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.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Book 13 - Geek Girl

(note:  this is a review taken from the challenge that I undertook with my year seven class in 2013.  See here for my explanation of it)

Book - Geek Girl
Author - Holly Smale
Year - 2013
Genre - Teen Fiction
Pages - 356

This book was recommended to me by Rachel.  I had seen it displayed quite prominently in several bookshops over the past few months, and so knew that it would be a popular book amongst teens at the moment.  I cannot say that it is the kind of thing that I would usually read, and - if I am entirely honest - it struck me as a 'girls' book.

The book focuses on Harriet, a self confessed geek, who is dragged along to a fashion fair by her friend Nat, who wants more than anything in the world to be a model.  However, things don't go entirely to plan when it is not Nat who is spotted by the agents, but instead Harriet herself.  For someone who has always professed to hate fashion, how will she cope with the idea that she could be a model?

As I mentioned before, I approached this with the idea that it was a book for girls.  Whilst there is no denying that this is the prime target of Geek Girl, I have to say that I absolutely loved it.  Smale is a very talented writer who has created such amazing and likeable characters that it is incredibly easy to become fully absorbed in her world.  The storyline is not something that holds any interest to me, but through great writing and wonderful characterisation, I was so hooked that I read the whole book in one sitting.

If you are a teenage girl, then this is the book for you.  However, if you are not then don't discount it.  Reading books that you never usually would and loving them is exactly the kind of thing that makes this challenge worthwhile.

10/10

Book 12 - Twelve Minutes to Midnight

(note:  this is a review taken from the challenge that I undertook with my year seven class in 2013.  See here for my explanation of it)

Book - Twelve Minutes to Midnight
Author - Christopher Edge
Year - 2012
Genre - Fantasy
Pages - 256

This book was recommended to me by Paige.  She decided after only a few pages that she was not very impressed by it, so I shall be interested to see if my opinions are different, or if her opinions change as she finishes it.

It is the late nineteenth century and Penny has become one of the most successful writers in London.  This is despite her being only thirteen years old.  Despite writing under a pseudonym, she quickly becomes caught up in mystery when all of the inmates at Bedlam Asylum start to write unusual things at exactly twelve minutes to midnight each night.

When I started the book, I was ready to agree with Paige.  To start with I am not sure that it is the most interesting thing I have read recently.  However, once I got past the slightly gothic nature of the beginning, I found myself getting more and more into the plot of the book.  The slightly magical nature of much of it was interesting, and I think the main point behind the book was excellent.  However, I did want things to develop far more than they did.  Everything seemed to come to a close a little to quickly, when I could see the potential for it to carry on for further than just this book.

As I understand it, this is the first part of a series.  I would be interested to see how Edge develops his characters, and despite being a little disappointed with some elements of this book, I would still give the next one a go.

7/10

Book 11 - Love Lessons

(note:  this is a review taken from the challenge that I undertook with my year seven class in 2013.  See here for my explanation of it.  This one has a proper edit at the end as well.)

Book - Love Lessons
Author - Jacqueline Wilson
Year - 2007
Genre - Romance
Pages - 264

This book was the recommendation of Sophie.  I am aware of Jacqueline Wilson - she was my little sister's favourite author as she was growing up, and as a result there were loads of her books around our house - and I have read one or two of her books.  However, she is a very prolific writer so there will always be plenty more to go, and this was not a book that I had come across before.

Prudence and her sister Grace are home schooled by their overbearing father, but when Prudence starts to rebel against him, he suffers from a stroke.  Whilst he recovers in hospital there is no option for Grace and Pru to start at the local secondary school, but for someone who has spent almost her entire life being schooled from home, Pru has a lot of difficulty fitting in, and causes plenty of problems along the way.

