Book Review – Proud Too Be Weirrd

Title: Proud Too Be Weirrd
Author/Illustrator: Ralph STEADman
Format: coffeetable    Hardback
Published: 2013

Okay, so when I was doing my read through of Roald Dahl just a few days ago, I ended up with a book illustrated by Ralph Steadman, and as I raved, I loved his artwork. So when Mom and I were walking through the library and I saw this book on the bottom of the new books shelf, I immediately swooped down for it.

Mom immediately made several jokes about proper lifting techniques of heavy objects, and once we got to the car, several about how the car would tip over by the weight of it.

Because this thing is big enough that it could *BE* a coffee table if you stuck a couple legs on it.

But onto the book itself.  Ralph Steadman went through his art and arranged it in a book. There’s all kinds of stuff in here – paintings, sketches, whatever.  And lots and lots of commentary.

From the library’s website:

STANDARD EDITION: Iconoclastic British artist Ralph Steadman has been creating editorial and political illustrations for more than five decades. Steadman is revered for his ink-splattered, anarchic, and often shocking drawings. His well-known illustrations alongside the work of literary legend Hunter S. Thompson have long been celebrated and have achieved a cult-like following. Together, Steadman and Thompson’s iconic work has come to be known as Gonzo journalism. Ralph and Hunter first met in 1970 on an assignment from Scanlan’s Monthly magazine to cover the Kentucky Derby. Their 40-year friendship included collaborations on seminal books such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Curse of Lono , as well as numerous articles for Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone , including the George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali fight and coverage of the Watergate scandal. PROUD TOO BE WEIRRD is the ultimate monograph of this creative genius. Steadman’s first-person narrative takes us on a literary and visual journey of his well-known, provocative work and is accompanied by his acerbic wit, heartfelt political views, and unique sense of humor. This must-have book comes in two collectible editions.

 

Before I even had the book home, I had already mentally added it to my Amazon wish list.  And then when I actually looked it up on Amazon, I about had a heart attack at the price tag ($200?! Holy Cow!).

But the art is amazing, the comments are great, and I highly recommend this book.  I’m not even done with it and I’ve already given it a 5/5.  I know it’s a little out of most of our price ranges, so check the library and see if they’ve got it.

Book Review – The Queen’s Dwarf by Ella March Chase

Title: The Queen’s Dwarf
Author: 
Ella March Chase
Format: 
(Paperback ARC for the) Hardcover
Published: 2014

In 1629, the fourteen year old dwarf Jeffrey Hudson is sold by his father to the Duke of Buckingham who in turn gifts him to seventeen year old Queen Henrietta Maria wife of King Charles to join her “Menagerie of Curiosities and Freaks of Nature” where he befriends the giant Will Evans.  This is a historical fiction, so everything in the above sentence is true except for Jeffery Hudson’s age.  His historical counterpart was eight.  In the fictional account, Jeffrey along with performing in masques gets drawn into the world of court intrigue, spying, manipulating, and struggling to do the right thing with a lack of good options.

This is a thick book with lots of little plots twists.  Overall I found it well written and well crafted with a colorful variety of characters.  Historical fiction makes me a little nuts since I spend half the book trying to figure out which parts are actually historical, but Chase includes a note at the end detailing where she took liberties with history.  The rest seemed to hold up to my internet searches.

I brought up Jeffery’s age, because I think I might have enjoyed the book more from an eight-year-old’s fresh perspective than the rather cynical teenage one which narrates the tale.

What I liked about the book is that in Jeffrey it finds an interesting view on an aspect of history that most of us didn’t cover in high school.  He’s the son of a poor dog trainer from a village, so there’s a nice contrast of rich and poor with characters that read like people and not caricatures across the income spectrum.  The possible exception was Buckingham who came off as something of a mustache twirling villain, but there were attempts to give him depth or at least some mixed sympathy.

There are definitely some dark and weighty subjects covered, certainly an adult book, but the details are restrained to what is needed to tell the story.

Overall, I give it a solid 4/5.  There were a few places that felt redundant, the prologue reads like a misleading spoiler (so I might recommend skipping it),  and a couple of the story threads fell flat for me.  Yet, it kept me entertained, and I cared about what happened to the characters.  I think Chase worked well inside her historical confines and managed to make it vivid and alive.

Book Review – The Missing Golden Ticket

TITLE: The missing golden ticket and other splendiferous secrets
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
ILLUSTRATOR: Quentin Blake
FORMAT: paperback
PUBLISHED: 2010

The missing golden ticket and other splendiferous secrets is a compendium of Dahl facts and excerpts, recipes and more. It includes a deleted chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, little comments he made about each month, and even a quiz.

