Friday, August 6, 2010

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I have heard about this book for years and have several friends who are fans of the Bayern series. I finally picked up a copy. (Actually I was trying to give Shannon Hale a chance to redeem herself in my eyes after the Actor and the Housewife disaster.)

I enjoyed reading this story. Its re-telling of a Grimm's fairytale, which I knew nothing about. Maybe that's why the book felt so dreamy and magical. Of the Shannon Hale books I've read, I think her writing style worked the best in this book.

I liked the character of Ani. I especially liked the decisions she makes once she gets to Bayern. I think she is a strong female protagonist for upper elementary/middle school readers.

I do think the story started too slow. I think the build up of her feelings about her life, being a princess, and her relationship with her mother could have been conveyed more briefly. I was also confused when Ani's special power of talking with animals, especially birds, kind of transformed into the power to talk to and use the wind. It seemed weird to me.

Overall I think this is a nice middle grades book. I'm interested in reading the other stories in the series.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The River Why by David James Duncan

How about a couple of mini-posts since my summer is fading fast? Lists are so much easier than real writing. I've read a few books in between my beaching, hiking, laying arounding.

I re-read The River Why in July. I really like this book, but it had been YEARS since I read it last. Like, maybe before having kids. It is long, and, at the risk of using terms I don't fully understand, I would say this in an EPIC novel. But I didn't even think of stopping reading, it's that good.

Things I really like about this book:

1. Bill Bob. Gus's younger brother has all these amazing terms and ideas. The segment where he explains to Gus about Garden Angels might be one of my favorite passages ever. The dreefrees, all of it. I love smart kid characters.

2. Personal growth. Like any sucessful epic novel (in my definition), Gus learns through his life experiences and comes to some important conclusions. It also has the feel of philosophy books, some of which Gus reads. You know like, Candide, Tao, Bhagavad Gita, those kind.

3. The dialouge between characters in this book is great. I think Duncan creates very entertaining, eccentric characters, and makes them believable. Crazy, but believeable. This, of course, leads to very entertaining conversations between them.

4. When Gus meets Eddy. I love the moments where he tries to talk to her but can't. And then the night they sat by the fire and tell each other everything. Doesn't every great relationship have one of those nights toward the beginning? It make me sentimental to think of it. Plus, I love a little romance in a big novel, and their's is magical.

5. It's toward the beginning, but I really like his references to Jesus leading his disciples to catch the 153 fish. I enjoyed his speculation about why there is a specific number, you know, who counted the fish.
Some new things I found out: This version was a 20th anniversary and had a cool afterward by David James Duncan. He talked about getting inspired to write this book, and getting it published, and other stuff. I found if very interesting, of course I like his writing style. His parents were conservative and religious, and he wasn't. He was facing the Vietnam draft, which reminded me of The Brothers K. Anyway, he talks about getting the idea to boil down all the conflict with in a family to one issue, fishing. And that's what he did with this family. I thought that was a cool idea. I'm always fascinated with how people translate their life experiences into works of fiction.
He also talks about novels creating an atmosphere where readers discover their inner wisdom. And I'm sorry Mr. Duncan, but I already returned the book, so I can't use a direct quote. Which would explain it much better.
Also, some people have made a movie of this book. I'm so curious to see when it might come out. They bought the rites 20 years ago, so there's some controversy, and lawsuits involved. But my research online shows that it was shown at some film festivals this year, so I'm assuming they need more money to actually release it. I'll cross my fingers.
One day I took this book to the gym to read on the stationary bike. I ran into a friend who asked me what it was about. And I said, "Well, fishing." Then I tried to explain a bit more.
So, in summary, Gus graduates from high school, takes out a one year lease on a cabin, then proceeds to follow his well-crafted plan to fish as many waking minutes as possible. It doesn't provide him with the fulfillment he expected, so then he figures out what really makes life meaningful, and so on. Oh, and his dad is a famous fly-fisherman, English and educated. His mom is a bait fisherwoman, and kind of a hill-billy. His family is awesome.
Anyone else read this? Like or Dislike?