Sunday, December 16, 2012

The story of English in 100 words by David Crystal

I love words. I love history. Ergo… I love etymology (the history of words). I majored in English for my Bachelor degree, followed up with a Masters in English. For all those years, all those papers, I very rarely read anything that didn’t need translating into ‘good modern, idiomatic [English] prose’. I revelled in Icelandic sagas, coped with ‘Beowulf’, immersed myself in Chaucer, laughed at the Mystery/ Cycle plays...

I’m currently going through a phase of reading about words, and this book has stood out in my gleaning of the shelves.

Words have the power to convey more than their dictionary meaning. Hidden in seemingly innocuous letter combinations are tales of fashion, invasion, trade, class structure, politics, science, and medicine.

From ain’t to yogurt, roe to Twittersphere, Crystal delves into words and what they show about the history of the English language and, to quite a large extent, the greater history of the world. Crystal has done so with no little wit, wisdom and joy. His love of the subject, and of words themselves, is evident. Such overt delight invites the reader to join in the enjoyment.
I’m sure any word-smith would be glad to do so.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Maphead by Ken Jennings

Why I picked this book up: It was in the wrong place!

Why I read it out: I like weird, quirky things and people. And, it sounded intriguing.

Why I finished it: Because it WAS weird, quirky and intriguing. The writing style is personable and relaxed. There’s a mix of topics within the larger theme, which spices it up. Everything from the dearth of geography education and knowledge within American colleges, to why people collect old maps, to the rise of geocaching, to why men might be better navigators* than women, and a lot more besides. And, I’m in a non-fiction reading binge at the moment.

*and, on that topic… check out this episode of Mythbusters

My final verdict: Just what I needed. If you like non-fiction that’s not the norm – give it a go.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Dinosaur vs. Santa by Bob Shea

Big, bright and ROAR (really loudly) that is. Read this out loud to your kids, your friends kids and to your workmates. Delightful story with colourful illustrations, Dinosaurs red and white stripey outfit with a hint of green is so very cool. Not too many words (perfect to read out loud). We are getting ready for that special visit from Santa. Has Dinosaur been good? Will Santa visit? Let’s wait and see.

All the excitement leading up to Christmas can all be a bit overwhelming for anyone, let alone a little red roaring dinosaur. Will there be a happy ending?  What is that sound? Could it be Santa? Enjoy the story and ROAR out really loud.

~Reviewed by Thyme

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Between the duke and the deep blue sea by Sophia Nash

Regency Hangover with the Royal Entourage!

I was alerted to this new series via Facebook. I follow Julia Quinn, who is also published by Avon, and she mentioned the series receiving starred reviews – a very rare thing for a mass-market title, let alone a genre title, lest still for historical romance.

Welcome to Regency London, a popular time and setting for historical romance, with all its aristocratic excesses.

It comes to a head when six dukes, the Prince Regent, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, gather together to celebrate the Duke of Candover’s last night as a bachelor. Unfortunately, a surfeit of absinthe leads to scandal – and no wedding, as the groom and his party fail to turn up for the ceremony.

The news explodes through the broadsheets and the public clamour for redress and punishment. This reaction is entirely believable, as the Prince Regent was often attacked in the media due to his excessive spending. It was a period of increasing social unrest, and division between the social classes.
This is the first novel of the series – which earned a starred review from Booklist.

In order to appear to be doing something, the Prince Regent chooses Alex, the Duke of Kress, as his first scapegoat (well, it was his valet who supplied the absinthe from his cellars). Banished to Cornwall, Alex is tasked with refortifying St Michael’s Mount, and marrying from a list of potential brides, supplied by the Prince, within a month.

Upon arriving in Cornwall, Alex finds Roxanne, Countess of Paxton, clinging for life halfway down a cliff, left to die by her husband.

From such an unusual meeting, the course of love between the two would never by typical. Add in a house party of dukes, eligible ladies, eccentric family members and staff – and a murdering husband lurking around – and you get a witty, unpredictable, and entirely original read.

I, for one, am hanging out for the rest of the series – the second is The Art of Duke Hunting, featuring the missing Duke of Norwich (this novel earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly) – what did happen to Norwich? Will Isabelle win her duke? Will the Prince’s hair grow back?

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The crimson thread by Suzanne Weyn

Sometimes the best books are the ones that feel familiar, books that take a story you love and add a little flavour of their own - and that is exactly what you get with The crimson thread by Suzanne Weyn.  Bridget and her family come to the loud and crowded streets of New York from a small village in Ireland, a chance for a fresh start for all of them. 

Nothing is what they expected, everything is crowded and dirty, and even their apartment is cramped and dirty.  They make do and count their blessings, especially when they all find work quickly, but after a problem at their work forces her father and older brothers to leave the rest of the family behind while they find new jobs, it becomes a struggle. 

A new job with a wealthy family seems like a dream come true, especially when Bridget starts to learn new skills that make her a better seamstress - but all those skills count for nothing when her fathers boasting leads her to agree to the impossible.  But somehow it is not impossible, not when she has a guardian angel who seems intent on keeping her safe, although his attention is not without its own terrible price.

The crimson thread is an expert retelling of the classic Rumplestiltskin, and if you will excuse the pun, Suzanne Weyn has taken the threads of the original story and woven a tale that is all her own.  The echo of the original is there, but there is also so much more, and you can't help but cheer for Bertie (as Bridget is soon called) as she manages to make her way through the hazards life and her father put in her way.  A heart warming story that was over much too quickly.

If you enjoyed The crimson thread then you may also enjoy other books in the Once upon a time series by authors including Suzanne Weyn, Cameron Dokey, and Nancy Holder.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman