Monday, 22 April 2019

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was kind of disappointed with this book. Most of the pictures are indeed peculiar but the writing doesn't rise to the weirdness of the photographs. The opening is promising but it kind of tails off fairly quickly thereafter. And the twists that (I think) were supposed to surprise... didn't. (I felt I had to add "I think" to the last sentence. That should tell you a lot about this book!)

By the end of the book, too much was left unresolved. It felt like it was setting up the next book rather than finishing this one. I won't be seeking out the rest of the series.

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Friday, 5 April 2019

Review: Clockwork Angels: The Graphic Novel

Clockwork Angels: The Graphic Novel Clockwork Angels: The Graphic Novel by Kevin J. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this.

I read the novel it is based on about six years ago. At the time, I described the book as being, "...not without merit" - practically the definition of praising with faint damns! I find myself similarly ambivalent about the graphic novel version.

I didn't particularly like the artwork; I found it too arty. I read one of the chapters as a digital comic when it first came out and it looked OK on the iPad where I could enlarge each panel to fill the screen. In printed form, however, I found the artwork cramped and fussy. I think it needs the space to breath. The story as been edited somewhat to make it fit the graphic novel format but, at times, it felt a bit too heavily edited and I suspect that if I hadn't known the story from the novel, I would have struggled to follow the flow at times.

Having said that, I think the comic format suited the episodic nature of the story. Also, the intrusive Rush references that so annoyed me in the novel didn't bother me so much here. The preface suggested that more Rush references had been added into the art but I didn't really notice them on first reading, so they are clearly placed with more subtlety than the sledgehammer and crowbar method that was used to insert lyrical references into the novel version.

More of a three and a half than a four star review but, overall, I liked the graphic novel better than the book.

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Monday, 25 February 2019

Review: Miracleman, Book Two: The Red King Syndrome

Miracleman, Book Two: The Red King Syndrome Miracleman, Book Two: The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of this book is astonishingly good. Alan Moore's writing is as brilliant as ever and Alan Davis' artwork is just as impressive as Garry Leach's from Miracleman, Book One: A Dream of Flying. Between them they produced one of my favourite sections: Mr Cream is having a nightmare. The panels on the page are warping and twisting with his dream as he falls towards us and the nightmare bursts out the confines of the frames. A bird screams, and screams again, and screams again... And, as the drawing of the bird fills more of the panel, Cream's hand reaches out and it resolves into the telephone that wakes him from his dream. Outstanding! (And basically visual - my description does not do it justice.)

And then, a car crash. A full multi-car pile up in the shape of Chuck Austen's artwork. It was jarring in the extreme. When I first encountered it, I checked the front cover to make sure I hadn't picked up the wrong book! It looks amateurish, which is ironic since at the time he was working on Miracleman, Alan Davis was driving a forklift in a warehouse and treated drawing comics as a hobby, whereas Chuck Austen was (allegedly) a professional artist. Thankfully, Austen did not last long and was quickly replaced by Rick Veitch. Unfortunately, while better than Austen, he was not a patch on Leach or Davis. Worst of all, he made what was a landmark scene in comics look scrappy and ugly... and not in a good way.

As with Book 1, there is a bucketload of original drawings and sketches included. Since I was unimpressed with the finished artwork of Austen and Veitch, it will come as no surprise that I was even less impressed with this section than I was in the first collection of stories! I suppose it is possible that an aspiring comicbook artist might find it interesting but it didn't do anything for me.

Overall, I still enjoyed the story but the artwork in the last few chapters almost derailed my appreciation.

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Sunday, 27 January 2019

Review: How Does It Feel?: A Life of Musical Misadventures

How Does It Feel?: A Life of Musical Misadventures How Does It Feel?: A Life of Musical Misadventures by Mark Kermode
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tried self-deprecating humour... but I wasn't very good at it. Mark Kermode, on the other hand, is a master.

If you listen to the award-winning podcast, Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, you will know how he speaks; with enthusiasm, wit and a deep knowledge of his subject. If you want a preview of how this book reads, listen to the podcast. He writes the way he speaks.