Wilson is famous for writing books for children about real issues, and in that regard, all of the books that I have read before by her have done very well.  There are believable real characters and no punches are pulled when it comes to talking about the world.  However, I found this book to be less real, and at times rather uncomfortable.  Prudence herself is not a particularly likable character, and she starts to grate from rather early in the book.  You can understand why, but it does not do a lot to improve the readers enjoyment of the book.  As the story goes on it becomes morally dubious and I am not sure that it is a book that I would ever recommend.

As an author, Wilson is still incredible, and I would recommend that you try reading one of her books - maybe Double Trouble or one of the Tracey Beaker books, but I cannot say that this book was one that I particularly enjoyed or would suggest you read.

(edit:  The thing I didn't really want to go into here with regards to the review appearing on a blog for a year seven class, is that this book goes a bit beyond being 'morally dubious' as I suggest above.  The main thread of the story is about the lead character, a teenage schoolgirl, falling for her teacher, and him reciprocating.  I tend to believe that there is no problem with promoting some serious issues in books for teenagers, so would applaud this approach by Wilson - indeed something she is well known for doing - if it were not for the fact that she treats this as though it is something perfectly natural, and there are no consequences for anyone as a result of it.  I didn't like the insinuations behind this, and as a huge children's author, I actually found it pretty irresponsible of Wilson to suggest that it is the kind of thing that is not a problem.  It is treated like no big deal by the end of the book, when in actuality he is predatory and in real life his actions would have had a lasting effect on this girl. I can't believe that someone of Wilson's standing would not make a point of suggesting that anyone in that situation should talk to someone about it rather than thinking it will all be fine.)
4/10

Book 10 - Framed


(note:  this is a review taken from the challenge that I undertook with my year seven class in 2013.  See here for my explanation of it)

Book - Framed
Author - Frank Cottrell Boyce
Year - 2005
Genre - Adventure
Pages - 320

This book was recommended to me by Brooke, and from the start was one I was looking forward to reading.  Boyce is a writer whose books I have been recommended several times, and he has become even more famous in the past year for having written a large part of the opening to the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

Framed tells of a boy called Dylan who lives in a town in North Wales.  His quiet life changes when an old mine in the town becomes the place in which incredibly expensive paintings are hidden by London's National Gallery.

The strongest part of this book is the characterisation.  You find as you read it that you fully believe in all of these unusual characters from a little Welsh town.  Dylan himself is a great character, and Frank Cottrell Boyce manages to mix together a strong character with traits of naivity and humour in order to make him an incredibly engaging person to read about.

Many of my friends who have recommended reading Boyce's books only started reading his stuff as adults themselves, and in that regard, despite this being a book aimed at children, I certainly believe that it can go beyond that and be read by anyone of any age.  I know that I certainly intend to give some of his other work a go.

8/10

Book 9 - Mr Stink


(note:  this is a review taken from the challenge that I undertook with my year seven class in 2013.  See here for my explanation of it)

Book – Mr Stink

Author – David Walliams
Year – 2009
Genre – Children’s Humour
Pages – 267

So, this is the first book that I am reading in this challenge, and it has been recommended to me by Vikki.  I know of David Walliams from Little Britain and Britain’s Got Talent, but was quite unconvinced that he would be able to write a quality children’s book.  However, as the illustrations come from long-time friend of Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, I was willing to give it a try.

Chloe does not have the happiest of lives.  Her bossy mother dotes on her sister, but pretty much ignores her, her Dad is powerless to argue against her Mum, and at school she has to deal with bullies making her life a misery.  However, she is a good person and takes the time to speak to a local homeless man, christened Mr Stink by the locals because of how he smells.  Could he help to change her life around for the better?

I admitted that I was worried about how good this book would be when I started to read it. Well I am happy to announce that by the time I had finished it, I loved it!  It has all of the same humour that you would find in a Roald Dahl book, with little asides to the reader, and even some graphs.  The story is as lovely as it is ridiculous and the illustrations provided by Quentin Blake make it feel like a classic of children’s literature already.

