Wednesday, June 24, 2015

His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials #1-2.5, Philip Pullman
I love this story, when I read it as an exemplar hybrid of fantasy and science fiction.  There are some truly magical concepts here that leave me breathless.  Truly.

But I can't just love the story, without being beat about the head with the allegory.  Pullman is so heavy-handed with his anti-dogma angle that it seriously dampened the afterglow of The Golden Compass.  I was so thrilled with the final pick-up and climax in a book I'd been warned was slow! I allowed its full, holistic impact to incubate with me, as a novel...I became irritated.

I appreciate Pullman's right to his opinions, and in fact find him pretty quotable (his stuff on literature for all instead of dubbing a book "for children" alone?  Golden!)...but when it comes to these books, at least for now, my distaste for his method of delivery of these opinions soured the overall impact.

There is some unforgettable imagery in these books, but I stopped halfway through The Subtle Knife because my irritation with the allegory stomped all over my enjoyment of the narrative.

It happens sometimes.

Whether Pullman's issue is with organised religion, one religion alone, or the idea of God generally -- whatever his true mark -- it's not splendid for me.   I felt, while reading, these novels allow ample room for the interpretation that those who believe, invest in any of these, and exercise restraint, are rendered virtually soulless.  This is undeniably provocative. Consider me semi-provoked.  Even if I'm not classed amongst the institutions he's trying to stick it to, I'm not wowed by this kind of sticking it's philosophical mudslinging couched in beautiful fiction.   He is brilliant, it appears, but oh how we disagree.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reincarnation Fantasy
The Pyre, David Hair
This book became a larger blip on my radar after its reissue via one of Hachette's babies, this month (it was previously published in 2010, by Penguin). 
  • I liked reading a book set somewhere other than "somewhere in America" or even "somewhere amongst the Western middle class," I think the novel was more interesting for its Hindu and Sikh elements (and they WERE the story, not tokenistic touches).  I understand how the catalyst sparks of this baby were born -- the story from which this all spawns is intriguing, in a dark, tragic and morbidly curious way...
  • a result, the book is fairly grim and violent, regularly.  It was the kind of sadistic, horrible stuff that I can't think too much on.  Thankfully we are spared details more than given them...although there is blood not always the sparing.
  • I was only fond of one of the characters in the present (and not his counterpart, in the past), and similarly, I was only impressed by one character from the past (and not at all by his present counterpart).  If this is deliberate, I'm surprised.
  • For 90% of the book, supernatural or spiritual (you decide) events are a part of the story -- and these lend a horror vibe.  Not much of a fan of that.  Then suddenly, boom, there's content that feels a lot more like magic, out of nowhere!  Right at the end.  Guys, if there had been more of this flavour of stuff sooner I would have read this so much faster!
  • Which brings me to my next gripe -- for a novel with so much happening (there is certainly action), I wasn't as invested as I should've been.  I assume this has to do with my lack of affinity for the characters (Because I only liked two, remember?  No loving).
  • The 560 name-bombardment may also have had something to do with it.  That may be hyperbole, and maybe not, it's hard to say, because it really feels like I was given five hundred and sixty names of people and places that I'm not familiar with and I was asked to understand all of their connections.
  • There's no doubt Hair has a great vocabulary.
  • There was definitely moments where I felt the epic potential. 
Verdict:  If you already know this kind of supernatural fantasy (and with lots and lots of names) is your bag, then maybe try this.  This is Book 1 in a series, and I'm not reading on. 

Friday, June 12, 2015


My big girls are staying in their own bed all night, these days.
And even the babe with the power of the voodoo spends most nights in the "big girls' room."
I know this is cause for celebration...on paper.
But guys.
I miss it already...
(these are from a morning almost 2 years ago)

Including back in the days when Mia tried to latch on to any skin presented.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Dating Book
Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance, JeaNette G. Smith
Wait Ange, you're reading a dating book?  Isn't that a way off?  Or very much over?
Errr...yes.  Dating for my girls is a way off, and no, dating for me is not over -- although the unsteady kind thankfully is  /wiping brow.  Now I only date someone I love, we are always honest about what we want to do, and there is never any discomfort when it comes to deciding who pays.  Plus, I don't have to flick his ear if he makes a play afterwards.  It is an excellent arrangement, marriage.

I was recommended this book by a friend I admire, and she kindly lent me a copy (although I will purchase my own).  I don't think it is too soon for me to think about, at all!  I want to know how I am going to answer questions about intimacy with my children, from the start, and I knew that this book had helped my friend come up with a model for guiding progression through the stages of intimacy.  I am also conscious of the fact that communities and media are not going to wait to transmit messages about intimacy to my kids -- these are going to be embedded in all they consume long before they reach dating age, and I want to better equip them to interpret those messages.

So.  How did it stack up?  Well, with one giant disclaimer:  I think this book only reads well for a conservative, LDS audience.  It's peppered with Mormon terms and church culture references, and although much of the research is neutral, many big hitter quotations are from church authorities -- carving this book a tight and small niche audience.  I name the conservative contingent, because even within LDS circles who understand all of the church content, I am sure some will find Chapter 12 waves the stereotype wand too freely -- I know I did.

Otherwise: I think the book is an excellent starting point for discussion in homes, and I think teenagers, parents and leaders alike would benefit from opening a dialogue with this as a catalyst.
  • I loved the allusions;
  • Was impressed with her current language and examples (even these also often lean towards the extreme);
  • Enjoyed the frankness without it becoming vulgar; and
  • Found the format very easy to process.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"A novel of love, friendship and the total obliteration of mankind"

Resistance is Futile, Jenny T. Colgan
Well, this a surprising delight...
  • It starts so gently, rooted in the real and everyday, seducing you with its dialogue and quirk, and then slowly it begins to inject unusual and unlikely content, until you realise you are hoping you get to board a spaceship.  That is my kind of story development.
  • It was different.  I liked that.  It did things I didn't expect, more than once.
  • There's definitely some not-at-all-hidden-political messages...and that was okay.
  • I'm not sure I bought the love story's early peak, but I was entertained enough that I didn't care.
  • There is some sex.  It's not gratuitous, but it's in there.  The dedication at the front flags where you'll find it (a pretty funny dedication, I might add), if you want to skip/skim it. 
  • There's quite a smattering of F-bombs...which is a shame.
  • I find Colgan's writing fun and interesting, including her occasional tangent.  Some sentences were fragmented or had confused subjects, but overall, I looked forward to reading.  The style worked for me.
Sum: Comic, contemporary, romantic sci fi for those looking for something different.

Review copy from Hachette.

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