Well, I’ve finally finished the third book of this trilogy. His-Dark-Materials

So it’s over!

But I don’t want it to be, I want to know what happens next to Will, in his ‘just like our own‘ Oxford and to Lyra in her ‘not quite like ours‘ Oxford and how the Angels manage to close all the doors and how the witch Serafina Pekkala stays involved with the children (young adults – as they grow) and what adventures the daemons get up to now that they are unleashed (even Will’s; especially Will’s).

What a cracking read this has been.

Written, I assume, for children it has kept ME captivated for over a month – never mind children. I’m not sure whether the trilogy was meant to be allegorical, or even if it was – but if I put my mind back where I think it might have been early to mid-teens, there was certainly an effort to open up young minds and to get them to question accepted mores.

The main ‘more’ has been the idea of God and what/who that might be and who the ‘belief’ in that entity might overly empower.

We are introduced to Lyra in book one, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass as it was published in the USA – and filmed by Hollywood). We learn her lineage – daughter of the beautiful Nicole Kidman (Mrs Coulter) and Lord Asriel – long before she does and travel with her through this not-too-dissimilar to our world (but totally-different) to the first books finale where her best friend is killed and her father creates an entry to another world. Gasp.

We pick up the story in book two, along with a second, complementary hero: Will.

Will eventually gains possession of a special knife – the book’s title The Subtle Knife – that can cut holes between worlds; and much travel between these worlds is undertaken. Other new characters are introduced: a shaman, gay Angels, fierce witches, and life-sucking (daemon eating) Spectres. The children, for they are children of 12/13, pass though this book with Lyra developing her skills in reading the future and with Will learning how to use the knife cleverly and responsibly.

Amber spyglass

These two, now close friends spend the third book wading through the world of the dead and as an adult, I found it difficult to imagine how this very ‘deep’ aspect of the series reads to its intended readers. Mary, a scientist adult who was first introduced in book two, is an important character in this book. She creates The Amber Spyglass, the book’s title, whilst living with diamond shaped, wheel driven, be-trunked creatures called Mulefa.. Through her spyglass she can see sraf or, as it is known in Lyra’s world, dust and that it is draining out of the world(s) through the holes created before Will’s time, by the Subtle Knife.

I’m left with one question (besides … What’s next??) – how did the Gyptians get to the world of the mulefa, and how, bearing in mind they are in boats, will they get back from Cittagazze to their own world (Lyra’s). I may have missed  how they got from mulefa beach to Cittagazza – it could all be one world.

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I haven’t stopped reading.

Reacher_listHonest 🙂

However, life has surged on since April and despite not having had too much work on and having had a long holiday in France – I haven’t been back here to update my reading. Hey ho!

I can’t guarantee remembering all of the books I’ve read but some are easy: e.g.

I’ve read all of the Reacher books before, but have decided to work my way through them all again one day. That day began last month. I read KILLING FLOOR first and had just finished DIE TRYING the week before setting off for Spain. From

Since writing my previous post I’ve read a further seven, in order, and have number 13, Nothing To Lose, waiting for me to read when I next feel like a Jack Reacher fix. Jack is still bumming around the USA righting wrongs and bedding a variety of women. I’m still not clear where his money comes from, although I believe he does get some kind of army pension. Yet still, after only 13 years service that can’t be much.

gotI’ve also started reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books by George R.R. Martin. Info.

Having heard lots of good things about the T.V. series ‘A Game of Thrones‘ we finally got around to watching the DVDs after our return from Spain. (If you don’t like bloody battles, full frontal male/female nudity, incest, homo/heterosexuality, intrigue or mystery [etc.] – don’t watch it). I thought the storyline was fascinating and decided that I needed to read the book.  As I finished the book, I knew there had to be another – surely there had to be another!

At that time I didn’t know there were five in the series (there are seven planned) but I do now and am currently reading book three: ‘A Storm of Swords‘. I read ‘A Clash of Kings‘ whilst in France. The genealogies and geographies that Martin puts into the stories are mind boggling and each chapter (the story unfolds chapter by chapter, each of which is based around a geographically different, named character) delivers ever richer histories, tales and adventures (usually bloody).

