The Golden Compass

25 Sep

One of the things I really admire about Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (and really, the entire His Dark Materials series) is the maturity of the writing and the plot.  I hate it when books for kids/young adults treat those same kids/young adults like they’re stupid.  Being young doesn’t make you dumb, it makes you…young.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a bit of light reading from time to time, of course.  Not every book has to have the most intricate plot to be enjoyable.  I just think it’s nice when a writer challenges his/her readers to think deeply, and I think Pullman successfully does just that.

What has always intrigued me about this entire series is the presence of religion throughout the books.  Most YA books don’t tend to open up discussions on the pros and cons of organized religion.  Again, The Golden Compass is not most YA books.

In the world presented in the first novel of this series, a group of people called the General Oblation Board have taken it upon themselves to try to eradicate children of their sin.  They have noticed that a particle called “Dust,” which is thought about the Church Magisterium to provide evidence of original sin.  Dust is barely attracted to children, but starts to cling to people around the time they hit puberty.

Something else happens to these kids around puberty, as well:  their daemons, physical manifestations of their souls, take one form.  When they are young, children’s daemons can take any animal shape at all.  It is not until one enters adolesence that one’s daemon chooses its permanent form.

The General Oblation Board sees these links and decides that the answer is obvious: they must cut the children away from their daemons.  They must cut away their souls.

 

Overreaction much?

 

Whether or not you believe in one religion or none, I think we can agree that should a soul exist, it’d be a pretty bad idea to simply…cut it out.  One of the scenes that has stuck with me most each time I’ve read this book is when Lyra, the heroine, and her friends find a boy who has been separated from his daemon.  She does not immediately pity him and go to his aide, despite the fact that he is distressed.  Instead, she is disgusted by him; looking at him makes her feel ill.  Despite the fact that he still looks the part of a little boy, by not having his daemon, his soul, he has become something foul.

That same boy has always interested me, as well.  For me, when I think of someone “soulless,” I think of them as dead inside, evil.  But this little boy breaks my heart each time I read this novel; all he wants is his daemon and some help.  He is lost and confused and scared and empty.

 

There’s just so much interesting food for thought in this premise!  And in a book aimed at kids, at that!

 

 

What are YOUR thoughts on the religious themes in this book?  What parts struck you as interesting and noteworthy?  I want to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Also, I JUST finished A Game of Thrones the other day.  Can I say…holy crap!

 

 

The results for the rest of the October books are in!  We will be reading…

 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
Timeline by Michael Chricton

 

Hope you’re excited!

A Game of Thrones

18 Sep

Happy Sunday, everybody!

 

Video to come later today, but for now, let’s get started in discussing A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin!

One thing to keep in mind: not everyone may have finished on time this week (read: I didn’t finish on time this week).  Make sure that if you’re including a major spoiler, you mark it clearly so that those of us who are reading your thoughts can avoid it!

 

 

I have a number of things I want to talk about:

1.  It’s hard to bring this book up without talking about the recent hit HBO show.   I have personally never seen it, but for those who have, how do the two compare?  I’m curious to know how the show stacks up because the book is pretty gosh darn great.

1. a Am I the only one who kept going to people who watch the show               to ask them how to pronounce all the names?

2.  Favorite characters?  I know that doesn’t seem like an interesting discussion point, but when writing about your favorite character, tell us what it is about them that makes you like them.  What are their flaws and strengths?

3.  Recurring themes you’ve noticed?

4.  Anything else you have to say!

 

 

I have a busy day ahead of me, so the video will be up sometime in the afternoon/evening (keep in mind, I’m on PST).  Can’t wait to hear some of your thoughts!

 

And remember–only two days left to vote for the October books!

October’s Book Poll!

15 Sep

It’s book choosin’ time, ya’ll!

I’ve counted the votes, and there is one book that each person who voted picked.  Because everyone was so unanimous, I decided that we should go ahead and assign Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams as out first book for October!

Confession: even though I’m a giant book nerd, I have never read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I know, I know.  Shame on me.  But at least we’ll be rectifying the situation now, won’t we?

We need to pick THREE other books to read for October.  There are a LOT of options this month, but if you’d like my opinion–don’t just vote for books you’ve already read or heard of.  The point is to be challenging yourself by reading NEW things!  I’ll be the first to say that I love love love to re-read books again and again, but it’s time for something different!

 

 

Personally, I’m pulling for Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land.  I don’t know much about Dune other than it’s a huge sci-fi staple, but that’s just enough to pique my curiosity.  Heinlein is also a huge name in science fiction, and I just don’t know if we can have a sci-fi month without him!  I wouldn’t mind reading Asimov, either…

I wasn’t sure I was going to be into science fiction month, I have to be honest, but now I am excited about every book on this list!  It’s going to be tough for me to choose!

I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged to pick whatever books they are most interested in simply because I aired my thoughts–everyone gets a chance to be heard and to vote!  You’ll be able to vote for more than one book, and if there is a certain one (or two or three!) you are rooting for, let us all know in the comments!

 

 

But!  It’s not science fiction October yet, is it?

I was thinking about A Wrinkle in Time today and remembered a few things about it that I really liked.  The first is that Meg’s faults are something that aid her in her journey, and the second is that old theme of love conquering evil.

The moment Meg was told that her faults were a part of her that could her help, I knew what the book meant: Meg is stubborn, and she has a bad temper.  But in a moment of crisis, she and her family (and Calvin, of course) NEEDED someone just like that.  The awkward, strange girl doesn’t magically turn into a beautiful swan–she just finds a way to use the parts of her she likes least to her advantage.

