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.

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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.

Book Review – Adam and Eve-olution

Adam and Eve-olution
Ken Brown
paperback* – 1989

 

Ok.  I’m going to tell you something up front.  This review is going to consist of more words than the entire book that I’m reviewing.  Because when I said paperback* up there for book format, you may have noticed the asterisk.  Well, here’s the footnote:  this is a flipbook.  Also, the year is a guess.  But that’s irrelevant.

Our very first.  And probably the only one for a long time, but still.

We have a really freakin’ awesome used bookstore in town that I may have talked about a time or two before.  Outside, they have free bins for the stuff they won’t take, and a lot of people just toss in their rejects.

This book starts with several objects.  A spikey plant, Adam, the tree with the snake wrapped around it, Eve (holding the apple), and then a couple rocks and another plant of some sort.  As the book flips, Adam and Eve’s fig leaves turn into business clothes.  The snake’s head moves around, the plants turn into rockets and decay and the rocks turn into a power plant.  A&E turn into Skeletons, their heads turn into balloons, the bones rot, the balloons float away.

I’m not sure if the head floating away thing is symbolism for the soul or what (the balloons have smiley faces on them), but it’s kind of interesting to ponder.  Also, it’s all of human history (biblical anyway) in pretty much a few flippy pages.

Book Review – The Girl with No Name by Iscah

Title:  Seventh Night  Before the Fairytale: The Girl With No Name

Author: Iscah

Format: Kindel Edition

Published: 2012

I will start off this review with a few disclaimers.  First this book was placed as a request on our website to be read by one of our reviewers.  I took on this review request with the understanding that I give honest reviews as is the policy of our website.  With that in mind I must also give the honest truth that I know Iscah in person she is part of my writers group.  When I agreed to take her novel to review I did not fully realize that Iscah and the person I socialize with were the same person until after I agreed to read the book but before I started reading it – so I did go in reading knowing I knew the person.

 

Now that I have that out of the way I will progress forward with the details of this book and my review.  The Girl with No Name I would place as a short story.  The book itself is only about 84 pages long.  (I had a PDF version of the book rather than a Kindle version and read it on my Sony E-reader so the formatting might be a little off than the actual purchased copy of the book from Kindle).  As a short story it covers a lot of time in few words.  The story starts with the birth of a small girl who received no name due to the death of her parents.  She was raised by an old man and when he died when she was a young girl of no more than 12 years of age she went on a quest to find her father whom she had not known had died and see if he had a name for her.  It is a quick yet almost drawn out adventure as the girl travels around and grows up and meets interesting people and learns to use the magic that she was born with to accomplish different things along the way and ensure her survival.

 

Over all it was honestly a bit flat, the story progressed and things happened but that was about it.  There was nothing that really stuck out as strong or prominent save for a small conversation at the start of the book between the Elder and the mayor.  Aside from that it was just a tale that hardly had a point save to be a back story to a character.  As a first introduction to the world of Seventh Night – it is not a good one.  This book might be better suited if a reader read the main novel before going back to read the back store thus a reader has a vested interest in the character because one does not strongly develop as you read this back story.

 

As for the quality of the writing it is decent but not great.  There are mistakes and errors here and there, issues with wording on occasion.  Really the quality of this book and writing is at the level of someone writing an online writing community such as a fan fiction website despite this being an original story.  This really isn’t at the level of a professional novel; there is work that needs to be done.  Additionally there was a LOT of potential to the story there are avenues that could be further explored, descriptions of scenes are items and people that could be seized that aren’t.  In a fantasy novel I’ve come to expect things to be described to no end.  I get tired of too much description but with a lack of it I find myself wanting.  Like the Pegasus, I know what one looks like, I’m familiar with my mythology and fantasy creatures but more description would have been nice, are they larger than your normal horse? (In some mythos they are)  Just how big is their wing span?  I had to guess the entire time, as I said a lot of potential, never seized.  Of course with this being a back story these things might be described better in the book and things may have been glossed over in the interest of the main novel that this story supports, I cannot say.   Thus I have to unfortunately give this story a 2 out of 5 pages,  it is not the worst 2 I read and it was infinitely a better read than some of the other books I have read based upon a request but really I’d probably only recommend this book if you are looking for something to simply just occupy your time, or if after reading the main book this story supports you want to know more about the girl with no name.

