La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1)

Published: 19 October 2017 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
David Fickling Books
Pages: 560
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

For over ten years I have been waiting [im]patiently for this book to finally be published. From 2005 when Pullman first really mentioned he was working on it I have waited. I’ve check update after update, any little mention from 2005, 2007, 2012 when Pullman said he was taking over a year off everything just to work on it. When the “late 2016” possible publication was announced I was excited but also doubtful, when that got pushed back to 2017 I was heartbroken. When that 19 Oct date was announced in February this year I may have lost my little mind. Then I had to wait, but it finally happened. I finally got it, I finally read it, and I have to say, my word was it worth the long wait.

The Book of Dust is everything I possibly imagined it to be and more. It is a beautiful and magnificent book that draws you right back into Pullman’s world, so much like ours but still completely different. It’s familiar, but not too familiar because it takes place away from the Oxford we know but still feels like slipping into a well-loved pair of shoes. I fell in love again almost instantly and the more I read the more drawn in I became. Every turn of the page I was almost in tears of happiness and I loved this new side of this world we got to explore. (As I said, I have a slight obsession with this series and I have been waiting a long time for this book, so no judgement please).

Pullman’s new characters are as fully formed and unique as his existing ones, and those we’ve met before (technically) are also introduced as if we’re meeting them for the first time, such is the benefits of having a new point of view to focus on. Malcolm Polstead is a great voice to tell this story; he is young, can come off as a little simple or naive, but shows strength and determination when needed. His loyalty and friendship for others, and his love and protection over Lyra is his driving force. His sense of what is right and what’s wrong is clear, and he has wonderful guidance around him to direct his curious mind.

I loved Malcolm. I loved his love of Lyra, and I love his childlike wonder and innocence. Having only really seen Lyra’s interactions with Pan as the example of child/dæmon relationship, it was great seeing Malcolm and Asta’s connection. Pullman also includes subtle and brief bits of information about the daemons through the story, and uses childlike curiosity to cover any questions, much as he did in His Dark Materials.

What I found interesting was that Lyra’s role is so small, she is just a baby after all, and yet she is the entire point of the book as well. One thing I adored, and actually had never thought about before was babies and baby daemons. There’s plenty of children’s daemons in the trilogy, but babies not so much. Seeing baby Lyra and baby Pan interact was joyous, and every time they’re mentioned I found myself aging them forward to the wild girl and dæmon ten years on and thinking of all the great things they were going to achieve.

Important things to note, there is some swearing in this book, one of the Big Ones I guess you could say is said by a few characters. Pullman has used them well so they work, but it was a surprise when they appeared. Also, there is a darker story here, it’s a bit more brutal at times, nothing too explicit, but just darker. Pullman has also said numerous times this is not a sequel or a prequel, he calls it an equal, a companion piece. I would agree in as much as it is separate from the trilogy, and even separate in part from the follow up books he did. But my opinion is you do have to read the original three first. Very much like Star Wars you need to have experienced all that there is in the originals before you go back to the Before. Knowing what it all means and to know the grandeur and power it holds is more impactful as you read this book. Secrets from the trilogy are openly discussed, mysteries are no longer mysterious as they play out before you. All of which is fantastic mind you, but knowing that they have been secrets means that reading the trilogy after this will not have the same effect at all in my opinion. Though I would be interested to speak to someone who does read this first.

When I finished reading I did find myself with a few tears. Not so much for what happens but for all of it: for the big, gorgeous new story, for Lyra and Pan and Malcolm and his beloved canoe. For the strength and love Malcolm has, and the beautiful innocence and unbridled sense of doing what is right. And of course, because who can read any book about this world and not end up in beautiful tears of happiness? When I finished that last page I wanted to hug the book close to my chest because it was perfect in all the ways that mattered. Pullman brought long time devoted fans the book they’ve been longing for for over ten years. He made us wait, but for what has come of that waiting I couldn’t ask for anything more. I can only imagine what is going to come in the next two volumes, and I’m sure Pullman will come up with something much better than I ever could imagine.

In a Sydney Morning Herald article Pullman said that the second book is written but not yet edited. With a hopeful release date of next year I have something to look forward to that’s much less vague than it has been. If you’re interested, it’s a great article, Pullman talks about his Australian connection to parts of La Belle Sauvage, and his experience with the whole writing experience.

You can purchase La Belle Sauvage via the following

QBD | Dymocks

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Publisher

Audible | Wordery

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From A Certain Point of View: A Star Wars Anthology

The day has finally arrived! After a long wait, the new Star Wars anthology, titled From A Certain Point Of View, has finally been released. This new anthology has been created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope (Episode IV) and is a compilation of 40 writers who have contributed stories based on the film.

The premise is that each writer has taken a scene from the original film and told it from a different point of view, whether that’s a stormtrooper who couldn’t find the droids he was looking for or one of Luke’s X-Wing pilots who helped blow up the Death Star.

From early teasers from authors on Twitter via #OperationBlueMilk (a reference to a drink in A New Hope), the announcement that there would be a collection of short stories about Star Wars was high on my excitement list, especially since one of my favourite podcasters was going to be a contributor. Griffin McElroy (from MBMBAM and much more) is a contributor, plus 39 other creators including Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, Meg Cabot, Ben Acker, Jason Fry, Paul Kemp, and Claudia Gray, just to name a few. Of the 40 writers there’s a mixture of bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, or even if you aren’t, this is a fascinating anthology with an intriguing premise. These are a combination of totally new stories, but based in a world we know and love around the Star Wars film.  I would love to see one of these done for all three original films, but for now, I’m content with this one.