Obviously, we should all strive to overcome our faults, but it can’t be managed for everything–nobody’s perfect.  I thought the idea of accepting the good and bad in oneself was really great.

I also like that love is the thing that overcame evil.  It kind of hearkened back to our first week and Harry Potter.  The two books were very similar in the idea that someone (or something) that is pure evil cannot possibly have or understanding love for anything–and that lack is their weakness, and their undoing.

 

And looking into next week…how is everyone doing on A Game of Thrones?  While our first two weeks were easy reads, this is an intense book.  It’s long and it’s challenging.  I’m only a quarter of the way through, personally, and am starting to worry about finishing it.  I know I could manage easily if I didn’t have that pesky job…

Going to try my darndest, though!

A Wrinkle in Time

11 Sep

I know what you’re going to say.  You’re going to say, Kelly, this is not a video.

I’m actually pretty frustrated about that!  I had a whole plan for doing the video this morning, which has unfortunately unraveled.

NEXT WEEK.  NEXT WEEK IT WILL HAPPEN.

 

Until then, here are my views on the major themes in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

 

AWIT was one of those books everyone read when they were little.  Everyone, that is, except me.  I remember being a kid and sneaking into my older sister’s room to steal her copy, but a few chapters in, I decided it was boring and put it back.  Until this week, I had never picked it up again.

I have to say, I was kind of excited when this one made it onto the list, mostly because I expected to like it much more the second time around.  And I was correct…eventually.  For the first few chapters, I really thought that I might have been right the first time I read the book: it WAS dull.  Thankfully, it picked up partway through, and actually provided me with a lot of food for thought.

The major themes I noted were free will and individuality, and I really liked the way that the two related and complimented each other.  The villain of the novel–the frightening “black thing” that is known as IT–takes over worlds by sapping their inhabitants of their free will.  IT explains that this is a good thing; after all, decisions are difficult, as are the consequences.  Really, IT says, IT’S doing everyone a big ol’ favor by taking on the burden of making all the tough calls and leaving these people free from the burden of choice.

With a lack of choice, of free will, however, comes a lack of individuality.  There’s a really great, really creepy scene where Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin go to another world where every house is the same, and every boy playing with a ball outside is bouncing said ball at the same exact time.  The uniformity is what is so unsettling.

The book illustrates perfectly how essential free will is to being an actual human being.  There’s an old saying about a person being defined by his or her actions–that actions speak louder than words.  Well, action is the RESULT of choice, and our choices are what define us.  So without options, without the power to make decisions for ourselves, we lose what makes us individuals, and what makes each person unique and special.  Sure, decisions are hard, but they are such a huge part of what makes us human.  And anyway, who the hell said life was easy?

By the way, did anyone else like having a character named Calvin in a book which is focused on free will?  That was so not an accident.

So, those are my thoughts on AWIT.  What are yours?

And the October genre is…

11 Sep

Science fiction!

 

This is an interesting choice.  I feel as though Science Fiction and Fantasy often go hand-in-hand, so I think it will be a very smooth transition from September to October.

I’m personally not overly familiar with the Science Fiction genre.  As such, I can’t give too many examples of books to choose from.  I did, however, find some lists which I will link to the bottom of this post.  There are so many great authors to choose from–Wells, Verne, Dick, Clarke, Heinlen–and I hope we get a really large variety!

You have until September 15th to nominate books.  On that date, I’ll take all the nominations and put them into a poll.  So get to nominating! 🙂

 

Remember that tomorrow is the day when we’ll be discussing A Wrinkle in Time!  Hope you’ve had a fun week of reading–I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it!

 

Top 15 Great Science Fiction Books

Best Science Ficiton Books (According to Reddit)

Top 100 Sci-Fi Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite part?

9 Sep

What was your favorite part of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and there are so many scenes that I really love that it is hard to choose!  However, I think I’m going to have to go with the Mirror of Erised.

I love that Harry sees family–not just his parents, but other relatives.  I feel as though that shows something about his character, and what he craves as a human being: more than anything, Harry wants to love and be loved.

I also think the interactions with both Ron and Dumbledore at the mirror are excellent at showing their respective natures.  Ron sees himself as the best of his family, outshining all the accomplishments of his brothers. I always felt that Ron didn’t really think he COULD achieve something; at this point in the series, he didn’t believe himself capable of greatness.  It’s nice to see him grow and accomplish so much that, even if it doesn’t happen as he sees it in the mirror, he truly makes a name for himself.

Dumbledore’s answer is, in a way, the most revealing of all.  By giving a sort of joking answer, we know that he has secrets, and they run deep.  Also, I love his advice to Harry–“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

 

What is YOUR favorite part?

 

 

Also, only two days left to vote on the October genre!  The genre that is in the lead now is only ahead by one vote (and only ahead of the third genre by two or three votes), so it’s a really close race!

Genre for October!

5 Sep

I’m having a GREAT time reading your thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone!  I know the post was a little bit late this week (hey, it was still September 4th where I live!), but I promise that won’t be a common occurrence. 🙂  Let’s keep the HP discussion up throughout the week, shall we?  I can’t wait to hear what everyone has to say!

As a sidenote, if you have written about HP&TSS on your own blog, send me a link!  I’ll post it on here so that everyone can check it out.

 

We have another very important piece of business to decide this week: October’s genre!

I feel as though people would ultimately feel more comfortable voting from a poll, so I’ve decided to make up one for this post.  You’ll notice that “other” is an option for the poll–please, if you choose “other,” tell me what genre you mean!  I’m not psychic, and I won’t know unless you tell me!

You have five days to decide, so start voting!