Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The gauntlet is thrown...

So, a challenge such as this is a test of a man's mettle. It is one person against his own will to succeed. A battle of determination and stamina. It is personal to each individual and each man is judged only against themselves.

Unless someone else gets involved.

The Wench's (tm) husband Bob is a writer by day, and a reader by night. Upon hearing of my challenge last year, he has taken up the gauntlet to do the same challenge. And in a recent blog post has thrown the said same gauntlet at my feet, and now the race is on!

I would like to point out that The 100 Book Challenge is completely my own idea. I understand that I am not the only person in the world to have done it, and in fact many, many websites are dedicated to just such things, but it is an idea that I had independently and I still stand it is a good one. The blog, I pinched off of Bob. No really. I even accidentally did the same page design, hence my recent change to a (very, very cool) orange look. He even has a blog post that is pretty much the same as this one - even down to the now self referencing photo. Only his is less orange.

You can check out Bob's blog here. It's a cracking blog with some great reviews.

The only problem is that he is proud to be ahead of me. He is definitely right in this, but he is missing one small point. We are both currently being beaten by my Mum.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Book 2 - E2 by Matt Beaumont

Book - e2
Author - Matt Beaumont
Year - 2009
Genre - Humour

This is a book that I have been looking forward to reading for quite some time now - hence the fact that I have read it in twenty four hours, even eschewing all of the hundreds of offers of going out on a Friday night (yeah, there was loads of them, honest!) in order to finish it.

The reason I was so excited is that I read his first novel - unbelievably called 'e' - roughly nine years ago. It was set in an advertising agency in London, and written entirely through the medium of e-mails. It also was, and remains to this day, one of the very funniest books I have ever read. e2 (e2 as in a sequel, or e2 as in e squared? I'm not positive) is set in a similar advertising company ten years later, and with many of the same characters, but the addition of blogs, text messages and MSN chat.

It is an incredibly funny book in its content - ridiculous business stereotypes, advertising campaigns pushing cigarettes to children, a ludicrous Finn, permanently enraged MD and a tonne of pretentious advertising conceits - but the truly brilliant thing about these books is the style. Reading everything as an email is a nightmare to get into, and you will spend the first twenty pages or so wondering who everyone is, and getting everything mixed up. Then you warm to the style, start to recognise who everyone is, and realise that it is a wonderful way of writing a book. It is a way of having a book with fifty odd characters all speaking in the first person, and therefore you really get to know them properly.

The only criticisms are that the story isn't quite as clever as the first one, and that overall it is not quite as funny. Bearing in mind the high esteem in which I hold the first book, this is not the worst thing in the world. Matt Beaumont is an amazing writer that I would recommend to anyone, so do read this, but make sure that you read 'e' first.


Matt Beaumont's Home Page - http://www.letstalkaboutme.com/

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Book 1 - The Seventh Tide by Joan Lennon

Book - The Seventh Tide
Author - Joan Lennon
Year - 2008
Genre - Teenage Sci Fan
Recommended by my sister's boyfriend Jamie

One thing is is stunningly commonplace in bookshops at the moment is Fantasy books written for teenagers. Since the explosion of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, this seems to be the in vogue type of book around. I am a massive fan of fantasy, and never object to reading children's books, so this is fine with me, but the only problem I find is that there is rarely anything to make me want to read one particular book over another. There are a few people I would read in a heartbeat - the aforementioned JK Rowling and Philip Pullman, plus the amazing Garth Nix (expect some of his books later in the year) - but aside from them I rely mainly on recommendations. Whilst not quite reaching the level Nix and the like, I feel that this recommendation has panned out, and Joan Lennon is definitely a name I will keep an eye out for.

The book is both on an island in the Hebrides, and in a parallel dimension (bear with me) where shapeshifters and horse demons live. A fifteen year old boy has the fate of his entire race on his shoulders, and through a seemingly poor set of decisions manages to collect a band of teenagers on his side instead of the heroes of history that he is expected to find.

