The Golden Compass: A Review

The Golden Compass of the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman was recommended to me by a friend after I finished the Harry Potter series. She said she liked it better than Harry Potter and since the movie is coming out in December I thought I'd check it out, being a kids fantasy book junky and all.

I wasn't really sure what to expect with this novel. When I was purchasing it the cashier lady confided in me that this was her favorite fantasy series, even more so than Harry Potter. So my intrigue was peeked and I dove in as soon as possible. Having just finished the last HP book, I found it hard to not compare the two as I began to read. The first thing I noticed was that TGC was slower at the beginning while the first HP book started out very quickly and dove into the magical world and excitement right away. Rather, TGC took its time, slowly and unobtrusively introducing this different world with its daemons and talking polar bears. The way Pullman presents the story, these odd things intrigue you but you don't completely feel like you're in a completely different world like you do in HP when you enter Hogwarts. So many things are very much the same as in our world and many of the things that aren't the same are just as unexplained to the characters in the book as they are to us, so our confusion and intrigue are a part of the experience of following young Lyra around in her adventures.

It's because of this that the story feels more realistic than the HP books did, even though it is just as unrealistic. Pullman has a way of tricking you by his realistic writing style and by his manner of just letting the little fantasy elements of the novel unfold naturally without over-describing it. With HP, Harry himself was seeing much of the magic world for the first time, so it was displayed to us with extreme wonder and descriptive writing, in TGC, Lyra has grown up in the world that we are introduced to and so things are shown to us in a more subdued, matter-of-fact manner.

Lyra, the young heroine, is head strong, mischievous, completely likable and true hearted. She loves easily and goes about her adventures with a spirit that was made for it. As a girl raised mostly by male scholars, she is definitely a tomboy at heart. She leads us through a plot that is both intricate and intriguing. At the end of Book I there are still many questions left unanswered in the ingenious and complex plot. The evil feels more real and cruel in this book because of who is doing the evil and how it's connected to our heroine. The characters are memorable and moving and by the end of the book I was flipping rapidly through the pages to find out what happens.

And don't worry, although it may not be filled with as many fantastical scenes as Harry Potter, The Golden Compass holds its own with some great fantasy places and scenes that reverberate through your head and heart even after they are through. To imagine a great polar bear duel or the delightful little daemons at their person's side is thrilling to say the least.

I can't say whether TGC beats out my love of HP yet since I've only read the first book of the three book series, and they have very different tones, moods and worlds. I find them hard to compare as a whole. Harry Potter is most pointedly written for children, although adults have enjoyed it greatly, probably feeling child-like as I did while reading the series. His Dark Materials although was seemingly written for children, the smartness and complexity of the ideas makes me feel as if adults will get more out of the books than children. While children could enjoy the story and perhaps grasp the basic ideas, the ideas are so complex and original that I think only an adult could truly appreciate all Pullman put in the books. The books are mature and the ideas thrilling.
The His Dark Materials trilogy has already captured me. Can't wait for that movie, it should be a fun one! But for now, onto The Subtle Knife.



Books Read in 2006

In an attempt to archive and keep my sidebar length from becoming ridiculously long I'm going to be listing the books that I read in 2006... now this unfortunately is not a complete list since I only started keeping track of my reads part way through the year, but it includes the bulk of them. The books I reviewed will be linked to my review, otherwise the link will take you to a place to purchase the book. So it will be to this post that the link under "Read in 2006" will now direct you to.

Here goes:

Half of a Yellow Sun : Chimamanda Adichie : 5*

Thirteen Moons : Charles Frazier : 3*

Winter's Bone : Daniel Woodrell : 3*

The Alchemist : Paulo Coelho : 4*

The Prestige : Christopher Priest : 4*

The Namesake : Jhampa Lahiri : 3*

The Remains of the Day : Kazuo Ishiguro : 4*

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time : Mark Haddon : 3

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic : Alison Bechdel : 4*

The Divide : Nicholas Evans : 3*

Song of Solomon : Toni Morrison : 5*

The Known World : Edward P. Jones : 5*

One Hundred Years of Solitude : Gabriel Garcia Marquez : 5*

The Sound and the Fury : William Faulkner : 4*

Everybody needs to do a bit of housecleaning every once in a while... especially when there's actual work to be done... alright, back to the job hunt...