Here’s the thing. As an avid Dahl person – hey, I warned you – I have two such books on my shelf that aren’t this book. And the overlap is incredible. The stuff about the seasons is all new and exciting, but this exact quiz is in another book, as is the excerpt. I’d rather see bonus content on any other book out there at this point.

So I’ll make this review short and sweet. If you haven’t read such a book about Dahl, I really think you should. Pick one, any one will do. But if you have, you only need to read the one.

3/5

Book Review – The Mildenhall Treasure

TITLE: The Mildenhall Treasure
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
ILLUSTRATOR: Ralph Steadman
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2000
NOTE: This was originally done as a story for the New Yorker just after WWII. It was redone into a children’s book in 1977.

The Mildenhall Treasure is the true story about a man named Gordon who is asked to plow a field because a man named Ford is too busy to do it himself. When plowing, Gordon finds a treasure trove of Roman silver. Unfortunately, Ford is a greedy crook and he cons Gordon out of it.

There’s not much to say about the story, and since it’s true I can’t really comment about much of the content. I will say that I was aware of the story beforehand, though, and I liked the presentation of this. I would, however, have liked to have actuall names of people and not just “a man named Ford” for the characters at play, but that was the writing style at the time.

Again, not illustrated by Quentin Blake, who did most of Dahl’s stuff, but the illustrations for this are in some cases actual oil painting, and they’re awaesome. I actually sat there wondering which ones I’d want on my wall if I were given a choice.

Still, it’s slightly short of perfect, so 4/5.

Book Review – Heart by Blair Butler & Kevin Mellon

Title:  Heart

Author:  Blair Butler & Kevin Mellon

Format: Paperback

Written: 2012

 

It seems that almost every time I have a new comic to present to the blog that I have read it has come at the recommendation of someone or is associated with a pre-existing love such as Robin or Invincible which both were recommended to me.  Any way it should come as no surprise that Heart came to me by the hands of my comic loving co-worker who got me hooked on Invincible.  Only this time it wasn’t Invincible, it wasn’t even a super hero comic.

 

When my coworker dropped the book on my desk he said, I thought this was good you might like it but it is very different from the norm as it didn’t have any super heroes.  Being the adventurous sort I decided to dive in because 1 it came from my co-worker who tends to be on the money when it comes to book recommendations and 2 it was an Image comic and I am quickly learning that if it is a comic by Image it is going to be something rather good and solid.

 

This was the case with Heart, it was a good story done in a basic black and while style it was clean and sharp and it told the story of MMA fighter who took on the title of “Rooster”.   The story starts with a fight in the middle of his career and shows him barely scrape by with a win before going back to show how he got into MMA fighting and covering the span of his career, showing the heart and commitment it takes to do something like it.

 

I’m not a person who is into fighting of any sort really, I just don’t get into boxing or fighting but it was still an interesting and solid story because to me there was more to the story than just fighting it was about the journey and the emotions that came with it, and I appreciated the read for that alone.  If you are curious about fighting or the world of MMA I think this book is a good read for you if you aren’t maybe not so much.  It was a well done story but not entirely my cup of tea but I can still say in the end I liked the story and I particularly found the ending to be fairly poignant the final image is rather striking to me and speaks volumes.

 

Overall, I would give this comic a 3 out of 5 page review because I wouldn’t go running about recommending this comic to people but it was still a solid good story and if you are looking for something solid and good to read then this might be for you or if you are into the subject matter than I would very much recommend this to be read.

Book Review – The Minipins

TITLE: The Minipins
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
ILLUSTRATOR: Patrick Benson
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1991, just after his death.
NOTE: This is probably the last thing he wrote before he died.

Before I get to this review, I’m going to apologize in advance – after reading Matilda (see the review a couple weeks ago), I decided that I really missed the writing of Roald Dahl and I went back to read the ones that I hadn’t read before now. You’ll be seeing a lot of his stuff for the next couple weeks.

Anyway.
I wasn’t sure if I had read The Minipins before now or not, and I was sure that if I had, it wasn’t a childhood book, it was a go-back-and-read-Dahl type of a thing, so I started there.
Turns out, I’d read it, so I went for the re-read.