There is no denying that this book is aimed at children, and I would be amazed if any child were to read it and not love it (no pressure Vikki) but despite being (a couple of years) older than the target market, I found that I loved it, and for the second half, could not put it down until I had finished it.  If you grew up reading the books of Dahl, and loved The BFGMatilda,and The Twits, then you could do far worse than to give this book a read to be reassured that books of that quality are still being produced.

9/10

Some links from a side project...

Last year I was teaching a fantastic year seven English group. They were pretty able, and many of them really enjoyed reading. One of the main reasons that I wanted to teach English was because I think that young people should read more, and I really wanted to set a little scheme of work that would encourage reading.  Surprisingly as an English teacher, there is little scope to push reading for pleasure usually - you are so focussed upon making sure that everyone is reaching their target levels that anything aside from the work at hand is simply superfluous - but I made a bit of a point of trying to produce this and run with it.

The concept was simple.  In a term, each of them had to read a book and write a review of it.  In that time, I would attempt to read each of the books that they were reading and also write a review of each.  If they collectively read more than me then I would throw them a party at the end of the year.  If I read more than they did collectively, then they would do a handwriting lesson on the last day of term.  In silence.

I really enjoyed setting this up, and the concept was really well received, especially when - taking a cue from this little challenge here - I told them that I would post all of their blogs online. The problem was that the old levels issue came straight into play, and I didn't really find the time to push this like I would have liked to.  As a result, not many of them read their books, and I won the challenge with only about five or six books.  I'd love to run another challenge of this kind at some point where the pressure is less on, but I have no idea whatsoever when that might be, if ever.  In the meantime, I thought that it would make sense to transfer over some of these reviews to this book blog so that I have all of my books together.  Shall make a couple of minor edits (one in particular simply has bits that I want to say about it that I would rather have not put on a blog that all my kids were reading), but aside from that try and keep them similar to how they appeared on the original.

And if you are interested to see it, this is the blog for them with a few of their reviews.  As I say, sadly unfinished, but feel free to check it out!

Book 8 - Coraline

Book - Coraline
Author - Neil Gaiman
Year - 2002
Genre - Dark Children's Fantasy
Pages - 192

A quick little search shows me that I have never reviewed a book by Neil Gaiman here.  As I think through it as well, I realise that I have not really read many of his books overall.  Stardust was part of the original challenge before I kept the blog, but thinking about it, the only other Gaiman book I have read is Neverwhere many many years ago.  Something to rectify there.

Coraline is probably most famous for its stop motion film adaptation of a few years back.  I am not particularly a film person, so it is therefore probably unsurprising that I have not seen that, and would rather read the book first. Well I got round to it, and it was not quite what I was expecting.

Following a young girl called Coraline who has moved to a new neighbourhood, this book follows her to another world where everyone she knows is replaced with weird versions of themselves with buttons for eyes.  A strange concept for a kids' book, and yes, it really does come across as that odd when you read it!  I was surprised at the dark tone of what is a children's book, although the content is not particularly edgy.  All in all, a brave move for this kind of fiction, and one that has paid dividends with a critically acclaimed film coming off the back of it.

The only problem is that it wasn't really that interesting.  Maybe my age is to blame - if I'm honest I was reading it more for the Gaiman name than because it is aimed at me - but whilst there was no particular problem with it, I was simply not enthralled by what I was reading, and had it not been so unusually dark, I think it may have been something that I would not really remember even this short time after reading it.

6/10

Book 7 - Ultimate Avengers 2: Crime and Punishment

Book - Ultimate Avengers 2: Crime and Punishment
Authors - Mark Millar and Lenil Francis Yu
Date - 2010
Genre - Graphic Novel
Pages - 148
Lent to me by Chris Allum

Starting to work with Chris and discovering his massive love of superhero comics, along with his rather impressive collection, has meant that he has very kindly lent me some of his favourites.  Trying to enter the universes of Marvel is a tricky one, and having read the first X-Men comics and also the Avengers Disassembled graphic novel (I really need to get back on track of writing these in order!) Chris lent me one of his favourites - Crime and Punishment.