Writer Wednesday – Jason Sizemore

IrredeemableBadge

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

Hello! I am Jason Sizemore. Most people know me as that one guy, the red head who runs Apex Publications. I’m also known in genre circles as an editor (I’ve picked up three Hugo Award nominations and one Stoker Award nomination for my editing work). I also publish and help edit the genre short fiction zine Apex Magazine.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
Over the past 10 years, I’ve been exclusively a short fiction author. I estimate I’ve had about 40 stories published. Recently, Stephen Zimmer of Seventh Star Press asked if I would like to submit a collection to him. He had read many of my stories over the years and felt it would make a good book. I was skeptical. Stephen and a collection of writer pals convinced me to go for it. The result is IRREDEEMABLE!

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m writing my first novel…okay, co-writing my first novel with Maurice Broaddus. It’s a fun collaboration. He brings the urban. I bring the rural. I’m collaborating on a story with Elaine Blose (it’s finished, looking for a home) and a story with Sara Price.

As you can tell, I’m big into collaborating right now.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My first memory is being in first grade and reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and thinking “Now this is a book.”

What are your three favorite books?
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I usually have three going at once. At home, I am reading Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, and the audiobook of The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Allow my mind to relax and forget about the stresses of the day.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I do not re-read because there are too many good books I haven’t read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely if the recommendation is from a friend whose tastes I trust.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely, but I save the recommendations for books I feel are truly excellent.

Why do you write?
To purge the creative urges that builds up over time!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A professional videogame player.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Primarily from memories of my youth. Southeast Kentucky is filled with memorable and interesting people and places.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re surprised by it. I’ve always been the editor/publisher person. Then they read my work and start asking questions like “Why do you like to write about such dark things?”

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
A big challenge for newbies involves understanding the options you have these days. Do you self-publish? Do you seek an agent and aim for New York? Is a small press right for you?

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Too numerous to list. *shakes head*

How do you deal with your fan base?
I give them hugs and love.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m partially color blind! I know, I know, this is surprising due to my impeccable fashion sense and fantastic art skills (sarcasm meter set to maximum).

Anything else we should know?
You sure ask a lot of questions about me. Maybe I should ask YOU a question!
*turns spotlight on*
Okay now, where shall we begin…

Book Review – Matilda

TITLE: Matilda
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
PUBLISHED: 1988 (Originally, my verson, i dunno, but they’re the same)
FORMAT: illegal eBook*

 

So, it may be cheating to pick a book that I’ve read no less than 100 times, but I’m okay with it.  The first time I read <em>Matilda</em>, I was probably 10, and Roald was probably already gone from this world, which makes me sad.  As voracious a reader as I am, I never even had a concept of telling him such, and it’s too late.  But that is a tangent, so let me attempt to stay on track.  On a mostly related side note, I once had a streak of reading this book so much that the librarian outright denied me the ability to check it out and started funneling me other books as soon as they were made a part of the library’s system.  (The Jenny Archer series comes to mind…) She ordered me to buy my own copy, which I did, and that did not deter me.  I liked – and still do – the feel of a hardback book that has been given the library treatment, cover coated, taped to the book, etc.  There was something special about the crinkle of the paper in my hands.  My local Waldenbooks didn’t have a hardback, so I settled for a paperback copy.  I was sorely disappointed.

Anyway…

Matilda Wormwood is a young girl who is totally ignored by her family and brilliant despite it all.  She’s also a bit mischevious and sweet and awesome and everything else.  I always related a little to her (I was the only one in kindergarten who could read going in, although I wasn’t quite at the Dickens level).  And I just genuinely liked the characters in the book.  In her story, she deals with the crap in her world the best she can and gets exactly what she needs in the end.

