Tuesday, 15 January 2013

2012 Book Catch Up: Books 104 - 107

And now I’m finally up to date with my book review posts from last year, just in time to start getting caught up with the ones for this year, these are the last three books that I read; better late than never.

Book 104 of 2012: The Santa Shop, The Samaritans Conspiracy Book 1 – Tim Greaton
This was a free Kindle download I found in the run up to Christmas, and as I had a little bit of time to kill on the 23rd of December, I decided that this looked like a good quick read, I wanted something that I could finish before Christmas. It tells the story of Skip, a man who has lost his wife and son and blames himself for their deaths. It’s almost Christmas and he decides that the best way he can be rid of the guilt he feels is to end his own life. He hears about a place where each Christmas Eve someone kills themselves and resolves to travel there, but he’s unaware of a secret organisation whose path he runs into.

It was a very quick read, it was only 180 pages long and I read it all in one day. I managed to finish it right before midnight, making it the last Christmas book that I read last year. I very nearly skipped over it because I thought it was going to be a really religious book, which it wasn’t. There’s a priest in it, and a few mentions of God, but otherwise it wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

There were a few little continuity issues that I spotted; like an amount of money changing between a couple of pages. But there weren’t any really serious mistakes. I wouldn’t say that the writing style was particularly imaginative; it reminded me a little of some fanfiction I’ve read, everything seemed very straightforward without any spectacular bits of prose, but it wasn’t too bad. On the whole it was good for killing a few hours.

The premise was a little weird. Though I have to hand it to the author, I never imagined that I’d get quite so into a book which basically involved the main character traveling to kill himself. The secret organisation thing was a bit weird, but I suppose it worked well with the general story plot. This is the first book in a series and I can’t say I feel like going on to read the others, though there were a couple of previews at the end of this one for other books by the same author and one of those did seem like something I might like to read. If I saw another book by this author being offered as a free download, I might give it a go.

Book 105 of 2012: The New Discworld Companion – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs
I got this as a gift for someone, who ended up giving it back to me. It’s basically an encyclopaedia of characters, places and things in the Discworld universe. It was originally published in 1994 and this is an updated version from 2003, from around the time that The Wee Free Men was brought out, I’m not sure if there is a newer version but there are obviously some things missing that now exist on the Disc.

I’ve seen Stephen Briggs’s name on various Discworld things, but I didn’t realise that he was basically a big fan who ended up getting in contact with Terry Pratchett because he wanted permission to adapt one of the novels for a play for the local drama group. Things seem to have snowballed from there and he’s helped produce a number of books and adaptations relating to the Discworld.

I enjoyed this a lot. There was plenty of classic Discworld humour. There were some bits that were obviously taken from the books; I don’t think I would have noticed this if I hadn’t been rereading all of the books over the last couple of years. I’d originally planned to hold off reading this until after I’d finished reading all of the Discworld books, but I’d read I Shall Wear Midnight and didn’t yet have Snuff but wanted to read something from that shelf that would take me up to the end of the year.

I have seen a couple of the Discworld diaries, but I’ve never really looked at them that closely, and I have no idea if I’ll ever actually own any of them now, so it was good to find out little snippets of information which were originally printed in the diaries. There are other little bits that I must have missed out on while I was reading too, it’s good to have all the facts in one place. I’ve got to have a look and see if there’s a newer version that I could perhaps replace this with at some point.

I really liked the little pictured that are included around the text. It looked as though most of these were drawn by Stephen Briggs; I love seeing how people interpret fictional worlds, and these looked really close to the way that I imagined them. There was also an interview with Terry Pratchett right at the very end. I think that this dates from the time that I met him, maybe from shortly after, because when I met him he mentioned something which I’ve since realised was a reference to Monstrous Regiment (I’m fairly certain The Wee Free Men was either just out or was about to come out when I met him).

I’m glad that I waited to read this until after I’d read all of the books that were covered in this one because there were some spoilers. It was a little bit weird because some entries were very careful not to give away anything from the story, then others gave it away anyway; in particular there was the main point of Thief of Time which is carefully avoided all the way through, until one of the very last entries which gives away the twist. On the whole though, it was an interesting read though, and I’m kind of looking forward to reading the Science of Discworld book that I’ve got on the shelf now.

Book 107 of 2012: Dictionary of Proverbs and Their Origins – Linda & Roger Flavell
This was my very last book of the year and is the third of a set of books about origins of words and phrases in the English language. I was a little worried about starting it on the 29th of December, because I don’t like to finish the year on an unfinished book, but I managed to get to the end of it by about 10pm on New Year’s Eve (then had to wait two hours before I could start The Fellowship of the Ring).

The book focuses on proverbs that we use regularly, or which have been used in the past and elements of which still linger on today. It was interesting though it wasn’t quite as tongue-in-cheek as the previous books have been, though often I felt like they didn’t quite hit the mark they were aiming for with their humour, I missed it in this one. It felt a bit dry and dusty at times and there wasn’t anything to lighten it up.

The way it was organised seemed a bit random. A word was selected from each proverb to be its main word, and these were then sorted into alphabetical order. It seemed a bit random, like ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ could have been listed under ‘apple’ or ‘doctor’, I forget which it was actually under and there is an index at the end to help you look them up, but a better way to arrange them might have been by meaning. The alphabetical system seemed a bit arbitrary.

There was a lot of focus on the history of the proverbs, which was interesting, but I think it would have been interesting to know a little more about the modern use of them. Some of them had a little bit after the description that would say something like ‘Usage: Rarely used in modern English’, but there were others like ‘Every little helps’ which could have had something about how it’s now used as an advertising slogan, or others have been accepted into popular culture through songs. This was originally published in 1993 and then republished in 2006, but I don’t know if it was revised at all, I think that would have been an interesting addition.

It was interesting to see how some of the proverbs we use in English are closely linked to proverbs which are used in other languages around the world. Or how other languages might have a saying that is totally different but means more or less the same thing. I suspect that this will be closely linked to the final book I have in the set which is dealing with idioms, I hope that it has explanations of idioms from around the world too.

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