I also read another two of Karen’s historical romances:

  • The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
  • Sovereign by C.J. Sansom (and at some point, I also read Dominion by him, but cannot remember when ;-(

The Jo Nesbo  book I mentioned previously took some reading (I can’t remember which it was), but I have another ready to read sometime – this time, it’s his first Harry Hole novel, not previously translated.

During my recent holiday in Spain, I read four books (and I completed three 500 piece jigsaws).

JigsawNeither Sharon nor I are great beach folks, and although we did spend a little time on the sand, we spent more of our time walking than sunbathing. Even so, walking didn’t take up all of our time, so we had plenty of time to just sit and relax. Unlike Sharon, I can’t just sit and read, I have to keep breaking off and doing something else – hence the jigsaws (even this post is being drafted in-between chapters of one book!)

On the way over to Spain, I started Robert Harris’s GHOST, a reasonably topical account of a (fictional) British ex-Prime Minister’s ghost-written biography. The story revolves around the replacement ghost-writer’s experiences; the original ‘ghost’ having died in mysterious circumstances. We follow the stones he upturns (and the various fruits which fall from the trees he shakes?). Perhaps Tony Blair was an inspiration to the author here?

I also read Lee Child’s third and fourth Jack Reacher Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 23.05.57books – TRIPWIRE and RUNNING BLIND (THE VISITOR).

I’ve read all of the Reacher books before, but have decided to work my way through them all again one day. That day began last month. I read KILLING FLOOR first and had just finished DIE TRYING the week before setting off for Spain.

Reading one straight after the other like this is quite revealing. I’m logging the women he meets (wink wink) and the various towns/cities he finds himself in. One reason for this is to ‘get’ where his endless supply of cash comes from and whether he falls in love quite as deeply every time he meets someone, no matter how fleetingly. Following my original readings, I’d thought he couldn’t be more in love with any woman more than he was with Jodie Jacob (Garber), who features in both of the books I read during this Spanish break. However, over the more recently published books (not the books I’m currently re-reading), he seems to be following his heart across North America – perhaps I’m wrong. We’ll see much later this year or early next when I get around to reading those again.

book cover - night over waterI’ve also read NIGHT OVER WATER by Ken Follett during the holiday. This took us on an interesting journey through the 24+ hours of a 1939 seaplane flight across the Atlantic, immediately after war is declared. Follett carefully scripts the characters for us and sets them up in this now bygone age. At the time it is set, we know that times are changing, but do the characters themselves?

I have a Jo Nesbo book lined up and have just started reading A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRANIAN.

I’ve just finished two absolutely belting books:

Images of book cover - Pillars of the EarthThe Pillars of the Earth
and
World Without End
by Ken Follett


I’ve had a pile of historical fiction stacked at the side of the bed and gathering dust for quite a while now, but then we started to watch the T.V. series [Channel 4] of World Without End.

We’re not great T.V. drama serial watchers, but this was simply riveting, I just had to make a start on the first book – Pillars of the Earth. It’s a huge read but I couldn’t put it down. I followed it immediately with a Kindle version of World Without End. I feel lost now they are finished.

Both revolve around pious or prissy priors, naughty nuns, medieval monarchies, civil war, war in France, bubonic plague, sex, drugs – all of which makes these two books rock and roll!

About the same time we’d also seen the three-part BBC 4 series She-Wolves of England, which detailed some of the strong women behind England’s medieval thrones and these books are set during two of those three periods.

image of book cover, World Without EndPillars of the Earth is built around at all levels of society as Stephen and Matilda battled over the throne of England. The characters are well fleshed out and medieval life is described in a very modern way (plenty of prostitutes, stand-up sex in the Cathedral, rape, murder, battles and money making) as well as the carefully researched work of stone masons.

World Without End has similar characterisations, some 150 years later at the time of Edward III and his mother Isabella. The T.V. series differs slightly from the book inasmuch as it follows the characters more closely over a longer period of time. One of these, Thomas Langley, dies of old age in the book – in the T.V. series, his end is somewhat different. His letter therefore, a central tenet of both book and T.V. has different meaning.