This time through, I decided to ask myself why I liked the story so much, and I realized just how brilliant Roald Dahl is, and just how awesome British society twenty-five years ago was.  For starters, the book is obnoxious and rude and mean and everything else – child after child gets outright abused by the headmistress.  She calls them foul, she tells them how they’re the boils on the buttocks of the world, she tells them they’re stupid and useless and everything else.  And then she grabs them by the hair or the ears or the whatever and flings them about.

I’m not saying I like an obnoxious and rude character – we’re not supposed to like Miss Trunchbull – but I liked that the characters aren’t dumbed down or sugar coated or whatever.  I don’t think this book would have flown past the censors today.

And I liked that the language isn’t stupid and rhymey and stilted.  I can name entire series’ of books that are so dumbed down for readers that the author refused to use contractions.  This book, though…. at some point in the story, Matilda and the librarian are talking about reading and not understanding everything.  The librarian gives the best gem of advice – let the words wash around you like music.  And that’s good advice for the readers too.  I don’t think that anything is going to be over the heads of your average eight year old, but if you don’t get it, just enjoy the ride.

That’s probably why this book has stood up so well.  There are plenty of children’s or mid grades books that I loved that if I read today, I’d be like “oh, that was a great trip down memory lane… ” but I wouldn’t care much for the book anymore.  But this book… I pick it up yearly at least – and mostly, it’s not for the nostalgia.  it’s because I genuinely love the story and want to read it again. And I think it’s pretty telling that the story works just as well for me as an adult as it did for me as a kid so many years ago.

I know this is a shocker, but 5/5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Earlier tonight, I searched online for a free eBook copy of Matilda, because I wanted to reference something.  I’m pretty sure (like totally) that it was an illegal eBook.  Before you get on me about it, the only reason I did it was because I was too lazy to move my laptop, stand up, walk from the living room, down the hallway, into the computer room/guest room/library and find one of at least three copies that I own.  The paperback and hardback of this book are all the same unless a special edition.  Trust me on this; I’m the closest thing to an expert since Roald himself.

Book Review: The Letter Q

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves
Edited By: Sarah Moon & James Lecesne
Format, etc: Hardback, 2012

So an author, Sarah, got together with the creator of the Trevor Project, James, and decided to do a non-fiction book on a simple premise – what would you say to your (sometimes much)younger self to say that everything will be okay? They then took this idea to five dozen GLBT authors and artists and came up with a collection large enough to make this book.

I’ll admit, I have no need for this book. (Truth be told Q is my favorite letter of the alphabet and the cover grabbed me.) But when I saw it at the library, I was intrigued. I wanted to know what these people needed to say.

As far as the letters themselves… here’s the thing. I was expecting something…less mainstream. But the letters all just basically say “Hey, life will be good, everything will be better, push through the crap you’re dealing with now,” which isn’t a bad thing, but. Very few of these letters actually address GLBT issues directly. And like I said, that’s not a bad thing, but since that’s the point of the book, I was sort of expecting a little more of it. Also, the letters all sort of blend together after a while. After you read a handful of them, there aren’t any extra gems of wisdom, and since they’re letters to the author’s self, some of them don’t really apply to anyone else. I read the intro paragraph of a couple of them and then skipped on to the next one.

Another issue that I had with this book is that I didn’t really know who a lot (okay most) of these people were. I think that it would have made a little more of an impact for the people to have been better known so that the people reading the book could be like “Oh, if made it…”

Still, I think that for a teenager dealing with GLBT issues (the book’s actual demographic), that the book will be helpful. Because of that, I’m torn with giving it a number. If the book fits, It’s a 5/5, but if the book doesn’t, it’s barely a 3/5.

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If you need help, call the helpline.  Remember, you *are* important
and loved and you will make a difference in this world…

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