His passion for music shines through the pages of this book and while I do not understand his obsession with The Comsat Angels, I recognise the same obsession in my own life with the band Rush. Where we differ is in what he does with that obsesion. I must admit to some jealousy when I read where his obsessions have taken him; the people he has met and the things he has experienced. Perhaps it helps when you go to school with people like David Baddiel and Jason Isaacs (a quick Google suggest nobody famous went to my secondary school) but it is almost certainly true that interesting things happen to interesting people... and a lot of interesting things are described in this book.

I have a signed copy because I went to hear him speak on one of the dates where he was promoting this book. At the Q&A, someone asked him why he watched movies and thought, "I could write about that!", but listened to music and thought, "I could do that!". It was an interesting question but he was unable to fully explain the difference. For me, I enjoy watching films but music hits me at much deeper level. Mark feels the power of both and can talk eloquently about both. This book, however focuses on music and I love the way he describes it, especially the music you hear as a teenager:
"…I felt like I was in an episode of Doctor Who; as if I had somehow created a warp in the time-space continuum and was being sucked back into the past at a speed of thirty-three-and-a-third revolutions per minute.

If you want proof that time travel is possible, just listen to a record you first heard as a teenager. If that's not a time machine, I don't know what is."
If that doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't know what will.

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Saturday, 26 January 2019

Read in 2019

This post will automatically update every time I finish a book in 2019. I managed thirty-one books in 2018.  Will I manage more than thirty-one in 2019? Only time will tell.


Mr Muir's bookshelf: read-in-2019

Miracleman, Book One: A Dream of Flying
it was amazing
I first encountered this story when the character was known as Marvelman rather than Miracleman and the author was called Alan Moore rather than "The Original Author". When I read it in the pages of Warrior magazine in 1982, it was prin...
tagged: read-in-2019

goodreads.com

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Review: Miracleman, Book One: A Dream of Flying

Miracleman, Book One: A Dream of Flying Miracleman, Book One: A Dream of Flying by Alan Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first encountered this story when the character was known as Marvelman rather than Miracleman and the author was called Alan Moore rather than "The Original Author". When I read it in the pages of Warrior magazine in 1982, it was printed in black and white and when I first saw it in colour in the American reprints, I didn't like it as much. But with this edition, with its hardback cover and gorgeously glossy pages, the colourising seems to work.

Back in the 80s, I hadn't encountered the literary term "bookending" but I remember being hugely impressed with the way end of Marvelman Book 1 tied back to the very first page. Re-reading it for the first time in ages, I am still impressed. Also, the placing of a superhero in the real world where there are real world repercussions for their actions seemed fresh and exciting ("They played catch with my baby - mother of injured child speaks."). This book more than deserves it legendary status.

As well as collecting together the Marvelman: Book 1 stories, this edition also includes three Warpsmith stories and a bucketload of sketches, alternative versions of cover art and "original artwork" pages from Warrior magazine. Some of the extra artwork was interesting but muck of it (in particular the pages from Warrior) felt like padding. The Warpsmith stories, on the other hand, I very much enjoyed. I like the glimpses into the larger universe that Marvelman inhabits. I was especially impressed with the section in "Cold War, Cold Warrior" where where a Warpsmith faces off against a foe. There is a double page spread with a sequence of sixteen panels flipping backwards and forward between the antagonists; long shot to close up and back again. The sixteen panels show a battle of wills rather than a physical fight so pairs of drawings are almost identical until we get to panels seventeen and eighteen, each getting about half a page, where we see the outcome of the fight. Brilliant.

Finally, nothing to do with this book, but I want to finish with a moan about my collection of Warrior Magazines. I had a complete collection because I bought each one as it was published but they were destroyed when my roof leaked. I had started to rebuild my collection, buying them secondhand, and had most of the run (including a couple signed by Dez Skinn) but they were stolen from my office at work. I've not had the heart to start again. Scunner!

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Monday, 31 December 2018

Review: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was Christmas time, so it was time to re-read "A Christmas Carol". Why is it worth re-reading? Here are three reasons...

One of the greatest opening sentences ever: "Marley was dead: to begin with."

So many memorable (and funny) passages:
“Why do you doubt your senses?” “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”


And, sadly, still relevant in places:
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy...


Worth reading every Christmas. God bless us, every one!

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