You can purchase your copy of A Certain Point of View via the following

Dymocks | Wordery

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust

FishpondPenguin RandomHouse

 

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares

Published: 11th September 2001 (print)/14th May 2010  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Delacorte Press/Bolinda audiobooks
Pages: 294 pages/1 disc
Narrator: Angela Goethals
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them. But Tibby says they’re great. She’d love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them. Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Even Carmen (who never thinks she looks good in anything) thinks she looks good in the pants. Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . the next morning, they say good-bye. And then the journey of the pants — and the most memorable summer of their lives — begins. 

Possible spoilers, I have a few thoughts to get off my chest.

I finally get around to reading this book and discover I’m not a big fan. It took a long time to get used to the audiobook version; the narrator wasn’t the best, but I kept going. I tried very hard to focus on the story and try to judge whether my displeasure was based on the narration or the story, and I do think I didn’t like the story as much as I thought I would. I even thought I should switch to the book to see if it made a different but it wouldn’t’ve.

The general story was good. The idea was sound and it is laid out well plot wise, the quotes and breaking up the POVs with letters between the girls was good (poor audio narration didn’t help with breaking up each girl’s story but that’s a different issue). I don’t know, there’re just so many questions I had through this book. Ok, so we can’t wash the magic pants, but they get sweated in, pond water gets on them, and a bunch of stuff. I can imagine after three months they’re gonna need a wash, no matter how super close and wonderful these four are as friends, gross, smelly jeans is not pleasant. Not to mention creepy moments where the 15 (but almost 16 we keep being reminded) girl is trying to seduce and bed a 19 year old. Which, I dunno, maybe if you are 15 you think is cool cause he’s older, but as a non 15 year old it’s creepy.

The language was very…creative. There’s a strong use of metaphors and descriptions, so many analogies and flowery language that seemed unnatural. When something could be stated simply it had to have a weird analogy out of the blue that seemed convoluted and unnecessary. I’m not against using these in books, it works and that’s what they’re there for, but Brashares goes over the top in my opinion, they spring up out of nowhere and there’s far too many of them.

In terms of characters, I think the only character and storyline I actually liked was Tibby. She seemed to be the only one who grew up, who changed for the better. The other three had variations of change but it was so minor it didn’t count. I didn’t like Bridgette and wasn’t a fan of her storyline, and the other two had their moments where they were ok but mostly annoyed me. But, they are only 15 in the book which I had to remind myself, but still.

I may have to rewatch the movie because I can’t even remember if it’s anything like the book. Perhaps I’ll enjoy that more.

Little Koala Lost by Blaze Kwaymullina

Published: 1st July 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Jess Racklyeft
Pages: 24
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Little Koala is lost in the bush and sets out to find a home. Along the way he meets many other creatures, but he can’t live with any of them. Will he ever find some friends?

Not as cute as I first thought it would be, but still pretty cute. Little Koala Lost is about, as you would expect, a lost koala. In a counting style similar I guess to The Very Hungry Caterpillar the little koala visits animals in increasing numbers: two magpies, then three pelicans etc as it searches for someone to take him in.

The illustrations are beautiful, and the baby koala is adorable as it goes from animal group to animal group asking if they will let it join. It’s a simple story but sweet at the same time. The animals are nice enough to the koala, rejecting him not so much in a mean way because he’s “not one of them” but they give logical answers as to why they can’t take him in based on their different bodies and behaviours.

I was expecting a heart-warming story about a little lost koala and while it wasn’t as touching as I thought, it was still very sweet.

A Day with Dad by Bo R. Holmberg

Published: 22nd April 2008Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Illustrator: Eva Eriksson
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Tim lives with his mom. Tim’s dad lives in another town. Tim doesn’t see him often. So a day with Dad is very special – and Tim wants to show just how must he loves him!

This is a great book about divorce/separation that doesn’t mention it outright but implies it and shows that even when parents live separately, time with an absent parent is still possible. More importantly, it demonstrates that just because parents don’t live together, it doesn’t mean that they stop loving their children.

From the text on page one it’s evident the separation is a new event as Tim has just moved to the new town. He waits for his dad to arrive on the train and looks forward to a day with just the two of them. Tim’s dad lets Tim take control of the day, you can tell he wants to make the day special for Tim and make sure he has fun. Tim and his dad pack a lot of activities into the day and it’s evident how much Tim loves his dad and he tells everyone they meet who he is.

The illustrations by Eriksson are realistic and heart warming as they depict the various activities Tim and his dad partake in during his visit. It reminds me very much of what Russell says in the Pixar film Up, that it’s the boring things he remembers most. And while Holmberg doesn’t write Tim’s day to be boring, it does show that simple activities like sitting silently reading side by side in the library can be the most enjoyable activity because he is with his dad.

I found this book to be very sweet and it’s ideal for letting young kids know that their parents love them and things can be a bit different but your dad will always be your dad.

You can purchase A Day With Dad via the following

Amazon | Book Depository

Booktopia | Dymocks

 

 

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