His Dark Materials Part 2

Until the last two weeks or so I have been going through quite a heavy reading phase. There hasn’t really been anything lately that has taken my fancy. Well, there is, but I would need to buy them and I have so much stuff on my Kindle already, I feel reluctant to add to it. Maybe I should just delete stuff I know I am never going to read? I had a flick through it when I was off ill a couple of weeks ago and I really didn’t want anything too heavy to read. Then I discovered that I had downloaded both “Lyra’s Oxford” and “Once Upon a Time in the North” by Philip Pullman. I think I have ranted about my deep love for Philip Pullman before, particularly His Dark Materials trilogy and I was not disappointed by these.

‘Lyra’s Oxford’ was a short and sweet read, nothing too complex. I read a review of it on Goodreads where someone referred to it as ‘Philip Pullman light’, which is what it was, but it was still wonderful to delve back into the world that he created, which is why I was so pleased to discover I had ‘Once Upon a Time in the North’ to follow.

This story is about an incident which is briefly referred to in His Dark Materials trilogy about how Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby meet. It is a good story, pulls you in and it is so nice meeting younger versions of characters sometimes. It helps fill them out. If you enjoy Philip Pullman and want something easy to read, I would recommend both of these. You would probably need around an hour at most to read both. It took me slightly longer due to my illness and continual naps though. The other exciting thing about ‘Once Upon a Time in the North’, is that it gives reference to older Lyra, who is currently doing her postgraduate research, specifically on Hot Air Balloon trade routes in the North, so it lets you know she still thinks about everyone she knew and lost and is trying to find out more about them. It adds a lot more depth to the books.

After reading these I decide to do some research – bearing in mind that research to me means going on Wikipedia – and I think I literally squealed in delight when I discovered that Philip Pullman is going to be writing a further novel around Lyra, known as “The Book of Dust”, and I cannot express how excited I am, and that I want it to be finished now! Lyra is once of my heroes.

I am not sure how long I can wait for it, and I know I shouldn’t say it, but I always get concerned that people will die before things are finished, for example, my fear of Game of Thrones never being finished – then again, is this the kind of story that can ever be finished? – then, there is the issue of Terry Pratchett having Alzheimer’s. I haven’t even read all of the Discworld novels yet, but I love the idea of there being an infinite amount of them I can look forward to. Even though I know that would never be possible, that is how it feels right now, but once he passes away that possibility is gone forever. It makes me sad.

Anyway, in order to feel less sad about gaps between books arriving there is a book available in Waterstones, which gives a lot of background on the worlds created by Philip Pullman in His Dark Materials books. I have been trying to talk myself out of buying it for ages. I think I am about to crack though.

Ok, next time I have a review of “Ketchup Clouds”, which, once again is a young adult novel. Hopefully I shall manage to read something else in between times…

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I need to stop reading book series

This is because I have to finish them. Well, generally I do. I never finished the Divergent books, although I may want to go back to those and I never finished the Gone books. However, they were not brilliant teenage fiction. Divergent was definitely the better of the two, and now that I think on it I am quite intrigued by what happens next. Perhaps the reason I hated it so much was because I was stuck on a 12 hour bus journey back from London with a hangover? Might need to give it another go.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because I finally caved and started reading The Millennium Trilogy. You know the ones, Stieg Larsson, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all that jazz? Now I have the Chicago song in my head. Oh Amy. Well, when they first came out and everyone was raving about them I did the typical, well if everyone else is reading them I am not going to. In addition to this someone I don’t like told me they loved them which also put me off them. Not painting myself in a very flattering light here. Clearly, I caved, I am not sure why when I have so much other stuff to read.

I will come back to those books in a moment, but just a quick overview of another couple of books I read. I was looking for some light reading and chose “One Day” by David Nicholls and “The Life and Death of Charlie St Cloud” by Ben Sherwood. Where to begin, firstly, I wouldn’t recommend either of them. If you must choose one, pick “One Day”, it was an interesting structure, perhaps a bit predictable. The main male character – Dexter – just reminded me of Hugh Grant’s character in “About a Boy”. I can’t remember the actual character’s name, even though I adore that book. It is a nice book to read, and is quite engrossing, but not really my thing, and I have been advised the film is terrible.

“The Life and Death of Charlie St Cloud”, however, is absolute nonsense. A complete sentimental monstrosity. Once again, predictable, definitely more so than “One Day”. Do not read this, and you should probably not watch the Zac Efron film either. Right back to those other books I have read which also have films based on them…

The first one, I enjoyed. The plot was complex and intricate, it pulled you in, although perhaps a bit too convoluted – this appears to be a recurring theme in all three books. The second one, I didn’t enjoy as much, but I made myself read it because I was determined to finish it and it answered some of those questions that had been floating about since the first book. In addition to this, I was really emotionally uninvested. When terrible things happened to the characters, I really couldn’t have cared less.

The first book was intriguing, I enjoyed it, felt it was a bit too long and dragged things out. Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? Hrm, probably not to be honest. I have read a reasonable amount of crime fiction – although this probably wouldn’t fall only into this category as it becomes a bit of a political thriller (isn’t that phrase a paradox? If these books have taught me anything, yes, yes it is) – and a lot of it is better than this. I strongly suspect that had the author not passed away before the books were written they would have been far more heavily edited.

There are several long tedious passages in all the books that seem to be irrelevant to the plot. It just makes the book frustrating to read. In addition, there are sentences which are awkwardly phrased and give the impression the book isn’t very well written, but this may be down to the translation. I found myself skimming a lot in the early parts of the third book, which doesn’t inspire me to finish it. I will though, which probably indicates I perhaps have more interest than I think, although I think it will be a long painful process.

I also found the characters two dimensional. The characters were either good or bad. There isn’t any in between or any grey area. Similarly, what is fine for one character isn’t fine for another, and this is dependent on whether the character has been deemed good or bad. It is a book of double standards.

There are a lot of strong female characters which I like, however, once again, they are two dimensional and fall into good or bad. In fact, the strong feminist element running through it is probably one reason why I have continued to read it. Aside from this it does start to get a bit ridiculous. I have actually started rolling my eyes while reading it – a real challenge, and some parts are overly pretentious,

It is conspiracy obsessed, everything is a Government Conspiracy. It just seems formulaic, oh lets blame the Government for all the mishaps this person has suffered. Yes, that certainly contributed, but it doesn’t mean that a person can’t do things to help themselves. (Yes, that is probably a bit rich coming from me).

In fact, so much of it is ridiculous. Mikael Blomkvist having an on/off relationship with the editor of his newspaper who is married, whose husband knows about it and is happy with it. Then we have the fact that women seem to be throwing themselves at him at every opportunity. The fact that we have lesbians, but of course, sexy lesbians. We can’t just have a regular lesbian couple like we have regular straight couples, no they have to be sexy, or people won’t like it. The book just seems so extreme and over the top, I don’t know why I have only just realised this. Yes, the redeeming quality of the book is probably that it is a male author focussing on a feminist agenda in some ways, but at the same time we have the sexy lesbians – this isn’t to say you don’t get sexy lesbians, of course you do, it just seems to be the go to if you want a couple that isn’t straight – and the brutal depictions of sexual assault.

I have now gotten to the point where I can’t wait to finish this book and get onto something else. I am bored of it. It is a chore to read, but I must finish. But if he uses the word ‘esoteric’ one more time, I might scream.