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.

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.


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.


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.


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.