The Golden Compass

Written by Philip Pullman

Book #5 of 2012

Nationality: U.K.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Edition: 1995, Great Britain
My Edition: 1997
Original Language: English

The Golden Compass is Book 1 of the “His Dark Materials Trilogy.” It was formerly titled “Northern Lights.”

Let me begin by saying that the only reason I grabbed this book off my local used book store shelf was because I knew it came with a lot of controversy, which is always intriguing to me. I come from the Christian community, and a couple years back when the book was released as a movie there was an awful lot of hubbub about whether or not people should go see it. (Now, as far as I’m concerned if it looks good, watch it. If you’ve got a strong enough faith, then you won’t be swayed just by watching a movie for goodness’ sake.) My pastor made a church-wide announcement on his view of the movie, and media was going crazy over the Church’s reaction to the movie.

*Let me put in a little note here to say that the fact that there was an introduction by Terry Brooks is a big deal, and it was one more thing that helped me pick up this book.*

I thought it was GREAT! It was thoroughly entertaining, written very well, and was extremely creative. What I loved most, however, was that it had a little fact, and a little fiction, mixed together. Most fantasy books do not do this – it’s found in regular novels, spy novels, romance novels, but never fantasy novels. It had quotes from the Bible that were slightly altered, and spoke of Biblical history in a familiar, but unusual, way.

But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one: you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.  (Page 327)

It had regions of the world (African, northern, etc.) that were comparable to the real world. It had gyptians, a mixture between gypsies and pirates. Anyways, as far as I can tell, all that hubbub and excitement was for naught. People tend to get worked up about things they know nothing about. And once again, my favorite quote comes to mind…. “People are dumb.”

Anyways.

Cover of "Northern Lights (His Dark Mater...

Cover of Northern Lights, before the name was changed.

Lyra was an incredibly well-developed character. She had a big, adventurous, kind, brave, fighting spirit. And I loved her. People were drawn to her. All through the story she knew how to speak to people and act around them, and they were drawn in.

In Lyra’s heart, revulsion struggled with compassion, and compassion won. (Page 189)

Being a practical liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction. (Page 217)

I loved Lyra’s relationship with the Armored Bear, Iorek. He was passionately devoted to her. Secretly, I think he did not just do it because he was sworn to, but because he truly cared for Lyra. He was strong and stately and powerful, and as it turns out, a prince. Or a king, however you wish to look at it. But what I really enjoyed was the extra depth of character that Pullman added to his character at his introduction: he was a hollow bear without his armor.

If I knew where they keep it, I would tear down the town to get it back. If you want my service, the price is this: get me back my armor. Do that, and I shall serve you in your campaign, either until I am dead or until you have a victory. The price is my armor. I want it back, and then I shall never need spirits again. (Page 159)

And then, of course, there is a twist at the end. And that twist (of course!) makes me want to read the next book in the trilogy. So there you have it. I thought this book was fantastic. Yes, I said it – I am a CHRISTIAN and I LOVED this book. And I’m going to read the rest of them, too. And while I’m at it, I might as well say that I loved the Harry Potter books, and pretty much every other kind of book with magic and talking animals. So there.

Happy reading, friends.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Written by Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows

 

Book #4 of 2012

 

Nationality: U.S.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Publisher: Dial Press (a division of Random House)
First Edition: 2008
My Edition: 2009 e-book
Original Language: English

 

This was a beautiful book! It was composed entirely of letters, which was very unusual, and it gave you a whole new perspective. You were able to know the characters much better than would otherwise be allowed, because you were reading their innermost thoughts and most raw feelings. The book was set (mostly) on the island of Guernsey, a Channel Island, right after World War II. It talks about the war, the effect it had on the island and the people, even the people of London a bit, and how they formed a “literary society,” aka book club, to keep themselves out of trouble, and ultimately to help cope with the war. There was even a little love woven in. It made me laugh, it made my cry, it made me so angry I wanted to spit. It made my sympathize and it made me understand. And it opened my eyes.

 

“I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with.” (Location 148)

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” (Location 177)

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” (Location 193)

“I realized that hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe must be fed, housed, and clothed, but privately I resent it that so many are Germans.” (Location 277)

 

I thought about this particular quote for a while. How often do I have secret anger towards someone who has wronged me? How often do I hold an entire group responsible for only a small percentage’s faults? The answer is quite often. I do it all the time.