What is particularly interesting about this version of the Avengers, is just how dark they are.  Without reading everything is perfect order (a genuinely nigh on impossible task) I don't follow exactly where we are in the overall storyline of things, but this iteration includes the Hulk's mentor who is a gangster, a rude Hawkeye who is nothing like the films, an evil version of Spiderman, and as their feature attraction, the mass-murdering Punisher.  It's a far cry from the MCU films we have all seen of late, but it really whets the appetite.  There is such a dense amount of storylining to everything that Marvel have produced, that the possibilities for the films are endless.

In terms of story, this is good (focussing on the backstory of Ghost Rider) if not a stone cold classic.  What makes it a really good read is understanding some of these characters a little better - particularly for a relative newcomer such as myself.  I found myself wanting to get to know more about some of the characters who are on the periphery of the story (Nerd Hulk.  There is a character called Nerd Hulk.  And yes, those two words sum him up perfectly).

Universe reading such as with Marvel, and presumably DC as well (don't worry, Becky and James got me The Killing Joke for my birthday, so I shall be visiting there as well) can really hook you in, and I am very much looking forward to falling deeper down the rabbit hole.

8/10  

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book 6 - Essential Classic X-Men Volume 1

Book - Essential Classic X-Men Volume 1
Authors - Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and various others

Date - 2010
Genre - Comic
Pages - 528

My first foray here into comic books!  And before anyone even suggests that the term "graphic novel" is used instead, no, this particular book is very definitely a comic book.  In fact, it is several comic books.  Marvel have published a range called "Essential" which gathers black and white versions of the first comics in many of its iconic series - Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man, and of course, the X-Men.

This book covers the first twenty-four issues of the X-Men comic published back in the sixties, when the team consisted of Professor X, Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl (an early iteration of Jean Grey).  Some of the X-Men's biggest foes are introduced - Magneto and Juggernaut to name but two - and the concept of this mutant team is truly set up.

It is really interesting to read these early comics.  I have always been a bit of a fan of superheroes.  Everything from the origin stories to the flashy costumes appeals to me, but the convoluted nature of the Marvel and DC universes makes it pretty difficult to get involved properly in reading the comics themselves.  This is why the concept of the Essential series appealed to me.  Start at the beginning and work your way through.

There are a couple of problems with this - the first being that the crossovers between franchises becomes so ridiculously convoluted that you would need to buy a truly ridiculous amount of these books to cover everything and remain spoiler free (something dear to my heart).  The second being that the early comics simply are not as exciting as the kind of thing that are produced nowadays.  The action and adventure seen in the current run of Marvel comics is such that you always feel a sense of peril.  The characters - largely through their journey onto the big screen - are so understood and developed that it is possible for writers to do a lot with them.  These comics feel like a grounding that doesn't have this kind of depth, and so whilst an amusing and interesting read, they don't hold the attention in the way that I had hoped.  Testament to this is the fact that I devoured this very quickly (an embarrassingly long time ago - I don't know why I stopped reviewing!) but then abandoned the second volume midway through.  It became a little monotonous.

Still, it is not a terrible gateway, and I have since started to read some of the more modern books in the Marvel universe.  I am sure that I will come back and finish off the second volume, and then keep reading.  If for no other reason than a series of them will look great on my bookshelf.

7/10

Book 5 - Skellig

Book - Skellig
Author - David Almond
Year - 1998
Genre - Children's Fantasy
Pages - 170

So this is one of those books that I read for school.  The things I do for work.  A fair warning, there will be some spoilery bits in here, because I don't care to recommend this one to you very much.

Skellig tells the story of Michael, a boy whose life has been changed by a move of house, and a brand new baby sister in his life.  When he is feeling at his lowest he meets a kooky girl next door called Mina, and an angel called Skellig who lives in his garage, eats woodlice, Chinese food and beer, and can make people fly.