Phew.

Holiday Reading

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

During the last few weeks I’ve read:

2 x Ian Rankin books:

– a book by Peter Robinson

– another by Laura Marney

– and finally got around to reading the latest Twilight Saga book by xxx

  • Breaking Dawn

And that’s all I’m writing. I’ve just spent an hour finishing this, previewing it all the way through and WordPress has lost it! Tough – I’m not starting again.

Good Omens

Posted: June 3, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

Good Omens
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

This is one of the books featured on World Book Night (WBN) 2012.

It came to me via my dad. He had been given it whilst eating lunch at ‘the mission‘ in Huddersfield.

One of the WBN ‘givers’ had taken her 24 books in there and just handed them out. Dad didn’t fancy reading a Terry Pratchett book, he’d tried and failed before. My only instructions from him were to make sure that my brother (visiting from Australia in June) could have it after me. That sort of meant ‘read it now David’.

It was a struggle. I’m sorry Ben, but I didn’t enjoy reading it at all.

I used to be an avid Pratchett reader and did read most of his early works in sequence back in the 80s/90s. However, I remember avoiding this title when it was first published – thinking that it could only be a schizophrenic read. After all, who else writes like Terry Pratchett!

I wasn’t wrong, it was disjointed (still brilliant in parts with fabulous characterisation, but disjointed nevertheless) and hard to follow.

Now, I realise that this could just be my age and changing tastes for literature but it wasn’t that long since I read a Pratchett and thoroughly enjoyed it (I can’t find any blog that records that though and I’ve forgotten the title!).

The premise is that the son of Satan is born to earth. He is mistakenly switched in the maternity ward and brought up therefore by the wrong parents. His eleventh birthday should signal Armageddon. All is prophesised by a 16th century witch. Which is where the confusion and humour arises.  I laughed – but not in a straight line!

I’m still reading:

  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco – this is taking a bit of reading as it switches from one side of a schizophrenic to another during late 19th century Italy and France. It’s very slow going!
  • Berlin by Antony Beevor – I haven’t actually opened this since January, although I do intend to finish it one day. It was lent to me by a close friend who has since died.

and have just started:

  • Watching the English by Kate Fox – I’m expecting a close look at why we, the English do the crazy (to outside eyes) stuff that we do.

The Land of Painted Caves
by Jean Auel

I had looked forward to reading this book for a long time, as I thoroughly enjoyed the previous three installments, which detail the life and times of Ayla, a Cro-Magnon woman brought up by Neanderthals.

I am therefore unhappy to say that I have been quite disappointed with it. It took an age to read!

The story this book tells could have been told in just a fraction of its 774 pages. Around two thirds of the book takes us (in loving detail) through caves and cave drawings – fair enough, that’s the title – but what I want (and what the previous three books gave me) is a story.

At the end of the third book [Shelters of Stone] Ayla, the main protagonist, finds herself settling down at her partner Jondalar’s ‘cave’ somewhere around the modern Languedoc region of France. As The Land of Painted Caves begins, their child Jonayla is still a baby and by the end she is about five years old.

During the book Ayla becomes a fully fledged Zelondoni (Shamen?) and makes a few trips around the region looking at Caves and meeting some new people. What we now understand as human behaviour and failings are detailed in the interactions Ayla witnesses and experiences herself, but there is very little in the way things are ‘discovered’, which was a fun feature of the forth three books. For example Jondalar and Ayla continue to use ‘pole-drags’ on their horses to help transport people about and they spread the word of their ‘spear throwers’ (bow and arrow?) but a little poetic licence on the use of wheels might have been nice. Perhaps the story is set too early for that?

But the thing that most killed the book for me was its constant repetition. If I was told once about Jondalar’s temper, I must have been told twenty times. There are many more examples.

So, all in all, I read it – but won’t read it again. The Clan of the Cave Bear on the other hand – I will.

Other reviews:

http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-the-land-of-painted/