So pretty standard fantasy 'hero's adventure' fare. However, this is certainly not a bad thing, and by making the characters very likable, and by the addition of a talking ferret called Professor Hurple, it becomes a very engaging book. It helps greatly that the story is segmented into a series challenges that the group encounters so that when they reach the titular Seventh Tide you really feel for them.

If you like fantasy, then this is worth a shot as at the end of the day it is not a tough read.


To read Joan's blog, click here

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Book Challenge 2010

Reading has always been a massive passion of mine. It has been so ever since I was a small child. As a kid, I would stay up until the small hours, eyes red from lack of sleep, thinking 'One more chapter...'. I would spend my time scouring the country (well, local boot sales) looking for an elusive Famous Five book. I would absorb books at a rate that my older self would envy. For therein lies the problem - as we get older, other things jump in the way.

When I was a kid I could read three books in a night, and then go to school in the morning and be expected to read books there - absolute heaven. Back then I had no need to worry about the rigours of work, or the limitations of money or even the enormous pressures of drinking copious amounts of beer during the weekends at public houses. No, the world was me and a book, and as a result I could tear through literature (and Enid Blyton) at a rate of knots. Yet now as a fully grown - hopefully - adult, I found myself making excuses for the lack of reading I now partook in. And the overwhelmingly predominant excuse was "I don't have time to read any more!"

This, of course, was a load of balls. Everyone has time to read, they just chose to do other things. The time I spend watching Friends (ahem, Friends repeats no less) could be spent reading. The time I spend on computer games could be spent reading. The time spent writing ridiculous blogs could be spent reading. And so I resolved to change - and herein lay the challenge.

One year, one hundred books. How hard could it be? That is approximately a book every three and a half days, or two a week. Sounds a piece of cake.

And so I read. A half hour train journey became a half hour reading session. The time it takes for a kettle to boil became a time to snatch a page or two. As a man perfectly comfortable reading on the move, even a walk down the street became and excuse for a read (as a side note, reading whilst walking down the street at night results in a wonderful movement up and down of the book in order to catch the most sunlight possible. An experience everyone should try). I read and read and read. And as all easy how-hard-can-it-be challenges go, I achieved my final total of...


That's right. I missed by a measly six books.

The moment I realised I was not going to make it was pitifully late in the year - possibly on the morning of the last day. For a moment, I was massively disappointed in myself. How could I come so close, yet not achieve the final goal! This had all been a waste of time.

And then I realised that actually the opposite was true. I had rekindled my love of books. I had read books I had been meaning to read for years, followed recommendations of friends and family, reread old favourites and discovered new ones. And it had all been great fun! It was great to have friends ask how the challenge was going. It was wonderful to see the titles piling up on my list. It was a joy to know that a pass time I once spend a good 101% of my life dedicated to, I had returned to with aplomb!

I will admit however, that missing the big one hundred mark still stings. It would have been great having told so many people what I was up to, to be able to tell them all "I made it!". But in good conscience, I could not, and thus, in the tradition that has been handed down to us all throughout the generations, admitted so on facebook.

The response was great. People seemed interested in my big long list of books and my not so scientific rating method (I like most books so gave them a four or five. The two I hated got a one. Not much else was given out except for the book which I couldn't even bring myself to give a one to). And what was even nicer, is that one or two have decided to try the challenge themselves. And if they are going to try, then why should I not join in again!

So here goes. Round two. One hundred books in a year. Those of you who are particularly observant will notice that we are around three weeks into the year - the point at which I should be on about six books read. And how am I doing? Well, I have nearly read one. Slow pace so far, but in my defence, the old chestnut of not having time to read is far closer to the truth than usual. However, I know that I need to pick up the pace should I want to meet the target - and believe me I do - so I had best get reading!

For those of you interested in my ramblings, I shall try and keep a little log of the books I read here. Feel free to suggest anything (I may ignore you, or you may help me unearth a gem). The more I read, the more interested I am in books, literature and writing as well, so I shall try and pepper in some more interesting book related posts as well. In the meantime, I shall try and think of a sensible way to finish off a blog post without it seeming abrupt.