Sounds like an interesting concept, doesn't it?  Well, unfortunately it isn't.  I only read this book after I had already decided to start teaching it at school, and I immediately regretted the decision.  It meant spending most of my week discussing this dull, tepid, slow book with students in my classes.  To their credit, some of them seemed to take a fair bit from the book, so maybe it my advancing age that caused the problem here.  But simply speaking, this blog is about what I think of books, and alas, I didn't think much of this.  Not even enough to really give it a more satisfactory review than this.

3/10

Book 4 - Undisputed

Book - Undisputed: How to Become World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps
Author - Chris Jericho
Year - 2011
Genre - Autobiography
Pages - 448
Bought for me by Robert Hyde

So, I have a bit of catching up to do now.  And to confess, I am not going to do the next few in order.  They will simply be books that I have read recently and haven't yet blogged.  Well, okay, some of them will be books I read a little while back but simply hadn't blogged.

And first to here, the second autobiography of the wrestler Chris Jericho.  Picking up where the first book left off, with Jericho's debut in the WWE, a big difference here is that the contents of this book are primarily about a period of his life that I know considerably better than in the first book which largely chronicled his exploits in Mexico, Japan and WCW.  

And it is incredibly interesting.  Jericho is one of the all time greats, and known for bis inventiveness of character as well as his in-ring skill, and this comes across in the book.  His insights are generally pretty funny, and when talking about Chris Benoit - his real life best friend and World Champion who became a double murderer before killing himself - a completely different side comes across which is both brave and touching.  You can see his wild sense of humour, juxtaposed alongside a mixture of pain at losing someone he was close to, and distress at what he became.  For a book about as frivolous an idea as professional wrestling, this is an incredible tone to set.

In almost every way this is a superior book to his first autobiography.  Unfortunately, the big downside is the sheer amount of time Jericho spends talking about his band, Fozzy.  I understand that it is a huge part of his life, but personally I am a fan of wrestling not metal, so these chapters tend to drag a lot.

Which makes it a pity that he is currently spending considerably more time touring with the band than in the ring, as his third autobiography is due out later on this year.  I will of course buy it, and probably enjoy it a lot, but I am not particularly looking forward to wading through the latest updates on the metal scene.

8/10


Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Nemesis is back...

Today has been a hot day, and one where I have received numerous snapchats and messages of friends in the sun, usually with a summer themed alcoholic beverage in hand.  And what have I been doing?  Well, the same thing I do most of my weekends, marking.

I have done little to hide on here that my two big loves are books and theatre.  The first of those was what inspired me to become an English teacher, and the second is what has inspired me to now move departments and take over Drama.  Due to a long series of events, the upshot is that I am guiding in three GCSE classes in three different subjects to port at the moment, and the workload has been pretty horrendous.  Today should be my last big day of doing a tonne of work, but upon having a few minutes break with a cup of tea (remember, from in my living room, this summer weather does not exist) I happened to notice that my nemesis had returned.

Bob is back.  In fact, he has been back for a fair few months, but I had only just noticed (aside from a slightly hazy recollection of him mentioning it whilst mildly inebriated, which had eluded me until his post).  And so far, not many reviews, but instead a heap of blogs all about books and book related things.  Well, despite my looming deadline, and desire to finish work so I could drink cider in the sun, I instead just spent half an hour reading what he had to say.

And I have found myself jealous.  Bob is writing some great stuff about books again (as my nemesis, it pains me to say it, but even his stuff about sports books - of which I am not a particular fan - enticed me to click on the links he had supplied) and seems to be enjoying his blog.  And I appear incapable of getting back on the horse at the moment.  Bob's observation that sometimes the reviews seem to get in the way of the reading is quite true, except for me at the moment, it seems to be everything getting in the way of the reading.

I'd like this to be another "Right!  Now I am doing it properly and getting back blogging!", but have done a few of them in the past.  So instead, I am going to say "Right!  I enjoyed writing this blog, and not marking for a few more minutes.  I shall have to do so again sometime!" and be happy by it.

And of course, this blog writing is nothing to do with a competitive nature coming back to the fore...