In this book, Little Billy is a good little boy who always does what his mother tells him, although one day he decides his life is boring and sets out for the woods, despite the Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers and Vermicious knids that live in the forest. I have to say, with the original Willy Wonka movie one of my all-time favorite movies (despite being nothing like its book), having references that cross seemingly unrelated books really does make me smile.
What he actually finds in the forest is a fire-breathing creature on the forest floor, and an entire civilization of teeny-tiny people (who fly around on birds) living in houses built into the trunks of trees. Little Billy deals with the creature, and Don Mini rewards him for life.

Okay, I have to say this.
First of all, this sounds more like some weird story you make up on the spot than an actual children’s story book. (But, this being his last book *sob* I guess I can understand how his storytelling had changed a bit…) I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, it just feels more stream-of-consciousness than well planned out.
Second of all, ‘Don Mini’ sounds like a mob boss name. Just sayin’. Also, ‘Little Billy’ is about as generic as they come. I wish they would have just called him Billy instead of Little Billy every freakin’ time.

With that said, I did still like the story. The Minipins sound fantastic, the references to tie this book to other stuff Dahl has written were awesome, and anyway, it still feels like a Dahl story, so there is that.
According to the dust jacket, it’s geared at 3-8 year olds. The book seems a little wordy for most three-year-olds, although some of the kids I know would have been okay with it.

I’m going to give the book 4/5.

Book Review – Assassin’s Creed Renaissance by Oliver Bowden

Title:  Assassin’s Creed Renaissance

Author: Oliver Bowden

Format:  Paperback

Published:  2009

 

I think my favorite part of any form of media is the story.  The point of most anything for me is the story.  I live and breathe stories.  I grew up being told them as a little girl reading books, having books read to me and even going so far as to tell and create my own.  With my love of the craft and a good story it was no surprise that I have found myself caught up in other story telling media such as comics which you have seen me review, as well as television series and movies (which I have not exactly reviewed at this point).  I love a good story in pretty much any form of medium and that includes video games.  I am one of those few people that play video games almost solely for the story alone.  One of the best stories I came across in the world of video games was that from Assassin’s Creed.

 

Of course there is more to a video game than just story and the game play was fun to me and I loved exploring the ancient worlds of old playing as an assassin stopping those who would seek to do evil and sail above the city and sneak around unseen.  It was a game that has left a lasting impression on me and none more than the story and character of Ezio Auditorie Da Firenze featured in Assassin’s Creed 2.  I ate the story up and went out and got the rest of his story in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  I love the games and have played them through multiple times.  Thus with my love for the story and the characters it should come as no surprise that when I learned that there were books to be read about one of my favorite characters that pass that up.

 

Without hesitation I went ahead and bought the first book in the series and I loved it, plain and simple, it was like playing the video game all over again only better.  For those not familiar with the video game or story of Ezio it is about a young man in the renaissance period of Italy.  Life for Ezio can’t be better at the start of the story, he is getting rather close and comfortable with one of the more beautiful women in Firenze, Christina Vespucci (cousin to Amerigo Vespucci) and his biggest concern is a local prick named Vieri Pazzi and his gang of ruffians but nothing that Ezio can’t handle and all part of him being young and getting into trouble.  Yet minor trouble wasn’t all that was in store for Ezio as his life is suddenly turned upside down when his father and brothers were arrested and then hung for crimes they did not commit.  Not to mention the price on his own head for the same crimes.  Ezio has to learn quickly how to survive and take care of his mother and sister.  Additionally he seeks out revenge against the man who set him and his family up, learning that there was more to his father’s life than it would seem, his father was part of an Assassin order and he learns how to complete the work of his father all the while avenging the death of those he loved as their deaths were part of a greater conspiracy.

 

It is a really good story and I love how the books gave more details to the story, it didn’t gloss over time and it gave a sense of reality to Ezio’s training (which I appreciated), it showed how something that took a few minutes in the game actually took days to accomplish, it gave added details, it breathed additional life into Ezio and the characters around him.  Additionally in incorporated some of the added games that are out there for gaming platforms I don’t own so I know the story of what happened to Ezio during the years that are skipped in the video game.  In short this book was a real treat for me to read and I quickly picked up the next books to read and now have them in my bag waiting to be read much like several other books that are on my e-reader, in my bag along with it, in my desk drawer and on my book shelf.  What can I say? I’m an addict to a good story, but find my time limited to actually read, watch or play said stories and then of course write a review.  (This one has been a long time in the coming for me to write it.) Over all I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars as it is a good read and fun to go through if you like action and you don’t have to know the game to enjoy the book.

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