 

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.” (Location 754)

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” (Location 763)

“I think you learn more if you’re laughing at the same time.” (Location 1241)

“And down the street – I’m not averting my eyes now – a man in a patched jumper is painting the door to his house sky blue. Two small boys, who have been walloping one another with sticks, are begging him to let them help. He is giving them a tiny brush apiece. So – perhaps there is an end to war.” (Location 1372)

“Not even the Germans could ruin the sea.” (Location 1452)

“This summer, gorse will begin to grow around the fortifications, and by next year, perhaps vines will creep over them. I hope they are soon covered. For all I can look away, I will never be able to forget how they were made.” (Location 1453)

“I turned to a man sitting against a fence nearby and called out, ‘We’re saved! It’s the British!’ Then I saw he was dead. He had only missed it by minutes. I sat down in the mud and sobbed as though he’d been my best friend.” (Location 2077)

“This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it.” (Location 2764)

 

English: A Guide to the Island of Guernsey, be...

The Island of Guernsey

 

There were a few things that struck me as I was reading. One, the main character, Juliet, was a woman of strong character. She was asked for a character reference, and instead of asking someone who liked her to give her reference, she asked, also, someone who despised her, just for a well-rounded view. What kind of character would one have to have for that kind of transparency?

 

There was a man named Christian in the book, who we never met but was referenced quite a bit, who was a German soldier, but a good man. I wonder, could I look past the horrors of a man’s countrymen to the heart of the individual, and not judge him for his nationality, or the fact that he was a soldier in an enemy’s army? Honestly, I don’t know. That would have to be one outstanding man.

Just one last note – it seemed to me that the islanders needed outside influence to come onto their small island, so they could heal. They were all broken, wallowing in their own misery and memories. Juliet allowed them to heap their sorrows onto her, and channel those horrors into a healthy outlet. Her, and her outside influence, were this island’s saving grace.

I thought this book was lovely. It was witty and morose, clever and heart-wrenching. I would definitely recommend it for a historical, emotional read.

**Dawsey Adams is a new favorite character of mine. He’s one of the most handsome characters I’ve ever read about. He’s quiet, and compassionate, and kind, but has this overwhelming manliness about him. He has the power of persuasion down to an art, but rarely uses the talent. And he has a winning smile and grey eyes (not unlike my Ian). 

Happy reading, friends.

p.s. As you can see by the format of this post, I’m becoming more comfortable with wordpress.com. Yay me!

 

Brave New World

Written by Aldous Huxley

Cover of "Brave New World"

Book #3 of 2012

Nationality: U.K.
Publisher: Chatto and Windus
First Edition: 1932
My Edition: 1998
Original Language: English

Wow! What an enthralling read. I couldn’t put this baby down! I love futuristic novels, and this one was Grade-A. It kept my brain going the entire time I was reading and it made me WANT to keep picking it up (which is pretty rare with everything but fantasy-fiction). In other words, it was very “engaging.”

I found a bazillion quotes, and I was able to relate to a lot of the main topics in the book. Here ya go…

“What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.” (Page 22)

“A chronic fear of being slighted made him avoid his equals, made him stand, where his inferiors were concerned, self-conciously on his dignity.” (Page 65)

‘Speaking very slowly, “Did you ever feel,” he asked, “as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?”‘ (Page 69)

“He squeezed her limp hand almost with violence, as though he would force her to come back from this dream of ignoble pleasures, from these base and hateful memories – back into the present, back into reality; the appalling present, the awful reality – but sublime, but significant, but desperately important precisely because of the imminence of that which made them so fearful.” (Page 204)

‘After a little silence, “Sometimes,” he added, “I rather regret the science. Happiness is a hard master – particularly other people’s happiness. A much harder master, if one isn’t conditioned to accept it unquestioningly, than truth.”‘ (Page 227)

Türkçe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ald...

Mr. Aldous Huxley

‘”But I was forgetting,  you know all about God I suppose.”
“Well…” The Savage hesitated. He would like to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare.’ (Page 230)

‘”But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”‘ (Page 240)

I must make note of a couple of things here:

  • **SPOILER ALERT** (You’re welcome.) Firstly, I believe the Savage killed himself because he had this ideology which was the exact opposite of the “civilized people.” There was no middle ground. He could not accept the fact that he was human, and being so, will have impure thoughts, and will make mistakes, and will sin on a daily basis. He found it maddening that he could not purge impurities from his human body. Ideally, humans would live in a society somewhere between the Savage’s perfect sinless expectations that led to his demise, and the “civilized people’s” perfect happy society of sinful ignorance.
  • Second,I thought it was interesting that Huxley said phrases and words that were colloquial to the 1930’s, and used them as if he thought they would endure into his fictional futuristic society. Words like, “jolly well!,” and “hullaballoo.” And then he also did this with items: smoking cigarettes, which was pretty popular back then, but is now viewed with disgust and sickness; and he used the radio as the main source of propaganda, which seems funny to me now since it is probably the television or computers these days.
  • And third, I just wondered this: The picture in my head of this future society – how would it compare to the picture Aldous Huxley imagined of this future as he was writing? How is my view of the future different because of my environment than that of Huxley as he was writing in the 1930’s? It was something I thought about the entire while I was reading the book.