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: A Review

It's finally out, the long anticipated (and possibly even dreaded) HP7.

This final Harry Potter book is definitely darker than the others, with more danger and a complex mystery and plot that keeps you intrigued. I finished the some 800 page book in less than 2 days.

Without giving away the plot I will say this:
  • I wasn't shocked by any of it, despite many of the reviews suggesting I would be. I had guessed who was on whose side correctly, though had not guessed for what reason (which was very interesting).
  • The plot was more complex and interesting than any of the other books and really the gem of the book.
  • It was interesting to see some of the main characters show their real character, the good and the bad.
  • I wasn't devastated by any part of the book as many of the reviews suggested and did feel a little bit like Rowling took the cheap way out in that regard. I didn't cry once, which says a lot since I am easily moved to tears by books and had cried in the last two books.
  • I really loved how the plot tied together at the end, but did not like the very last chapter... I would have rather just done without it, it seemed a bit too much and completely unnecessary.
Overall, the book was wonderful. For some reason I thought it'd break my heart and really pull me to pieces, but I didn't feel that way for this book, which unfortunately made the experience a little less deep for me. There was suspense but not the crazy fearful you can't stand to put the book down for a second suspense. It was a comfortable suspense and near the end I pretty much figured out how things were going to turn out... not necessarily how they get there, but how it all ends up. A good story from the master plotician J.K. Rowling and a satisfying ending to a wonderful series and a wonderful world. It always saddens me to read the last of a series like this because I know that there will be no more new stories from that world that I've fallen in love with, but it ended well and it ended right.



The Happiest Day Of My Life

Okay okay, the second happiest day of my life, after that whole wedding day thing...

My favorite Defensive Steeler Troy Polamalu has signed a 5-year extension worth 33 million with about half of that guaranteed! I was sweating this signing because I just got a Polamalu jersey last season and he's one of my absolute favorite players. Great move by the Steelers, Polamalu is one of those irreplaceable and extremely talented players that are hard to find. Nobody deserves to be the highest paid Steeler of all time and the highest paid safety in the NFL more than the best safety in the NFL, Troy Polamalu. And he's such a beloved Steeler by players and fans alike, as much as it was hard to let go of Joey Porter (although I think it was the right move) and how hard it will be to lose Faneca next year, it would have broke my heart to lose Polamalu. Now we just gotta get Ben signed for the rest of his playing career and I'll be snug as a bug.

For those of you who don't know the good character of my soft-spoken guy, here's a quote from him about what the contract extension means to him:

"It means that I have to work harder and go out and earn it. That's what it means to me," Polamalu said. "So it's very exciting, especially for my wife and me. We feel very welcome in the city and I think this contract really puts our roots down here."

Foooootballl season's on its waayyyy! Wahooooo.



Apologies for being so quiet as of late. Mostly it's because I've been awfully boring and don't have a lot to blog about...

I missed my Harry Potter 7 delivery on Saturday due to being out of town. Why didn't they just leave it by the door? The bastards! So now I have to wait until tomorrow and I have guests visiting me, so it'll be awkward trying to get away from them to get some quality Harry time in.

I'm sure a review will come soon after I zip through that, until then, keep your spoilers and thoughts to yourself!



I was interested in a quote I saw today and am calling all my writer readers to discuss:

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
- Thomas Mann

I'm not quite sure whether I agree or disagree yet, but am very intrigued by the quote, I'd love to hear others' thoughts on it.


Quote of the Day

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
- Barry LePatner

I'm at a crossroads in my life right now. Unfortunately the financial aid I was looking for to support my graduate school did not come through, and so now I have to decided whether to pay the $21k and go to school now or wait and hope that I can get in-state tuition in a year. I suck at big decisions like this, but I'm leaning towards waiting. I just can't justify paying $21k for a Social Work degree, so that brings up the question as to what to do for a year? I feel somewhat like my life is in limbo, which drives me nuts!

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