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.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Book 37 - Mother Tongue

Book - Mother Tongue
Author - Bill Bryson
Year - 1990
Genre - History of Language
Pages - 244
Recommended by Colin Simpson (about ten years ago!)

When I was at school, my English teacher, Mr Simpson, recommended to us many books.  As he is one of the most well read men I know, if he picked any out, then I considered them to be important reads.  Over the years, I have read Three Men In A Boat, have started the Discworld series, and now, as I take my first steps towards becoming an English teacher myself (yes, this blog has gone some of the way to inspiring a career change), I thought I should read the last of the books that I remember him recommending to me at school, Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue.

Mother Tongue is a history of the English language.  Looking at its roots, through the different influences that other languages have had on it, to the growth of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, on to the formation of dictionaries, and the differences of British English and American English, but not ignoring any other dialect or pidgin on the way, this book really has everything.  And throughout, it is delivered in Bryson's signature style, in which even the most complex ideas, or theoretically dull points are made accessible.

There are far to many interesting things to share here, and it is maybe unfair to pick out the choicest ones, as this is a book that definitely falls into the category of a 'book you should read', especially if you are a bit of a reading buff, but something I would like to draw attention to is how it has aged in one or two places.  The book is only twenty two years old, and spends a long time describing how English has changed over the last thousand or so.  But when it talks about how English could change in the future, it starts to suggest things such as the separation of the American and British forms of the language, it talks about Americanisms that currently would not be understood over here, but may do in many many years.  I not only knew every one of them, but use them regularly, and would be surprised if many Brits didn't know them.  It all goes to show how quickly the English language changes and adapts, just as the book emphasises.

9/10

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Book 36 - Foxfinder

Book - Foxfinder
Author - Dawn King
Year - 2011
Genre - Play
Pages  79
Lent to me by Alex Campbell

Another plug to begin with!  Alex will be directing her first show with DAODS this summer - this very play, Foxfinder, from 29th and 30th September.  If you want to come and see it then let me know, and I shall sort you out, as I think it is going to be a brilliant show.

Indeed, the play itself is brilliant.  No description is given of when it is set, but in my own mind it has a dystopian feel to it, and is based around a small farm where a foxfinder is sent to investigate.  Foxes have become the bane of humanity, and it is the job of William - our eponymous foxfinder - to seek them out should they be at the farm.

Sounds a little odd, and potentially lightweight, but in actuality, it is an incredible piece of writing.  The depth of the characters is immense for what is actually quite a short piece, and the complexity of the world in which they live shines through as it unfurls at exactly the right places.  As you read it, you can hear the performance in the words, which for me is a great way of telling that a play will transfer well from the page to the stage.

It has occasional faults - there are one or two scenes that I think I was unnecessarily uncomfortable with, and the ending is still niggling at me for one particular scene that I am not sure if it is right or not, but they are matters of opinion, and actually do nothing to take away the incredible effect of the piece.  I will be there both nights of the show, sorting out the lighting, and you should try and make it too.

9/10

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Book 35 - Sod That!

Book - Sod That! 103 Things Not to Do Before You Die
Author - Sam Jordison
Year - 2008
Genre - Toilet Book
Pages - 227
Bought for me by Jeni and Alinda

Adding to the neverending array of toilet books that are available, a relative king of the genre, Sam Joridson, has released this little nugget.  List books are all over the place, and a prime varient of this genre is that of 'Things To Do Before You Die'.

What Jordison offers is a subversion of that, with a pile of things that are commonly put on to these lists, but that he argues you definitely should not be doing.  Suggestions such as 'Read Ulysses' or 'Shave All Your Hair Off' recieve the treatment on why they should not be done.

And it's pretty amusing.  But much as you may expect, it is not the kind of book that is going to set the world on fire.  Give it a read by all means, and to pick up for a few minutes at a time, it is just right, but don't expect something that is going to stay with you for ever and ever.  And that is pretty much all I have to say.

7/10

Book 34 - The Power of Six

Book - The Power of Six
Author - Pitticas Lore
Year - 2011
Genre - Young Adult Sci Fi
Pages - 380
Series - The Lorian Legacy

When you are reading a series, and after a gap of only a few months between the first and second books, you still feel a need to read a quick synopsis of the first book to remind you what happened, it is not a particularly great sign.  It shows you that the first book was forgettable, and should really make you question whether or not to read the second one.

This occurred to me halfway through a quick synopsis of I Am Number Four, which I found was necessary several pages into this, the second book in the Lorian Legacies.  I remembered the first book as a film-like action book with all of the prerequisites of a teen action/superhero/romance storyline.  Looking back upon my review of it, I used words such as 'hackneyed' and 'obvious'.  Yet I still enjoyed it and had looked forward to the rest of the series.

About thirty pages in, and this seemed a silly statement to make.  Moving on from John, the Number Four of Book One, and his companion Six, we meet Marina - Number Seven - in Spain (stick with me).  The pace slows considerably as we find out what she has been doing as her legacies - superpowers for all intents and purposes - have been developing.  So far, so dull.  I considered giving it up, and leaving this as a promising series that I couldn't be bothered to keep on with.

But then, much like the first book, it just got good.  Things started blowing up.  Sword fights raged.  Lasers flew about indiscriminately.  And thankfully the romantic stuff (yuck!) was kept to a minimum.  Whilst this book seems slightly less written to a specific setting of 'Let's get a film deal out of this', there is still plenty of action, and keeps you on your toes throughout.

In summary, ignore the start of this review where I imply that this is a boring load of nonsense.  It is an exciting, silly, thoroughly enjoyable load of nonsense.  Roll on the end of August when the third book of nonsense comes out!

8/10