do you stay away from? The Railway Children is one of those books that literally jumped into my hands as I walked by the shelf. (Side note – there’s nothing like wandering the isles of the library looking at the different bindings and hoping one will be lucky enough to take home!) I mean look at this binding!! 20150906_142525How could I resist? I couldn’t. The name of the author bothered me as well; I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d read something by her before. Sure enough, I have read one other book – The Enchanted Castle. I read it as a teenager, and I remember liking it except the ending, but I don’t remember the ending, or much else, at this point. I’ll just have to read it again! Back to The Railway Children!  It was a charming book about three young siblings who find themselves and their mother reduced to poverty when their father mysteriously disappears. Throughout the book the children make friends, however unlikely, help others, and work on the mystery of their father’s disappearance, which is solved right at the end. Nesbit writes with the honesty and humor of someone looking at the story from the outside, but also knowing just what each character is feeling/thinking. She also talks right to the reader throughout the story, which is sweet and fun. There is a tone to her writing that I have not heard before. The best way to describe it is, charming. Overall, a sweet and lovely little book.

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Summing it up: I really liked this book and I’d recommend it if you enjoy children’s books!

All the best, Abbey

Tender at the Bone

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Tender at the Bone

by Ruth Reichl

August 2015

I have newly added Ruth Reichl to my list of top favorite authors. It all started when I saw a friend of a friend post on Facebook about Reichl’s first fiction book, Delicious. She made it sound very interesting, so I got it from the library. The book was amazing . . .a blog post about it will follow soon, so no spoilers here! It was so good, that I am now set on reading all of her other books. Tender at the Bone is Reichl’s first book – a memoire. To put it simply: the book was beautifully written and amazing. She sets up her story by saying how sometimes the truth needs to be elaborated on a bit it to make it a good story, so her story is the truth, but might be slightly altered. Reichl weaves her story with humor and an intensity that makes it almost impossible to put the book down. She tells her story vibrantly and it is inspiring and thought provoking. I came away from the book thinking about how to face some of my fears and how precious each day of our lives is. I also was inspired to try new foods (the entire book revolved around food and cooking). This is the type of book (along with Delicious) that you keeping thinking about over and over even after you’ve finished reading it. I seriously cannot get enough of this author and I will be onto book number three very soon! Can’t wait! I hope you make an opportunity to read one of Reichl’s books . . .I doubt very much you’ll be disappointed!

Summing it up: I loved the book and I would recommend it!

All the best, Abbey