Read Bob's blog here

P.S The boxing book called Bob just happened to pop up on a google search for a suitable picture, and seemed so appropriate, I had to use it!  Sorry if you are the Boxing Book Bob creator.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Book 3 - Pigeon English

Book - Pigeon English
Author - Stephen Kelman
Year - 2011
Genre - Fiction
Pages - 263
Bought for me by Alex Campbell

For whatever reason, I hold the Man Booker prize in high esteem.  I have read a few of the winners before (see The Sea and Vernon God Little for those I have read and reviewed on this blog) and have bought many more that are currently in my colossal "To Read" pile, but in general I tend to see the Man Booker as an endorsement that this is going to be a well written book and worth my time.

Pigeon English is not a winner, but was nominated a couple of years back.  Alex bought it for me as it is written from the point of view of a Year Seven student - and as a lot of my time seems to be taken up with the dealings of Year Sevens (yes, when you deal with them as I do, Year Seven deserves capitalisation) it may be an interesting read.

And it really is.  It follows Harri, a Ghanaian boy who has come to England with half of his family whilst his father stays behind with his grandmother and baby sister until they can raise the money to fly over.  At its heart, it is a book about an impressionable boy trying to fit into a rough neighbourhood that is shaken by the fatal stabbing of a local teenager.  Heavily influenced by the case of Damilola Taylor, it gives a true feeling of the London of now, and whilst far heavier than anything I deal with on a day to day basis at school, feels very real in its approach to everyday issues.

The real star of the book is Harri - or more specifically the way that he talks.  Written in first person, Kelman does not hold back in mixing his Ghanaian slang with some of the new London slang he encounters.  This only goes to heighten the fantastic voice that the character finds. Terribly naive and gullible, he misuses words and switches topics in a way that I often chastise the Year Sevens in my classes for doing whilst building on a structure that is unmistakably an eleven year old's.  Far from being maddening, it really does develop a fantastic characterisation that again lends a certain amount of credibility to the story.  Whilst unspectacular, it still makes it a book worth reading just for that.

My sole issue with the book is unfortunately a relatively large one.  Despite a wonderful build with some excellent supporting cast being introduced, the ending feels rushed.  Having stretched out some powerfully tense moments, I wanted a more suitable conclusion to wrap it all up.  It may have been the writer's intention to finish how he did, but personally I was disappointed.  This has knocked it a few marks, but despite that I already know that it is a book that I am incredibly pleased to have read, with a style that I think I will remember for a long time.  This is Kelman's first novel, so I shall definitely be keeping an eye out to see how he can follow it up - hopefully with the same writing flair, but just a slightly better finish.

8/10

Monday, 13 January 2014

Book 2 - Blood Brothers

Book - Blood Brothers
Author - Willy Russell
Year - 1986
Genre - Play
Pages - 100

Here is an example of a book that I have had to read for my job.  Blood Brothers has been one of the longest running shows in the West End, but one that I have never had too much interest in seeing.  There is no particular reason for this, it simply hasn't appealed to me, and as a result, I was not particularly interested in reading this play.

Set in 1970s Liverpool, it follows a set of twins, one of whom is given up for adoption by their mother Mrs Johnstone to a local family of considerably greater wealth than she has.  Their lives run very differently, and the play aims to show how being brought up with some money puts your life on a very different footing.  It is absolutely cram packed with all of the themes and ideas that make it a text to really study in school - possibly an aim considering it started its life as a piece of Theatre In Education (TIE).

This is sometimes off-putting in a story - if you jam a theme and message down a reader's throat then it sometimes loses its charm - but to my surprise, I found absolutely none of that here.  What follows is a beautifully told story with some incredibly interesting characters, and despite what could seem at times to be a damagingly close brush with cliche, it is actually very moving.  Seeing the less well off twin, Mickey, struggle with the lot that life has dealt him, despite starting as a down to earth and likable character, connects him with the reader that makes the inevitability of his downfall quite heart rending.  Likewise, you can prophesise the
doom of his brother Eddie, despite him coming off as a fantastic person.  The fact that the play starts by telling you the ending lends a sense of foreboding throughout that makes everything that occurs considerably more poignant.