Well, friends, I hope that leaves you with some good thoughts about Brave New World. I hope to God it doesn’t turn out like this, or our future generations are surely going to hell.

Happy reading, friends.

 

RUN! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss

Written by Dean “Karno” Karnazes

Book #2 of 2012

Nationality: U.S.
Publisher: Rodale, Inc.
First Edition: 2011
My Edition: 2011
Original Language: English

Here’s the thing about this one: It’s a quick read. Not because it’s simple or anything like that, but because it’s so intriguing that you just don’t want to put it down and you soar right through it. I began reading it before my vacation, and finished it when I got back. What wonderful, inspirational stories!  The author is so humble and entertaining! I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. And I have to say I was surprised at how intelligently he wrote. I mean, I didn’t doubt how smart the man was – but this is pretty impressive. He opens himself up so you can view him when he is most vulnerable and raw. I heard that he most of the book recording on the run, and then transcribing it later onto paper. I thought that was pretty cool.

There were about twelve quotes I  tagged as I was reading, but I just noted three that I thought MUST absolutely be shared.

“Growing up, many of my friends’ fathers never attended any of our sporting events. Popou, on the other hand, never missed any of mine. I didn’t always want him there, but that was only because I had the security of knowing that he always would be there.” (Page 49)

Karno

“Once you permit yourself to compromise, you fail yourself. You might be able to fool some people, but you can never fool yourself. Your toughest critic is the one you face every morning in the mirror.” (Page 98)

“The ultramarathon doesn’t build character, it reveals it. It is here that you get an honest glimpse into the soul of an individual. Every insecurity, every character flaw is open and on display for all to see. No communication is ever more real, no expression ever more honest. There is no hiding behind anything; the ultramarathon is the great equalizer. Every movement, every word spoken and unspoken, is radiant truth. These are the profound moments of human interaction I live for.” (Page 202)

I absolutely recommend this book for someone who wants some laughs and some inspiration. Maybe inspiration for losing weight, or an athletic goal, or just any goals in general – this book is for you. Even if you’re not a runner, but especially if you are. I’ll tell you right now that I don’t really enjoy running too much, but after this book I think I’ll start up again.

It was a very, very good book. Especially for my first memoir read. I think I could read a second. Maybe his other book, Ultramarathon Man?

Happy reading, friends.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Written by Mark Haddon

Book #1 of 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Nationality: U.K.
Publisher: Vintage Books
First Edition: 2003
My Edition: e-book
Original Language: English

This was an interesting read. It was pretty difficult to get through – not just because it was the second time I read it, but also because of the way it was written. I read it this time around because it was recommended to me by about four people. And it was my book club’s choice this month and I needed to be all caught up for discussion. And I was on vacation and it’s e-book format was really convenient for the plane.

Let me tell you a little something about the book… It’s about an autistic boy who finds his neighbor’s dog murdered, and who decides to investigate the murder. The investigation leads to some discoveries about his family and causes him to brave some situations that previously terrified him. Being as this was from the point of view of an autistic child, it was very difficult to read. [*Take note that the author states he is NOT an expert on autism, or the form of autism known as Asperger syndrome. The boy in the book, and the way he thinks, are both completely fictitious. Apparently some people got it in their heads that the author of a work of FICTION would be an expert on their childrens’ medical issues. **DO NOT contact Mark Haddon about your child with autism.]

A couple of quotes…

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.” (Location 168)

“I think people believe in heaven because they don’t like the idea of dying, because they want to carry on living and they don’t like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.” (Location 459)

This book was extremely unique. Not only was it’s writing style pretty quirky, but it was also pretty unique because it used math as a way for the narrator to relate to the reader. It was how he explained himself. He made equations to demonstrate his fear, and he explained the answer to a math problem in depth in the appendix of the book simply because he thought it was intriguing.

“Prove the following result:

“A triangle with sides that can be written in the form
n^2 +1, n^2 -1 and 2n (where n>1) is right-angled.

“Show, by means of a counterexample, that the converse is false.”

And then he proceeds to answer the question quite thoroughly. [The author did not come up with the question/answer on his own, he used it with permissions from Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations.] The book had quite a few choice words that I could have done without, but all in all I think it was pretty great.

I don’t think I’ll ever read this one again. That being said, I’m glad I have. It has made me a slightly more well-rounded person than I was before. Maybe even more so for having read it twice. :)

Happy reading, friends.