Monday 11 October 2010

The Big Ten of Grammar: Review

The Big Ten of Grammar: Identifying and Fixing the Ten Most Frequent Grammatical Errors
William B. Bradshaw, PhD (Pictured right)
Published by Synergy Books
Published in 2010
ISBN 10: 0-9842358-5-X
I received a free copy of this book for review and am not being paid for the review.

Grammar plays a fairly significant role in my life. When I'm not trying to explain the finer points of present perfect form, I'm proof-reading. When I'm not proof-reading, I'm attempting to write a thesis. I'm surrounded by it. For the most part, I love the English language but I totally understand the frustrations of those who are learning it. There's this complicated rule that you MUST remember but then also three or four exceptions to that rule. For no apparent reason. I get it, English can be a fickle tart but I do love her.

Which is the point at which I would note that this books is NOT for English as Other Language students. This book is aimed solely at those who have native level competence in English - more specifically those who want to brush up their formal writing and/or speaking. It tackles common problems such as the difference between 'that' and 'which', misuse of the apostrophe, and comma usage. It has a lot of useful examples and explanation although I did find that the layout of the content within the chapters wasn't as clear as I would have liked if I want to use this as a reference book in the future.

The first two chapters that deal with use of 'I' or 'me' and 'he/him' and 'she/her' were the ones where I had cause to debate. There is no doubt in my mind that "He rides better than I" is technically correct compared to "He rides better than me" but I can't help but think that if I were going to say that I would say "He rides better than I do" - the completed sentence form which is suggested by the author as a tester of grammatical correctness. It might just be me, but I think verbally "He rides better than I" sounds slightly awkward, which is why I suggest that this book is best for use in formal writing and speaking situations. Perhaps I'm not as strict a grammar cop as I thought I was!!

There is also a great bonus section of material, so much I'm not sure why it's a bonus section and not additional chapters, including verb charts and other commonly confused issues such as 'who/whom'.

This book is for those who are already pretty good with English and grammar and who are writing and speaking at a higher level than just your average day-to-day usage. It has easy to grasp concepts, doesn't get caught up in complicated explanations - it simply tells you what's correct, what's not and how to check it. I'll be keeping this on hand while I write my thesis to make sure I don't make these mistakes for sure!

Saturday 9 October 2010

Night by Ellie Wiesel: Review

Night is the kind of book that blows your socks off whilst simultaneously giving you the feeling of being overwhelmingly grateful for having any socks at all. It is a sparse 100 pages that shakes you to the very core. 100 pages of one boy's account of being ripped from a normal life and thrown into the nightmare of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. It is, in my opinion, a must-read. These things, however uncomfortable, cannot be forgotten just as as other atrocities being perpetrated throughout the world as we speak should not be ignored.

One thing that really stood out for me in this novel was the feeling of disbelief and denial of reality that so many of the Jewish people felt throughout the whole experience. When they were moved into the ghettos and stripped of their homes, they thought this was the worst that could happen. When they were rounded up and put on cattle trains, they thought that perhaps a better place awaited them at the end. The harrowing scene where the seemingly hysterical woman who proclaims to see fire in the train carriages (later proving to be a chillingly accurate prophecy of the chimneys at the camps ahead of them) is violently silenced by those around her only serves to highlight the unreality of the situation and the inability of anyone to truly comprehend what was happening.

How could they? How could any person possibly take in and process this kind of treatment? I tried putting myself into their shoes and found myself frozen, overtaken by the helplessness of it all. All that was left for them to do was survive, to try and get through to the other side alive.

This is not an uplifting book. There is no Hollywood ending, no light relief. It is horror after horror and then more horror. You cannot, at any point, become immune to it. You are made to sit in the sun without water with them, you are crammed into claustrophobic cattle carriages with them, you are dragged through mud and starved with them. Reading Ellie Wiesel's vivid and uncompromising narrative is the closest any of us will ever come to understanding the Holocaust from a survivor's perspective. It's not a pretty ride, but it is one that opens your mind and makes you realise - at no point can any of us become complacent. Never should we take for granted a warm bed and a good meal. At the end of this book, I settled down for the night and I swear that my bed had never felt so comfortable.

Read this book. Read it for those who survived, read it for those who did not survive and read it for those who suffer other cruelties around the world. Only when our eyes and minds are open can the world become a better place.