Thursday, December 06, 2012

Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Goodreads Winners

 I have a hard time keeping up with my membership in Goodreads, however, they have a strong awards program and they keep on top of the latest fiction and non fiction coming out each month:

Among the winners in the 20 categories of the Goodreads Choice Awards, chosen by

* Fiction: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
* Nonfiction: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop
Talking by Susan Cain
* Poetry: A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
* Memoir: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl
* History & Biography: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
by Sally Bedell-Smith
* YA Fantasy and Science Fiction: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (who also
won best author)

In addition, in a pilot program, this year more than 30 Northern
California Independent Booksellers Association stores will display six
Goodreads Choice Awards winners and Goodreads will promote the stores to
its members.

I've made no secret of how much I despised "Three Cups of Tea" and its author, Greg Mortensen, who embezzeled money from his charity and didn't build all the schools that he said he would. I maintain that even building schools for mainly girls in the middle east is a waste of time, as girls and women are so oppressed in those countries, they will have no opportunity to use their education, due to the fanatical religious laws imposed on them by the men who rule their countries. Therefore, this news came as no surprise to me when I read it on Shelf Awareness:

David Oliver Relin, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, died November 15,
in Oregon, a suicide, the New York Times reported. He was 49. Speaking
through his agent, his family said that Relin suffered from depression
and had been hurt "emotionally and financially" when many of the basic
facts in Three Cups of Tea turned out not to be true.
Greg Mortenson and David Relin 
Relin had "established himself as a journalist with an interest in
telling 'humanitarian' stories about people in need," the Times said,
when he was hired by Viking to help Greg Mortenson write about building
schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2006, Three Cups of
Tea became a heartwarming bestseller, selling more than four million
copies. But last year, after a 60 Minutes investigation, it became
apparent that the many elements of Mortenson's story were false and that
Mortenson's charity was spending large amounts of money on Mortenson's
personal expenses and to promote the book.

After the 60 Minutes report, Relin did not speak out publicly but hired
a lawyer to defend himself in a federal suit that was dismissed this
year. In a Montana state settlement, Mortenson agreed to repay more than
$1 million to his charity.

I started reading Goose Girl by Shannon Hale in my the library of my son's school, while I was waiting for him to finish his classes. I became riveted by this beautifully-written fairy tale, and I wanted to check it out and finish reading it, but the 'mean' librarian at my son's school wouldn't let me check the book out unless it was for Nick. So I ended up getting a copy from the library, and then realizing that I wanted to own my own copy, which came in the mail yesterday.
Though it is meant to be a young adult novel, it is, like the Harry Potter novels, the kind of fiction that is so well written, plotted and filled with engaging characters that it should be read by adults as well. Goose Girl is the story of Ani, the firstborn princess of Kildenree, who learned to speak to animals and birds from her aunt, only to be dragged away from that learning process by her mother, who doesn't appreciate the 'old magic' and wants her to be a regular princess. Ani does her best to comply, while still enjoying rides on her white horse with her father the king. Once her father is killed in an accident, though, her evil mother the queen decides to marry her off to the prince in the next kingdom of Bayern, so as to keep land-hungry Bayern from a war with Kildenree, which has no way to protect itself.
Unfortunately, Ani's official lady in waiting and supposed friend Selia, covets her crown and her title and position, and ends up subverting most of her guard to the task of killing Ani (and her guards) and taking her place on the way to Bayern. Ani barely escapes and is nursed back to health by a widow woman in the woods, after which she sets out to Bayern to try to make things right by an audience with the King. It becomes apparent that the subverted soldiers are still out to get flaxen-haired Ani, though, so she must hide her hair and pretend to be a goose-herder until she can make enough money to go home and have her mother help her regain her title.
Of course, along the way, Ani learns that she likes being a goose girl, because she ends up learning some of their language, and she makes friends within the ranks of other servants, to whom she tells stories at the end of the day around the fireplace. One of those friends, Enna, learns her secret, and tries to help her roust the evil Selia and her warrior boyfriend. Good triumphs over evil, finally, and Ani learns many valuable lessons about love, how to treat people who help you and who are mere servants, and that there is a price for freedom and for being a royal, when your life is not your own.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hale's prose and her swiftly gliding plot. I thought the characters were amazingly real, and the book cover is just gorgeous. I plan on reading the next in the series ASAP. Meanwhile, a solid A to Ms Hale for this not-too-sweet fairy tale with an HEA that made sense.

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