The production is currently touring, and it pains me that I had not realised just how good a show this is before it visited my local theatre back before Christmas, but I shall make pains to go and see it when it next comes around, and in the meantime shall look forward to analysing it with my classes this year.

9/10

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Book 1 - A Lion's Tale

Book - A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex
Author - Chris Jericho
Year - 2007
Genre - Autobiography
Pages - 412
Bought for me by Robert Hyde

Starting this year off with a book that very few of you may be interested in, but I am, so ner!  I haven't hidden here my love of wrestling, and for me Chris Jericho is one of the greats.  Rob very kindly bought me both of his autobiographies (so far, there is a third on the way), and I thought that starting the year with something I am really in to would be a suitable idea.

This first autobiography covers Jericho's life from his early years growing up in Winnipeg, through to the moments standing backstage waiting to make his debut for the WWE (or WWF as it then was).  In that time he covers his training, his time spent in Mexico and in Japan, and the terrible days of the poorly run WCW (wonderfully covered in the book The Death of WCW).

I had been told by many that this is one of the best wrestling autobiographies around.  Whilst I can't deny that it is incredibly enjoyable, it doesn't quite hold up to the very best around such as Mick Foley's first, and Bret Hart's Hitman.  Maybe it is because the stuff I know Jericho most for - his time in WWE - was saved for the follow up book, or maybe that despite being one of the funniest on air performers in wrestling, the humour in the book often fell a little flat.  Whatever it was, it took it down just a notch.

This is not to take a lot away from the book though which is warm and funny, and doesn't pull punches like some autobiographies do.  Notably, Jericho makes the bold move not to change any of the information about Christ Benoit in the book.  Benoit made the news, even over here, a few years back when he killed his family and then himself.  Research showed that through in ring trauma and an over reliance on steroids, his brain was pretty much destroyed, but since then his name is very rarely mentioned by WWE.  Benoit was one of Jericho's closest friends, and these events took place after the book was written, but before it was published.  Jericho makes mention at the beginning how he decided to keep Benoit in as the man he knew, and not the person he became in the last few hours of his life.  A bold and potentially controversial view, but one that pays off throughout the book.

8/10

Friday, 3 January 2014

Back to books...

I cannot believe that it has been four years since I first started The Book Challenge blog.  A lot has changed in that time.  Books went from being my hobby to being my job - I now work as an English teacher - and as a strange result, I have stopped reading anywhere near as much as I used to.  No you're right, that doesn't make sense, but it's the way it is!

I guess it makes a little more sense when you consider just how tough doing teacher training is, and just how much of my life it took up.  The blogs get thinner and thinner as my training picks up, and consists almost exclusively of books that I had read for school purposes.  My quite shocking reading total for 2013 appears to be one.  Whilst this doesn't reflect exactly how many books I read, it says a lot about how much spare time I had that my blogging - something I have enjoyed thoroughly over the past few years - dropped off considerably.  It didn't disappear - I set up a blog with one of my classes at school and reviewed some books there - but that's a story for another day.

Because today I restart.  My NQT year (also known as "The hardest year of your career".  I concur.) is in full flight.  I still have almost no time to myself.  But I can't be the kind of English teacher who doesn't read, and my to be read pile is genuinely obscene (you would actually laugh at how many books I am waiting to read at the moment).  So no target this year.  No level to reach.  No specific books that I am going to make sure I read to look more "well read".  And no shame if I only read kids books and wrestling autobiographies.  I want to get back to reading because I love it, and blogging because I enjoy it.

Please keep reading and commenting.  I would write this even if I thought that not a person ever read it, but hearing comments from you all truly makes this the special little thing that it is, so please do let me know what you think about the blogs, or far more importantly, what you think about any of the books that I have read.